Sonata 1997 (composition)

Sonata 1997 notebook page Sonata 1997 page 1 Sonata 1997 page 2

The structure that emerged during the composition of Sonata 1997 was a series of short sections with a hiatus of one to two bars between them.

I placed these short sections into a series of 8 ABCBA arch structures. Once I had one ABCBA section I could perceive the scale of the whole composition. The sonata opens with a section based on a 12 tone row. Other sections use a limited pitch palette and the composition ends with a coda consisting of a repeated-pitch cadence.

The illustrations are a section of my notebook from February 19? and the corresponding sections in the typeset score.

On the notebook page you can see how I changed the way the chords are written from fully notated rhythm to a series of double whole notes; and on the lower right of the page, the opposite.

The score of the sonata is available from the British Music Collection:

Sonata 1997 (composition)

Sonata 1997 (diary)

Julian Haxby had performed my Game No.7 at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, in 1996. The performance was perfect! I had begun my series of pieces with the title ‘Game’ with ‘Boy Game’ in 1993. The ‘Games’ were all experiments and I was delighted to hear that Game No.7 (obviously the 7th in the series) worked.

I was absolutely thrilled with the performance and, with Julian Haxby in mind as a performer, I began sketching out ideas for a new extended composition as soon as I arrived back in Hove. I had no idea that these sketches would become such a large scale piece at around 40 minutes. What became Sonata 1997 was composed from the detail outwards. The structure became apparent as the composition grew.

Julian Haxby performed the Sonata at Conway Hall in London in April 1998. I travelled up from Brighton with Chris Pearcy and David Perkins. (I would later work with David Perkins on my spoken word opera Cockahoop in 2002.)

I will never get complacent about the excitement of having a work performed by an excellent pianist in front of a packed hall. My sonata occupied the full second half of the concert and was well received.

David Kassner of President Records (my record company at the time) didn’t like it. When I played him a recording of the sonata he said: “Who would want to listen to 40 minutes of this?” I guess my answer was “me”!

From my diary, 23rd April 1997, the day before the concert:“It’s amazing. It seems like everyone I’ve ever known is bending over backwards to get to the sonata concert tomorrow including people I knew a long time ago, my sister Julie, Shirley and Mick and other people from Brighton…

Who will I talk to?”

(Sonata 1997 is dedicated to my dad who died that year.)

The score of the sonata is available from the British Music Collection:

Sonata 1997 (diary)