Conversation with Matteo Fargion contd. 2 (Howard Skempton - waiting - walking)

Howard Skempton - waiting - walking

T: So then you studied with Howard Skempton?

M: Yeah. One could say studied, um.

T: Or you didn't study? What?

M: No we did- I did study, when I got when I arrived in London I knew Howard and very few other people, um, Howard as an acquaintance I thought what the hell- I arrived here and I thought what the hell am I gonna do? I need some structure to my life. Um, and so having decided that I would stay in London I just called up Howard and who'd never taught before and he was terribly flattered that I want to study with him. Just because he liked me didn't think anybody would want to learn anything- So I used to go once a week to Lemington, or at that time Stratford first, and basically have lunch and um and um he'd usually apologise about the fact that he wasn't teaching me anything, although when it came to having lunch then I suppose he dropped his guard and er we had really nice conversations, um, and I carried that on for about a year I guess, I can't remember.

T: When was that? When did you move to London I mean what's the-

M: We arrived in London at the end of 1985, so I think this must have been 86, maybe part of 87 I can't remember. I hardly wrote anything at the time, um. I mean 86 was- But Howard was very much you know he's very much into the small, obviously the miniature thing and I think it didn't really suit me. And I was trying desperately to sort of- and he was being very practical, you know, a young composer, what should you write for and stuff. You know, I remember struggling over some clarinet piece for months. Solo clarinet. Every composer should write one. And I tried but I think because there was no concert um... And I had a little, you know, I was trying to assimilate how- what he was like, and he liked little notebooks like manuscript books, like sit on the bus and make a little sketch, a melodic line, maybe some rhythms, and use it like a sketch book, write a little melody every day, and I love the idea of that, that kind of very small scale, very- what we were saying earlier about what to do when you're not commissioned, in these periods, should it be something very non-ambitious like that, a little piano piece every day, or... very much kind of English experimentalist way of thinking, something incredibly modest that you can do every day before lunch, Satie I suppose, that's where it comes from...

T: Like the early Feldman pieces which seem so simple. For each one did it take him six months or did he just wait, you know like he used to do. Wait until the next one came along and write it down.

M: Who was it who recently said that, I think it might have been a playwright, I can't remember, probably sounds a bit- a little bit pompous but the idea that a composer, or I think he was saying actors should be like um what's it called, telegraph, um... stations or something. Er.

T: Receivers?

M: Yeah, telegraph- just sit and wait for it to start, messages to start coming in. I quite like that. The Feldman thing of waiting. Stick around the house and wait. And that certainly is the case for me, the endless pacing around the dining room table. I force myself to get out but I know that then that's because I'm gonna scream if I don't get out the house, but those- and I'm sure I've spoken to you in those periods on the phone about you know it could be this it could be that, and just completely stuck until one day it just breaks.

T: I just so completely find that if I'm beating my head against a brick wall about something, sometimes walking out my door the minute I'm on the pavement I suddenly think that's what I'll do, and then of course the whole rest of my journey I think that's what I'll do, and then I'll come back and I do it, and then fail- square one...

M: It makes perfect sense. Fail again. It does make perfect sense, the whole thing of walking your way through a problem.

T: I'm a complete believer in walking.

M: Pacing round the dining room table, that's what I do. This is so rambling I can't believe it.