"Just when I thought 2020 was coming to an end and I had no ideas left, this project suddenly 'appeared' and was inspired by a reality programme on television. 'Portrait Artist of the Year' had its final programme on Sky Arts in December 2020 and was the culmination of a national competition for amateur artists. The standard was amazingly high and any of the three finalists could have won and I found the programme and process riveting. The winner, Curtis Holder, is a 50-year-old teacher and artist, and his prize was to create a portrait of Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
I'm not sure if self-portraits were mentioned in the programme, but the idea of composers writing a musical self-portrait took shape, and I decided to email 30 composer friends to ask if they would be interested to write a one-page self-portrait for unaccompanied double bass. The deadline was 30 January 2021 and a book of all the completed works was published by Recital Music a month later.
Two composers didn't want to take part: "I wouldn't know where to start..." and "I just don't feel like writing my self-portrait. I'm not sure I would be able to compose one. I just don't know myself so well yet..." and six didn't respond. My plan is to organise a similar project every January and I wonder who will continue to take part? As we all get older what will the musical portrait say about each of us? I am so pleased that so many friends, who are also great composers, agreed to be part of my final project of 2020.
22 composers agreed to take part in SELF-PORTRAIT 2021 and 15 composers eventually completed a piece." [David Heyes / January 2021]
Eric Funk (USA): Self-Portrait: Eric D F
This short piece for solo contrabass was written as part of David Heyes' Recital Music ‘Self Portrait Project’. As composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Alfred Schnittke used their initials (using the German musical alphabet to create musical monograms (B-A-C-H, D-A-S-H, and A-F-E-D S-C-H, respectively), I used a similar approach using E-Ri (D#)-C -D (for Douglas)- F (for Funk). I gave some thought to having rests represent the letters in my full name for which there aren't pitch names but opted not to do so. I did quietly include, for fun, my middle name in measure 4, Douglas, with D/moveable 'do'-G, and two As [as LAs in solfeggio]; i.e. Do-g-las. Over the course of the last number of years I've composed a number of pieces for double bass at the request of my friend David Heyes. When I surveyed the music I had created for each piece, I noticed certain intervallic, rhythmic, and lyrical gestures that capture a fair portrait of my musical voice reflected in these solo bass works. This Self Portrait mirrors that writing and the feeling tone of particularly the 2nd movement of the double bass concerto I composed for David years ago, a piece which he brilliantly premiered in America with orchestra and at the International Bass-Fest in Dorset with Mark Cracknell in the piano reduction version. When I compose for double bass, I am hearing David's sound mixed with my inspiration. [Eric Funk]
Mary Rae (USA): Self-Portrait (December 2020)
This piece was written in response to David Heyes' call for self-portrait compositions. Written near the end of a difficult year, ‘Self Portrait, December 2020’ captures a moment of meditation. Since I am prone to quiet reflection, it could be called a fair likeness, at least at this moment in time. The piece is very slow, but very brief, lasting just a minute and a half. [Mary Rae]
David Heyes (UK): Self-Portrait I
This short piece is based on four letters from my name - D-A-E-S (E flat) and the melodic line was influenced by the first few notes. Writing a 'self-portrait' is quite a challenge, deciding what to include, what to leave out, and how much to show to the world? I like my own company but I also enjoy relaxing and spending time with family and friends. I love performing as a soloist but also enjoy working with other musicians. I can be outgoing and funny, impulsive and madly enthusiastic, but also introspective and quiet. I am probably as complicated as the next musician and 'Self-Portrait I' hopefully reflects some of my personality - or as much as I want you to see. I plan to write a Self-Portrait at the end of every year and I wonder if this piece reflects 2020 or is just something I have enjoyed writing? Who knows and who cares? I hope you like the piece but if not there will be another one next year! [David Heyes]
John Alexander (UK): a mingled yarn
I’ve often thought that what we write as composers is not necessarily just a collection of individual pieces of music. What we compose during the course of our lives may also be collectively viewed as one gigantic single work written by nobody else, simply because the creative choices – involving a miscellany of influences of course, not exactly like anybody else’s – have been made by a unique person: in this case, me. With this in mind, I recalled reading in the mid-sixties a book called ‘Advertisements for Myself’, by Norman Mailer, a sort of memoir that spoke about his works as well as himself. So I started this self-portrait project with the notes A, D and E flat (Ads for myself, as it were), and accordingly opted to also include elements of pieces I have written over the years to ostensibly test out my frequent thought (see above). Oh, and the title of this piece comes from the quotation, ‘The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together’, borrowed from William Shakespeare’s ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, Act IV, scene iii. What might this piece say about me? Well, amongst other things, I enjoy rhythmic interest, I like space, and I love a good tune. And I warmly dedicate this little self-portrait to my lovely wife, Patricia, with much love and thanks. [John Alexander]
P Kellach Waddle (USA): Some Vampires Can Indeed Be Seen in Mirrors
I am always thrilled to contribute pieces to any and all of David Heyes' consortium projects, but at the risk of being redundant, this particular self-portrait idea completely spoke to me in that unlike many other much more "abstract" composers, I have a great deal of SELF injected into virtually ALL of my works! One of my many nicknames has been Vampire Kel for nigh on three decades as of this writing. Hence, a great majority of my works have, if not something DIRECTLY to do with vampires (though many do!), titles/colours/ideas that have to do with Gothic darkness. So when this idea of David's came along, I was thrilled as usual, and thought-- this is so up my alley! I also immediately decided the idea would be to ironically dispute the idea that in certain vampire canon and lore, vampires cannot be seen in mirrors. The irony in a personal way has been somewhat comedically in the forefront of my mind when I pondered where I was thought-wise to create this piece. -- First, while during our at present quarantine for some of us I look like the usual ragamuffin about the house, shoeless and unshaven in that day's cargo shorts and t shirt, I do take a somewhat drastically vain pride in my appearance at concerts and performances. I spend a great deal of time putting various products in my thinning, but still thankfully somewhat voluminous mane to create what a pal denoted many years ago as " Rock Star Hair" and I also take great care in the steaming and preparation of my work tuxedos and/or whatever the performance clothes are for a given show. Second, I maintain a rather vast and bizarre wardrobe. Said wardrobe as seen often on my media posts includes everything from indeed vampire-ish Gothic garb (cape and all!) to many custom-designed theme outfits where I wear clothing with logos from horror movie posters, games, television dramas and game shows, breakfast foods, detergents, and various other pop-culture media. Finally, and most ironically compared to the present, for 2 1/2 years or so in undergrad school I was actually a " heroin chic" model for several of my photographer friends. (CLOTHED! -- And no, I was definitely not on heroin-- that is a reference to me at that time being nearly 50 pounds underneath the prescribed weight for my frame and height !!!) The irony there to now is of course I am constantly on various practices to reduce the size of my gut, whereas I made a few dollars being a model for art pictures in my early 20s because I was so drastically waifish and rail-thin!!! Therefore, if you consider these three vanity-induced behaviours, and vampire though I may be, I indeed spend an ENORMOUS amount of time looking in the mirror! And voila, there you have the entire idea of what was in my thought processes as I composed this contribution to the Self-Portrait project. I also applied some technical things that are often a bit of a calling card in a great deal of my pieces. Whether a moody, long spun-out melody-based piece such as this one, or one of my more experimental works, or indeed one of my pyrotechnic compositions, there is more often than not a certain motive present somewhere in the language of the piece. Scale steps 5, 1, 2, flat 3 in any given momentary tonality are in a GREAT deal of my music, and here indeed are heard at the outset of this piece with the flat 3 here jumped an octave, the resulting minor ninth giving the line my oft-trademark hauntingly Gothic patina. This music alternates with a long building line and with interjections of behind the bridge motives and harmonics, before the music quietly dies away. As always, I am so deeply thankful to be included on all of my friend David's projects, and especially in these times of dire trial, am also thankful for his incessant creativity in manifesting more and more of these consortiums to compose for, if for nothing else but a distraction from our current pandemic and socio-political turmoil. [P Kellach Waddle]
Edmund Jolliffe (UK): Secret Agent
In December 2020, David Heyes came up with the original idea of asking composers to write a self-portrait for solo double-bass. I consider myself a bit of a chameleon as a composer, in that I enjoy composing in many different styles. I write music for television and film which often requires me to put on different stylistic hats and I also write concert pieces for the professional and the complete beginner. When I begin a new piece, I never quite know what is going to come out. Often though, there is a sense of fun in my music and this is what came out on this occasion. It's a 'self-portrait' - me in one of my many (dis)guises. [Edmund Jolliffe]
Graham Boag (UK): A Self-Portrait
Once again, I was delighted to be invited by David Heyes to write a new piece for Solo Bass. This time it was to be a more personal, ‘A Self-Portrait’. After an opening thought using my initials G A(lexander) B perhaps even representing some procrastination, we move into the main section of the piece. This is rhythmic and light-hearted in nature and represents how I try and approach life in general, especially in these difficult times. [Graham Boag]
Christopher Field (UK): A Slippery Slope
‘A Slippery Slope’ glides over a few moments in my musical career: as a boy chorister fortunate enough to sing in the choir at the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey in June 1953; as a young double bassist playing in the London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra; as a professional baritone soloist performing core oratorio repertoire; in retirement, playing double bass in ad hoc ensembles here and there. Charting my progress on the downward musical slope is the ‘C-F’ motif played glissando save for the final statement. [Christopher Field]
Michael Montgomery (USA): Introspectionism (Observations and Reflection)
David Heyes has shown himself to be quite the innovator, periodically coming up with composition projects for his bass playing friends. In presenting this particular project, he pointed out that “[a]rtists often paint self-portraits … [I wonder] if composers [could] do a similar thing in music”. He proposed to a number of us that we do just that, and he would publish a volume of short (each only one page in length) self-portraits for unaccompanied double bass in the near future. We are told the philosopher Plato once asked a colleague, "…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?” This act, the process of examining of our own mental state to know ourselves, to know our soul in you will, is sometimes referred to as introspection. My own small contribution to the project, my “self-portrait”, begins in an obscure past as diverse impressions, cryptic thoughts vaguely remembered, begin to coalesce to form a self-awareness, one whose momentum, which feels at times resolute, might still be seen to waver when beset by self-doubt. [Michael Montgomery]
Luis Guillermo Pérez (Venezuela): Self-Portrait
This piece is marked Moderato and molto legato, is written in the form of a study and is predominantly in the key of E flat major, using quarter notes (crotchets) with melodies made up of the interval of a third, and using a few silences to give impetus to ascending dissonant intervals that generate a feeling of anguish. The title Self-Portrait justified this because through music I have tried to portray the mood of a morning at home on 27 December 2020. [Luis Guillermo Pérez]
David Heyes (UK): Portrait of a Friend (Teppo Hauta-aho)
When I asked my great friend Teppo Hauta-aho to be part of the Self-Portrait project he was interested but a little unsure and joked that it would be better if I wrote his piece for him. Although this was just a flippant remark I decided to take up the challenge and on Christmas Eve wrote 'Portrait for a Friend' which is influenced heavily by Teppo's compositional style and music. Played pizzicato throughout, the piece includes many favourite Teppo chords, which was the starting point, alongside my own episodic and fragmented style, but it seemed to be quite a good likeness of my best friend. I am sure Teppo's own self-portrait would be a totally different piece but he seemed to like what I had written and it does reflect our long friendship and was written with much love and respect. Maybe my next project will be to ask composers to write a musical portrait of another composer, now there's an idea. [David Heyes]
Chris M Clark (USA): I Walk Alone
The opening ascending line began as an improvised onstage warmup ritual before playing in orchestra concerts. The theme at measure 10 was envisioned originally as a Rogers and Hammerstein-style baritone aria beginning with these words: "I walk alone/I've never been/I walk alone/I never will." In honour of the ii-V7-I chord progression of some of my favourite play-along jazz exercises for students, the third part is the main theme interpolated as a jazz bassline. [Chris M Clark]
Frano Kakarigi (Spain/Croatia) - Anti-Hero
Look at the title and let the music speak for itself. [Frano Kakarigi]
Ian Davies (UK): Self-Portrait
I’ve long believed in the power of music to express that which is hard to define with words. A musical self-portrait is a wonderfully personal way of expressing this. It may sound a bit corny but for me life is a journey which I feel in relation with, so the music to express myself must be played along with that journey - always evolving with subtle changes of mood, big drastic changes as things out of our control occur, joyful and sad moments, quiet and frenetic as life unfolds. Somewhere under this relationship with the ups and downs of life is some sort of essence of me - which in itself is multi-faceted - changing and morphing with life but always flavoured with myself. [Ian Davies]
|Chris M Clark|
|Luis Guillermo Perez|
|P Kellach Waddle|
|Category||Double Bass Solo|
|Difficulty level||6 - 8, Advanced|
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