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John Law: Deeper into the Music

By Published: November 4, 2009

John LawThe whole project stemmed from the fact that I really missed (and still do) various instruments from the classical orchestra. I still can't understand quite how this particular organism— the classical orchestra— with its such different instruments and instrument sections, ever blends the way it does. But it does and I really miss, working in jazz, many of the instruments I grew up hearing: from the wonderful sound of woodwind such as the bassoon and oboe, to the singing eloquence of the strings, which of course form the backbone of the orchestra. I'm sure there were weaknesses in this, my first attempt to juxtapose non-improvising instrumentalists with jazz musicians, but I really enjoyed the whole learning process. And one thing really sticks out in my memory: right at the beginning the classical players told me Don't expect us to improvise! We don't do that. But I did, in the end, write a couple of sections where they could play more or less what they wanted. And, you know what? I couldn't get them to stop improvising! No they were brilliant at it. They helped shape those particular sections. And, very importantly, when they improvised, it was with no jazz vocabulary but, for my ears, a completely fresh sound, with reference points more likely to be found in contemporary classical music (some of them were members of the London Sinfonietta).

I'd like to write more in the future for classical instrumentalists and also learn more about orchestration.

I think out of the whole project I'm proudest and most pleased with the piece "Nocturne." I can see that the large suite "Out of the Darkness" is a bit cumbersome and a bit of a mishmash (then again that might be what you like). But I'm very happy with the piece "Nocturne," with the ideas in it, the form and the scoring. I think that works.

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