Then Or Now
Marie Astrid Mence
Notes on Biber’s Passacaglia and its accompanying improvisations.
Passacaglia for solo violin (1676)
Music originally composed by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)
Arranged & recorded by Daniel Pioro
Biber’s Passacaglia is one of the first surviving pieces for unaccompanied violin and the final movement of the last of his extraordinary Rosary Sonatas. The piece is built over a constantly repeating bass theme of four descending notes (G F E flat D), whose constant presence seems to symbolise the unending watchfulness of the Guardian Angel. There is a great fragility in this work, moments of sparse textures, moments of glee, intensity, wandering, yet always underpinned by those ever present four notes. This is a piece that, for me, has always called to mind a life cycle. No matter what happens, the tempestuous details, the miserable moments and those of absolute joy too, life just flows on and on. I wanted to record this fragility. With Adrienne Rich’s poetry there is no space for perfection, or even of aspiring to it, whatever IT is. But there is room for rawness, honesty, closeness in sound, and I hope that with Ian Dearden’s mastery helping me along, we managed to find this. A truth in sound, as there is a truth in Adrienne’s words. It is a great sadness to me that I could never work with the dancers of Ballet Black but, as I played this piece, I thought of them. Imagined how they may react to my sound and the flow of this ancient music. Felt their movements, as if they were my own.
I would like to thank Will Tuckett for guiding me into my improvisations, and making me feel like I was surrounded by motion, even when I stood alone in front of a microphone in a tiny studio.
Other films available to watch in this partnership
Ballet Black is a company I have followed for some time now so when the opportunity arose to work with them I wanted to create something fun and vibrant that would reflect the beautiful and diverse personalities of these very versatile dancers. I came up with the idea of CLICK! as a way of exploring, in a playful way, the different gestural meanings of snapping or clicking the fingers.
It is a non-narrative piece, illustrating that with a snap of the fingers everything can change; with this device we were able to cover a range of different styles, from the, “snap your fingers and I’ll come running,” cartoon-like duet, to the dancers’ bodies reacting to the accelerating snaps and clicks of the ending, to the tenderness of the couple who simply “click” together. During the creative process the dancers embraced the quirkiness of my vocabulary whole-heartedly, with the moves in the studio shifting from sharp and groovy to angular and disjointed, to fluid and intertwined.
When costume designer, Yann Seabra, saw the piece he immediately came up with brightly coloured jackets reflecting the snazzy, sharpness these dancers convey so well. The score for CLICK! is a combination of pre-existing music, original composition, and sound design. This is an approach I tend to use in my work in order to create different dynamics throughout the piece. From the likes of Snapping Fingers by Ken Beebe to Two Of A Kind by composer Kenny Inglis, I find using a variety of music allows me to play with the pace and intensity of the work. My finger-snapping time spent creating this piece with Ballet Black dancers was an absolute pleasure. We clicked. Sophie Laplane