Overleap (2007)

Duration 9’50”
For Piano and pre-recorded track with Jo Woods (violin) and Patrick Jones (cello)
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
First performed as part of the 2007 Ballet Central National tour at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

Many of Sara Matthews’ pieces for Ballet Central, started life as a three to four minute piece for the second year dancers at Central School of Ballet. Overleap is one of these, coming to a forceful climax after about four minutes. Instead of adding one or two sections to what was already there, we chose to explore how much more we could get out of the initial idea. So, in the full version there is a cesura where the original version ended, and the music suddenly takes off anarchically, a dancer rushes on, and we have embarked on the new territory of the second part of the piece with scurrying agitated scales.

It is a dark piece. The original working title was String Circle, and as this might suggest, the score is built on an open-ended repeated harmonic sequence for string orchestra, a circular maze which the piano gradually enters but never dominates, often indeed battling with the pulsing strings. Its eight bar structure is twice contracted to double speed with stabbing chords in the strings; in fact when this happens towards the end, it contracts even more, causing the harmony to change on every beat, really creating the impression that the sands of time are remorselessly running out.

To the digital sampled orchestral sounds are added telling contributions from the two musicians brought into play on David Fielding’s Six Chamber Dances, Paddy Jones and Jo Woods, whose live input adds a very human element that counterpoints well with the incessant drive of the software orchestra. This is particularly noticeable in the rock violin solo, especially since it is treated with effects, its EQ manipulated, and then mixed down with the sampled orchestral violins – poor Jo!

When starting the opening duet, Matthews asked whether the first two rounds of the sequence in the orchestra could be slower to give her a more time for a more substantial duet. That was achieved, as it happens, in a matter of seconds by just adjusting the tempo markings on the computer software. Few things on the computer are that easy or successful!