• C. Burgess

Codename: 'Return'

I have recently started having some exciting correspondence with an accomplished local string quartet, and after discussions with the members and hearing them live, I am excited to work with them in creating a new suite for string quartet.

The quartet play a wide variety of music and grace numerous venues - from local pubs to churches and theatres. I view their approach as successfully striking a balance between professionalism and being embedded in the local community: populism and artistry.

This approach resonates strongly with me and forms the conceptual backbone of the suite I have in mind. This innate dichotomy is not something new to me, however, being a fundamental concept in many of my Bachelor's compositions, yet it stands out for two distinct reasons:

Firstly, it will be my first piece on the subject in over two years, during which I somewhat abandoned the concept in favour of a direct examination of 'horror' in music for my Master's among other themes. Returning to this concept after so long, after gathering experience, knowledge and skills, will be fascinating, and I hope that I can produce a more engaging and nuanced musical exploration of this theme than in my previous work.

Secondly, it will be my first "art music" project since finishing my time at university and returning to Hastings, and whilst the suite is obviously inspired by and written for the quartet, I cannot help but attach it more nebulously to my thoughts about my home town. In many ways, this does not differ greatly from the concept itself, as in my romanticised notion of the town, I view it in much the same way.

It is perhaps no surprise then, that, as you have already read, for the moment I am giving the suite a working title of 'Return', as it seems to be a recurring presence in my conception of it. Whether the title will be retained or not I have yet to decide, but I worry that it might allude to the musical concept of 'return', a somewhat separate concept despite the same name, which is not something I currently wish to explore with the piece.

But, if you'll indulge me, just for a moment, I wish to return to the topic of Hastings itself.

I think it is no coincidence that so many musicians from the town have a similar approach to music and art as I. It is an overtly bohemian town, a hotbed of culture that differs from other such places (like Brighton) because of a strange insularity that allows it to both welcome outsiders and remain accessible to its own citizens: an embracing of other cultures alongside a defiance against gentrification.

Indeed, whilst being one of the most deprived areas in the country, Hastings was recently found to be the most musically sophisticated local authority in the country (see articles such as this one that cite the Goldsmiths study behind this article). To many of us who live here, that is no surprise, given the combination of one of the strongest music services in the country (though now gutted through government spending cuts) and the thriving DIY music culture that permeates the town. From the regular musical events that draw people in from across the world, to the Old Town seafront that beats with the rhythm of live music from every venue on every night of the week, music is at the very heart of this curious seaside town.

It is thoughts such as these that occupied my mind as I heard the quartet perform, and these thoughts I think must therefore inform the composition of 'Return'.

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