One major case study That I (Zubin Kanga) have written up for publication is my cooperation with British composer David Gorton. An upcoming book chapter, “Risky Business: Negotiating virtuosity in the establishment of collaborative Orfordness for solo piano,” will appear in the Music and / as Process book, published by Cambridge Scholars.
This book chapter explores the relationship between virtuosity, risk management and collaborative strategies in the establishment and performance of Gorton’s work Orfordness for solo piano Composed in cooperation with me. The work explored the use of new techniques, Requiring extreme levels of technical control and gestural control. Here the gestural control of these unusual techniques involves choreography as well as their precise timing around the electronics part, management of extremely dense textures and the schedule of movements across the keyboard in wide-spanning arpeggios. The research builds on the work of self-ethnographic Heyde / Fitch Clarke / Doffman / Lim, Östersjö and Roche, all of whom-have examined their own creative practices to explore Many different models of collaborative relationship. The qualitative frameworks of Risk Management (in standard use in engineering and scientific research) have not often before been applied to music, and Orfordness particularly provides a rich case study for exploring this connection. Risk of failure is a particular feature of virtuosic music, and of music particularly involving new extended techniques, without purpose Some risk, the excitement of virtuoso performance and the innovation of new approaches to the instrument can not be achieved. Thus Risk Management is not always concerned with reducing risk, but with maintaining a healthy balance between safety and danger, and between ease and resistance.
Formed of five movements, Orfordness uses declassified files and myths surrounding the eponymous website in Suffolk, to form military testing facility, to explore five different kinds of extreme virtuosity. The first movement, for example, “Evacuation of the Civil Population of Shingle Street, Suffolk,” uses extreme forms of conventional virtuosity, with rapid streams of marks at different speeds in both hands. In contrast, the second movement, “Cobra Mist”, explored the virtuosity required to play newly developed extended techniques with extreme technical control, in this case, combining e-bows and dulcimer hammers to explore a wide spectrum of colours Within a very narrow window of execution. The third movement, “You Can’t Tell the People” features extremely fast passages of multiple technologies inside the piano and on the keyboard, placed within gaps in the electronics portion that uses the dictaphone recording made by a US Air Force control of a UFO encounter at the site, all requiring extremely precise choreography of gesture. The fourth movement “Blue Danube” is named after the first the nuclear weapon developed by the UK, which was tested at the site. It features running passages of single notes with wide leaps across the keyboard, requiring many choices to be made in the distribution between hands and choreography across the keyboard. The final movement, “The Island”, is inspired by the landscape as it is now, featuring a range of techniques requiring extreme control and choreography (e-bows, harmonics and playing on the escapement mechanism of the keys).
Documentation of the collaborative establishment of these passages allowed the negotiation of innovation, virtuosity and risk to be traced, with a range of strategies employed across the different movements, from free improvisation to develop material, to precise testing at multiple stages of composition. Significantly, the approach to gestural control in the context of virtuosity between widely varied movements, requiring constant negotiation and re-assessment.
We intend this chapter to not only provide insights into the collaborative establishment of Orfordness , but also to provide tools for future Researchers, Demonstrating the inextricable relationship between risk, and pianistic virtuosity choreography and the many ways that risk provides a framework for understanding the innovation, both of new technologies and the extended expansion of virtuosic limits.
I have recorded Orfordness for recently released CD, David Gorton: Orfordness’. The CD is available online here
A video of the first performance of Orfordness at Kings Place, London, can be viewed here: