Continua Autumn 2016 (IN PREPARATION)

Posted on September 13th, 2016 by

Continua-USA September 11-16th 2016 Working with composers and players at Ithaca College NY

Dancers outside at Ithaca College. 16 9 16

Dancers outside at Ithaca College. 16 9 16

One of the most fascinating and inspiring aspects of my life, is working with young composers. In the USA, I have been privileged to do this at a wide variety of institutions. This was my first visit to beautiful Ithaca College, high on the hill over one of the Finger Lakes. There I found discipline, creativity and playfulness; and most of all, inspiration in abundance.

Playing Torelli in the Hockett recital Hall. 15 9 16

Playing Torelli in the Hockett recital Hall. 15 9 16

16th September

Now that my first brief residency slot has finished, and I am sitting on the bust to New York City, it would seem to be the perfect time to give an overview of the activities of the past few days. If there is one word which has come up most frequently it is-Drafts. I have never experienced a group of young composers keener to make pass after ass at their works, to really engage in the process of collaboration with intensity. The task was a simple one: write a work for solo violin. Or was it simple? As is often the case, the challenge of producing a short work for a single player forced, or enabled the composers to look at themselves.

I worked closely with Jonah Bobo, EmmanBerrido ,  Jason Eldridge, Dallas J. Howard, Daniel Angstadt. Yosh Paterson Yosh Paterson, Jacob Kerzner, and Malachi
Brown. Dallas Howard writes:

“I think the most valuable thing I learned from this week was that it’s ok to be wrong as long as you ask how to make it right. The conversations Peter and I had been about the musical language we were trying to convey. As we refined the sound world, we came up with new ideas and symbols translate those ideas clearly. While the late nights and drafts assisted in getting me quite sick during this week. Being able to sit back and listen to all the work we did for five minutes of a great start! Made every minute beyond worth it. “

It was very clear to me, that the students at Ithaca are blessed with extraordinary composition teachers, Evis Sammoutis and Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann. They encourage indealism, hard work, and real debate. Sitting in on lessons with Evis Sammoutis, I was thrilled at how he encourage students to chisel away at their work, like sculptors seeking the form within a block of stone. He is indefatigable and kind in equal measure.

A young composer, lost in thought, inspired by Evis Sammoutis 15 9 16

A young composer, lost in thought, inspired by Evis Sammoutis 15 9 16

A word from Evis Sammoutis:

I am a passionate supporter of collaboration and cross disciplinary learning. I also encourage all my student composers to engage in meaningful dialogues with performers and to build collaborative relationships with their fellow students. /The residency by Peter Sheppard Skaerved was aimed to support this vision. It was important for the students to have a real interaction with our guest artist, to discuss and learn both in the classroom and outside, between meals and coffee, and they were encouraged to join us for these formal and casual discussions. Usually students across several institutions meet guest performers through workshops offering a limited time for interaction. They write a piece and, at best, have the chance to work for only a few minutes with a guest ensemble, composer or performer. It is a highly stressful process that many times just touches the surface. Our idea was to invite guest artists that not only excel in their interpretations of new music but are also equally comfortable performing older repertoire and, even though not composers themselves, are able to have extremely detailed discussions about the compositional process because they have worked directly with some of the great composers of our time. They are artists that embrace improvisation and can communicate ideas effectively between composers, performers, conductors and musicologists; artists that are a living testament to how exciting being a musician in the 21st century can be and, therefore, support our vision of making sure that our students make meaningful relationships outside the academic walls and are best prepared for today’s challenges. /the chance for our students to have lectures, workshops and one-to-one sessions with Peter Sheppard Skaerved could not be possible without the artist’s generosity. PSS worked tirelessly with all students, pushing them to explore new creative avenues, and met personally with every student that signed up, sometimes even three times. The chance for any young composer to work in such depth with a top professional artist at the start of the creative process is unparalleled. PSS treats all students as young colleagues, with respect yet with a genuine intention to require them to push their artistic limits. His residency began with a fascinating lecture encompassing over five centuries of music and giving a unique insight into the world of some of the composers with whom he worked very closely, notable H.W. Henze. He then gave private lessons, working with students on sketches of their new works. The same evening, PSS gave a fascinating lecture/recital lasting two hours, showing some of the results of his collaborative work with various composers. /Over the following two days, PSS worked tirelessly with students on new works and gave a lecture for the violin classes, discussing some lesser known violin gems emerging from 17th century London. The final day of his residency concluded with a public workshop where all student works were performed and discussed and where PSS explained the main points of discussion with each student. It must be noted that all one-to-one sessions had an open door policy. Everyone was encouraged to sit in on each other’s sessions./PSS with return in Spring to work again with the students and to also perform the new student works alongside works from the repertoire during what it is anticipated to be another memorable residency! We are all excited to see the results of this collaboration and to hear how these works will develop over the next few months.

Percussionist, Lindsey Eastham writes:

I immensely enjoyed having Peter join us at Ithaca College this week. It was great to see a performers perspective on the composition process. Any one here that came in contact with Peter now knows what an open flow of information and ideas he has emoting from him at all times. I was so inspired after hearing his thoughts on doctoral research, he gave me much to think about as I approach the next chapter in my education. I can’t wait to have more opportunities to collaborate with Peter when he returns in the spring.

Composer Emmanuel Berrido writes:

I always walk in to a reading with a sort of dread. To compose is to open a three-way communication with the performer and the listener, and I get (and think will always be) nervous of whether or not the intention of the piece will come through and become the connection between me and who is playing, over technicalities, over this-note-or-that, over detaché vs. legato. It was, then a strike of good fortune to have been able to meet with you, as not only did you get my meaning in two seconds, but with your insight, the meaning of my own work became clearer for myself.

15th September

An inspiring day; by now, we have fascinating new solo pieces by Malachi Brown, Dallas Howard, Jacob Kerzner, Emmanuel Berrido, and have also have a wonderful time working with composers on their chamber and orchestral pieces.

Composer's Sketch, with additions from Evis Sammoutis and PJSS 15 9 16

Composer’s Sketch, with additions from Evis Sammoutis and PJSS 15 9 16

At the end of the day of one-to-one workshops, I presented a session on early music (including some David Gorton) to the violin classes of  Calvin Wiersma and Susan Waterbury. I played Torelli, Purcell, Matteis, Locatelli and Tartini, and then everyone wanted to show me instruments. A great welcome


Composers Evis Sammoutis and Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann; work over! 13 9 16

Composers Evis Sammoutis and Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann; work over! 13 9 16

14th September

A day of intense work and discussion with the composers who are all bringing works for solo violin. I have departed from my normal workshop format, and elected to let my young colleagues in to the fine detail of preparation. There was a fantastic response, and loads of ideas flowed from motif-based technical work. Its closeness to the compositional process means that the dialogue between performer and composer can be very intense, and that the two roles balance beautifully.

Composer Malachi Brown, while we work on his 'Impromptu' 14 9 16

Composer Malachi Brown, while we work on his ‘Impromptu’ 14 9 16

Fundamental to this, is the extraordinary teaching that Evis Sammoutis and Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann offer the students here. It is really inspiring to see how their vision liberates young composers to great quality and inventiveness.

Dallas Howard, with his rapidly evolving work, 'Eclipses' 13 9 16

Dallas Howard, with his rapidly evolving work, ‘Eclipses’ 13 9 16

One of the interesting challenges working at this intensity, is how to gather material. If I am not careful, we end up with two versions of the text-the composers’ and mine, so for now, I am insisting that composers walk away with their materials (covered with my scrawl) so that we can have a rationalised outcome.

Evis Sammoutis with composer/singer Jacob Kerzner 14 9 16

Evis Sammoutis with composer/singer Jacob Kerzner 14 9 16

13th September

The morning began with a session putting he idea of collaboration into a historical context. I used examples from my own experience with Hans Werner Henze (among others) to parallel the collaborative approach with the manner in which composers have, historically, retrodden, reinvented the work of their predecessors. There were some very interesting questions, ranging from questions of how to notate (inventing notation or using accepted notations), through to the relationship between new music and instrumental pedagogy.

Composer Evis Sammoutis in the Music LIbrary at Ithaca

Composer Evis Sammoutis in the Music LIbrary at Ithaca

I then worked with composer Dallas Howard, on a very new piece (one day old and getting younger!) for solo violin. He came to our session with some very insightful approaches. We focused on how to notate a polyrhythmic passage in 3 and 4 note chords, and issues of scratched colours and harmonics.

A lovely place to spend some time 13 9 16

A lovely place to spend some time 13 9 16

In the evening, I gave a presentation exploring the role of ‘discovery’ in composition. I began with Halvorsen’s visionary early transcriptions of Norwegian ‘Slaatter’ and the impact on the Peters Verlag edition on the work of Bartok and Stravinsky. Evis Sammoutis introduced his wonderful ‘Nikosia Etudes’. There was also music by Michael Alec Rose, Marini, Nigel Clarke, Bach and Telemann.

Performing at Ithaca 13 9 16

Performing at Ithaca 13 9 16

12th September 

So this week, if there is a theme, it is the fundamental unity that exist between the practice, the making, and the experience of music at any time in history. As a way of clarifying this process, I have elected to erect a wall, and to effectively CANCEL the 19th and 20th centuries from my music making, very temporarily, to explore the dialogues. Perhaps inevitably after a summer of travel in the USA, walking, on ships, ferries, planes, trains, automobiles, in mountains, fjords, deserts, glaciers, prairie, and on the ocean, the fundamental human colloquy, with the natural world, is taking centre stage. I make no apology for the fact that the struggle to find a foothold in landscape where I am just the tiniest part-by a dormant volcano, close to calving glacier, or just with my toes in the Mississippi-is moving to centre stage now. But it is taking a little time.

Where words fail; what we reach for. Hubbard Glacier August 2016

Where words fail; what we reach for. Hubbard Glacier August 2016

On Sunday, at the Compass Center, in Brandon Vermont, I explored this in a ‘talking concert’ setting, with an audience, the music stretched back to the Ancient Greeks, with a focus on 17th Century Northern Italy and Austria, and leapt to our time to the dialogues which my present day collaborators enjoy, with our forebears.

And this just in. A thoughtful overview of my presentation at Compass Arts Center, by JIM LOWE in the ‘Rutland Herald’

Article published Sep 13, 2016
Music Review: New violin music reflects the earliest works

Staff Writer
BRANDON — Uniquely among musical instruments, violins were first made in the 1500s and have changed very little since. That information and much more was explored Sunday at the Compass Music and Arts Center Sunday in a fascinating and erudite lecture-demonstration by violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved.

More importantly, the British violinist played and discussed short works from the early Baroque period, written for the earliest violins, with contemporary pieces reflecting that Baroque style, some actually written for Sheppard Skærved himself. And the relationship was clear.

Sheppard Skærved opened with a work familiar in style, a movement from the 1720 “Il Laberinto Armonico (Harmonic Labyrinth)” by Pietro Locatelli, a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. The lyrically played broken chords creating drama through harmonic changes were in a style that the great German master himself used.

Biagio Marini’s ca. 1610 “Capriccio,” written in the same year Sheppard Skærved’s Amati violin was made, used only three strings, resulting in a Renaissance sound. That was compared with the 2016 “Nikosia Caprices” by Evis Sammoutis that employs violin harmonics in a similar style with decidedly different results.

Interestingly, much of the early music employs techniques that are used by contemporary traditional fiddlers. Some of the contemporary works mimicked those techniques, but with modern classical harmonic and rhythmic language.

In particular, Sheppard Skærved’s own 2016 “Pindar,” reflecting the singing quality of poetry, accented by rhythms similar to traditional music of the British Isles, made his point.

Sheppard Skærved is no early music specialist. He is a traditional virtuoso violinist and founder and first violinist (called leader in undemocratic England) of the Kreutzer Quartet, a traditional eclectic string quartet that leans toward modern.

On Sunday, he played with an easy technique, with clarity and precision. His expressiveness was natural and warm on all three different bows — a short early Baroque one for the short statements of the era, a longer later one that “sang,” and the “modern” one, developed in the late 1700s, that does almost everything.

Sheppard Skærved’s fascination with violins has led him to become the only living violinist to have performed on the violins of Niccolo Paganini, Joseph Joachim and Giovanni Battista Viotti. He is in the process of recording a series of albums featuring Baroque works played on many of the world’s historic instruments. The series, which may reach as many as 10 volumes, is being produced by the Divine Art Recordings Group, headquartered in the Compass.

Representing the pinnacle of the early Baroque was Heinrich Biber’s ca. 1680 “Mystery Sonata 16,” with its recurring bass line earning it the description of “walking piece.” J.S. Bach was to employ the same technique in his Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin.

The program explored the early Baroque and its contemporary reflections, skipping a wide gap in between. However, Paul Pellay’s 2016 “Scheggie (Slivers)” was purportedly based on a Mozart violin and piano sonata. But other than a few notes by Mozart, the work was in a contemporary style more reflecting on the excesses of the Romantic era. Still, it was beautiful.

Interesting factoid: While period instrument crusaders insist on only using gut strings on their violins, Sheppard Skærved’s research has uncovered patents for metal strings in the 1600s.

Compass Music and Arts Center