Violinist and Cellist look at one another, Judith Weir and David Horne in the background

Review of Judith Weir’s Workshop, Arts Award 2018

On Tuesday 7th August, the Summer School played host to a performance workshop given by Judith Weir. This event particularly stood out to me, as before I came on the Summer Course I was not particularly fond of new styles of music such as minimalism and contemporary classical music. However, after listening to ‘Sundew’ for violin and ‘cello, I realised how beautiful contemporary music could sound if performers were given the freedom to interpret the music their own way.

I particularly loved her use of boxed notation, which gives performers the pitches of the notes they need to play but does not specify their duration. I am, however, still unsold about minimalism as, even though I appreciate that the composers want the audience to explore what they hear, such as in pieces by John Cage and Steve Reich, it tends to become uninteresting after a while as this style of music is always insistent and repetitive. However, I learnt a lot from this concert, such as giving performers freedom to make their own decisions using aleatoric elements such as boxed notation. This means that no two performances of a piece are entirely the same; they are all different and unique in some way. Judith Weir also showed us a piece called ‘Storm Music’ which was written on a graphic score. I had never attempted to look at or read a graphic score before and as such I found the piece quite inspiring, as it too does not specify everything about a piece of music and gives performers freedom to interpret the music as they please. It did also make me wonder about the future of the graphic score and coming up with software to notate it instead of drawing it by hand, since no software like this exists today.