Robert McFall

This was our last day – and we shall really miss our wonderful times at Heriot Toun. Everyone’s been constantly referring to “next time” on the assumption that such a good project is bound to move on to another stage – maybe a public performance.

Our composers have all been completely engaging and all extremely likeable. Today’s was no exception – Matthew Collings. Matthew’s piece was, on the surface, more gadget-oriented than the others. We spent the first half hour – or rather, Martin and Matthew did – sticking two mics to Brian’s bow (a ribbon mic I happen to have, and a tiny DPA) in order to pick up the col legno scraping noises which were required of him (in fact Brian plays no notes in this piece, only noises). Trying to think how to attach the adaptors to Brian’s arm stumped us only for a moment – then Amble offered her leg warmer to hold all the cables in place and that worked perfectly. Brian looked like a patient in intensive care with multiple drips in his arm. Quite a bit of the day was taken up with making various unusual sources of sound work as they should. These included a small amp pointing upwards with dry rice jumping around on the cone, which produced an extraordinary distortion, and a complicated set-up for producing feedback from an acoustic violin. This last was produced from a speaker outside the room (on the veranda) pointing at the farmhouse. It was my job, half way through the piece, to tip-toe over, through the sliding glass doors, and wave the violin and its mic (held on with blu-tack) in front of the speaker for a minute or so. The emerging sound was somewhat similar to one of those wind chimes (or, rather, flutes) which play natural harmonics in the breeze – very beautiful and wild.

On paper the piece looked thin – not much there really – but once we started playing it we realised that it had lots of atmosphere as well as drama and some really lovely moments of stillness. Some of the piece involved long strings of repeated staccato notes, speeding up and slowing down. I got somewhat carried away and attacked the peaks of fast, loud, notes in such a way that I will now have to get my bow re-haired – which it needed anyway, though I’d been putting it off…

I’ve hugely enjoyed working with each of this week’s five composers – there really hasn’t been any let-up in the high standard of music creation coming from them and, for once, there wasn’t really that much hard work for us to do, with so many long breaks while adjustments were made to the technology - and such nice food too, different people taking responsibility for providing food on different days. There were so many fine dishes, in fact, that we’re thinking of putting together a McFalls recipe book – “studio meals” or some such – to feature on the web site.

A site

Mr McFall’s Chamber is a registered charity: SC028348

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