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Miscellaneous Pieces


11.1 Introduction

This small group of pieces include a variety of 'smaller' and occasional pieces completed over the period. Arrangements of the Anonymous fifteenth-century ballad La Mort Malchaut, and of some early piano pieces of mine, as well as incidental music for two plays: Love's Labours Lost (Durham, Summer 1988) and The Barber of Seville (Charterhouse, Autumn 1989) have not been included as they are of a too stylized nature for this portfolio.


11.2 Two Pieces for Junior Orchestra

Composed: Charterhouse, 1990

Performed: Charterhouse 'Sunday' Orchestra, 1990

These pieces were written at the request of David Wright, a master in the Charterhouse Music Department responsible for the beginners orchestra. This customarily met on Sunday mornings, so it had become known as the Sunday Orchestra. It is the only example of 'pure' educational music in the portfolio. Although nervous, I accepted the challenge of this as I felt it ought to be possible for a composer in that situation to write such music. The students were very young and many were quite unmusical. They were not necessarily studying music. It became clear than simple rhythms and harmonies were required, which tested me to the limit. There are only two pieces, which is unusual for me: I usually write in threes; and in fact, there were three pieces planned, and I was in the process of writing the third when I had to abandon it as it was becoming too difficult.

The first piece is a pastorale, making primary use of the one major asset of the orchestra: a harp and a harpist to go with it. The piece worked very well after initial problems with the 'difficult' harmonies after figure C. The passage following figure D was incomprehensible to most students. I was not aware of the serious problems many students have with the most simple rhythms until they tried to read the basic cross-bar rhythm after figure E. Moreover, these problems could not be overcome using a change of time-signature, which flummoxed them even more. This was far from the only time I was to have encountered these problems: difficult rhythms were unplayable without apparently having to go through an entire course in rhythm, difficult harmonies were simply incomprehensible and unpleasant.

The second piece, a scherzo-like allegretto, is considerably more difficult, involving as it does, a variety of articulation, dynamics, some relatively unusual orchestration, chromaticism, and triplets running against duplets. Most of the students could manage virtually everything eventually apart from the latter.

Making an objective judgement on pieces such as these is difficult. In empirical terms, (that is, how well they did the job they were supposed to do), they were too difficult, although it's hard to say exactly how I could have made the music any easier without compromising style, (although maybe I should have pursued this option more persistently). I had considered a radically different approach: textures, mobiles, etc., but these only achieve any real meaning when contrasted with 'standard' notation music. Indeed, my experience suggests that sketches in a more 'open' notation eventually require even more definition, which defeats the purpose.

In the end, these pieces fall into that vast cauldron of 'educational music', where judgement concerning artistic quality is irrelevant, and the only important quality is whether students react well enough to let staff choose the piece to play again - usually as long as it isn't too much effort.


11.3 Charterhouse Fanfare

Composed: Charterhouse, Spring 1989

Performed: Charterhouse Organ & Brass Recital, Spring 1989

This fanfare was written to open a recital for Organ and Brass at Charterhouse. The brass group, two trumpets and two trombones, were professional players.


11.4 Fanfare for Philip Jones

Composed: Cambridge, Summer 1991

Performed: Cambridge Degree Ceremony, Autumn 1991

This fanfare was written as a processional to accompany the commencement of the Anglia Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony in October 1991. It was presented to Philip Jones, at that time Visiting Professor at the then Polytechnic.