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Christopher Fox: More light (1987/8)
for piano

The following notes by Christopher Fox and Ian Pace were written to accompany the CD recording of this work by Ian Pace on the Metier Sound & Vision label (MSV CD92022).

The musical ideas of More light are in a continual state of evolution, although the nature and pace of that evolution changes from section to section, and periodically an evolutionary process transforms an idea so radically that it metamorphoses into something new. In a sense the work does not have "material": instead it consists of particular piano sonorities that the processes of the music call into being.

More light was written in 1987 and 1988 for Philip Mead, who commissioned it with funds from Northern Arts and premiered it on July 28 1988 in Newcastle Playhouse. The version of More light which Philip Mead played in Newcastle differed from the version recorded here in two respects. In a number of the long pauses the resonance caught by the pedal was reinforced electronically with sustained pitches played through small speakers placed directly under the piano - this proved to be aurally redundant and was immediately dropped. In the second main section of the piece there was some equally redundant over-writing which had to be removed rather more painstakingly. I had conceived this section in a number of contrapuntal layers and had simply written them all into the score without thinking through the muscular trauma I was creating for the pianist's hands, wrists and arms - where the pianist is now asked to play two notes on each demi-semiquaver I originally asked Philip to play three! Being the sort of musician he is he found a way of playing what I had written, but after the premiere he showed me a way of revising the passage which would achieve a much greater fluidity of sound production while retaining the impression of contrapuntal density. It was one of the best composition lessons I have ever had.

I composed More light in the belief that they were (in French) the dying words of Monet. The German composer Robert H. P. Platz later told me that (in German) they were the dying words of Goethe. In preparing these notes I've (re)discovered the most likely source of the title, an essay by Morton Feldman in which he writes of Cage's music that it, "as in Monet's later paintings, has us look into the sun, so to speak". The essay is entitled "More light" and is collected in Walter Zimmermann's edition of Feldman's writings and lectures, a volume which I had just reviewed for the journal Contact as I was beginning work on More light. Feldman died, tragically early, shortly afterwards and the slow music in More light became my memorial to him.

Christopher Fox

When Wim Wenders was making his film Kings of the Road, he started not with a script but with an itinerary of locations which were to be visited. Yet the two main characters never stop anywhere for long; Wenders is more concerned with capturing a state of motion, the transience of everyday existence. The gaze at phenomena in transit, apprehension at their imminent passing serving to heighten one's appreciation, is for me the essence of More light. Sometimes it is as if the musical "camera" is still, filming a moving object; at others, the object is still and the camera moves. But the piece is also preoccupied by death, by things dying away, the dying of Morton Feldman's "light". More light is one of the saddest and most beautiful pieces I've ever played; in it, sound is presented ("in its own right", as the New York School composers would say), portrayed, surveyed, but never exploited.

Ian Pace

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