What Next?

The longer I’ve been in Nashville - in a few short months it will be a year - the more introspective I’ve become. Coming here has given me plenty of thinking time to ponder well, ok then, what next? And it’s been a gentle, lonely but often quite lovely unfurling time. I have not only a room of my’s own but for many hours a week an entire house.

Yesterday all this navel gazing solidified into a plan, for the next 3 - 4 years. I have four skill development projects and then two further projects to compete. First up I’m rewriting the strings for The Tailor Of Gloucester, to learn how to write string accompaniments for singers. This feels doable. It’s just 12 short songs, interspersed with a spoken narrator. I have found a Canadian composition teacher who skypes in and we’ve looked at three of the songs. He made a bazillion suggestions, including the charming ‘make the mouse more whimsical’ so trying to incorporate these means song four which I’m currently reworking is overstuffed with ideas and needs a good prune.

Because I’m a whatever art music calls singer/songwriters, I also need to develop my libretto construction and writing. For The Tailor, I am prepared to overlook Campbell’s annoying attitude towards women, (“women are of nature, men are of society” yeah fuck off with that Joe) to consider how well my piece conveys Simpkin’s hero’s journey.

My second project will focus on some of the stories of the Tuatha De Danann, the beautiful magical race from ancient Irish mythology (and living deities for some). Building on Fire Songs, the song cycle I wrote for beautiful soprano Bethany Hill, I will create a concert length work of vignettes of different characters, like an anthology of short stories. I want this to be a soundscapy work, where the instruments wrap around the solo voices, with texture and colour. I’ve been listening to how people do this with Hildegard Von Bingen to stunning effect. Mythically, I’ve had an Irish bardic scholar point me towards Jung. Jung feels inevitable - he was always going to happen.

My third project will be to realise the chamber orchestration for the currently acapella wine and cheese cantata. Strings and some wind. You know? This is a through composed, 50 minute work so here my attention will be on using the orchestra (however modest) to driving the narrative arc for a full work.

My fourth project will start with a serious sit down and analysis some of Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil because it’s my favourite choral writing and i want to know why. Obviously it’s texture but I’d like to know what that means from inside. And then revise some of my sacred choral works in light of whatever I learn from Rach.

My fifth project will be to write Polly, the chamber opera. I want this to be put onable in cafes and similar sorts of venues, with the audience, singers and instrumentalists all mixed up together. This project is going to be an exercise in writing for this production brief, and will be fun when I get to it.

Lastly I want to return to the Taoist oratorio, The Day, I started and abandoned a few years ago when i went back to and then dropped out of uni. That’s when my health started going down hill, and when I initially did my vocal damage. But the amazing thing is although my health changes have slowed my thinking down considerably, and ‘working memory’ is often a misnomer these days, I am composing better with a slower brain. I want glass orbs in this piece, in the music and on the stage and i don’t know how to do that yet, so this piece is last in my plans. I’ve written it all out in a semester by semester schedule as a nod to my abandoned phd plans. If you’ve got this far thanks for reading.