Author Archives: Jenni Pinnock

Cracked Voices at Royston Methodist Church

Thank you to everyone who came to Cracked Objects and Cracked Voices at Royston Methodist Church on Thursday 27th September! It was a fabulous evening.

All images © Sue Hartga 2018.

What’s next? The Cracked Voices scores will be appearing in the next couple of weeks – watch this space! At the end of October the Cracked Voices quartet will be heading into the studio to make a recording of the song cycle – to pre-order a CD please click on the link in the navigation bar.

Rescheduled concert date announced!

We’re delighted to announce that the rescheduled performance of Cracked Voices (including the premiere of Cracked Objects) will be on  Thursday 27th September 2018 at 7.30pm at Royston Methodist Church, Royston. The performance will now take place as part of Royston Arts Festival, and all money raised will still go to the MindEd Trust.

If you had tickets for the previous performance you should have been contacted separately.

Curating the collection: A musical summing up

Do writers write from beginning to end, or do they create their work in bits here and there before stringing it all together? Composing wise, I definitely tend to be the latter. You have to go where the inspiration takes you. Sometimes that can be the climatic point of the piece, sometimes a snippet of melody, and sometimes the first bar. Of course, once the piece is completed (and often even before then) the re-writing begins to ensure that the piece makes sense no matter what order it was composed in.

I hadn’t finished the other pieces in the cycle when Graham had completed (or near completed) the text for Curating the Collection.  Each stanza – a haiku – relates to a piece in the song cycle. I wanted to find a way to musically tie each haiku to its piece without simply re-using each art song’s melody lines.

At first I played with trying to do clever things with haiku. I looked at patterns of 5/4, 7/4 and 5/4 bars to emulate the haiku syllable pattern. I came up with a few potential ideas, but none stuck – one got closer than the others but still wasn’t completely right. I put it to one side for a while while I completed other pieces in the cycle.

One day while searching for ideas for a different project these three bars suddenly fell under my fingers:

The first three bars of the final Cracked Voices piece were born.  The notes are stunningly simple with a more complex time signature: an alternating pattern of 7/8 + 4/4. The 7/8 chimes beautifully with wanting to get the figure 7 into the final song of the cycle somehow. The figure 5 came more easily. My gamelan background means I’ve always loved pentatonic scales, and from those first three bars a mostly pentatonic melody flowed quite easily.

The structure developed quite naturally also. A haiku for each song in the cycle – including one summative one – meant 12 haiku texts to set.   Splitting them into groups of four provided a nice structure per section – AABA roughly – and three sections to set. The haiku were divided between soprano and baritone by who performed the original art songs, with some becoming duets. With the text linking back to each song in the cycle, the final pieces of the puzzle was how to ensure the music hinted back at each piece too. With the soprano, baritone and pianist all tied up, that left one performer to tie everything together..

Curating the collection is the final art song in the Cracked Voices song cycle, and was also the final one I wrote. It completes the cycle and reflects all the other pieces, touching on each character’s story. To hear it performed alongside the rest of the Cracked Voices song cycle  join us at the second performance on Saturday 28th April at Royston Methodist Church.

Cracked Voices dates announced!

We’re delighted to be able to share the dates of the premiere and second performance of Cracked Voices.

The premiere of will take place in the Music Recital Hall of Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge on Saturday 10th March at 7.30pm.

The second performance will be held at Royston Methodist Church, Queens Road, Royston on Saturday 28th April at 7.30pm. This performance will include the premiere of Meridian School’s Cracked Objects – art songs written by students based on objects on display at Royston Museum.

To buy tickets for these performances please head to the Tickets page.

That final bar line – and what happens next..

The text is written. The dots are on the page. The rehearsals all completed, the performers walk on stage..

As Cracked Voices has progressed, Graham and I have shared snippets of our processes with you. From the beginnings of Graham’s research into a piece from me musing on inspiration and scales, we’ve given you an insight into how we work. Between February and October, 10 art songs were drafted, ready for rehearsal, having being shared between Graham and I. Before they could head towards the performers they had to be checked one more time and parts created. As anyone who has ever created parts in any scoring program can attest to, this is never as easy as pressing a button – there’s always further tweaking to be done before they’re ready for the performers to set eyes on them.

In November, it was wonderful to finally have Donna, Ian, Sue and Ralph in the same room and to hear them performing together. Some of the pieces required more rehearsal than others, but we managed to get through all 10 completed songs. While some pieces were fine as they were, others needed tweaking in various forms. Graham and I each came away with our own notes, along with those suggested by the performers, which we discussed before I began the next stage of redrafts.

This is what it looks like when the cat decides to knock all the pieces you’re currently redrafting off of the piano.

I then deliberately ignored the physical scores for a while and just listened to the recordings of the rehearsal. Which bits didn’t feel quite right? Where was the balance wrong? How could I convey Graham’s carefully crafted words better? I recorded the whole rehearsal on my handy H4N Zoom recorder (an invaluable piece of kit) so I could hear not only how the pieces were performed, but also re-listen to our discussions about them in case I’d missed anything vital.

It was then time to get back to work. Some pieces needed more work than others. For example, for A composite man, it was decided another part was needed to tie the vocal parts together. The clarinet, then, became the spirits of the dead workers and widows. Other pieces needed more bird song, or less accompaniment.

The process of redrafting is always a tricky one. You listen, analyse, revisit and revise, time and time again. Often you find yourself amending a line  in one fashion one day, only to amend it back to the original the next. Along with the changes to actual notes, lines and instrumentation in the redraft stage, there are also the more technical bits of music notation. Which time signatures convey the music best and ensure it makes the most sense for the performers – a non-standard beaming of 12/8 or 6/8 followed by 3/4? Should I spell my phrase F sharp – F natural – F sharp or should it be an E sharp in the middle – or G flats at either end? I’ve found that with Cracked Songs  a considerable amount of this stage has been spent playing around with these nitty gritty bits. Not only do you have to make them make sense throughout one song, but the whole cycle has to be taken into consideration too – it has to make sense as the sum of its parts as well as each constituent piece, and in the way it is notated along with the actual music itself.

Tweaking scores to ensure they’re as clear as possible is always a priority. If they have to puzzle over engraving they can’t immerse themselves as fully in the music.

I’ve spent the month and a bit since the rehearsal tweaking and redrafting – and I’m just reaching the end of the process. In the next few days the ‘final’ version of the scores and parts will wing their way over to the Cracked Voices performers, ready for them to look at for the next rehearsal. Along with polished final versions of the previous drafts there are two new pieces – the final two songs of the cycle.

That double bar line really is only the beginning.

Puzzle Day 2018

We all know riddles from Christmas crackers. They are simple puzzles…puzzles that take things that don’t normally speak and give them a voice. They ask, ‘What am I?’

I have heads and tails but no legs. 
(Hover your cursor over the riddle to see the answer).

When I’m young, I’m tall.
When I’m old, I’m short.
I glow with life.
Breath snuffs me out.

We’re sure you can do better than that, so here’s your chance to try! This International Puzzle Day (29 January) why not try writing your own riddle and send it to us? (If you want some help, visit our blogpost on riddle writing). 

Simply type your riddle and answer (only clean ones please!) in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box and we’ll post the best ones.