solos and tuttis
Commissioned by the Cumnock Tryst
Premiere with The Scottish Chamber Orchestra cancelled due to COVID-19
Solos and Tuttis was commissioned for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra a with a premiere originally set during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The concert was postponed until 2021 (and then postponed again indefinitely).
The orchestra predictably suffered cancellations of a large proportion of the concerts in their 20/21 season. When starting to work on the piece, I regularly found myself thinking about a strange kind of residue or shadow that would likely accompany the return of live orchestral music after its forced and prolonged absence.
My way into the piece was to imagine the cancelled repertoire of the SCO's season filtered through the unusual times we’ve been living through. A major component of this was to consider the abundance of split-screened, multi-tracked audiovisual recordings that many orchestras shared to social media, in an attempt to fill the void in their performance activities during lockdown.
There are of course some facets of this kind of music-making that are largely considered inferior to the real-time orchestral situation, whether that’s the absence of that ambiguous but very special ‘live’ energy that comes from amassed bodies in a performance space; a lack of temporal expressivity as a result of recording classical repertoire to a click track; the reduction in audio fidelity and dynamic compression when these recordings are encoded through social media’s audio codecs; or even the presence of unwanted artefacts like distortion, room noise or buffering glitches during online streaming.
I started to compose with some of these realities of recording, editing and streaming this hyper-individualised, digital presentation of classical music.
When re-appropriating them back into a composition for a live orchestral setting, I became particularly interested in how this could further magnify the dualism involved in witnessing the voice and personality of each individual member of the orchestra, as well as that of the collective.