My cow’s not pretty... but it’s pretty to me - for orchestra and improvising duo: Paul Rogers (double bass) and Paul Dunmall (soprano saxophone).

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 May 2011

Bibliographical note

Premiered St Cecilia’s, Derry/Londonderry, 3 May 2011, by the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Jurjen Hempel. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 “Hear and Now”.

This piece represents a development of the composer’s previous work with the compositional and performance possibilities of combining fully notated orchestral music with free improvisation. In this piece he enlarged the palette of sonorities and in-performance creative choices alike by combining two free improvisers and orchestra. The work thus explores a unique three-way exchange between the three different sound ‘controllers’ – the orchestral conductor, improviser 1 and improviser 2 – which is structured as a collection of dialogues:

improviser 1 + improviser 2 only,
orchestra + improviser 1 only,
orchestra + improviser 2 only,
orchestra + improviser 1 (partnering orchestra) + improviser 2 (independent),
orchestra + improviser 1 (independent) + improviser 2 (partnering orchestra), and
orchestra (alone).

All the dialogues are determined freely in real time by the conductor and the improvisers.

More than just an exploration of structural and textural permutations, though, the piece is a forensic examination of the musical personalities of the soloists, of the nature of notated/improvised musical combinations, and of the very notion of ‘free’ improvisation. Both improvisers have a long-standing collaborative relationship with the composer and this intimate knowledge of their approaches informed the writing and construction of the piece: the composer worked closely with both, examining characteristic fragments and recurring ideas in recordings of free improvisation specially made for the purpose. These ideas were then transcribed and used as generative cells for the orchestral material. At the point of performance the improvisers are given no instructions as to where and what to play, but as well as taking in part in the dialogues described above, they are in this sense also in dialogue with their own musical selves.
Composition type: Orchestra and Duo
Outputmediatype: Score, Audio

Cite this