Listening then and now
The Ensemble Variances under the baton of Thierry Pécou formed the most experimental point in the program (...). The music became an all-encompassing spatial experience. Frenetic applause from the audience.
Amerindian artist and Kwakwaka'wakw chief Beau Dick writes "we believe the creatures of the animal kingdom to be our brethren because in ancient times our two spirits were connected".
Ensemble Variances' programme for Caen and Bristol New Music explores the idea of humanity's sharing of the planet with animals, birds, plants and the nature around us in an interspecies collaboration inspired by ancient cultures for whom the above quote was an unquestioned way of life. Beginning with Thierry Pécou's Sikus, which re-imagines the harmony of pre-Columbian music and the intertwining of visible and invisible time and space called "Pasha" in the Andes, we then journey to music informed by the expanses of nature and life around humans on earth (Wishart, Adams), and finally to actual collaboration with birds (Mâche), whose multitudinous voices join flute and piano in precisely interwoven patterns and unisons through the help of unique notation and electronics.
Gardez la Distance (working title) for flute, clarinet, and piano
"A birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us", says Rainer Maria Rilke. Gardez la Distance is for human resonances to share the avian sound-world. Birdsong enriches human musical ideas in their use of their soundscape, and by the structure of how they sing in terms of space, content, and silence – for me, it is a unique creative resource.
Gardez la Distance draws on the process of how a bird learns to sing. The names of the movements – Subsong, Plastic Song and Song Crystallisation are names given by ornithologists to the distinct phases of the bird's learning. The piece is driven by the interaction of spontaneity, notation, and silence on the basis of avian performance.
Birdsong has given me ideas as a composer, which I find enriching, and which push me in new directions coming from nature, rather than a human source. This feels magical because my ears delve into a world of sound I cannot fathom yet is unutterably musical. Working with birdsong allows me to experience nature in a unique way and so I am overjoyed to be composing for Ensemble Variances, who share my commitment to combining new music with environmental issues.
I often get commissioned by excellent music groups who do not specialise in contemporary music. With Variances I now have the chance to work with an eminent ensemble dedicated to music of our time; and an opportunity to work with musicians with whom I have not had the chance to work with before. This promises to open up new musical horizons.
Increasingly I have felt the need to compose with more ecological relevance, and so I welcome the chance to be part of Variances’ involvement in environmental issues. Gardez la Distance will give me the chance to further explore these issues as a natural extension of my creativity.
- Stevie Wishart