PRS for Music Foundation: What impact do you think your involvement in New Music 20×12 will have on your work?
Luke Carver Goss: Writing a piece for performance and broadcast during the UK’s Olympics is an opportunity to be part of a community of composers who are shaping the sound of Britain in 2012. We’re celebrating the connections between arts, athleticism and sport in the broadest sense. Being involved in the Olympics engenders a sense of optimism and pride which will carry through into the work. But it also brings challenges and deadlines to be met, gruelling training schedules to complete, and the fear of failure to be contended with. My work will be affected by feelings arising from these challenges, and will give them a musical expression.
PRSF: Tell us the story of how and why you joined forces with the performers you are working with on this project.
LCG: A full brass band can evoke an extraordinary range of emotions, from strength, power and determination, to urgency, excitement and longing. The band itself is a team who work together, with groups of players who can hand musical ideas one to another as in a relay race. When the opportunity to write for the Cultural Olympiad came up, I immediately looked to the internationally renowned Black Dyke Band as a partner for the commission. Black Dyke themselves are highly successful competition band who regularly play new music.
I also wanted to use a choir to express the emotions of the race vocally: the power of the runners, the tension that builds within the race, the total trust of the team-mates and the excitement of the finish. To sing the choral parts, we turned to the Halifax Choral Society, one of the longest established choirs in the UK, who perform regularly with Black Dyke. The words they will sing will be written by performance poet Ian McMillan. He is known for writing about sport, and his words have a rhythm and dynamism that are ideal to set to music.
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?
LCG: The work starts from the idea of a relay race. This gives a narrative structure to the piece. It also gives the emotional context, as well as dramatic form. I’ll be inspired by the sounds of the brass band and the choir, and by the sounds of the race itself. I’ll work with Ian McMillan’s words to create rhythms and melodic fragments for the brass as well as setting them for the choir. These fragments will expand, change and develop as the piece progresses, and will become part of the internal building blocks of the piece. I will respond to the words and explore themes such as speed, power, acceleration, making connections, hand-overs and team work.
The band’s members and musical director, Nick Childs, will be involved in the composition as it unfolds. Ian and I will be running creative workshops with young brass players in Bradford during the process of writing and of rehearsing. Responses from the participants will inform the direction and some of the musical material.
PRSF: Who do you hope to reach through the creation and performance of this work and what do you hope they’ll take away with them?
LCG: Many people will have heard the sound of brass bands and chorus in films or adverts without realizing what they’re listening to, so we want this piece to reach those who haven’t yet made the connection, and show them what the music can do. They’ll hear the full range of musical possibilities that a brass band and choir have to offer – warmth, emotion, excitement, power, glory and the sheer joy of a brass band and chorus in full flow.
I want sports fans to take away the story/narrative of one of the events of the Olympics in musical form and experience the sense of endeavour, of challenge and the grandeur of the Olympian spirit. But I’m also hoping to reach music fans too. I hope that brass band audiences will hear this piece, the combination of words, voices, the Olympian theme, and the emotive sound of the Black Dyke Band and find it engaging, interesting and maybe a little bit different from what they are used to. And that it will open up the diverse world of brass band music for classical listeners tuning in on Radio 3.
PRSF: Where do you draw your inspiration and influences? Which creator – musical or otherwise – do you most admire?
LCG: I’m influenced by many composers and styles, and admire free improvisers as much as I do Bach. That said, I draw widely on the rhythmic and harmonic language of traditional music from the UK and Europe.
I’m particularly inspired by composers who come from within a tradition, but explore its limits to find their own voice. Among those I admire are the UK’s brilliant Django Bates, dynamic Scottish group LAU, the Brazilian Egberto Gismonti and Dino Saluzzi from Argentina.
PRSF: Which Olympic and/or Paralympic Games will you be seeing in 2012? What was your best/favourite sport when you were growing up?
LCG: I’m really hoping to see some of the table tennis matches. As a child, I trained at a club in South London, and although I didn’t get all that far with the sport, I am still fascinated by it, and find the high level players really exciting to watch. These days I’m more of a runner, and living near the Derbyshire Peak District means I can easily get into the countryside to run, so I’m also looking forward to seeing some athletics.
Black Dyke Band have commissioned composer Luke Carver Goss and performance poet Ian McMillan to write ‘Pure Gold: a 4×4 Relay Race’ for full brass band (Black Dyke) with percussion, the Manchester Chorale and the Halifax Choral Society. The piece will use the theme and structure of a relay race and will be divided into four three minute ‘legs’/sections: Power, Speed, Losing Ground and Triumph. Through these sections the writers will weave together words and music to tell the tale of triumph over adversity, team work and sporting pride. We expect the piece to be a joyous celebration of sporting and cultural Olympic spirits.