This is a more detailed thought than the one on the front page. And there is a lot to think about.
But where to start? I sometimes feel I should start back in May, and yet the process I've been using for the new work in Heralds stems back further, to around about August and then of course, the root of it all, Skopje. So let's start in Macedonia.
The work I did out there [which you can hear and download] and the experiences I had affected me in a way that I had not previously felt in any other situation. I came back not able to write using the tools I knew; so I had to look around inside myself, and almost re-learn a new set, a re-wiring of the musical reflexes so something else, but something old; music has always been about the story, the narrative. I think this was consolidated for me with the tour with Dave and Josh, where the main audience feedback [other than
you were amazing: why aren't you getting more gigs? yes, promoters, that's what they're asking and only you have the answer] was that they heard stories in the music we make. And although I had never said it clearly before, this is good feedback since that's exactly what I'm trying to do.
The issue for me was that none of what I've talked about required or requires any standard Western notation. So I asked myself: how do I present a pre-determined story, using a larger group of creative musicians?
So I got reading, and remembering. In 2007 I went to Dublin, to see the Book of Kells in Trinity College Library, and on the way learned about Ogham. Ogham was originally a documentary language; it showed ownership, names, and other such things. No one uses it any more, but visually I saw it'd be used in all sorts of ways —Ogham has letters like ᚂ, ᚌ, and so on. So I played with that for a couple of months, until I came to the conclusion that I wanted to communicate the ideas quicker than this. So I fell back to W. B. Yeats [it should be added that I saw this exhibition whilst I was in Ireland too]. The part that intrigued me the most was finding out about Yeats learning the psaltery and connecting it with reciting poetry [head to the bit called
A Person of the 90s]. I couldn't find any specifics, like the exact tuning of Dolmetsch's psaltery, but the idea of the connection created a small but dormant germ inside me. I think this was then awakened and had its growth accelerated the year later in Skopje, where I worked with eleven poets who all had work in different languages: it was then carried through and merged with the craft of the trio, and is now leaking out and expanding in all sorts of ways that are exciting.
It's becoming a real thread in my work; the stuff I wrote for the fantastic poet Lydia Towsey's work is deeply connected with this, but in Western musical notation; and now with Heralds, which is almost entirely text-based, I am refining things so I can hear the things I want to hear and yet let the others be free to create.
The Derby gig was really interesting for me; since it had been quite a while since I'd done a larger format group with my own writing I was slightly apprehensive, but with the talent in the room it was always going to be a good musical experience. Derby was extremely supportive again and some people travelled from even further to listen [thank you!]. The format of the tunes was not perfect, not as easy to read as I'd hoped; but I had to try it to know it: and I can't wait to see where it takes us when we get to Leeds...