Severine Ballon - cello
Frédéric Blondy - piano
John Butcher - saxophones
John Edwards - double bass
Sebastian Lexer - electronics
Elaine Mitchener -voice
Edward Perraud - drums
Cranes and Freighters was formed to perform at the 2012 Huddersfield Contemporay Music Festival.
Two pieces were commisioned by HCMF - my own Isola and Blondy's Interwoven Tides.
In Genoa there's a floating structure made up of many old barges once used
around the port. They are chained together and make an extraordinary sound
as they slowly move and rub against each other. It's a public place to sit, but
one which forces you to pay attention to sound. Two years ago, whilst I was
recording it I noticed that the location was named Piazza Luciano Berio.
In "Isola" I use aspects of this shifting ground's sound to create a sonic and
structural underpinning for the group. I also liked the image of those linked
objects with their different histories now interacting together with group effect.
Most of the musicians in "Cranes and Freighters" usually play their own
music, developed through improvisation in countless settings around the
"Isola" is concerned with the strains, stresses, compatibilities and surprises
likely when you rub together the power of imposed structure and external
ideas, and the power of allowing people to make their own decisions.
Improvisation is best when it creates its form in the moment due to its own
internal logic. Two sections - for piano, cello, voice and electronics and, later,
saxophone, bass, and percussion function this way. Slightly labouring the
Piazza parallel, they let the outside world enter in. The music that encloses
them is organised through conventional notation, the pre-recorded playback
(revealed in different ways through frequency filtering), and instructions and
timings that share and blur the responsibilities for making a coherent whole.
To compose for high level improvisers is always a hard challenge of balance.
What should be written and what should be let to the musician's own creativity.
The first danger would be to be only fascinated by the fantastic richness of sounds and textures each musician is able to produce through all the extended technics he discovered during his many years of practice, experimentation and meetings.
Because the first quality of an improviser is not his ability to be a sounds generator but his listening skills, i.e. its ability to do the right thing at the right moment according to what he hears.
The writing is then to create the context, the necessary conditions for the development of an idea.
Deeply influenced by my work inside the quintet Hubbub over the last thirteen years and from the more recent collaboration with the orchestra ONCEIM, this composition aims to develop the resultants phenomenon. How the combination of several sources gives rise to a material that is not limited to the simple addition of these but generates a stratum (the resultant) in which the sources are lost.
This echoes undoubtedly with French spectral music but we may hear also specific effects from electronic music : distortion, dephasing, loops, ... and sequences where the involvement of each individual musician is more solicited.