INTERVIEW: Trish Clowes talks about British Composer Award-winner Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian

Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian with her award
Photo credit: Mark Allan

At the British Composer Awards (BASCA) ceremony at the British Museum on Wednesday, CEVANNE HORROCKS-HOPAYIAN was named 2017 winner in the Contemporary Jazz Composition category for her piece Muted Lines, recorded by Trish Clowes. Trish talked to us about the composer.

LondonJazz News: How did you first get to know Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian?

Trish Clowes: I think we met through Chris Montague in the first instance. They had both been part of Serious’ Take Five scheme at the same time. Cevanne then came to a Tangent quartet concert at Wigmore Hall in 2013.

We’ve kept in touch since then, and there have been subsequent connections too. Cevanne had worked with or alongside friends/colleagues of mine such as Kerry Andrew and Consortium 5. Juice, Kerry's vocal ensemble with Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey, performed at Emulsion III at the Village Underground in 2014.

Cevanne’s project exploring the Renaissance tradition of ‘Eye Music’ also included Chris and Calum Gourlay.

LJN: What is the origin of this composition and can you explain the theme of forced migration?

TC: I could hear something in Cevanne’s work that I felt could really complement my way of working. Cevanne and I had been talking about some form of collaborative project for a while when a discussion about the migration and refugee crisis prompted Cevanne to think about events and ideas she had long wanted to explore in music. We decided we would write ‘sister’ compositions that both explored the theme of forced migration. This had particular resonance for Cevanne because 100 years ago, her family were forced from their ancestral homes in eastern Turkey during the genocide which murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Initially, all Cevanne could think about in response to events of such magnitude was silence – the generations silenced either by political pressure or by horror and trauma.

Eventually, Cevanne decided to respond using a reductive exercise. She experimented with one line written by the sixteenth century Armenian poet Nahapat Kuchak, gradually removing words and reducing the text. Whilst much of the meaning was lost, Cevanne found that the feeling remained, and that setting this text to music allowed the silence to be filled with new meaning. With Cevanne’s piece emerging as a darker sounding approach to the subject, we decided my response piece would be more celebratory, looking at the birth of the drum set and celebrating the innovators who established what we now know as jazz.

LJN: Once you had commissioned Cevanne, what happened? Where was ‘Muted Lines’ first performed?

TC: Fortunately, PRSF generously supported the commission and we recorded Muted Lines for the My Iris album, which came out in early 2017 on Basho Records. The piece was first performed by the band at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival, and a larger scale version was performed by the Emulsion Sinfonietta at the Emulsion V event at mac Birmingham as part of the My Iris album launch tour. Muted Lines has been part of a broader and ongoing process of commissioning and developing new music through Emulsion. Since 2012, we have now commissioned 14 pieces of new music

LJN: How did it feel performing the piece for the first time?

TC: It was really interesting to play someone else’s music! Touring and discussing the sister compositions has been a new experience for me, as it has been the first time I have addressed major political and social themes in my work. I have since explored the refugee crisis more directly in my new work for the BBC Concert Orchestra. Performing Muted Lines was also the first time I have used singing in my performances and I have continued to write more compositions that incorporate the voice. Working with another composer for the first time has been an enjoyable process in many different ways – our influences overlap but it brings a different and fresh perspective to creating music.

At the Ceremony:
Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (L) and Trish Clowes (R)

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