After Peter’s previous post people started asking about the music he is composing for Snow Q, our collaborative project to reimagine the Snow Queen Story by Hans Christian Andersen. Why had he chosen the viola – when, as well as composer, he himself is a cellist ? When could they hear some of the score in his last post? No spoilers – but here is a little more about what he’s up to:
Since starting this project, a number of people have asked why I chose to compose the music for solo viola. In some ways, this was the kind of decision where I followed an initial instinct, rather than being something planned and carefully thought through from the start. Therefore, anything I write here is a rationalisation after the event, rather than a description of my actual thought processes at the beginning.
As I wrote in a previous post, one of the major themes of The Snow Queen for me is an underlying sense of loneliness, whether that of Kai in his enchantment, the Snow Queen or even Gerda herself, as she ultimately acts alone, although with help from others. Therefore, once the project had been agreed, I immediately decided to write the music for a solo instrument – and given the nature of the project as it has developed, this has proved in retrospect to be a fortunate decision from a purely practical point of view!
The specific sound of a solo viola has always seemed to me to suggest loneliness but the instrument also has a wide variety of tone, articulation and attack. Therefore, there is the possibility for a lot of contrast in the various movements that I have so far composed. These represent different stages in the story but rather than giving them specific titles, except for the purposes of identification for the performer, I would prefer that they only suggested and stimulated associations with aspects of the story for the listener, rather than making these explicit.
Header image from The Complete edition of Andersen and Grimm, illustrated by Joyce Mercer