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MONICA McCABE tells the story of the collaboration
between David Bintley and John McCabe


<< Continued from last week

Tintagel, Cornwall, UK. Copyright (c) 1999 Keith Bramich

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 feel.

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Copyright © 24 April 2001 Monica McCabe, Kent, UK







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