Edward Cowie – Particle Partita (Film and ideas…)

Posted on June 21st, 2022 by

Edward Cowie – Particle Partita

Peter Sheppard Skærved & Mihailo Trandafilovski – Violins


‘Particle Partita’- a personal note by Peter Sheppard Skærved

Mihailo Trandafilovski and I gave the world premiere of this fantastic piece at Wilton’s Music Hall on 26th July 2016. The piece made a huge impression, not only on us, but on the enthusiastic audience. One of them, the acclaimed cartoonist and children’s illustrator, Sally Kindberg, wrote on her blog the following day:

‘Fantastic concert last night at Wilton’s Music Hall, at another Peter Sheppard Skaerved event, not only an evening of Mozart but a world premiere of composer and artist Edward Cowie‘s Particle Partita, some of which I attempted to draw on the back of my programme notes – I’d foolishly left my notebook behind. Particle Partita is for two violins, and one could imagine particles flying, electrons fizzing and blipping etc as Peter and Mihailo Trandafilovski played … it was quite a physical performance!’[i]

The excited public response to this extraordinary piece was important to us, because, it was, yet again, a vindication of our belief that listeners can be enthralled and enthused by music which requires total commitment from both sides of the footlights. There is a timidness afoot, which suggests that music should not be ‘too much’, or should not ask too much, of you, or us.

Let us not beat about the bush: Particle Partita is difficult. It demands total virtuosity from the two violinists, pushing us to our physical and intellectual limits: some players demur at such requirements. But the rewards it offers are mysterious, unquantifiable, and we might argue about what they are. Right at this moment, Voyager 1, launched 45 years ago, is exiting the heliosphere, and scientists are arguing about what that means. What that might mean for us is harder to grasp: and yet we are excited by it, our imaginations run riot at the idea that Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach is beginning a journey into interstellar space.

The physics at the heart of Edward’s wonderful piece, is beyond me: but somehow, the coruscating brilliance and overwhelming physicality of the music makes an opening, into something of its importance, gives me the idea that I can, at the very least, venture to reach out to the concepts at its heart. I find myself remembering how Alan of Lille (1128-1202) defined the divine, in Maximae theologia:

‘[…] an intelligible sphere, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.’

Every time that this piece is played, it is different. The notes are adamant, and cannot be changed – nor can the rhythms, the dynamics, the articulations, and the timbres. But the relationship between the two players does change – it is up to each successive soloist as to when their individual caprice steps into the space where the other one is active. They do not interfere with each other, at least on paper, but of course, the sensitivities of the materials, the players, the listeners (whether audience or microphones) and spaces ensure that new relationships, reactions, reliefs, and intercommunications are seen, imagined, forged, and forgotten in the minds-ear of everyone involved. Music this sensitive, this wired, hair-triggered, is profoundly affected by being witnessed. It is uncertain.

So, there is no way of knowing, how it will affect you, and how you have affected it already, although you may not have heard a note of it yet. You were always going to hear it, and that changed everything. I hope you love it as much as we do.’





[i] https://www.sallykindberg.co.uk/notebook/2016/07/edward-cowies-particle-partita-at-wiltons-music-hall-london/