Working document for Blog Steps Images.indd

In our debrief for last Friday’s aural theatre performance at St John’s Smith Square, we have chosen to include a blog post from composer Deborah Pritchard who created our very first music map!

In Deborah’s own composition, she uses her synaesthesia to create coloured images that outline the structure of her work. We asked Deborah to invert her usual process and to produce a visual map of Furrer’s FAMA as a listening guide for our audience. The results were both beautiful and informative, and Deborah has kindly put in words the process behind her creation. Scroll down to see some photographs of the creative process and read on to find out more about her approach.

The music map has received some amazing feedback, at the event on Friday night and on social media. It is the first of a new initiative by the London Sinfonietta and we are excited to see what comes next. Look out for another installation by Deborah in December, when she will be guiding you through the sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee.


Deborah’s Music Map of FAMA


My first step in creating a visual map to Beat Furrer’s FAMA was to research the beautiful and intense world of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the home of the goddess Fama (the Goddess of Rumor). This narrative evoked elegiac and translucent images layered like echoes and sounds, and the medium of watercolour seemed right to generate this mesmeric sound world. A leaning towards the colour blue as it demonstrated the fluid and luminous characteristics of FAMA whilst also resonating with past set designs and productions for this work. The addition of text from Arthur Schnitzler’s short novel, Fraulein Else, adds a powerful human element to the piece and I used slightly warmer purples and maroons to show this juxtaposition.

The next step was to measure out the piece in time, and to structure my visual map proportionally to the musical work. I then studied the score and visualised each of the eight scenes through colour and texture, with low to high register moving from bottom to top. Since it would be impossible to represent every single musical event clearly on one side of A4 I decided to highlight what I considered to be important or significant musical events and labelled them consecutively to guide the listener. For example, I chose to label the tam-tam crescendo at the end of Scene 7 since it was a clear and audible musical event. Further to this I decided to keep any vocal writing or passages for the actress in the centre of the map so there could be a keystone around which all other ensemble activity could move. In summary, the task was to create a visual map of FAMA that showed the piece in one glance, guiding the listener through the work.

Whilst this was essentially a listening guide to another composer’s work, my subjective way of working also engaged with my own creativity and sense of beauty. And in conjunction with a delicate layering of watercolour and freehand pen the visual map became both functional and expressive.

© Deborah Pritchard

 After its UK premiere last Friday (11 November 2016) in London, we hold a repeat performance of the work as part of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival this Sunday 20 November 2016 at 10pm. Deborah’s Music Map will be available on the night to guide festival goers through the 21st century masterpiece.

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