David Riebe-‘Song of the Thames-daughters’

Posted on March 17th, 2014 by

David Riebe-‘Song of the Thames-daughters’

An inter-arts whispering game for solo violin

Dedicated to, and based on paintings by Peter Sheppard Skaerved

In 2011,  I was introduced to composer David Riebe. Here’s a sample of a piece that he wrote for me at the time, and at the bottom of this page, more of that early collaboratio n, with the Kreutzer Quartet.

David Riebe-A Cat, a Warrior, and a Tortoise (World Premiere) 

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Live Recording courtesy of the composer)

Since then, he and I have been plotting as to where our young collaboration might go. A few weeks ago, he wrote to me:

‘All the discussions about compositions based on visual arts (almost turned out to be a “theme” of the seminar) gave me this idea – I don’t know what you think about it – that it would be very inspiring to compose a piece based on one or more of your paintings. Having seen a lot of them posted on your Facebook, I must say I definitely find your works facinating!/What’s interesting with this kind of project is also the discussions it may produce: What’s does it mean in terms of interpretation and creation of meaning “throwing the ball” back and forth like this – you draw a painting, I compose a piece based on this painting, then you play that piece, I (and others) listen to the performance, etc. Do you play my piece or your own painting? And if someone else plays the piece, will the interpretation be different due to them not having the same relation to the original painting? …’ E mail 28th January 2014
Naturally, I found this fascinated, and have watched as David has developed this further. A few weeks later, he wrote to me again:
‘I’m sending you here some first tastes of what I’m working on. There is not very much music yet, but I wanted you to know that at least I’m on the train. It was in fact very difficult to select one single work out of all your amazing paintings to base the piece upon. Too many ideas… perhaps I should compose several pieces…’ E mail 22nd February 2014
Here are the paintings that he had selected.
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I won’t comment on these, but leave David to talk about them. He pointed out that he had been drawn to works which had been inspired by my longtime closeness to the tidal Thames, and that had drawn him to T S Eliot:

Oh, and the Thames thematic for some reason made it impossible for me to stop associate to Eliot…: ‘The river sweats/Oil and tar/The barges drift/With the turning tide/Red sails/Wide/To leeward, swing on the heavy spar./The barges wash/Drifting logs/Down Greenwich reach/Past the Isle of Dogs.’

We have not had a conversation about the river, nor about the Thames Barges that I see every day, and especially not about my lifelong fascination with Eliot, and particularly with Eliot’s notion of what I see as an ‘urban pastoral’. So I am very excited that David has put his finger on something fundamental to me, my daily life, and my family’s history, in the mud and slap of the Thames.

David goes on:’I am very interested in doing a piece where you as a performer has quite much freedom, almost like a “co-composer”, as you find your own way through the piece. I found box notation quite useful here. The idea is that the piece starts in the “first painting”, and then you navigate through boxes where the musical material is transformed to end up in the “second painting” and ultimately in the third and last one.’

I will post more specimens of this exciting new project as they appear, but to begin with, here is a wonderful mysterious ‘map’ which David has produced of the oart of the piece:
Early Collaboration. 

Paradoxes-(World Premiere)Achilles & the Tortoise

Schrödinger’s cat

Kreutzer Quartet. Malmo Music Academy. November 2011

Xeno’s Paradox-Achilles and the Tortoise

Schrödinger’s cat

Kreutzer Quartet (Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Neil Heyde , Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff)

Malmo Music Academy May & November  2011 (Workshop Performances)

Some of the composers and musicians from the Malmo Music Hich School. Collaborative Workshop, Thursday 20th January.

Mihailo, Morgan and Neil discuss a point of detail in one of the new works, Malmo November 2011