Talk - Composing with Minor Historical Dissonance

University of Surrey

For a variety of reasons both social and personal, I rarely feel the weight of musical history on my shoulders. I do, however, gravitate toward the dissonance of history, or working with material from times past whose discontinuities with our own are the point. The locus of attention here is often those minor moments of practice which evade mastery and canon.

In this presentation, I will sketch the phenomenon of minor historical dissonance in two older pieces of mine: The English Dancing Master Leads: OR Mr. Bailey’s Maggot (based on John Playford’s 1615 dance manual) and Wherefor do you, so oft, so oft (a semi-improvised transcription of a song by John Dowland). I will then share notes on a work in progress, a companion piece to an 18th-century string quartet attributed to the American diplomat and inventor Benjamin Franklin.