29 June 2014

Following the Dean string quartet II

The Artistic Director’s Office
30 April 2014
The second in a series of interviews with Paul Dean.
First published in Flinders Quartet: May update 2014

‘Here at the Academy the world of Bach and the whole idea of counterpoint opened up to me. As a clarinettist you never play Bach. I realised my music was missing this sense of internal struggle – my definition of counterpoint; that sense that the bass line is ripping apart the middle and upper voices.

‘When I’m writing it’s a visual and a physical contact I have with the performers I’m writing it for. (My current) cello piece is being written for Torleif Thedéen and Kathy Selby. The first gesture that became the basis of the first movement I’ve called Turmoil. I physically see Torleif playing.

‘Second there has to be a story. I find it really hard writing music for music’s sake or absolute or abstract music. For me it has to be some sort of internal logic. When it comes to that (Flinders’) string quartet I'm paying homage to a wonderful young violinist. I was a part of his life in a very small way and in essence I feel that visual physical thing in my head that I’m writing it for Flinders and I’ve got this sort of angel involved at the same time. He’s playing one part of it.

‘And the third thing is the specific sound world (the orchestration) that comes from the initial gestures. The opening note is a sound, that (first) G sharp, that I want to sound other-worldly The A comes in on the first violin two or three octaves higher.

Paul Dean, Artistic Director of ANAM

‘For many years I used the same scale – a bit like a blues scale – but I wrote probably some of my best work using only this scale. It was like a security blanket but when I wrote a piece of music it sounded like me.

‘When I started (my Masters) at Melbourne Uni the first thing I talked about with Stuart Greenbaum was the fact that I was going to scrap the scale and it was really scary I have to say.

‘My first piece was a clarinet quintet.
I used all twelve notes.

It was really liberating.’

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