After our lives changed and every concert in my diary was cancelled it seemed pointless to work towards deadlines that had just evaporated, so instead I wrote a piece for solo vibraphone, An extraordinary mildness, for Claire Edwardes, and then an ensemble piece, Trace, which divided Claire’s group, Ensemble Offspring, into three simultaneous duos.
Work on Trace also overlapped with the beginning of new cello music, Hieroglyph, for the remarkable Israeli musician, Dan Weinstein whom I had first met as part of the Israel Contemporary Players when they premiered the chamber orchestra version of Topophony at the start of 2017. When I meet exciting, intelligent musicians it’s almost impossible to resist the temptation to write music for them and for Dan I wrote music that gradually tries to find its own meaning. It begins with quite anonymous, abstract sounds – different ways of playing the cello presented sequentially – and then, over the course of about 18 minutes, tries to piece them together in a way that might make more sense.
Then came a piece for multiple clarinets, This has happened before, in response to Ronald Woodley’s invitation to have something on an album he will record in May 2021. There’s a single melodic line that Ron will play four times, each performance beginning a little later than the one before. And, at the end of this pandemic spring and summer, I wrote a guitar piece, The Pursuit of Happiness, for Sam Cave, music made by uncoupling left and right hands and, with a metal bottleneck, uncoupling the strings from the frets.
This was perhaps the only way of music-making that could really have made sense: working with individual musicians whom I knew well, writing music for them as a virtual conversation. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do this.