A special guest blog from Hannah Reardon-Smith, the flautist in Ensemble Fractales, who recently visited Southampton as part of a collaborative project with some of our PhD composers:
Ensemble Fractales from the MaNaMa contemporary music master course in Ghent, Belgium, recently had the opportunity to visit the University of Southampton to work with three of the young composers there.
Fractales is a quintet of international performers: Benjamin Maneyrol on clarinet (France), Kaya Kuwabara on violin (Japan), Diego Coutinho on cello (Brazil), Gian Ponte on piano (Brazil) and myself – Hannah Reardon-Smith – on flute (Australia). At the MaNaMa we study under the Ictus and Spectra new music ensembles.
Arriving in the afternoon, we began by introducing ourselves, talking about the formation of the ensemble and our own personal journeys to playing contemporary art music. We then played Gérard Grisey’s Talea, a piece we have been working on intensively over the last year.
Next morning, we got stuck into workshopping the new pieces by student composers Olly Sellwood, Martin Humphries and Ben Jameson.
For us it is especially rewarding to get to work with composers at this stage of a composition’s development – while it is still taking shape and some of the ideas are yet to fully crystallise. This is perhaps when we are most useful! We were able to voice concerns about specific techniques and offer suggestions of alternatives (and show how this might work in context), and the composers were able to hear their ideas being realised, which could either confirm they were on the right track, or lead them to rethink things, in order to better achieve their aims.
I asked each of my Fractales colleagues to give their impressions of the trip.
Benjamin was particularly enthusiastic.
“I really liked Southampton – nice campus, nice town! The teachers were really generous and friendly, and were a very helpful bridge between us and the composers. We had a great time!”
“We were very impressed by the organisation, and the respect shown to us by both the composers and the professors,” said Gian. “It was very helpful for us to get to discuss these pieces with the composers, to really get inside their ideas, and to work with them. For them, I think it was a special opportunity to try things out with us, to develop their ideas and notations.”
Kaya commented on the great energy and the positive exchangeof ideas. “I really hope it was productive for the composers. It was great for us to get clarification and to help with suggestions for notation especially.”
Diego agreed. “It was a great experience for our young ensemble to work with these talented young composers. A beautiful human and musical exchange. Thank you to the University of Southampton and the MaNaMa for organising this rewarding and motivating project for the music of our time.”
I would also personally like to thank everyone involved in making this project happen, and especially Ben Oliver and Matthew Shlomowitz (and Tom Pauwels, from our end). We’re looking forward to the next stages – seeing and working on the updated scores, and then performing the works in Belgium in May!