Archiving the work of British composer Nigel Morgan (d. September 2017)
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Three Exercises for a Keyboard Player.
from Exercise I.
Towards Contemplation is a small stage on the way to the production of a Book of Contemplation
for Musicians. The possibility that such a book could be written has been in my thoughts for some years but was only articulated in a set of instructions or constraints written in August 1999. These instructions, my first thoughts, contain phrases of guidance for the composition of a music in which ‘musical argument might co-exist with musical exploration . . . translating the tension between sounds collected, arranged, organised . . . and silence.
There would be in the composing a ‘consciousness of harmony and harmonic rhythm, a focus on its voicing, and concern for balance between harmonic action and stasis’. The music would be ‘predominantly slow and very precisely ordered’. There was an exhortation to ‘imagine a limited pitch continuum . . . to place sounds and musical structures within this precisely defined space’. As Paul Hindemith was keen to propose, ‘rhythmical action and registral outline should be created first’. Above all the music should allow the musician what Susan Bradshaw has termed ‘interpretative space’, where the potential for teasing out musical meaning is not disabled by a plethora of performance instructions and articulations.
from Exercise II.
As time has passed I have persistently experimented with modes of composition within some of the conditions I describe above. Gradually a small number of pieces have started to emerge, often as tentative workings out of ideas for larger and more ‘public’ compositions. My ideas about what musical contemplation might be have begun to develop. I now have a rationale and a vision for its existence: the sum of many inputs, observations and preoccupations. I could use this preface as an opportunity for description and illustration. I shall not. Instead let me be guided by the anonymous quotation that has found its way onto the MS of Exercise II. This states ‘Where words fail, the time for contemplation has come . . .’
Nigel Morgan has written further pieces for chamber organ in solo, chamber and choral contexts. Treeness
for viola and chamber organ explores the fractal grammar of Lindenmayer Systems, while The Text is a Star and Christmas Collects are festive works for choir and chamber organ. A work for solo keyboard, An Invention for Mr. K, was originally written for the Roland C-50 electronic harpsichord, but now exists in a generic scoring suitable for chamber organ performance.