Bath Music Festival

I’ve been taking the opportunity to go to some concerts during the Bath music festival.

Vivalidi’s L’Olimpiade was staged at Bath Abbey on Wednesday. I think that the main reason for staging it is because the (rather tenuous) plot involves competing in the Olympics, though this all happens in the background. Like most operas it suffers from a rather silly story, mainly involving people being forced to marry the wrong person. It is really not a classic. Still the music was luscious, as you would expect from Vivaldi. I have to say I don’t find Vivaldi’s operatic music emotionally affecting in the way that I do Handel’s, but you would have to have ears made of cheese not to like it.

On Thursday I went to a concert of English music given by the Bath Philharmonia. They are a pretty good orchestra, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending and Holst’s Planet Suite would be on most people’s list of favourite English music. I was surprised to be told by the conductor that the Planets is really not played anywhere outside Britain, it is almost completely unknown. He suggested this was because there is something very English about the music and that the rest of the world just don’t get it.

I don’t really buy this as an explanation. The music of many composers sounds very characteristic of their own nationality (eg Tchaikovsky, Sibelius) but this does not stop people around the world enjoying it.

Perhaps the surprising thing about the Planets is that the English like it so much. Undoubtedly part of the reason is the ‘Jupiter’ theme, without that the piece would probably not be so popular. Not that I am suggesting it is not good music – it is brilliant. But also quite strange, and must have been absolutely startling when it was first played.

Perhaps there is no good reason. Sometimes things just turn out a certain way. In fact this is my core belief about the way the world generally works. Things mainly just happen, and we tend to make up explanations after then event.

This probably reflects some deep psychological flaw on my part, but that is how I think. One of the reasons why I had to give up being an economist is that deep down I didn’t believe any of it. Economics tries to provide a logical explanation for stuff that just happens. This is not to say that economists are not right about some things. I remember most economists I knew were sceptical about the Euro before it was introduced, and how right they were.

I seem to have got off the subject somewhat.

Water Nymph

A water nymph photographed on a recent trip to Stourhead

Looking for Musicians to Collaborate With

As the title suggests, I am looking for musicians to collaborate with. Ideally in or around Bath, because that is where I live, although further afield might be possible.

I have some compositions, particularly for the flute, which I would like to have performed and perhaps recorded. An example is the duet for flute and cello here:-


However I can write for other instruments, and would be interested in composing specially for an ensemble if a likeminded group were to get in touch.You should be able to tell from this and other posts that my compositions are generally melodic, I don’t try to write music that is ‘difficult’ either to play or listen to.

You can contact me by adding a comment to this post. Obviously I am not expecting to get knocked down in the rush, I am just putting the idea out there.

How to be Creative?

This question greatly occupied me in my younger years. Where do original ideas come from? What can one do to make them come? Something I have discovered with age is actually that this problem is generally not one worth worrying about.

In fact it is not difficult to have original ideas. The main thing that creativity requires is time: you need to be prepared to set aside time to explore whatever it is that you are trying to create, whether it is a piece of art, music or literature. It is no good trying to force things, but, from personal experience, I normally do find that if I decide to make the time to work on my music, something will come. What is required is a willingness to explore one’s own ideas, to see where they are going without being excessively self-critical.

There are some things that are the enemies of creativity. Firstly tiredness, it is no good trying to do anything when you are simply exhausted, much better just to get some sleep. Anything that befuddles the senses, such as strong liquor and illicit substances, is a killer of creativity. I know that there are people who fondly believe otherwise, but I think that this is because creative people sometimes have a strong personal attraction to drink or drugs. But if they manage to create original work  it is usually in spite of the substance use, not because of it.

The other enemy of creativity that I touched on above is excessive self-criticism. We all need that inner censor, who tells us when an idea is rubbish, and not worth pursuing. But the censor should not be allowed to wield excessive power, we should not allow it to cut off ideas before they can be explored. When I try to compose music I don’t know ahead of time whether what I write will be good or not, in fact one of the joys of composition is the constant surprise at what comes out.

Sometimes when I make a start on a piece I have a good idea of what I am trying to achieve, for example the Partita for Solo Flute  is something that I had in mind to try and write for some years before I actually got around to it. I had a fairly clear idea of what I was trying to achieve before I started. However just as often I really don’t know what I am going to produce, it just happens. Of course it doesn’t really, I guess that the ideas are being mulled over somewhere in my unconscious mind. The important thing  is to get into the habit of writing regularly, to make oneself product something, good or bad. The more it becomes a habit, seemingly the easier it becomes to tap into that unconscious source of creativity.

So make time: practice your art. It is not difficult. There are other things that harder in my opinion, like how to find your own authentic voice, which I may write about some other time. Sorry if you were expexting something more profound, but I think that the big secret is that there is no secret.

Crow and Moon

Crow and Moon

Meanwhile the last word from someone who really did know about being creative:

Violin Concerto In D Op. 61 Part 3

Partita for Solo Flute

This is a new composition, written for a workshop at the OCA on writing for the flute.
As the name suggests, this piece is inspired by the great flute writing of the baroque period, particularly JS Bach and CPE Bach, also Telemann. Therefore it is a mixture of baroque and a more contemporary styles. I have had the idea to write something like this for a few years, it has been nice to have the incentive to finally get around to it.
The piece is based on dance forms, but I have substituted a tango for the first movement which of course was not a dance of the baroque era.
Movement 1
This movement mixes passages using whole tone and half tone scales with more traditional tonal passages to product two contrasting themes. It should be played at a moderate pace, about that of a normal tango.
Movement 2
This movement has the character of a sarabande so I have called it that. However unlike a
traditional sarabande it is in 5/4 time. The thing I like about this time signature is that it can be played as a group of 3 beats followed by 2, or as a group of 2 beats followed by 3.
This movement should be played at a slow pace with a strict tempo, and relatively little dynamic variation. The mood is one of calmness and serenity.
Movement 3
This movement has the character of a gigue, so I have called it that. While mostly in 3/8 it plays around with the time signature a bit and like the first movement uses both whole and half tone passages as well as more traditional tonal ones.
The mood is light and bubbly and it needs to be played fast.




These files have been updated (June 2nd 2012) to reflect revisions in the piece.

Hello world!

This is my new blog, I will be posting info about my latest compositions and other stuff. The link below is to an audio file of the composition I am currently working on, it is an orchestral suite based on three English Folk Songs.


The music is computer generated so will not sound perfect.

Folk Song Suite

Fiona Coulter