Richard Craig

Recently, WATM had a chat with avant-garde flautist Richard Craig about his approach to work and collaboration with other artists. Here's what happened:

WATM: Tell us about a recent piece of work you've been involved in?

RC: Malédictions D'une Furie is a new composition by John Croft. I was involved in developing specific sounds and gestures which John later wove into a work for solo voice and three instrumentalists with live electronics. The first performance was in May at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, with myself on bass flute and contrabass flute. I also produced original video projections for the performance.

WATM: Can you tell us more about John and anyone else you worked with on the project?

RC: John Croft is a composer and lecturer at Brunel University whom I’ve worked with on-and-off since 2007. In the final days of preparation of the work, the other musicians involved in the rehearsal were: Simon Limbrick (percussion), Lore Lixenberg (voice), Robin Michael (cello) and Carl Faia (live electronics) who all had some input into the final realisation of the work.

WATM: How coherent were the themes you started off with; was it obvious they were going to ‘play nice’?

RC: The text used for the starting point of the work was ‘Malédictions D'une Furie’ by Jean Tardieu which was originally a one woman play. The themes of the text are often dark and vitriolic as well as being lamentations of the human state and the passing of time. If you spent enough time with the music and video, I am sure you could pick out additional themes I managed to subconsciously implant, but generally there was no real conflicts here since we started with a pre-formed work.

WATM: What about co-location and improvisation; do you find you need to be in a room with someone to share their ideas?

RC: Improvisation has always been an important element of classical music, although for some time denigrated by the mainstream of classical music tradition, or at least overly formalised in the hierarchy of the composer being at the top and the performer following instructions. In my case, being in a room with a composer offers avenues of exploring different ways of dealing with musical problems or aims; improvisers allow themselves to be a composer, if for a short time, in an emancipation of the skill and musical judgement one accrues whilst practising and listening from the very first day of trying to produce a note.

WATM: Has anyone ever given you feedback that seemed wrong and ended up being right?

RC: I appreciate when someone takes time to contemplate something they’ve heard and I try to receive it as a gesture of success on my part: an artistic statement that has encouraged a response and hopefully self-reflection about the experience via the tenuous connection we have to our imaginations. In that sense, feedback is a welcome perspective.

WATM: There must have been times when a collaborator’s suggestions were just unworkable?

RC: Often this happens when composers try to impose their will or artistic visions on musicians – some imagine overly difficult technical or theatrical situations, which is often contradictory to the ideals of collaboration. I'd say this happens less in my projects though, since both the composer and myself typically bring different skills to the project. I find open dialogue is important, as both parties need to talk about ideas and problems freely in order to make something that will endure, as well as be representative of their aims.

WATM: So what’s next for Richard Craig?

RC: My recent solo album Inward took an enormous amount of time and energy to produce – six years from the first idea to finished recording – so I’ll be taking some time off to consider new directions. At the moment, I’m completing a residency at Clashnettie Arts Centre and preparing new repertoire for concerts at the end of the year. After that, I’m going to be premiering new works in Berlin and Freiburg then slowly edging towards a new album of improvisations.

You can buy Richard’s latest solo album ‘Inward’ from iTunes here or from Amazon.