[ISEA97] Artist Statement: Paul Fretwell – Hidden Courts

Artist Statement

This electro-acoustic piece illustrates certain issues that are part of my compositional research. Primarily this involves the concept of sound-gesture as a means of communication. Recorded sources are transformed by various procedures, developing them above anything one would hear in the natural world. These “supra-natural” sounds can be described as exaggerated sonic sign stimuli, or sound-symbols. They affect an audience through the listener’s own innate knowledge of gestural behavior, eliciting an empathic response.

Based on my description of sounds as symbols, I develop the analogy between music and myth (myth being a language of symbols). In Hidden Courts, myth is used as a structural device. I avoid simplistic programmatic interpretations by deriving the structure from many myths that share the same archetypal pattern, rather than following a particular tale. The concept of an unattainable paradise is the basis of Hidden Courts, an ideal state of which we can only ever have brief glimpses throughout our lives. The climactic point in the piece corresponds to a sudden vision of this eternal beauty. However, to provide a context for this moment, a primarily musical discourse is built up throughout the piece. The title of my piece refers to the Court of Joy in Arthurian legend, an otherworldly realm where only happiness is known.

  • Paul Fretwell (UK) was born in a small village in Nottinghamshire, England in 1972. His first instrumental compositions were heard while still at school. At the age of sixteen he was awarded a subsidised place at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where he pursued both his instrumental studies and composition. He later attended the University of Birmingham, where he gained a first class honours degree in music, specialising in composition and performance.While in Birmingham he began to work in the electro-acoustic medium, and had many pieces performed on the BEAST multi-speaker diffusion system. In 1995 he received an MA in Electro-acoustic Music (with distinction) from City University, London. He is currently researching a PhD in Electro-acoustic Composition at City University under the tutelage of Denis Smalley. His work has been performed across the UK and Europe, and most recently in Vienna. Future performances are also due in York and Edinburgh.