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  Spheres and Epicycles  Bevillia at 16:06 on 15 December 2006


An SWR Interview with composer Stephen Beville, proceeding the concert 'Rihm und Schulerin' (The Insel Theatre, Karlsruhe - 04/06/2004).

FRAU STRICKER: First, I would like to to ask you a personal question; where do you come from?

STEPHEN BEVILLE: I come from Britain. I was born in Reading, a large town near London.

FS: For how long have you studied in Germany?

SB: I came to Karlsruhe in 2001 with a DAAD scholarship to study composition in the class of Wolfgang Rihm.

FS: So it's three years that you have studied with him?

SB: Yes - this is my third year.

FS: Now I'm interested in the two versions of your piece Epicycle - the first version you composed in 1999, and now you've worked it over, there is a second version. How did that come about?

SB: I came to look over the piece again because I needed a fairly large-scale work for this concert. Epicycle I thought might be suitable, since I had been quite happy with it at first. However, looking over the score again, I discovered there were some passages that could, infact, be improved - so I revised some sections and changed some of the harmonies to avoid any unnecessary doubling, and I think the result is much better now.

FS: What does Epicycle mean (in the context of your music)?

SB: Epicycle, as I understand, means a small circle or cycle on the circumference of a larger circle or cycle (an example would be the rotation of the Earth on its trajectory around the Sun). Epicycle - with reference to my music - means the way I have structured the piece is in small cycles as such; this is on a harmonic level with chord structures and chord cycles, and on a rhythmic level with repetitive patterns and mobiles. There is a kind of cycle to the whole piece - it ends where it began - so on a small scale and large scale, I thought this word Epicycle would be appropriate.

FS: What made you come especially to Wolfgang Rihm?

SB: That's a very interesting question. I first heard Rihm's music - a piece called Sphere - at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and my composition teacher around that time was the artistic director and founder of the festival, Richard Steinitz. When I told him, I was applying for a DAAD scholarship, and wanted to study in Germany, I asked him which of the German composers did he recommend, and he unhesitatingly replied Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe.

FS: So you have been three years with Rihm now - would you say he has influenced your style of music?

SB: I would say that I have been influenced by his very liberal approach to composition. My music is a lot freer than it used to be. I am finding composition actually quite joyful at present, and am composing with greater fluency than I was before - I think that's down to Wolfgang's influence.

FS: What does that freedom mean? How does it show in your music?

SB: Well, whereas once I might have planned the composition - the structure of which beforehand,- or I might have stuck rigidly to my idea or conception of a work, now I am open to improvisation and the inspiration of the moment, and where that inspiration might take me.... open to new ideas from beginning to end.

FS: Do you think maybe your style is influenced by Rihm's style?

SB: Rihm is a very ecclectic composer, a composer whom I would find difficult to pinpoint down to one particular style, since I have heard many pieces that are both staggeringly different yet equally impressive. So I don't think I am quite as diverse as him. I have a general idea of my own style, and some of the things I specifically want to say with my music.

FS: You wanted to study composition in Germany. Is there a difference between the general 'style' at home and the 'style' in Germany in modern, contemporary composition?

SB: Exactly, this is another reason why I wanted to study in Germany. I feel that the German musical scene is actually quite experimental, and I think, culturally, the Germans are open to artistic innovation. I find at the moment the scene in Britain is a little conservative on the whole.... at most of the music festivals. I am very interested in new techniques, new ideas, electronic music as well, and this area - Baden Wirtemburg - is quite outstanding for that.... not only in Karlsruhe, but Freiburg, Stuttgart and Donaueschingen.

FS: Well, thankyou very much.

Copyright-2006, with thanks to Ines Stricker of SWR (Southwest German Radio), Karlsruhe.