Saturday, April 27, 2013

An interview with Emma-Ruth Richards

Please tell us a little about who you are and your background
I am currently completing my PhD in composition at the Royal Northern College of Music whilst studying privately with Alexander Goehr and I completed my undergraduate degree and Masters in composition at Cardiff School of Music under the supervision of Arlene Sierra and Judith Weir. During my time in both Cardiff and Manchester I have studied in seminars and workshops with Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Simon Bainbridge, Julian Anderson, James MacMillan, Frederic Rzewski, Howard Skempton and in the Cardiff BBC Studios with Michael Berkley and Jac Van Steen.

I have been commissioned and performed by Opera North, London Philharmonia, BBC NOW Chamber Players, HÃ¥kan Hardenberger, Colin Currie, Nicholas Daniel, Paul Silverthorne, The Rhodes Piano Trio, Ebor Singers, Navarra Quartet, Dudok Quartet, Ligeti Quartet, Aurora Percussion Duo, HM Royal Marines Windband, Camerata Pacifica, Manchester Camerata, and The Absolution Saxophone Quartet amongst others. 

I am a Royal Northern Gold Medal composer and have been featured in festivals including Music of Today 2009, James MacMillan 2009, RNCM Chamberfest 2011, Sounds New Canterbury 2010, HCMF 2011, Queen’s Belfast 2012, North West 2012, St. Magnus 2012, IC Hong Kong 2012, Internationaal Kamermuziekfestival Den Haag 2012 and Banff 2012. 

I am a member of the LSO's composer soundhub; the composer in residence with Milton Keynes City Orchestra and London Arte Chamber Orchestra; a co-director of Collectives and Curiosities; and a member of the Chetham’s International Summer School Faculty. 

My string quartet has recently been published by Donemus in Amsterdam. 

What/who inspires or motivates you?
For me, music is clarification and I always try to refine and almost purify an idea so that it has as much authority and impact as possible. I love to write music that musicians want to play and communicate with and therefore each project has a different motivation / inspiration depending on who I am working with. For example, over the last 2 years I have been working on an opera with librettist Nic Chalmers and therefore there has been a strong collaborative drive as well a wonderful opportunity to share ideas in the form of texts, images, dance and theatre. 

It is also true, however, that I am deeply disturbed by the dissolution of the human condition and across most of my work my inspiration is drawn from painful reflections on the state of humanity all over the world in every type of society and race. I think of sonority metaphorically carving out shapes within a space / cutting through a space / defining a particular type of space within a piece of music and it is from this starting point that I try to, metaphorically, create a space that I feel that best resonates with the magnitude of the subject matter. 

Proprioception – [kinesthesia (sense of body motion) is sometimes used interchangeably with proprioception (sense of body within an environment / a particular space)] – links to my choice of instruments and my approach to writing for them, for example, for me the trumpet timbre is a powerful sonority and I am drawn to it because it is textured, “rough” around the edges, direct, physical, unpredictable, visceral, potent, and immediate.

How would you describe your style?
I have long since been obsessed with the concept of space in the temporal art form, music. In my practice I approach this by taking something concrete in an architectural structure, and translating it – or filtering it – through the specific notion of timbre. The way that I conceive of line, space, light and direction is through the medium of a particular instrument creating a space within a composition; a kind of aesthetic synaesthesia perhaps not too dissimilar to Messiaen’s medical synaesthesia. Music that draws on register and timbre of instruments in order to ‘represent’ or draw a concept of space into music has been considered by several contemporary composers. Brian Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’Invenzione I provides an example of fluent, translucent and extreme registral lines and was conceptually based on Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etchings of Rome and imagined surrealist prisons (Carceri d’Invenzione) from the mid Eighteenth century where the lines of the paintings appear to travel beyond the page itself. However, in the music that I write I have set out to explore the particular timbre of the trumpet. I aim to capture and create an audible darkness and light that represents a particular visual and / or spatial awareness of striking shapes or acoustics of particular buildings and structures that make an impact on me. 

What is your composing routine. When do you like to write?
I write whenever I can - sometimes, especially early on in the creation of the piece, I have to block out complete days to work from early morning right through into the night - sometimes, if I have already worked out a plan and know my material well then I know where I am going with a piece and it is much easier to fit in a few hours here and there in between other engagements and private teaching etc. 

What were the challenges in writing the piece for the New Dots concert?
It was my first wind quartet! I also wanted to work, a little, with multiphonics - this is also an area that I haven't had any experience with previously so I needed lots of time to work with the players on the first movement of the quartet in particular. 

What does the future hold?
I am currently working on a few chamber music / solo commissions as well as my first chamber opera. I also co-direct Collectives and Curiosities and this year we have a residency with LSO on their soundhub scheme so we are working hard on curating our main event for the 21st June. 

What makes you smile?
Children; young animals; deliberate kindness; any expression of innocence

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