Over the last numbers of months I’ve had the chance to work with composer Robert Reid Allan as he completed his Birmingham Contemporary Music Group apprentice composer in residence programme by developing a new and singular work. It premiered on June 21st in Birmingham and I witnessed Physical Education in its first ever iteration.
The piece was ambitious, dynamic, comfortable with knotty poetic paradoxes, working through multiple mediums, often at the same time, while still feeling quite generous to the audience, perhaps because it was fundamentally exploring a very specific topic and subject which allowed the aesthetic to be eclectic. It was personal while technical, playful as much as intensive.
My work with Robert was as open as the final piece itself, but aside from some conversations on the conceptual framework of the piece, and how multiple mediums might be fused, especially where text might sit with music, it was the words and the possibilities of the poetics in the show we discussed most. The language worked best to my ear, and eyes, when at its most intransigent and complex, inevitably, but Robert showed considerable skill with his writing given it was his debut foray into writing words for his own music.