March 28, 2013
Thanks to my parents who relented and gave in to my pleadings for piano lessons when I was six, I became quite familiar with Sonata form. Learning classical piano means playing a lot of sonatas. In Sonata form, the development section starts in the same key as the exposition (the first section), and uses the same themes (or subjects), but breaks them down and modulates them to different and sometimes surprising keys.
I rather like this description of Sonata form by Peter Madsen which also includes some examples in pop music:
“As you’ll remember, sonata form basically looks like this:
Exposition – Exposition – Development – Recapitulation
Or, using letters:
(A B C) – (A B C) – (OMG!!) – (A B C ish)”
I’m leaving BERG today, a place where the OMG!! development frequently happens, weaving together the themes and interests of the people in the room to make truly thought-provoking work.
During my two years in the studio I’ve shepherded a myriad of projects borne out of great minds, from web prototypes for BBC, to AR toys that communicate with each other, a comic book with an invisible ink subplot, always-on video connections to other places, projection technology combinations which turn any surface into an interface and, of course, a printer that creates personalised newspapers and prints its own face. And much more secret stuff besides.
To say I’ve learned a lot from BERG would be a gross understatement; working with some of the most creative and inquiring minds in the world has been a privilege (and at times a challenge). It’s demanded a form of project management that’s incredibly light touch during the research phase, or what BERG calls ‘material exploration’, and very hands-on during the delivery (often using new or emerging technology or processes). I’ve learned to appreciate what it means to really research the meaning of something in depth.
It’s a very satisfying place to work. It doesn’t leave my brain with many spare cycles of an evening.
Eleven years ago whilst studying my undergraduate degree I wrote this:
[Bells, 2002, performed by me and Catherine Lee, Recording by Ryan Searle]
Written as a homage to the Guildford Cathedral bells that I lived directly beneath, this piece was written before I’d listened to any Steve Reich or appreciated the depth and scale of minimalism and its context in the massive diversity explosion in twentieth century music. It is what it is, because deadlines were short and composition was worth 10 credits per year, out of 120. But I remember ideas would come regularly and with force and I didn’t get to let them all out.
A year or so later I wrote this:
[To Scale, 2003, Performed by members from Sax Collective, plus Erica Sprigge]
I have an itch to start writing music again, possibly since joining the Pink Singers last year. I need to see what happens when I put pen to paper again, now I’ve had a few more years of life and listening experience, plus the time to create something more substantial.
So I’m going to do that a bit more. And watch this space for evidence of that, because one of the things that Matt Jones taught me was that chatting is lying – and he’s right. It’s better [and harder and therefore more valuable] to make something than hypothesise about it.
I’m also available for contract project wrangling on a part-time basis too. If you have any projects lined up – let me know or keep me in mind! I’ll be working for some/most of my week with the mighty FutureLearn team for a few months starting in early April, helping build the future of education.