When first viewing this sculpture I saw a distinct sense of pain on the face of the boy and instinctively placed him in the context of a long and difficult journey. Using this as the basis for my composition, I divided my piece into three sections: a pre-journey introduction which captures the intensity of the boy, preparing himself for his travels; the journey section itself which portrays the anguish and discomfort of his excursion; and a final post-journey section which creates a sense of relief after the long and difficult voyage.
Extended Programme Notes
Composing a piece of music based on a sculpture was a great challenge for me; instead of being inspired by other compositions, I was forced to adapt my compositional process and take inspiration from a visual stimulus. I found this medium of composition very effective in honing my ideas around one central concept, allowing me to be more precise and efficient in my writing process.
With this idea of an anguished journey already established as the core theme of my piece, I began by recording sounds which could create a sense of discomfort and also a large, open environment. I chose the flute to create the majority of my sound sources because of its ability to create spiky and shrill tones which contrast with its softer and more breathy qualities. Combining this with the granular texture of the rain stick I was able to create this evolving and airy environment which continues and changes throughout the piece. In the middle section I introduce the squeaking ratchet sound to reflect the sense of discomfort over the course of the boy’s journey. This section I found the most difficult to compose, trying to find a good balance between creating this sense of discomfort without deterring the listener. By combining the ratchet squeaking with softer drone sounds I realised that I could further highlight its harsh sonic qualities and also create a very listenable climax to my journey.
Another challenging aspect of writing this piece was creating a convincing journey-like narrative. I realised that there needed to be a clear climax with some sort of resolution at the end, but I was struggling to keep my journey coherent whilst maintaining these contrasting sections. After discussing this with my tutor Annie, I realised that simplicity was key in creating any coherent argument, so I used concepts from my introduction in my final section. This comforted the listener with ideas that they had heard before and also created this sense of resolution which I was looking for.
Having our pieces played out loud in the gallery, a month before the deadline was a very helpful experience. I was delighted to receive lots of positive feedback about the clear sense of journey throughout the piece. Also, I realised that the gap between the 2nd and final section needed to be much shorter, when the audience began to clap thinking it had already finished. As well as this, this opportunity proved useful in allowing me to hear my piece in the context of the gallery instead of just in a studio. I realised that I didn’t need to over compose my piece because the listener also had this visual stimulus. In fact the feedback from the audience taught me that the slower more naturally evolving aspects of my piece were what they most enjoyed.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the Sounding Images course and learning how to use art as a source of inspiration for my music. I feel as if it has expanded and developed the range of music that I listen to and it has opened my eyes to different compositional methods outside of my comfort zone.