Walled City Music Festival “Final Score” workshop report

A report from composer Seán Dohery on his attendance at the recent “Final Score” composer workshop which took place as part of the Walled City Music Festival in Derry
Composers with the Cull Quartet and Joe Cutler

Composers, Coull Quartet and Joe Cutler

On Sunday, 20 July 2014, I had the pleasure of taking part in ‘Final Score’, a composition workshop organised as part of the Walled City Music Festival, in partnership with the Contemporary Music Centre, and held in the Foyle Arts Building of the University of Ulster, Derry. The workshop was mentored by the English composer Joe Cutler and facilitated by the Warwick-based Coull Quartet. The theme of the workshop, and of this festival weekend, was that of ‘The Sounds of Sport’, timed to coincide with the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; the programme also contained performances of Nick Fells’ ps[c]yched, for string quartet on four upturned bicycles, and Mauricio Kagel’s Eine Brise, for massed cyclists, directed by composer Siobhán Cleary.

Aran O’Grady

The five selected composers were given the stipulation that their submitted pieces ought to be linked in some way to sport; a stipulation adhered to by some and dispensed with by others. The five pieces were as diverse as the Commonwealth-games participants: Fiona Linnane’s Le Rugby, for string quartet and referee, conveyed the energy and drama of a match at her local stadium of Thomond Park in Limerick; Eamonn McCrossan’s piece is titled with an unwieldy YouTube URL that links to a video of the famous Michael Dunlop racing a motorcycle and is based on a sonograph of this eponymous video; Aran O’Grady also took motor-sports as an inspiration in his bracing Formula 1, that even had a built-in pit-stop before the players resumed the race to the double-bar line;  James Oldham was one of the two composers who dispensed with the stipulation of a link with sport, but his collection miniatures Four of Them was, by his own admission, a near-athletic feat of concentration owing to some tricky corners in counting; my own piece, Thelxinoë (mind-charming), also did not have a sporting connection, but in its use of pencils bounced on the strings, in place of bows, bore a similarity to the natural rhythms produced by gravity that were evoked in Cutler’s Ping!. 

Members of the Coull Quartet

Members of the Coull Quartet

The Coull Quartet were amenable to this bizarre substitution of pencils for bows and, aided by Cutler’s astute observations, the workshop was productive and informative in the various ways of creating sound use this extended technique—an invaluable process to me in re-drafting, improving, and finishing the piece.

Photos by Lorcan Doherty, see more on our Flickr page.

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