John Plant, composer

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What I've been up to

Posted by John Plant on September 8, 2022 at 8:35 PM

It's over a year since I posted a blog entry. I'm rather appalled to learn that I haven't written anything about two major projects, both of vital importance to me.  Time to catch up with myself!

I spent three years on the project first mentioned in my entry of February 26, 2019, the composition of the music for Wanda R. Graham's magnificent libretto - with the help of a generous grant from Arts Nova Scotia.   During those three years the name of the work changed: it's now The Heart of Things, and we've defined it as a 'spoken word opera, for six actors and soundtrack' - the soundtrack being a virtual orchestra (with a score running to over 300 pages), coupled with musique concrète and my first ventures into electronic sounds.  We planned a live workshop of the opera, under the aegis of Heat Theatre, for the spring of 2022; COVID forced us to rethink our plans, and the workshop was ultimately entirely online, from April 18 to 24.  

The audition process proved to be an exciting confirmation of the viability of our concept, and the actual workshop even more so.  As planned, the actors worked from a rhythmically notated score, to be co-ordinated with the 'soundtrack.' The technology of 'Cleanfeed,' coupled with Zoom, made it possible to coach the actors individually and in groups, and we were able to rehearse and perform well over half the opera in six days of work.


We chose an extraordinary team of six actors from the multitude of excellent audition recordings we received.  Working with them was an exhilarating and rewarding experience.   The one technical hitch which we could not overcome was the co-ordination of several crucial ensemble passages of four to six voices; this seemed to have something to do with Cleanfeed's inability to cope with the variables of relativity! But I could not have asked for a more eager, devoted, and intuitive group.  Please visit Heat Theatre's website to learn more about the project - and to hear an excerpt.

Working with Wanda continues to be a thrilling adventure.  Though collaborating entirely through the internet - and occasionally resorting to the postal service! - we maintained an intensity and enthusiasm which often seemed to obliterate the reality of the pandemic.  

The other project has its origins even further back.  When I first met wonderful Louise Bessette to discuss my 'Three Echoes of the Odyssey'  (see blogs for January 8, 2018 and April 7, 2020) , she mentioned to me her inspiring project 'Un piano autour du monde' and invited me to contribute a work to it. I immediately suggested a portrait of the fishing village where I live, West Jeddore.  With the help of a very welcome Canada Council grant, I embarked on my first work for solo piano in something like fifty years.  Composing this work evoked something deep in me - something otherwise inexpressible that I very much needed to say.  In my preface, I wrote: West Jeddore is a small fishing village stretched along a thin peninsula on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore.  It has been been a part of my life since 1970 and is now my home.  In this work... my intention was to capture in sound something of the deep hold this place has in my heart.  It has always been a place where I breathe more easily, where I am most in touch with the vastness and wonder of being.

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