It was the first workshop with Peter Sheppard Skaerved on Tuesday (Valentine’s Day, as it happened), and as you’ll have guessed from my earlier post, I was quite nervous about it. In fact, it turned out to be a wonderful day, full of laughter and discovery.
There were three of us – Peter, me and Mark Doffman from Oxford University, who is interested in observing and studying the creative process in an interactive project like this one. I started with the sketches which I felt were least risky. Very quickly, Mark and I saw and heard not only how wonderfully Peter played them, but also how enthusiastic he was, and how quick and keen he was to get to the heart of the idea, and to inhabit it from the inside. This was absolutely ideal, for any piece, but especially for a piece like this, of course. So gradually I started bringing out sketches where I experimented with different ways of influencing and the player and setting up the ‘idea’, the ‘scenario’, without necessarily writing out every note and rhythm. It really was fascinating hearing these various different skeletons come to life.
Peter is a wonderful performer of Paganini, and also of unaccompanied Bach, so I decided to take their unaccompanied violin music as starting points for two of the movements. The piece falls into several movements – about five, it looks like – and each one takes a different approach to the question of how I as composer can shape the improvisation: what to specify, and what to leave open. I’m now hugely encouraged about the piece, and looking forward tremendously to the next workshop in March.