November’s Artist in Residence David Roche presents his final composition for his residency, Clean Industry – this composition, written specifically for the Bute Clarinet Quartet, rounds off this year’s Artist in Residence programme in style. Throughout 2017 these artists, including David Roche will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too.
Being Artist in Residence with Wales Arts Review has been a huge amount of fun. Composers are told all the time that writing convincingly about their music is super important and it’s rare to get the opportunity to write so much about oneself, let alone to write something that’s going to go directly to an audience who will (hopefully) be interested in some of the things you have to say. So I am extremely grateful to Wales Arts Review for giving me this chance, space, and audience. I have already started using these articles to help people understand my music and I am sure that I will be doing this for a long, long while! I thought that for my last article I would present you with a piece that I’ve written specifically for this residency. The composition is called Clean Industry, I wrote it for the fantastic Bute Clarinet Quartet, and I hope you enjoy this sample recording – we’re releasing a full recording in the next few weeks (you’re welcome to endure a MIDI recording here and peruse the score, in C, here).
So, how did this come to be? I actually knew clarinettist Daisy Evans from when I was about 15, some of our friends hung out with each other way back when and we were all in to similar kinds of music so we sometimes used to bump into each other at gigs. The music scene in South Wales was amazing around that time! So, about 8 years later I was still aware that Daisy played the clarinet and I asked her if she would be kind enough to look over the clarinet parts for my orchestral piece Ozartmay, written for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. She very generously said yes and gave me plenty of feedback – super helpful, very bacon saving. After this, I asked if the Bute Clarinet Quartet would be interested in playing one of my pieces. She said that they would… and that’s how this piece, Clean Industry, came to be. My original idea was to give them my composition Journalism – I even scored half of it up – but that piece ended up being performed by another ensemble (owing to a very, very tight deadline). It took me an eternity to get around actually writing a composition for the Bute Clarinet Quartet but when I received news that I was to be an Artist in Residence with Wales Arts Review I started making plans to ensure the piece was written and given an audience in advance of it being finished.
I wrote the main motif for Clean Industry at the piano and it is no coincidence that it was originally in C Major – I’m not the greatest pianist in the world so a comfy, simple key makes it easier for me to get my hands around the fiddly stuff that I like to do! Anyway, I was teaching a lesson one day and started tapping out the opening idea on the piano. I wrote it down when I got home and filed it away. It wasn’t until I went abroad as part of a composition competition in Prague that I used this idea. I had to write a theme and variations on Happy Birthday (here’s the score – someone plays it, I think it’s so much fun). For the final variation, I decided to use the main melodic idea that I later used in Clean Industry. I found that the right hand could pick out the melody of Happy Birthday and the left hand could keep the groovy and insistent pattern going. What I enjoy so much about this piece is that there’s no fiddly or fancy technical component to it, it’s just something I really enjoyed playing with.
The title is inspired by the car journey from my flat in Cambridge to my partner’s family home in Stevenage. There’re lots of rolling hills and wind turbines and, despite being the main road, it all feels very clean (that’s the ‘clean’ of Clean Industry) and automated (that’s the ‘industry’ of Clean Industry). Travelling along that road really makes me feel quite relaxed – that’s it! Here’s a really cool piece for clarinet to break up the flow a little:
I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading my articles and listening to my music over the last month, it’s been great to give people the chance to get to know my work and I have really enjoyed writing about it! You should definitely take the time to check out the Bute Clarinet Quartet, they’re a fantastic Welsh quartet built up of ridiculously good players who work a lot with Live Music Now and Making-Music Changing Lives, as educators, and in wider community outreach roles. It’s amazing to have such a group of skilled musicians perform one’s music but it’s even more special to know that they value music-making in a broader sense and help bring it to people who otherwise might not have access to it. Such endeavours are invaluable and they are among the best things that musicians can provide to a culture desperately in need of more exposure to the arts. The access to the music they provide has a massive positive impact on the lives of the people they work with. So, again, I urge you to listen to, try to work with, and promote this quartet.