Friday, March 20, 2015

On the Chequer'd Field Array'd

Interviewed on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 11th March: Hannah Kendall, one of "Five Under 35 - Contemporary British Women Composers" featured in Composer of the Week.

"On the Chequer'd Field Array'd" is "a piece for solo piano in three movements, the title is taken from the 1763 poem Caissa by Sir William Jones and depicts the three sections of a game of chess (the opening, middlegame and endgame); each taking inspiration from different sources".

This is how the three movements are described on her website.
Mindplay (i)
'Chess holds its masters in its own bonds shackling the mind and the brain so that the inner freedom of the very strongest must suffer'. ALBERT EINSTEIN
The main objectives for the opening of a chess of game are the development of the pieces, gaining control of the centre, amd the conquest of space. These three conditions conjure very vivid notions of battle and struggle. 'Mindplay' explores how the almost obsessive nature of this fight plays itself out within the mind.  
Middlegame (ii)
'In chess there are some extremely beautiful things in the domain of the movement but not in the visual domain. It's the imagining of the movement or the gesture that makes the beauty, in this case. It's completely in one's grey matter.' MARCEL DUCHAMP
Artist and chess fanatic Marcel Duchamp often contemplated and referred to the visual possibilities which arise within the duration of any given game of chess, but mostly discounted its aesthetic value. However, 'Middlegame' explores the flourishing visual transitions and potential patterns which occur as the chess pieces become dispersed about the board, seemingly scattered, and gradually deplete in numbers, standing as isolated figures.
Coda (iii)
'I detest the endgame. A well-played game should be practically decided in the middlegame.' DAVID JANOWSKI
It is difficult to define where a middlegame ends and the endgame begins. This movement acts as more of a continuation to Middlegame, as though the player who is going to lose sees that they have been defeated, accepts it and lets the game play out.
The complete ten minute work for solo piano may be heard here. Intriguing.

It should be of special interest if you are that type of chesser; though her comment on the nature of end-game play may put one fellow blogger off his archipeggios.

Catch the programme and the interview on BBC iPlayer for another 20 or so days from today's date of posting. Hannah Kendall talks about the piece specifically at 47.35, after which they play the "middlegame" section.

The poem by Sir William Jones begins:

Of armies on the chequer'd field array'd,
And guiltless war in pleasing form display'd;
When two bold kings contend with vain alarms,
In ivory this, and that in ebon arms;
Sing, sportive maids, that haunt the sacred hill
Of Pindus, and the fam'd Pierian rill.

 ...and the rest of the 350 (yes, that's three hundred and fifty) lines are here. Daunting.


ejh said...

Another contemporary composer, Emily Howard, was a British Junior Girls Champion in several different age groups.

ejh said...

In fact I notice:

science is merely one part of Howard’s artistic horizons, her music embracing poetry and philosophy as well as less orthodox fields such as sport and even chess, such as in 2012 work Zugzwänge for clarinet quintet, which takes a position where a player is forced to choose between two losing moves