First things first, I can’t believe I’m writing an entry for March already; 2015 really has been rolling on with a vengeance!

There have been so many exciting and varied projects over the past few months at Handel House including a whole host of education workshops, which have seen us going into schools for the first time this year, to continue with and develop some ever-expanding class compositions.

I hope to share some of these activities with you in due course. But, as for now, I’d like to talk about some of the nitty-gritty of the composition side of the residency, with a few sketches and ideas from a work-in-progress to be aired later on in the year.
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Perhaps I should have paid more attention in music history lectures at university. But I’m always pleased to hit upon a new and quirky fact about George Frideric I didn’t know before. The most recent revelation was that Handel, Domenico Scarlatti and JS Bach all entered this world in the same year of 1685.  

Now – as in all museums the folk here at Handel House love a good old anniversary year to get our teeth into: and 330 years since the birth of these three figures seems like a pretty good excuse to me for some celebration.

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In this spirit, I’d been thinking over the past few weeks of a way I might respond to this strange interaction of musical personalities in my own writing.

Around the same time, I’d also been mulling over the possibility of creating an installation piece as part of my residency; perhaps a way for those visiting the museum only fleetingly, or by chance, to encounter some of my work and musical responses to the house over the year.
At some point these ideas fused in my mind and I’ve consequently spent the last few weeks beginning on a new work for the museum, whose first steps I’d like to share with you below…

The central idea of the piece is a simple one: three distinct strands of material one for each composer interact in a prescribed space (a room in Handel House, to be confirmed…). Each sound source will be played through a different set of speakers, spread around the room, allowing visitors to move around, and focus in and out of different layers of material, adjusting their perspective accordingly.
image source: The New York Review of Books, Levine 1979

Each strand consists of pre-recorded acoustic material, which I’m now in the process of creating. Although these three layers will take one of the three composers as their initial starting point, the music heard is all originally composed, and  whilst retaining glimpses and shadows of their subject matter  are still in keeping with my own compositional approach and language.

With visitors coming and going all day at the museum, my intention is to develop a piece which will play continuously throughout opening hours. With this in mind and so as to avoid over-saturation for those moving around the house a little more slowly (not to mention the volunteers who are in the house throughout the day!)  each strand will take as its basis a canvas of silence, with each utterance emerging and subsiding back into this continuum.

[A possible opening to the work – to be explored next time…]

Whilst instrumental material within layers will be strictly composed and notated, the live order of each of these events will be fluid, and determined by chance upon playback. This approach will remain consistent across the three strata and so, when combined, will give rise to a constantly-shifting array of material: prolonged periods of silence, singular activity, multiple and saturated densities, and everything in between.

I look forward to sharing these ideas with you in a little more detail in next month’s blog post – explaining my compositional processes, and sharing a few sketches!
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You can hear Edwin talk more about his music – and principal commission for the Museum – on Sunday 24th May, 2-3pm at Handel House. Booking opens on Monday 30th March