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Aaron Cassidy

Aaron Cassidy, commissioned by EXAUDI

‘A Painter of Figures in Rooms’

PRS for Music Foundation: What impact do you think your involvement in New Music 20×12 will have on your work?
Aaron Cassidy:
The commission provides an exciting opportunity to work with one of the UK’s top new music ensembles. I don’t think I’ll know its impact on my work until long after the project has officially ended (after working with the ensemble, developing the piece, working through and responding to several performances, etc.).

PRSF: Tell us the story of how and why you joined forces with the performers you are working with on this project.
I first met James Weeks (EXAUDI’s director) at the Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam in 2002 – we had both been selected to compete for that year’s composition prize – and we have been friends ever since. The following year, I did some work as a producer on the group’s first commercial CD, a collection of pieces by Michael Finnissy that was eventually released by NMC, and since then I have helped produce a number of recording sessions for the ensemble (primarily for discs on NMC). (Most of the singers in the group probably mostly know me as a familiar though faceless, disembodied voice coming through a small speaker, with one ridiculously perfectionist demand after another.)

In the group’s earliest days, I also did some design work, including designing their logo, constructing their website, and even doing a few of their print advertisements. We’ve been talking for years about a new piece for the group, and we’re very excited that the PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 commission has finally made that piece possible.

As for the ‘why’… I have a deep respect for the ensemble. They are capable of things that other groups simply are not, they are fearless and ambitious, and I hugely admire their ability to quickly jump between wildly different approaches to music-making, tackling Cage or Cardew as adeptly as they do Ferneyhough or Nono (or Fox or Skempton or Wolff or Xenakis or countless others). They are a group with a clear identity and vision yet without dogma or stylistic exclusivity, and that is very rare in the new music world.

PRSF: How are you going to approach creating your new work? What kinds of creative input will the performers and community you are working with have on your work?
The work will be an extension of my recent work with extended tablature notation, separating out the various component aspects of sound production (in what is likely to again be a multi-coloured, multi-layered notation). I’m looking forward to the planned workshop/development sessions with the ensemble, where we’ll have the opportunity to test and refine the notation.

A message from commissioning organisation, EXAUDI

EXAUDI is excited to celebrate its 10th Birthday with this major new work from Aaron Cassidy, Senior Lecturer in Composition at the University of Huddersfield. Since its debut in 2002, EXAUDI has emerged as one of Britain’s leading contemporary music ensembles, with an international presence at the cutting edge of new music. Cassidy is a composer with a growing worldwide reputation, with works programmed at major festivals including Donaueschingen, Warsaw Autumn, Huddersfield, Darmstadt and Gaudeamus.

His new work will extend his research into performative physicality, choreography, and tablature notation systems, seeking to generate an entirely new soundworld for the human voice by exploring extended vocal techniques developed through a separation of the physiological components of singing. Air flow, tension and resistance of the vocal folds, mouth shape, tongue position, etc. will become gesturally independent, with sounding results emerging from the interaction of physical gestural models and constraints on available physiological actions and intensities.