I asked Northcott about the motivation for starting the WCSSs, and why they were needed when Dartington and Darmstadt were already running:
Having gone through the concert programme, Northcott moved on to his memories of the other classes and activities from the 1965 school. Maxwell Davies’ analysis classes included Bach Inventions, Pierrot Lunaire and the first movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, all as advertised.
There are some implications of his teaching of Mahler 3 that will become apparent in my review of Peter Maxwell Davies Studies to be published in Music & Letters.
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: