Applause And Outro by Gary Carpenter published on 2014/04/10 09:13:51 +0000 Iain Ballamy and I met in the 2010 at the Loch Shiel Festival where we had both been commissioned to write pieces. One mellow, whisky-ed evening by the hotel fire, we got to discussing the tenor saxophone and the orchestra from which the idea for this piece grew. The title SET was chosen to reflect the jazz convention where a performer plays a group of pieces referred to as a ‘set’. ‘Set’ is also an alternative term for a 12-tone row, the bedrock of formal atonality. There’s an implied paradox: the jazz ‘set’ involves improvisation and is synonymous with freedom whilst ‘set’ in my world is perceived as being rigid; fixed. So the title became an analogue of the piece, especially as we decided that invading the deathly world of cross-over was not for us and that travelling in the same direction, engaging in meaningful conversation and nodding sagely at each other suited better. My job was thus to invent a sound world that enabled Iain to improvise freely (after all, Iain is a superb improviser and you don’t get a Lamborghini to do the weekly shop!) whilst still retaining a formal hold on the structure and musical progression. All movement titles refer to 1950’s TV. Commenting on his musical Company, Stephen Sondheim refers to New York as the subtext of the entire piece as even though the piece is not about the city, the city permeates it. 1950’s TV functions similarly in SET. 1 No Hiding Place This is the closest SET gets to ‘swing’ and the first twelve notes you hear form a tone row or ‘set’ so two birds (or elephants in the room) are ritually slain with one stone. No Hiding Place was a popular police drama from the earliest days of commercial TV. The siren towards the end of this movement was the Proustian ‘madeleine’ moment that led me to 1950’s TV (sets) as the source for my titles. 2 You’re Never Alone... ...with a Strand was the strap line for a cigarette advertising campaign. A handsome, Trilby-hatted man in a raincoat, filmed in a moody, noir-ish black and white (I know that because it also played in cinemas!) is seen wandering around the Strand area of an atmospherically nocturnal London, stopping only to light a ciggie. It was the most famous, award-winning campaign of its time and it killed the product stone dead as no-one wanted to think of themselves as being alone in the middle of the night. I went with the ‘noir’ element. 3 Footso This dance floor number celebrates Footso, the pet cat of Twizzle, a string puppet with extendable limbs. The Adventures of Twizzle was the first TV series made by Gerry Anderson who famously went on to make Thunderbirds. 4 Love and Kisses This piece takes the title at face value although this was actually a sitcom vehicle for the much loved Liverpudlian comedian Arthur Askey and his daughter Anthea. 5 Blue Fox The variety show In Blue Fox aired briefly. All scripts and video are lost so no-one really knows anything at all about it other than it happened. I was attracted - as in an earlier piece (Van Assendelft’s Vermeer for clavichord) - by the notion of something that may or may not exist. SET is a BBC commission and was largely written as part of a composer residency at the Visby International Composers’ Centre, Gotland, Sweden. I am enormously grateful to both parties and to the RNCM who also offered valuable support.