In December I travelled to Wiltshire to interview Harrison Birtwistle.
I began by asking some specific questions about serialism and whether or not it was a concept that was ‘vetoed’ as Anthony Gilbert had suggested to me that it had been. (The interview with Gilbert will be posted soon.) Not gaining much of a response beyond ‘I don’t know’ I outlined something of the level of detail I knew about the events, filling in space much as I am as I write this, hoping for a topic that most piqued his interest. It seems that Birtwistle is good at forgetting, which, as this week’s obituary for Alexander Piatigorsky reminded me, is ‘essential’. Read the rest of this entry »
Speaking with Bayan Northcott uncovered a wealth of information about the WCSSs and the period in which they occurred. This post draws together some clips from the interview. The interview progressed with Northcott going through his diary.
When I first made contact with Bayan Northcott I gave him the address of this blog. On the morning of our meeting (19 November 2009) I noticed a sharp increase in the traffic of this site, and I suspected that perhaps Northcott was the cause. When I arrived at his flat he showed me through to his kitchen where on the table was a laptop, with this blog open. His first words were ‘I think I can fill in some of Hugh Wood’s gaps in memory’ and ‘please record this if you wish’. He had read by post about Hugh Wood and my questions about the ethics of this research methodology. A number of times during the interview he said ‘I am going to have to trust you [not to make public every comment I make]’. Clearly this trust arose in no small part from the contents of my previous posts. It is heartening to see that the methodology is proceeding as might be predicted, and that the potential for this open way of working to form the trust of a community of interrelated people was, at least for this one interview, being realized.
This stage of trust typically arises in response to previously published work, either in the form of other studies made by the researcher that establish a reputation, or in direct response to the research at hand, in the form of a post-publication revisiting.
There is also another, potentially less positive, side to this situation, since Northcott’s first words (that gaps as exposed in the blog can be filled) shapes the information that he gives. In this regard I am fortunate that Northcott had kept a diary for the duration of the WCSSs and that the interview followed his entries alongside the concert programmes. This focussed the interview as an interaction designed to give me as complete a picture as possible of the events as they unfolded. I am also grateful for the generous time that Northcott devoted to the discussion, which meant that a whole range of subjects could be covered, in some cases for multiple times (each with new information and ideas). In any case, the shaping of new information due to past research is one of the primary ideas charted by the methodology of this blog.
Northcott’s diary is clearly an excellent resource, which enabled him to provide unprecedented detail of the WCSSs. It is a document of which I have no copy:
On Thursday, 29th October I visited Hugh Wood at his London home, to speak with him about his experience and memory of the WCSSs. I recorded, with permission, the interview. Meeting Wood was thoroughly enjoyable and he lived up to his reputation as charming, intelligent and thoughtful. His memories will enlighten my research, and over the coming months more details of the events will be posted. This post, like the initial post regarding Michael Hall, will focus on the ethics of recording and publishing the interview.
At the outset I asked if it would be alright to record, and Wood agreed.
Late in the conversation I mentioned that there were ethical issues with me making a recording. His response was ‘oh that’s nice of you to say’. Then the following took place:
I had a meeting with Michael Hall at his house in Exeter on Monday, 26th October. It was particularly worthwhile. Firstly because my recorder functioned perfectly. Secondly because of the wealth of useful information that Hall provided. He also gave me an excerpt from the book he is working on at the moment, which details Birtwistle’s theatre music and its genesis at Cranborne Chase. Future posts will deal with this, though for the details you will have to wait for the book to be published.