Performing the world premieres of eight new works on the eve of the Referendum might have seemed a risky prospect, but in fact a sizeable group of people dropped in at Glasgow’s CCA to hear violin-cello duo High Heels and Horse Hair give a thoughtful and beautifully staged concert titled Transplanted.
Every facet of this botanically-themed evening had an original twist: a beautiful programme illustration by Mina Braun (pictured); lovely plant projections by Laurie Campbell; poised platform talks from performers Alice Rickards and Sonia Cromarty; and a timely onstage visit from Plantlife Scotland. We left determined to focus more consciously on Scotland’s native flora/fauna (and, it being almost September 18th by then, on everything else to do with Scotland.)
I hope I won’t insult any of my colleagues by saying that I was pleasantly surprised at how substantial and engrossing the new pieces generally were. I say this from long experience of concerts made up of miniatures by a wide selection of composers. It can be a great way to devise a varied programme; but for the composer, the writing of a miniature is a very testing task. In such a short timespan it can be difficult to get the music going – you need strong material to make an impression from the very start, and to use a Transplanted-themed metaphor, such material ‘doesn’t grow on trees’.
One ingenious condition of our plant commissions was that each piece must fit on one sheet of paper only. It didn’t matter how big the paper was - on the whole people managed within an A3 size, with none of the twelve-feet long Albumblätter you used to see in contemporary music concerts. I found this limitation a very helpful focus for my work, and it led me to try out some indeterminate notation which I’d never normally use, in order to save space. I’ll definitely try this again as a starting point. And I have a feeling it’s quite comforting for the audience to know that, whatever they think of each new piece, ‘it’s only one page long’.