Sophie Viney

rarescale's Artistic Director, Carla Rees, talks to Sophie Viney, whose new work Sonatina in 7 and 5 will be premiered on 19 October 2014 at The Forge
What is it that appeals to you about writing for the alto/bass flute?

As a young teenager I remember being quite frustrated by the range of the flute at the lower end and it wasn’t until I saved up and invested in the Alfred Blatter orchestration book that I discovered the alto flute. As a college student I encountered a real live alto flute for the first time and I was drawn to its deep, warm mezzo colour, agility and range extension. This gave me a whole new palette to explore and work from.

What attracts you to rarescale as an ensemble?

rarescale takes risks and invests in discovering new composers and new pieces. How many ensembles in our (often) commercially driven society are willing to take those kinds of risks?

Who are your main influences?

I’ve a rather eclectic mix of influences. As a child my grandmother took me to hear the Sinfonia play George Benjamin's At first Light and A mind of Winter. I spent the entire concert scanning the stage for electronics or synthesisers. I could hardly believe that this group of instruments could make such sounds. I loved George Benjamin’s attention to colour and orchestration. His use of the visual image and translating it into sound is something that resonates very strongly with me today. In recent years my music has developed a strong linear quality and I have composed a great deal of vocal music. I admire greatly Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett and have an enduring affection for Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Tell us about the background of your piece - how did it come to be written and what's it all about?

Sonatina in 7 & 5 was composed for this concert. Having written a great deal of choral and vocal music recently, I wanted to write an abstract piece that explored instrumental textures and colour. After my initial sketches, it became clear that the music was far more linear than I had anticipated and the intervals of seventh and fifth became increasingly important. Whilst instrumental colour and texture remained a strong component in my piece, the prevalence of these intervals began to inform the work and I found a shape emerging that followed a loose classical sonatina structure. In place of the traditional tonic/dominant presentation of subjects, I utilised the ‘cello, viola and violin open strings to modulate and cadence into different pitch areas. But it’s by no means a technical work - the opening is marked: Unsettled - with fortitude - alternating between agitation, tranquillity and shades between.

What made you become a composer?

I didn’t really feel I had much choice in the matter - it’s just something that’s always happened. A musical idea would occur to me and not disappear until I had written it down! I’d quite often annoy my piano teacher by adding my own bits and improvisation to what I was meant to be practising. In the end my long-suffering planning teacher found someone to teach me composition. I now use my composing skills in a variety of settings in both professional and amateur circles. It’s wonderfully versatile. I’m not sure I could cope with a 9 to 5. Sorry Dolly.

Sophie's website
Examples of Sophie's work:
Kingdom of Heaven
A Time to Dance
Music of the Spheres