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By Stacey Brown
Since the life of my piece is just beginning, I can speak a little to its genesis and what I imagine (hope for) its life to be over time. Being able to present this composition to the blended audiences of the Modulus Festival and Early Music Vancouver is a unique opportunity for this piece to be granted a performance space that reflects its own hybridity.
It was an intriguing challenge to find a way for my voice as a composer to speak from within the very specific parameters I was given for this commission, which included using the formal design and naming conventions of the Dowland Lachrimae as well as its four-note “falling tear” motif (A-G-F-E). To my ears, these are some of the more consonant, traditional-sounding harmonies I have developed, and I had a lot of fun working with them. But, while respecting the given parameters, I did find myself drifting progressively into denser harmonic environments than might typically be expected from an early music ensemble, which bridges back to the delicious friction of close harmonies more characteristic of my aesthetic. I’m fascinated to see how a contemporary music audience receives this versus an early music audience, since the piece really exists somewhere in the spaces between.
When I think about how this work has already grown and changed, my mind goes back to the workshop stage, with my early sketches that I was lucky enough to be able to bring to members of Les Voix Humaines for feedback. Their thoughtful input throughout the writing period helped shape and reshape many aspects of the piece, and guided me to a final version that allows the ensemble’s profound connectedness to shine through. Consort music draws on such a rich and extensive history, yet lends itself to a kind of timelessness, since the social interactivity that characterizes its performance seems to hold the keys to its continued evolution as a shared emotional experience.
Something I also hope will continue to evolve over the lifetime of this work, by Les Voix Humaines or others in the future, is the improvisatory embellishments. I expect that no two performances of any work will ever be the same – what a thrilling notion! – and in the case of this particular work, embellishment is in the very DNA of consort playing, so the possibilities are wide open!
Stacey Brown. August 2019. Montreal, Canada.
Stacey Brown is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, a professional member of the Canadian League of Composers, and Treasurer of the National Board of Directors of the Canadian New Music Network. You can learn more about her work at staceybrown.ca.