Christopher Mayo

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Christopher Mayo - Statement

My initial reactions to Tatton Park were concerned with the passage of time especially as manifested in the relationship between the parklands and the mansion. The park is an ideal and timeless location, where space and landscape take the foreground. This is in stark contrast to the carefully preserved history of the Mansion, a building which operates very strictly within the notion of historical time and projects its comparatively limited space through the various eras of the building’s existence. For me, the interaction between the timeless nature of the park and the historical nature of the mansion was interesting not only in its own right, but also in the way it represents the interaction between natural and human history on a manageable scale.

However, in the end, the inspiration I drew from Tatton was much more modest in scope. The grand, abstract ideas which had initially drawn me to the project seemed altogether less important after I had spent some time getting to know the grounds. Once here, I was far more engaged by the interaction between sun and shadows in trees overlooking Tatton Mere - the rapid progression of the clouds as storms rolled in over the horizon and disappeared again just as quickly – the contradictory transparency of the hedge maze without its leaves. It was in these smaller-scale observations – the minutiae of Tatton Park – that I found the inspiration for my final composition.

The piece “Tatton Park” is scored for an unusual combination of instruments. I wanted to highlight the contrasting light and dark elements of Tatton and chose a collection of instruments that were either very bright and metallic or extremely dark and earthy. This created a sonic environment with no middle ground; sounds are either bright or mellow and interact without ever overlapping. I wanted to create a sound world with sharp edges, reminiscent of the line between sun and shadow under a progressing cloud. The bright instruments are two metal plates, two toy pianos, triangle, autoharp and twelve-string guitar. The dark instruments are clarinet, violin and reed organ.

External to the influence from Tatton Park, the work was inspired to a certain degree by an aesthetic of musical amateurism. It is written for a collection of toy instruments (the toy pianos and triangle), found instruments (the metal plates) and amateur instruments (the autoharp and reed organ) alongside more traditional instruments (clarinet, violin and guitar). Even the more traditional instruments have simple, non-virtuosic parts – the twelve-string guitar is played entirely on open strings by the violinist. This evokes a participatory, almost folk characteristic in the work that I felt was suitable to the inspiration.

The work was premiered by the Camberwell Composers Collective on 26th July 2007 at Tatton Park. See photographs below.

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