We’ve had two Portfolio composer workshops with Ruthless Jabiru now and the three pieces are close to being finished. Each composer has taken their own approach to working with Kelly and the orchestra. Eugene Birman’s piece was more or less ready at the first workshop and so for him the process has been one of refinement. Imago Dei is a piece full of contrast – from flickering clouds of notes, to rich harmonies, to the sounds of the players’ breath – and the challenge is in navigating these contrasts.
Michael Cryne, on the other hand, came to the first workshop with the beginnings of his Slipstream, almost as if he was checking that he was on the right track. He was, and for the second workshop he had a finished score which follows those opening ideas through to an exhilarating conclusion. It’s music which, once the notes are securely under the players’ fingers, is really going to fly.
Somewhere in between these two ways of using the workshop process has been Egidija Medekšaitė. Her piece depicts the transition from day to night and back again and she obviously knew how darkness and light should sound; it was the transitions which benefited from rehearsal, reflection and reworking and now the piece flows beautifully from one state to the other.
For me this whole experience has been hugely enjoyable. The three new works inhabit their very different imaginative domains with complete conviction and part of my role has been to confirm this for the composers. Rehearsing is my favourite part of the whole compositional process and sometimes it feels like it’s useful that I’ve spent a lot of my life listening to musicians working towards realisations of new music. Sometimes things don’t work immediately; maybe they’re misconceived or less than ideally communicated, but often it’s just a matter of being patient, waiting for them to come into focus. For composers there’s an art to being useful in rehearsals; knowing when an intervention might be helpful and when it’s just going to be annoying!