Conversation with Matteo Fargion contd. 4 (dance)


T: Let's talk about your writing for dance.

M: Writing for dance, it's what I've basically done since 89 since I did that course.

T: Is that where it began?

M: Kind of, um, in fact Jonathan Burrows commissioned me for the first time, I suppose that was my first commission ever really, proper paid commission, um, was to write a piece for him, 45 minutes, and I could have six instruments so this was really grown up, 1989 I think. It was done at The Place, it was I think it was the second piece Jonathan did away from the Royal Ballet but he was still in the Royal Ballet, called Dull Morning Cloudy Mild, it was from the diaries of his grandfather, he took those words out and I remember using the diaries to generate the material for the piece somehow, er, how did I do it? Um...

T: His grandfather's diaries?

M: Yeah, which were incredibly dull, I mean they were all- he was from the north of England, and every entry would be, would start with the weather, like "Dull morning, cloudy, mild" was one of them. For some reason Jonathan had given this as kind of source material among other things as a way to start. But he was very clear, we decided it should be three movements, you know, er, but at the time already what I liked working with him was that the fact that um... he... how did we write that piece? He- I think he started- I had these diaries so I went away to try to start writing some music that might be suitable, he did some work in silence and showed me about five minutes of it, um, and er and then I sort of checked what I was doing, found it was working then gave him the other ten minutes or something, that was the first movement. The second movement he- I wrote the music and he then sort of choreographed to it, and the third movement was the other way around, he waited for the- no, the other way around, I waited for- and so visually responded to what he was doing. And that was already a our first piece, and I enjoy working that way, I find that very inspiring.

T: Do you still work in that way?

M: With him?

T: Yeah. Or are things- I dunno, have methods changed?

M: It's changed a lot I mean we certainly feed off each other alot and I think artistically we're very close. We'd done all sorts of experiments and how music and dance connect um, I think for me the most successful was the- of really combining the two in a new way was possibly the- when I wrote the Hungarian Songbook, in a piece called Very from 93. And because we were both I mean really dissatisfied with sort of "write me some music and I'll dance to it" kind of way that a lot of choreographers go, and yet the Cage-Cunningham thing had been done and it's very much- that thing worked because of very much how they shared stylistically, and we thought there's no point doing that again or carrying on when our style was very different, so trying to find a way that was flexible but still maintain- still allow the music to have its identity. There are so many dance scores that are completely dependent on what the choreographer needs to patch up the kind of weak points, you know "I need a section that sort of"- and they all start with sort of a kind of floaty bit and then get some rhythm here, so how long should that be, about six minutes, and then I need this, all seem to involve saxophones somehow...

T: Often still the case?

M: Absolutely.So, how to make a piece of music that's sort of concert hall, um, but it certainly doesn't necessarily make a good piece of dance. I decided it was one way of protecting myself from the sort of work of "like that but couldn't it be faster or slower", was to write a set of songs which I did, I think I wrote about 18 or 20, I can't remember, and then he was as he always does work in silence or in fact I think he worked with very different music, I think he worked with pop music or techno, and then we put the piece together, we assembled it. He also did the dance in little sections, modules, and I considered the songs to be like modules, and then, completely free to place- and I didn't mind which order they were in basically - to place them, to combine them, and of course there was a lot of silence, um, cos of silence between the songs, so when the songs came in it was kind of commenting on the dance, um, putting it in a different light. We would do things like do one song, it happened once I think in the piece, then there was a pause, then the same song would be repeated or something, then he carried on, or you'd see the same bit of dance with another bit of music, those kind of things. I think that was 93.