The Still/s cycle

In early 2002 Richard Emsley began work on a collaboration with the British painter Joan Key. This was designed in such a way that the artist’s production of a group of six paintings and the composer’s production of a piece for solo cello would be processes which did not inhibit one another but yet which intersected at a deep-seated structural level. The collaboration was commissioned by the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, and Key’s Six White Paintings for Composition were hung there as part of the “Colour White” exhibition in July 2002 during which the cellist Anton Lukoszevieze premiered the musical component of the collaboration, Still/s 1.

In view of the substantial quantity of unused visual material generated by the project, and keen to explore its further musical possibilities, Emsley decided that the original piece for solo cello should be just one of a total of 24 pieces, the other 23 to be composed for all the possible solos, duos and trios afforded by a basic five-instrument reservoir, consisting of flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello.

The decision to embark on the composition of a cycle containing such a large number of individual works was suggested by the deliberate ‘protocol’ adopted during the collaboration process: a relentless exploration of the possible combinations derivable from a small stock of visual materials, but subjected to an overall process of progressive ‘painting out’, propelling the material ineluctably towards “whiteness, absence, stillness and silence”.

A synopsis of the entire cycle is given below. Pieces may be performed singly or together in any grouping. For more extended performances, each of the cycle’s four quarters provides a suitable programme for a short concert.

Still/s 1 (2002) 8’30”
solo cello
First performance: Anton Lukoszevieze, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 6 July 2002
Commissioned by the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill for the Colour White exhibition

preview score / purchase

Still/s 2 (2004) 8′
clarinet and cello
First performance: Apartment House, Church of St Anne & St Agnes, London, 2 July 2008

preview score / purchase

Still/s 3 (2004) 7′
violin and cello
First performance: Apartment House, Church of St Anne & St Agnes, London, 2 July 2008

preview score / purchase

Still/s 4 (2008) 12′
flute and clarinet
First performance: Apartment House, Church of St Anne & St Agnes, London, 2 July 2008
Commissioned by Music We’d Like To Hear with funds provided by The Britten-Pears Foundation

preview score / purchase

Still/s 5 (2008) 8′
piccolo, clarinet in E flat and piano
First performance: Apartment House, Church of St Anne & St Agnes, London, 2 July 2008
Commissioned by Music We’d Like To Hear

preview score / purchase

Still/s 6 (2008) 7′
flute, violin and piano
First performance: Apartment House, Church of St Anne & St Agnes, London, 2 July 2008
Commissioned by Music We’d Like To Hear

preview score / purchase

view programme note for performance of Still/s 1-6 as part of London concert series ‘Music We’d Like To Hear’ in July 2008

Still/s 7 (2011) 8′
solo clarinet
First performance: Andrew Sparling, Falmouth University, 17 November 2011

preview score / purchase

Still/s 8
clarinet, violin and cello
in preparation

Still/s 9
flute, clarinet and cello
in preparation

Still/s 10 (2004) 9′
flute and piano
First performance: Libra Ensemble, St. Giles’ Cripplegate, London, 28 March 2005

preview score / purchase

Still/s 11
violin and piano
in preparation

Still/s 12
violin, cello and piano
in preparation

Still/s 13
flute and violin
in preparation

Still/s 14 (2003) 8′
solo violin
First performance: Darragh Morgan, Bush Hall, London, 26 June 2003
Commissioned by Darragh Morgan with funds provided by the RVW Trust

preview score / purchase

Still/s 15
clarinet, violin and piano
in preparation

Still/s 16
flute and cello
in preparation

Still/s 17
clarinet, cello and piano
in preparation

Still/s 18
flute, cello and piano
in preparation

Still/s 19
flute solo
in preparation

Still/s 20
flute, clarinet and violin
in preparation

Still/s 21
flute, violin and cello
in preparation

Still/s 22 (2002) 7′
clarinet and piano
First performance: Libra Ensemble, St. Cyprian’s Church, London, 14 February 2003
preview score / purchase

Still/s 23
cello and piano
in preparation

Still/s 24 (2010) 8′
clarinet and violin
First performance: Ian Mitchell and Angharad Davies, The Nunnery, London, 6 May 2010
preview score / purchase