Over the last few days Jack White has been getting intimate with the South Iceland Chamber on our Collaborative Compositions residency to test out ideas for his new work that will premiere alongside the world premiere of Sir John Tavener's "Three Shakespeare Sonnets" this November. At the heart of Jack's concept is a desire to develop spatial elements in choral performances - being influenced by the Icelandic landscape and his experiences of the country and people through the residency.
His initial idea started by imagining a choir performing in a form resembling a circuit - each choir member holding hands with one another to make a shape which changes over time by moving around a performance space. The ambition was to use the physical contact between singers to create a flow throughout the choir that would do away with the need for a conductor to always be visible when the choir was in motion. Sending signals around the group by silently squeezing on the hand of the next person along, Jack's aim was to create a secondary physical score to accompany the sonic score that would allow many different meanings to be communicated through the choir as the performance took shape - indicating tempo changes, key changes, dynamic cues and so on.
After two weeks in Iceland the place has impacted on Jack's thinking seeing his idea retain the notion of physical flows and signals throughout the choir but becoming more influenced by the landscape - the idea developing as a musical exploration of the physical properties of water.
The choir’s arrangement will reflect the different states and the transition between them: for ‘solid’ the choir will be densely packed; for ‘liquid’ the choir will be bonded in sets of three, slowly changing position; and for ‘gas’ the choir members will be free to move in the space. How this will be expressed in musical form we're intrigued to hear - but it definitely looks like the choir are enjoying the chance to break the mould of performance - even if the physical intimacy is sometimes leading to the odd giggle.
The world premiere of Tavener's "Three Shakespeare Sonnets" and Jack White's new piece will take place on the 15th November at Southwark Cathedral in London. Tickets are available now.