David Bennett Thomas: I Need My Space
This piece breaks the blog rules slightly, in that it’s not completely new to me; we did the premiere at the Colourscape Festival in August 2014. However, the London premiere has given the composer an opportunity to make some revisions, and the piece is now a little bit shorter and feels more tightly constructed. It’s quite common for composers to revise their works after the premiere. In my experience, the premiere is very rarely the endpoint of a compositional process or collaboration. There are often little tweaks to be made, and the practical experience of trying a piece in a live situation can reveal areas where improvements can be made, even if they’re only minor changes. In the case of this piece, the composer didn’t hear the premiere and we weren’t able to record it – so he’s actually never heard it live (he’ll get a recording of the next performance though!). The revisions here were more about him having the opportunity to revisit the piece after a little bit of distance and change a few things.
This is another duo for alto flute and bassoon, a combination that is rapidly becoming one of my favourites, and David Bennett Thomas’s treatment of the two instruments is conversational, making use of the differences and blends of timbre by having both instruments sometimes in the same register, and creating contrast by sometimes moving us a little further apart in pitch. I have worked with David for a number of years now; the first piece of his that I played was Sketches for flute and guitar, which rarescale gave the European Premiere of in 2005.
Since then, David has written a great collection of pieces for low flutes, which I very much enjoy playing. Many of these pieces have also been taken up by other players, and the two alto flute solos, Steeples in My Soul and Carla are popular with my students too.
Like many of the composers I work with, David has a distinctive compositional style. His music is tonal, blending a subtle jazz influence with a contemporary classical language and is always beautifully crafted. For me, that craftsmanship is much more important than the compositional language. I am interested in finding and developing a repertoire for my instruments which I can play in my own concerts, but also that will have a life beyond me and be played by a range of other performers, including students, amateur players and professionals. Contemporary music these days can be in pretty much any style, and, for me, as long as it’s well written and has something individual or distinctive to say, it doesn’t matter if it’s microtonal or atonal or tonal or anything in between – it just has to be good.
I Need my Space is structurally strong and has a good sense of journey as one goes through it. A few passages are deceptively difficult, and the balance between alto flute also has a few challenges here and there, as we’re still learning about the right sorts of tone colours to use to get the best blend in each register. It has been a lot of fun to work on, and I can see this becoming a much performed piece. I really hope this kind of repertoire inspires more people to form alto flute and bassoon duos!
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