In the latest of our articles profiling emerging composers on our Writing the Future scheme, we chat to Samantha Fernando about her new work. Positive/Negative Space will be performed at The New Music Show on Sunday 8 December in the first of four sets of brand new music throughout the day.
You can help support Samantha’s new work via your mobile! Simply text 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 the score as a thank you!
Your piece is called Positive/Negative Space. Could you describe the meaning behind the title?
A friend gave me a book on architecture recently and I was particularly interested in the concept of positive and negative space. Space is considered positive if it has a definite shape and a sense of boundary between what is inside and what is outside. The unshaped space that results after the placement of objects is defined as negative space. People tend to dwell in positive spaces whereas negative spaces promote movement. I wanted to explore this architectural concept in composition.
You have written your piece for flute, alto saxophone, clarinet and cello. Could you explain what kind of sound world you are aiming to create with this group of instruments?
I enjoy writing for unconventional instrumentations because it opens up new and interesting sound worlds. It is not without its difficulties though. This ensemble is particularly challenging because the cello is outnumbered by the three woodwind instruments. However, I have used extended techniques in my work which transform the conventional sounds of the instruments, so the disparity between them is blurred.
What is it like to work with London Sinfonietta musicians when developing your new work?
Working with the players whilst writing this new work is such a valuable opportunity for me. Being able to get feedback from the players during the writing process is very helpful indeed especially given the players specialise in new repertoire. For this piece, trialing the multiphonics (where an instrument plays multiple tones simultaneously) was essential.
Who do you cite as your main musical/creative inspirations?
I gain inspiration from the other arts and I love living in London for that reason. I try to go to as many diverse artistic events as possible because I never know what might spark my interest. At the moment I am particularly interested in the artist James Turrell and his use of light. I am also reading lots of Calvino as I find his approach to form and structure quite beautiful. I saw Malala speak at the Southbank a couple of weeks ago and came away feeling energised by her outlook on life and her drive to instigate change. Musically, I am very interested in the work of Raphaël Cendo, whom I studied with at Royaumont Abbey. His music explores ‘sound saturation’ and I love the boldness of his music.
What’s currently on your iPod?
Luke Bedford, Henri Dutilleux, György Ligeti, Frédéric Chopin, Domenico Scarlatti. I am also addicted to podcasts of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and RadioLab.