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Silcon Coast Audio

From one world heritage site to another...

Having spent a wonderful week in Dorset, working on an audio piece about the Jurassic Coast and thepeople who live there, I now find myself in another world heritage site: Banff in the Canadian Rockies.

The town of Banff is a small, pretty ski-resort in the middle of the Banff National Park. It also has an Arts Centre; a large residential community of musicians, visual-artists, writers and - occasionally - film and video directors. There are specific buildings for each of the disciplines and huts - in the woods - for the musicians. I'm here for three months doing what is called a "winter-residency" - along with about thirty-five to forty other musicians. Most are performers - pianists and violinists overwhelmingly - with a few other instrumentalists and some jazz-performers. Unusually, alongside the performers there is a large contingency of sound-recordists, specialist audio engineers honing their skills, too. They are all very nice people and there is a great sense of community. There's a small group of composers, too, and we tend to hang out together. Last night about seven of us went to one of the communal lounges to listen to a vast (and wonderful) piece by a French composer, Gerard Grisey. With a wondrous wintry landscape outside - snow, trees and distant mountains, it all felt very momentous.

Like the Doset coast, you can't help but be impressed by the physical beauty of the landscape. There are mountains all around - the Banff Centre is cut into the side of one - so everywhere you look there are snowy peaks. There are easy hiking paths to nearby mountain-tops from where the views are quite astonishing. There's also a variety of wildlife: raven, deer and elk. The deer are not the least bit shy. Several times I've had the unnerving experience of glancing out the window of my hut to see a deer staring back at me. I'm convinced she's thinking something along the lines of "not another english composer...".

While here, my main aim is carrying on work on a new opera about a diplomat who gets into trouble in an ex-soviet republic. With writer, Fraser Grace, I've been busy with this for over a year now, but gradually it's all coming together. The time here in Banff allows for concentrated focused work, which is very valuable. But, as is so often the case, what feels to be the most important part of this experience, is meeting other people: musicians, artists, writers, many from Canada, some from remote parts, some working in native traditions. It's an extraordinarily rich place.

Andrew Lovett
February 2007

Andrew will be back in Bridport in April to present his work and speak about his recent experiences here and overseas.


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