Sadie Harrison & ‘The Flight of Swallows’ (workshop dialogue)

Posted on January 21st, 2010 by

The Flight of Swallows. Bavaria July 2009

Sadie Harrison constantly astonishes me with the beauty of her imagination. Yesterday, (7th September 2012), my wife and returned from a day walking in the Chilterns, along the ‘Ridgeway’, the ancient roadway along the escarpments that bisect the south of England. A day of neolithic earthworks, ‘Grims Ditch’, birds of prey and Clover filled meadows. Upon arriving home, I found that Sadie had (with perfect timing) written a piece responding to my Swallow-flight painting from Munich. So here it is,  just an ‘at the desk’ reading, of her new piece.

Sadie Harrison-‘The Flight of Swallows’ (September 2012) Peter Sheppard Skaerved-violin (Workshop recording, 8th September 2012)

Composer’s response to the first read (above): 9th September 2012

Let’s take the first A harmonic into the same register as the first three notes./End of bar 4 should move into bar 5 rather than feel like a comma./Bar 5 as fluid and continuous as possible. Faster vacillations without speeding up the change from one chord to the next?/A nat. at end of bar 6 is like an upbeat into the next bar, maybe I should have slurred it in./Could you repeat the B Csharp/Dsharp Fsharp motif at beginning of bar 9 with a rit over the second time?/Middle of bar 9 through next whole bar should feel like one long phrase with the quaver double stop passage moving on a bit more perhaps (faster than MM)./Take out the vacillation on open E chord bar 14.

This was followed by another piece responding to the river painting below. I had captioned the painting thus: ‘I have lived next to the Thames for most of my life. It rubs off’ Hence the title ‘It Rubs Off’

Thames 7-1-10-London

This was recorded after another Chiltern  Ridgeway walk-this time from Wendover west to Cymbeline’s Fort, (after walking on the north side of Chequers), then South, through Pulpit Wood, over another part of Grim’s Ditch, through Little Hampden, and along the South Bucks way to Great Missenden. This combination of nature and archaeology, stunning light effects and weather changers, with flint and chalk under my feet, put me in the right frame of mind to play Sadie’s next piece.

Sadie Harrison-‘It Rubs off'[audio:]Peter Sheppard Skaerved-violin (Workshop recording, 10th September 2012)

And the composer’s response to the first read of this piece on 10th September: This is exactly the grittiness I’m after. It’s a hard minute and a half, sorry!

What do you think about the following:

. It could be slower – I think you are going a bit fast according to the MM. That way it might be less problematic to get up to and down from the higher A/E string chords cleanly. But maybe it would work best at this speed eventually – I’m not sure…..? Perhaps you could repost at some point a little tiny bit slower…./. And what about the poco sul pont? Do you think it works? Would it be better with a similar tone throughout?/. Take a look at the 8th quaver of the piece – ie. one tied over from the previous D…..I think that each time this happens a little more weight needs to be applied so you can hear the quaver movement. This goes against my boxed text but otherwise I think the rhythm gets lost. I don’t think my notation is very clear – the second quaver is slurred into same bow as the previous./. It doesn’t need to get faster as it gets harder (though it makes you sound like a genius!)/ Overall, I think each note or slurred groups needs to be more detached, well, not detached exactly, cleaner in a dirty-sounding way somehow. Does that make sense?

I answered: ‘It will get better … it’s difficult not to get excited! Don’t change anything. Love it’