Composing a performance: activating collaboration

  • Senate House, Room 261 Malet Street London, WC1E United Kingdom

David Gorton (Royal Academy of Music)

The real world practices of collaboration between composers and performers have been receiving increasing attention within academic discourse (Fitch and Heyde 2007; Östersjö 2008; Bayley 2010; Clarke, Doffman and Lim 2013). Such collaborations are often presented from two complementary perspectives: pre-compositional joint invention and post-compositional negotiations in the realisation of a score and its notation. This presentation considers possible compositional strategies for bridging the gap between the two perspectives, embedding something of the improvisatiory ‘unpredictability and contingency’ (Sawyer and DeZutter, 2009) of joint invention into a score and thereby into performance. Two of my compositions will be examined: Austerity Measures I for ten-string guitar, written for Stefan Östersjö, and Austerity Measures II for Howarth-Redgate oboe and string quartet, written for Christopher Redgate and the Kreutzer Quartet. Both pieces had an extended pre-composition experimental phase, and both represent an attempt to recreate something of those experiments in performance. In this presentation I will discuss how this process is activated through types of indeterminacy in the structure and notation of the scores.

Described by Gramophone magazine as working in the ‘more radical domain’ of British music, David Gorton’s works are often characterised by microtonal tuning systems and performer virtuosity. Alongside apparently complex works, his output includes compositions for amateur choirs and pieces in the ABRSM Spectrum series.

David Gorton first came to public attention in 2001 when he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize. Commissions followed for ensembles that include the London Sinfonietta, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Exposé, Jane's Minstrels, CHROMA, HERMESensemble, and the Kreutzer Quartet. His compositions have been performed throughout Europe and America, in China, and in Vietnam, and most of his recent music is recorded on the Métier label. Much of his output comprises series of works for solo performers with whom he has built a collaborative relationship over a period of years, including the violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved, cellist Neil Heyde, oboist Christopher Redgate, pianist Zubin Kanga, and guitar player Stefan Östersjö. Current projects include a new CD of works inspired by the music of John Dowland, featuring Longbow Ensemble and Stefan Östersjö. David Gorton is the Associate Head of Research at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and an associate researcher at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent.

Part of the CMPS/IMR Performance/Research Series