In the run up to the Summer Festival we’ve been speaking to some of our artists and composers to give us a sneak preview of their performances. This week we talk to composer Anna Meredith, about her collaboration for our Summer Festival with the Scottish Ensemble and her sister Eleanor Meredith…
Can you talk us through to process of developing this piece, mixing old music with new sounds?
I think we’re so used to The Four Seasons as a sort of identity in itself that I (for one) slightly forget about the picture of the calendar year that Vivaldi was trying to paint. We’ve taken that idea of a year as our guide, too, but tried to remove the Vivaldi-ness (and the Anna/Ellie-ness) from the picture so that everything – all the music and all the visuals – are working together to create this flow through a year. We’ve drawn up a map of a journey through the year using most, but not all, of Vivaldi’s movements and interspersed them with my new material (so, it wasn’t my aim to rework the Vivaldi – sometimes I’ve linked things together or added a small electronic element but the material mostly stands as is). Ellie is making visuals that run over both my music and Vivaldi’s movements.
The original The Four Seasons runs as 12 short, varied movements so we’ve just extended and tweaked this format into something new – to make a different approach to this journey through the year. I’ve haven’t felt too concerned about the mix of old and new – it’s all working together on a bigger goal!
What was the inspiration behind using The Four Seasons?
The original idea didn’t come from me – it came from the Scottish Ensemble’s Artistic Director and Leader, Jon Morton. We met a few years ago and chatted about this idea of hearing The Four Seasons in a new context. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to write on the Vivaldi but almost imagine we were all collaborating on making a piece together. Jon heard quite a few connections in the way I write with the Vivaldi which I hadn’t thought about – but the more I’ve got to know this material I can see what he means. The Four Seasons is a collection of short focused movements, each with a differing and distinctive sense of character, which is how I try and approach writing. I hear lots of connections in the material!
Are there any challenges about developing a cross-arts piece?
Yeah – the Scottish Ensemble are really amazing, engaging players and as with any music/visuals collaboration you’ve got to get the balance between creating an immersive, convincing environment and not being so distracting that you don’t feel the relationship with the performance happening in front of you. I think what Ellie’s made is perfect though – it both gives space in the right places and adds energy in the right places. It really adds to the experience.
What challenges do you face when writing for an unconventional music venue (i.e. Oval Space)?
I love the Oval Space and have been to many gigs there – I was really pleased it ended up being our venue as it’s primarily flexible, rather than unconventional! Being a big warehouse space, it gives us the space to really make it our own.
How do you find working with your sister? What are the benefits, and the challenges?
I love working with Ellie – we work really well together and have worked hard on this project to keep our material in sync. We’ve collaborated on many projects before – everything from pieces for orchestras and visuals, projects, animations and live drawing to the artwork Ellie made for my album Varmints. We’re wired pretty similarly so can tend to see what the other one means and where we’re heading with our material.
Can you give us a hint of what to expect at the performance?
I’d say the way to approach it is to not be expecting to come and hear The Four Seasons,or some new music by me, or visuals by Ellie – if you come with an open mind to the connections and the journey of the whole thing, that would be ideal!
Book tickets now to listen to the world premiere of Anno on 6-7 June at The Oval Space.