On Friday my new piece they are always different, they are always the same was performed in Bagnolet, Paris, by children from Ecole Paul-Langevin directed by Thierry Madiot. The piece was commissioned by Lutherie Urbaine and Conservatoire de Musique Erik Satie as part of their ongoing work with local schools. It’s an amazing initiative: they work with the children on pieces that are not specifically written for educational contexts. All the pieces are regular ones written for adult musicians, with no compromise. This is such an exciting approach as the children were treated in exactly the same way, and they respond so well. My piece had a series of group actions where all of the 20 children, or smaller subgroups, complete the same action with near identical materials, often using cueing to determine timing. Thierry worked with them during early 2016 and in the performance their concentration was astonishing. During the rehearsal in the morning, there was an action where all the players push a coffee cup across the floor of the performance space. They did this quite quickly so I asked for it to be as slow as possible. In the performance, it was much slower, but two girls took about 10 minutes to complete the action, even staying focused for some time after their classmates had finished. Watching the different ways in which players undertake the same action is the main focus of the piece, and with the children this was, for me, fascinating.
In the concert, Thierry and I were joined by Philippe Caillot, Marc Dumazert and Deborah Walker to play three of my other piece, positions in the sequence correctly recalled (2014), like you and like you (2015), and a new things to do piece we tell each other what to do but always listen to you (2016). This was the first time I think it was performed in a language other than English, and required me to give instructions in French, which was challenging. We also use a new command – ‘position’ – for the first time, which involved the player having to move around their objects, making playing them a little harder at times. I’ll post videos soon.