Seven States of Rain by Richard Causton
dedicated to Mary Dullea & Darragh Morgan

D:
Richard, I remember from many years ago when we were both involved with Ensemble Corrente, that your work Persistence of Memory involved you building an actual instrument for the piece. Baring this and the type of blu-tack preparation for the piano in Seven States of Rain, are new timbres vital at the inception of a new composition?
R: Yes – very often. New timbres can be a source of real fascination when I find them – they seem to create a musical context for themselves and perhaps even a poetic association (such as rain!). But this process can happen in reverse as well, i.e. I find that I need to create a specific timbre for a specific, existing musical purpose.
 
D: When I look back at early versions of Seven States of Rain I realise how different (and possibly shorter) the final piece is. Is there a strict revision process that you follow or do you sometimes find yourself to be content with the original version?
R: For me composition feels like a process of getting to know the new piece as I write it - a bit like feeling my way around a room with my eyes shut. As work progresses, the features of the piece become more and more apparent and towards the end, there’s usually a phase of paring down/tightening up the piece. In this case, it involved actually cutting out a section of music which I realised wasn’t required. It’s very unusual for a piece to reach its final shape in a single draught.
 
D: I really admire your clever use of harmony in Seven States of Rain. Was this a challenge you set yourself considering you prepared so many notes across the range of the keyboard that were obviously excluded from 'normal' harmonic use?
R:
This aspect of writing the piece was very difficult – it’s the price one has to pay for putting blu-tack in the piano! However, in the end the idea of complementary harmony (prepared vs. unprepared pitches) seemed to become a part of what the piece was about, since both instruments have 2 modes of playing: bowing and plucking for the violin, prepared and unprepared notes for the piano.
 
D: Seven States of Rain is clearly a very sectional piece. Did you write it in the order it now appears?
R: No – I think it was fairly typical for me in that the end came fairly soon and it progressed backwards (more or less); I like to know where I’m aiming for! But with this work I also had a peculiar feeling that the two instruments were almost playing different pieces, superimposed but out of synch: the violin plays on its own for the first minute or so, and the final minute of the piece is piano solo.
 
D: In your programme note (see OUP 2003 publication or NMC D108) you provide a very vivid description of rain in its various moods and forms, and how the poetry of rain is invoked in the piece. Which came first the music or the title?
R: The title came perhaps a quarter of the way through – all the basic material and ideas were there but there was still a lot of shaping and polishing left to do!

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Click here for an interview with composer Frank Lyons
Click here for an interview with composer Joe Cutler
Click here for an interview with composer Morgan Hayes