My piece, Now Is A Long Time, is about how strangely time passes when you’ve got nothing to do. It’s not entirely a lockdown piece; it’s more about the time I spent lying in bed hopped up on opiates following a car accident in 2019.
I was interested in the philosophy of time. If we paused the world – stopped birds in the air, stilled the humming of atoms – could we say that time passes during the freeze? This question is addressed in a fascinating 1969 paper by Sydney Shoemaker. He imagines three strange cities, where time is paused for a year every three, four and five years, respectively. Every sixtieth year, the whole world freezes. Shoemaker aims to present a scenario in which the passage of frozen time might be reasonably inferred. But its uncanny resemblance to 2020’s drifting lockdowns hit me harder than its philosophical implications.
I found this a challenging piece to write, perhaps because it was an abstract but emotive topic. It also marked a different approach to harmony than I usually take. My writing usually uses microtones – the notes in between the notes on the keyboard of the piano. These are hard to sing, so I needed to be restrained in their use for this piece. (In a future post I may go deeper into the solutions I found for this piece.)
The recording of this piece was a delight. Having not heard my music live for months, or seen the NYCGB gang in person, to suddenly turn up and dive into a rehearsal was a delirious pleasure. I was astonished at how quickly the piece came together. We had some of your standard ‘this cable isn’t working’ problems to start with, so I was worried we wouldn’t get through a polished performance. But the Fellowship singers are just superb and were really well prepared. So thank you, Laurence, David, Ellie, Milette, Botch, Freddie, Ella and Loren!
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