I was in Wem, Shropshire, on Saturday night to review a premiere by the composer Howard Skempton given by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at the wonderfully refurbished Edwardian town hall.
I’m a huge admirer of Skempton’s sparse and understated scores and was particularly interested in this new piece, Field Notes, because it’s a collaboration with textile artist Matthew Harris. They’ve used old maps of Shropshire and graphic scores as common starting points, and Harris’s freestanding artwork, combining textiles and drawings, framed the performance space where four players from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group played the new piece.
During the concert, Matthew Harris’s textiles and his and Skempton’s sketches were laid out for the audience to view during the evening. Consisting of twelve folded fragments, his textiles reflect both the graphic nature of the ancient maps (a historic record of “carving and cutting up of land where fields become fragments”) with their different shades of pale yellow whilst their free-flowing shapes are unconstrained by the usual squares and rectangles; like Skempton’s music, the result is open-ended.
There is a fascinating website and blog that records the creative process that the project moved through http://fieldnotestour.co.uk/
Wem is a wonderful little village and a great place to come for a premiere.