Anna Vaughan, Violinist for BCMG NEXT 22-23 gives us an insight on working with Rebbecca Saunder's piece The Underside of Green with 7 - 11-year-olds, and learning the piece from scratch!

For our February BCMG NEXT concert, we delved into the world of Rebecca Saunders’ Underside of the Green. Alongside the learning process, I took part in BCMG’s Music Maze. This is a workshop-based project for young composers and musicians. We explored the world of Rebecca Saunders and her relationship with colour. The children were encouraged to explore the connections between music and colour as a compositional technique. We came up with different timbres for certain colours and made a piece using those colours. This process was extremely enlightening for my own interpretation of Underside of the Green as it allowed me to delve into the wider picture of this piece.

It’s an interesting one to interpret and it’s always a struggle to know how to prepare for that first rehearsal. The timbre changes so quickly throughout the piece we needed extreme ensemble teamwork. Saunders uses so much detail to allow for the clarinet, violin and piano to blend or to stick out when needed. When preparing these colours each bar needed time, deep thought, and individual experimenting with how far the instrument can be pushed. Having said this, preparing in so much detail can sometimes swamp the bigger picture. Starting rehearsals was certainly a relief after studying all the different extended techniques in detail. When we came together it reinstated the ‘why’ for all the individual sounds. Why am I making this sound, why did Saunders write this?

Saunders' Underside of the Green certainly pushed me mentally with the fast pace change of sound worlds within a short piece. However, the young people’s workshop and the learning process really helped me remember the bigger picture, asking why, and how, and allowing the instrument to create different colours.


The Underside of Green by Rebecca Saunders

At this juncture, we ought to say something about lights and colours. It is evident that colours vary according to light, as every colour appears different when in shade, and placed under rays of light. Shade makes a colour dimmer, and light makes it brighter and clear. Colour is swallowed by the dark.
Loeon Battista Alberti: On painting (1435)

Emerald, Ruby, Jacinth, Chalcedony, Jasper. Colour, like these jewels, is precious. Even more precious, it cannot be possessed. Colour slips through the fingers and escapes. You can't lock it in a jewel box as it vanishes in the dark.
Derek Jarman: Chroma (1994)

The underside of green, CRIMSON – Molly´s Song 1 (1995) and Molly´s Song 3 – shades of crimson, (1996) make up a cycle of compositions that were influenced by Molly Bloom's closing monologue in James Joyce's Ulysses. This relentless and intense monologue flows unpunctuated for 35 pages:

„...and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and ...yes ...“

See what concerts our NEXTies have coming up



Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire join forces yearly to offer a unique training programme for music students and professional musicians looking for a career as performers of contemporary music. As part of this, our talented early career musicians perform throughout the year along with our BCMG Musicians, come and support the next generation of musicians.

Read more about BCMG NEXT at