Last Friday Juice Vocal Ensemble performed two of my Songs for Stanley live on BBC Radio 3. Composed in 2014 and dedicated to my then newly born son, Songs for Stanley is the second work I have written to celebrate the arrival of my children into the world, the first of these pieces being Lullaby for Joni for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Songs for Stanley was commissioned by Riot Ensemble and Juice in 2014, and it is great that Juice have gone on to the perform the pieces on a number of occasions since.
The two songs broadcast, ‘What are girls and boys made of?/Polly Put the kettle on’ and ‘A wise old owl’, are part of a set of five miniatures in which nursery rhymes are reinterpreted and recontexualised with the aim of helping us hear these weird and wonderful texts in new ways.
For those that have heard my other work these songs certainly demonstrate my lighter side. I once attended a session with the British émigré composer Richard Ayres in which he described how a colleague had berated him for being too ‘rhapsodic’ and that his response was to compose the third movement of his trumpet Noncerto ‘Rhapsody’. At the time of writing these songs a number of people had described my recent music as ‘fun’. While part of me is happy that my music has been considered engaging to play or listen to, the (former?!) arch modernist in me has been a little unnerved by this notion of ‘fun’. Should my music really be fun? What would Adorno think? Am I falling over a postmodern cliff? Well I’m not sure of the answers to these questions but my reaction to all of this was Songs for Stanley!
You can hear the BBC broadcast on the IPlayer for a while (my piece around 34 minutes): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b080xz8w
You can also hear the full piece on the Riot Ensemble Soundcloud: