Writing the Future: Tristan Rhys Williams

In the second of our series of composer profiles, we chat to Tristan Rhys Williams, a young composer on our Writing the Future scheme. Tristan’s new work reduction form will be performed at The New Music Show on Sunday 8 December at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.

Here’s what Tristan had to say about his new piece.

Could you explain a bit about the background to the work and the reasons behind the work’s title, ‘reduction form’?

I wanted to work with a form that was systematically whittled away. The catalyst for the work came from a sculpture by Mark Eaglen called ‘reduction form’ which consists of a series of cubes which are eroded:

 © Mark Eaglen

The eight sections and the six clauses or ‘sides’ that make up each section of my work were informed by the structure of this sculpture. The musical material consists of three material types: ‘grounds’, ‘punctuations’ and ‘interruptions’. The first two categories appear within the first section and the third category is present from the second section onwards until it consumes the work. All of the material is presented early on before being subjected to mottled repetitions and clinical incisions within the same formal casing (each of the eight sections are of equal length). I was keen on having the subsidiary ‘material types’ (the whitened erasures or dark ink blots which stain the sound surface) systematically take over the work with a cruel inevitability. This degraded aesthetic relates to my tendency towards a sort of musica povera.

What is it like working with London Sinfonietta musicians when developing your work?

The work in progress workshop was very helpful and I’m looking forward to the next rehearsal. Hearing my work played in full will be revealing as my music operates in a cumulative way and depends upon a certain montage-like saturation point.

Who would you cite as your main compositional influences?

I would have to say Morton Feldman, Helmut Lachenmann, Rebecca Saunders, Giacinto Scelsi, Mathias Spahlinger, Galina Ustvolskaya and Iannis Xenakis.

Federico Mompou and Erik Satie were early influences and “clairvoyant(s) of the small”. I was also struck by Olivier Messiaen’s formal rigidity.

What are you listening to on your iPod at the moment?

After reading Wayne Koestenbaum’s fantastic recent essay collection, I’m listening to Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire by Claude Debussy sung by Anna Moffo on her Grammy nominated album Songs of Debussy which is only available on vinyl. The cover photograph is incredibly ‘70s and speaks to me of blur, soft-focus, Vaseline on the lens and tranquillised states.

We make new music. You make new music happen.

Help support Tristan’s new work alongside that of the other emerging composers on our Writing the Future scheme by texting LSF001 followed by your donation amount to 70970. (Donations can be £3, £5 or £10). We’ll send you an exclusive signed copy of the first page of one of the scores as a thank you!

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