MONICA McCABE tells the story of the collaboration
between David Bintley and John McCabe
<< Continued from last week
Meanwhile, as well as absorbing as much Arthurian literature as possible,
John and I began visiting places associated with the stories, including
Tintagel (which despite the tacky souvenir emporia of the village, he found
incredibly inspiring, keeping a picture postcard of Merlin's Cave, under
the cliff-face, on his work-desk at all times); Dozmary Pool (of Lady of
the Lake fame), on a murky, mysterious day; the ruined Roman town of Viroconium,
next to The Wrekin, which made a great impression on me, as well as the
ruined Roman legionary towns of Caerwent and Caerleon in the Welsh Marches.
We also visited a lost lonely little lake, or large pond somewhere in the
wilds of the Marches, which is said to be a suggested location for Avalon.
This also made an impression on John, and I wish that we had been able to
get near to it, instead of, at the end of a farm-track, finding a barred,
barbed-wire-clad gate, with the legend 'Private Property: Keep Out -- Trespassers
will be Prosecuted by the Angling Club'!
When I was asked to write this article, a Diary of Events was suggested.
It seemed a good idea, but practically speaking it isn't possible. The two
Arthur ballets represent four hours of music, and composition of this has
taken up large chunks of the last four years of John's time. Even had I
been asked then, such a diary would have been tedious and long drawn-out,
with the most enlivening entries relating largely to other activities. How
many times would you want to read something along the lines of 'John had
a good day today, and got an idea for a 3-minute episode', or 'Today John
managed to get 10 (or 4, or 20) bars written'? Composition is an immensely
arduous task, requiring not only inspiration, but also hours of application
-- as Britten pointed out, more perspiration than inspiration. Each note
is a matter of judgement in every musical respect. Whole pages of full score
go by, yet may only represent a few minutes of music. Holding the idea in
the head over such an extended period of time needed for composition is
one of the great genuine mysteries to me -- not so much the notes, but the
Copyright © 24 April 2001
Monica McCabe, Kent, UK
VISIT THE JOHN McCABE WEBSITE
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RODERIC DUNNETT'S IMPRESSIONS OF 'ARTHUR PART 1'
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