January 31, 2017

Some months back I went to a meeting of administrators, connected with the commissioning of new works. One speaker said something which I have given a good deal of thought to as on reflection I think it was a very important point. It was said, ‘there is a right time to collaborate’. Certainly true, but putting it a slightly different way, ‘there is a right time to write a work’, and it was the latter that has kept me thinking.

This is because, for me, when considering what to write, the background to the work plays an important role, particularly if a new work is to be inspired by a contemporary event. This in itself requires particular consideration as almost every day there are events that might be a suitable inspiration to a piece of music, but it is essential that the event has some broader significance, a longer legacy than just its temporary impact.

My first string quartet, under a subtitle of Robben Island, was an ideal inspiration, because what lay behind it, the breakdown of apa...

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