Horns Strings and Harmony
So I assume you have already arrived, and are reading this before the performance. Therefore please forgive me if I don’t foretell the story or spill the beans about what you can anticipate. My request here is deliberate: the piece is hopefully full of the unexpected, and I want such surprises to have a raw effect on your individual perception, without any explanations (that might set up preconceptions) diluting the effect. If you were reading this after the performance, I am sure I could tell you more!
It’s a great honour to be invited to write a second piece for the BCMG. And I hope I have returned the compliment by writing something that is tailor-made and personal for the ensemble and its home. It is a wonderful freedom and luxury to start with the available givens of which Stephen and Jackie Newbould and their colleagues have generously offered me a rich variety. And thank you too all you amazing Sound Investors for making it possible!
It is also a privilege for me to have both these pieces programmed together. It will be interesting to know what comparisons or connections, if any you find between the two pieces. Maybe you think they are written by completely different composers; or maybe you find many connections: I am still the same human being after all. Mysteriously I find an archaeology of different concerns unconsciously keep resurfacing at different times in different pieces. And these concerns surely go back to the same roots.
I hope with the Ives ‘Piano Trio’, I have chosen something telling that bridges a gap between the two pieces – not only the New England connection with ‘Nodding Trilliums…’. The inspired and visionary Ives has been a hero since as long as I remember, and the ‘Piano Trio’ is a particular favourite.
Horns Strings and Harmony premiered Sunday 1 May 2016 at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham.
Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with financial assistance from The Radcliffe Trust, The Britten-Pears Foundation and the following individuals through BCMG’s Sound Investment Scheme: Catherine and Derrick Archer, Viv and Hazel Astling, Peter Baldwin, Samantha Bird, Rob Bishop, Allan and Pat Brookfield, John and Wendy Buckby, Alan S Carr, Christopher Carrier, Penny Collier, Simon Collings, Alan Cook, Susanna Eastburn, Kath England, Peter Fell, Anne P Fletcher, Darren Giddings, John Glass, Richard Hartree, Paul Hayward, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Stephen Johnson, Dennis and Mary Jones, Gill Kirkham, In memorium Suzanne Leighton, Belinda & Colin Matthews, Elizabeth Robinson, Stephen Saltaire, Maureen and William Scott, Anthony Sharp, Howard Skempton, Jan and Ian Small, Sandra and Michael Squires, Doreen and Harry Wright.
Benedict Mason gained a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, then took a degree in film-making at the Royal College of Art. He turned to composition in his early thirties and attracted attention with his first acknowledged work, Hinterstoisser Traverse. He gained the Guido d’Arezzo Prize for Oil and Petrol Marks on a Wet Road are Sometimes Held to be Spots where a Rainbow Stood. His first orchestral piece, Lighthouses of England and Wales, won the Benjamin Britten Competition in 1988.
Music for Concert Halls, a series of pieces in the 1990s, used sound to articulate the structural and acoustic properties of the building in which a performance takes place, so that both performers and building become participants in a ‘sound installation’. He also published a book about this work: outside sight unseen and opened.
‘Nodding Trilliums and Curve-Lined Angles is a weirdly wonderful sequence of movements led by a concertante group of percussionists. It is totally unlike anything else.’ The Guardian.
Increasingly in recent works, the eye and mind of a visual artist is apparent: above all in the notation of felt | ebb | thus | brink | here | array | telling, for Ensemble Modern in 2004. the neurons, the tongue, the cochlea…the breath, the resonance was written for the Asko Ensemble in 2001 and Presence and Penumbrae for Six Percussionists and Fire Organ for Les Percussions de Strasbourg in 2004. His Double Concerto for Tuba and Bass (doubling violone), with film, Persian ney flute, tromba marina, chitarrone, chalumeaux, saxhorns and ensemble was premiered by Miller Theatre in New York in 2006.