Sadie Harrison-Process Notes (Summer 2011)

Posted on July 25th, 2011 by


Sadie Harrison – Ballare un passacaglia di ombre (August 2011) 

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World premiere performance. Nashville, 19 9 11

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Sadie's Floor

PSS with composers David Matthews, Sadie Harrison, Pavel Novek. Deal Festival 2004

 Notes from E mails-towards a piece: 

6th June 2011-Inspiration for the solo pieces: 

E-mail workshop-with sketches-begun 24th July 2011

Sadie Harrison is a visionary, whose music marries extraordinary rhythmic poise with a jeweller’s eye for light. Yesterday (July 24th), I began working on some of the sketches which she producing for the Biber project on which we are collaborating. Tennyson came to mind:

…the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long
That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind,
In act to throw…(Tennyson-Morte d’Arthur)

 

A sketch is refined..

Sadie moves towards absolute control of timbre and poise, through a counterpoint of technical refinement at large and small scale and poetic freedom of imagination. Here is a fantastic example of this virtuoso imagination at work-texts and sketches for the pieces that she is writing for my Biber project:

‘..making all kinds of strange connections between my unswept Greek/Roman floor and Mr. Biber!  I was delighted to find that the Via Biberatica in Rome (where the 2nd century copy of the original Sosos of Pergamon’s floor was made) was known for its grocer’s shops, supplying fish, shellfish, nuts, fruit and wine (the objects scattered on the floor) and that it’s lower levels were used as entertainment halls for music and theatre – a nice tying in of food and music in Biberatica! And then there’s the Sonata Representiva which encourages me to write little vignettes about the mice and lobsters on the floor! Wonderful!

The composer's hand-tiny adjustments with significant outcomes

Knowing that Pergamon and Delphi were trading partners in the high Hellenistic c. 200-100 BCE, I am making use of the First and Second Delphic Hymns written in 138 BCE as a musical link from the Greek to Roman worlds, from the original mosaic to its Roman copy some 200 or so years later. And have spent time today weaving the Passacaglia theme and Delphic Hymns together!/And then I’m thinking about the actual mosaic floor itself and how people walked over it, ate on it, danced on it etc. Want to convey something of the floor as a living surface not a frozen artwork. So, have started with a mvt entitled (for now) ‘evitando il cibo che danza sul pavimento’  (avoiding the food I dance on the floor)- it’s a light-hearted dance full of slips and slides, the Delphic hymn with mistakes. Of course, this is all intellectual play to some extent but it’s got the music flowing and that’s great. I cannot begin to compete with the glorious intensity of Biber so I shall write you a piece that is effervescent, with moments of fun – shadow play! It’s what Sosos intended I think…’ (from E mail-9th July 2011)

The sketch with my first technical work. 24th July 2011

 

LISTEN: Workshop Outtake-25 July 2011 - 

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August 4th 2011 – More material arrives from Sadie

This clearly dialogues with Biber’s 16th Sonata from the Mystery cycle-’Guardian Angel, guide of Mankind’. 

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The composer writes “..Here is the beginning and nearly to the end of another little piece,  entitled ‘…ballare una passacaglia di ombre…’ (2 pages thus far).  As you will hear, it uses the Biber phrase quite overtly, combined  with the little greek hymn. I am not entirely decided on the sound or  speed of the ‘vacillating’ music. (And apologies for the smudges which  were made by a wet cat!)At last, I have the shape of the whole set of pieces in my head. Each  will take an antique italian dance form. With this in mind, I have  changed the title of the first fragment to ‘avoiding the food, I dance  a gagliando’. Another shall be called ‘…guardando una danza del  mouse il saltarello… which I hope translates as ‘..watching a mouse  dance the saltarello..’ a reference to biber SR and the mosaic floor  mouse.Now just a case of finding the time to set them out on paper.”

As with everything that Sadie writes, this is dipped in gold, so here it is! As she says at the end of the MS ‘to be continued!’-I can’t wait. 

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August 7th-an elegant peroration

Yesterday we returned from walking the trails around Echo Lake, about 100 miles north of St Paul. An abundance of natural beauty-every variety of iridescent dragonfly, damselfly, lace wing, Monarch and Swallow tail butterflies, humming birds – how wonderful to return from this to the last page of Sadie’s piece. She writes:

Here is the last page of the passacaglia mvt. All may change,especially when you’ve played bits to me….

So, here is the completed piece-just a workshop documentation:

Sadie Harrison – Ballare un passacaglia di ombre (August 2011)  

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August 8th-Il saltarello con una noce… (dancing a saltarello with a walnut)

 

 

'A fast but eay folk dance'-the opening of''dancing a saltarello with a walnut'

 

 

 

Today, more begins to appear. Sadie writes:The dancing mouse and walnut…. (the mouse is obvious, the low 5ths are the mouse knocking the walnut around!Found a great traditional dance from Padua which fortuitously has the Biber already worked in….

Here’s what has arrived so far: 

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The ‘Unswept Floor’/'Scraps of a Meal’ (asaraton)- this is a 2nd century copy by Heraclitus after Sosos of Pergamon. I am interested in the shadows as well as the objects and the aim is to create a series of musical images with the character of each object, with shadows cast in different ways – canonic. echo, simultaneous harmonics as auras…… And there will be an ‘antique’ Italianate sound world coming in through the set just as fragments of the mosaic emerge out of the white.
?
?9th July 2011
??

Have had such fun today working on your new solo violin piece – making all kinds of strange connections between my unswept Greek/Roman floor and Mr. Biber!  I was delighted to find that the Via Biberatica in Rome (where the 2nd century copy of the original Sosos of Pergamon’s floor was made) was known for its grocer’s shops, supplying fish, shellfish, nuts, fruit and wine (the objects scattered on the floor) and that it’s lower levels were used as entertainment halls for music and theatre – a nice tying in of food and music in Biberatica! And then there’s the Sonata Representiva which encourages me to write little vignettes about the mice and lobsters on the floor! Wonderful!
Knowing that Pergamon and Delphi were trading partners in the high Hellenistic c. 200-100 BCE, I am making use of the First and Second Delphic Hymns written in 138 BCE as a musical link from the Greek to Roman worlds, from the original mosaic to its Roman copy some 200 or so years later. And have spent time today weaving the Passacaglia theme and Delphic Hymns together! 
And then I’m thinking about the actual mosaic floor itself and how people walked over it, ate on it, danced on it etc. Want to convey something of the floor as a living surface not a frozen artwork. So, have started with a mvt entitled (for now) ‘evitando il cibo che danza sul pavimento’  (avoiding the food I dance on the floor)- it’s a light-hearted dance full of slips and slides, the Delphic hymn with mistakes. Of course, this is all intellectual play to some extent but it’s got the music flowing and that’s great. I cannot begin to compete with the glorious intensity of Biber so I shall write you a piece that is effervescent, with moments of fun – shadow play! It’s what Sosos intended I think.
?