Malcolm Macfarlane on Malcolm

The opportunity to participate in this project was amazing! I've been working on the ideas for this piece since our last collaboration in August 2010. At that time we played a whole 90 minute concert of music that was very specifically notated... apart from one section ("Theia") where I gave the quartet a synthetic mode (this was also the basis of the written sections), some simple suggestions and the freedom to improvise. They came up with some very beautiful ideas and sounds that I felt was not only some of the most successful music on that night but also ripe with possibilities for new music in the future...

...creating spaces, and constructing larger forms, for improvising is not as straight forward as one might think so the idea of an electronic element made me realise that I could set up something to suggest, and hopefully enhance, the music that was going to be created 'on the spot'. I also came up with the idea that each section of the piece (which is in a different mode) could be underpinned by the very lovely electric playing of the group's bassist Rick by giving him definite 'grooves' for each section.

I sat in on days 1 and 2 which was incredibly useful and made for a much more efficient and productive day 3 where my piece was being worked on. Not only that but the ways that Louise and Amble were working, and the amazing results they were achieving, were truly thought provoking and a real inspiration! So, on the morning of day 2, I produced a new, and completely composed, introduction to try both to contrast the electronic elements later in the piece with an 'un-effected' quartet and to give a hint of the modes involved - G Phyrgian, D Dorian, A Ionian and Gb Lydian. The new written intro had the 1st 3 spread across the violin, viola and 'cello and the bass part used the 4 'root' notes for its part. We also used the last 4 chords of the intro
as a coda!

So, on day 3, I had to then get to grips with the more 'techy' aspects of the performance. Although I've been working on Logic Pro for a few years now, it's alway good to see and hear how others go about using the same software - needless to say both Ben and Pippa introduced me to a very rapid and steep learning curve! Selecting and controlling the electronics in the heat of the moment was a completely new experience and Pippa was great with lots of ideas and methods to wield this newly given power! We ended up pushing the electronics much further than I first thought we would, again with lots of thought provoking and inspiring results (particularly for future works and production ideas). As well as that I also had to direct the quartet in the
transition from section to section and make some spur of the moment musical decisions as to who, individually, would carry on to help blend from one mode to another...

The next step for me is to get to a finished mix of this piece. I have so many ideas now that I think we could have something really beautiful and very satisfying to listen to. I think that this will also have been a major step in reaching the end of this stage of the exploration of the idea that came from our 2010 collaboration. Having said that, it has also begun the next journey too!

Heartfelt thanks to everyone involved; the players for giving so much energy and such great performances throughout a very long day, Ben and Pippa for great support and buckets full of help and ideas, the other composers for their lovely music and inspiration and Jo for making it all come together.

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