A SYNAESTHETIC APPROACH: DEBORAH PRITCHARD

The final performance of this summer’s London Sinfonietta Academy takes place tomorrow (Saturday 11 July) at LSO St Luke’s. Tickets are free but advance booking is essential. The repertoire includes Mark Simpson, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Darius Milhaud, György Ligeti, Harrison Birtwistle and a brand new commission by Deborah Pritchard.

Ahead of its world premiere, we asked Deborah to share the ins and outs of her creative process for Waves and Waterfalls:

“I have a synaesthetic approach to composition with a direct link between colour and intervals, meaning much of my music is in response to visual artworks. Waves and Waterfalls for chamber ensemble is written in response to the painting Wave returning (oil on canvas, 2009) by contemporary artist and sculptor Maggi Hambling and follows on from my recent violin concerto Wall of Water that also responded to her work and was performed at the National Gallery. As part of my creative process I was able to spend some time working in front of the painting at Hambling’s London studio and I attempted to capture the powerful, elegiac movement of the wave, the huge range of textures, the juxtaposition of light and darkness and the deep, vivid colours of the sea. 

In describing her painting Hambling says: ‘From the left the wave rises, sweeping to the right where it dissolves on the shingle and returns into the sea. It is an attempt to see a moment when the sea challenges the land.’© Maggi Hambling My piece begins with a powerful musical statement that quickly dissipates and comes to rest like a wave that crashes onto the shingle. I respond synaesthetically to the deep blues, greens and black of the sea with the colder intervals of the perfect fourth, fifth and tritone, coloured with the minor and major second. An expressive trumpet solo then emerges from the darkness and the music rises up towards another crashing wave-like statement. This pattern repeats until the music dissipates no more and moves into a continuum of demisemiquavers in the upper strings that support a soprano saxophone solo, suggestive of the more delicate, cascading water found at the height of the wave, like a miniature waterfall, full of light and movement. The music rises up once more, repeats a transformed version of the opening statement and leads to the final section of the piece that introduces the major and minor third through a series of white-note modes. A waterfall-like percussive texture moves over an expressive line in the lower strings concluding with the solo trumpet melody of the opening, this time muted and transformed harmonically. Waves and Waterfalls is not only a response to Hambling’s painting, but is also a personal reflection on the movement, expression and power of the sea.

I have been very impressed by the focussed and expressive playing of the Academy musicians, their meticulous attention to illuminating the many different colours and textures in my piece and their ability to engage with the meaning behind the work. It has also been incredibly inspiring to work with such a wonderful conductor as Pierre-André Valade, who has interpreted the shape and pacing of my music perfectly, and I’m very much looking forward to the performance on Saturday.”

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