for voice and two cellos
February 2010; 6′
Premiere recorded performance: ‘The Blue Guitar: a radiophonic soundscape’, installation at York Spring Festival of New Music 2010.
Premiere live performance: RNCM students, Institute of the Anthony Burgess Foundation, 2011.
When presented with The Blue Guitar: etchings by David Hockney, who was inspired by Wallace Stevens who was inspired by Pablo Picasso, I was struck by the thin line between reality and imagination; by the blur between these spheres as I read, saw and tried to unravel the interplay of literary and visual motifs. They moved me to try to define them all for myself, these ‘things as they are’ as a panoptic vision breaking the illusion of ‘things exactly as they are’. There was something strikingly non-linear about the sequence of etchings, also found in the repetition of words, colours and ideas in the poem.
What is the piece about? I wanted to create a space where similar materials would reappear in new contexts. The listener who requires structure would be unsure of where reality ‘is’; any sense of a temporal narrative would be disrupted. The text comes from stanzas I, XXII and XXXII of The Man with the Blue Guitar, which I have set against a series of overlapping, self-referential episodes.
I found the poetry very personal in its simple yet meaningful register. The voice/actor is a narrator, a commentator, the leader, the follower, an outsider, an insider. Does the voice speak to you, to itself, to a cello, to me?
Is it about being about something, to someone? I was drawn to the phrase ‘the madness of space’ because of the idea of endless possibility through permutations of a handful of ideas that transfer themselves into each other’s musical planes. I preferred to work with a motivic palette where pitch is the servant of gesture.
This space is where the composer’s madness is let off the leash.