Django Bates on his award-winning piece about touch

Django Bates was announced last night as the winner of the PRS British Composer Award in the jazz composition category. His piece is called The Study Of Touch. Here’s what he has to say about it:

The first six-note phrase of The Study Of Touch slunk into my head whilst I was walking back from the shops. As usual with such visitations, I was entertained by it but didn’t imagine pursuing it once I got home and got the kettle on. I’d been expanding my Charlie Parker arrangements for the Norrbotten Big Band for some months so by comparison this simple fragment seemed a transitory whim: just my brain’s release valve giving me a break from density with a simple diatonic loop. Arriving home though, the phrase stuck with me so I wrote it down and did pursue it. Or did it pursue me?

Visiting old friends in Oslo recently I heard trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer ask someone how they were doing, using the beautifully blunt words, “Is there someone in your life who you can touch and be touched by”? It stuck in my mind. With this question he put his finger on an essential human need. As I wrote, I imagined how Petter [Eldh] and Peter [Bruun] would realize each note, and how the trio’s intensity would be transmitted to the fourteen brass and woodwind players of NBB. We often hear musicians described as having “wonderful touch”; an instrument needs to be touched skilfully and sensitively to sound its best. Perhaps, the simpler a piece of music, the more it requires the infinitely detailed touch of the performers if it is to reach out and touch the audience.

Django was up against Julian Argüelles and John Butcher in the jazz composition category. For more about the British Composer Awards (and the full list of winners when they wake up and add it) go here.

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