The Imperfection of Memory – Colin Broom / Heather Lander

The Imperfection of Memory was a collaboration between artist Heather Lander, myself and the Maxwell Quartet, and was commissioned by Enterprise Music Scotland. It began as a piece about Time, but as it piece evolved, it focused more on the subject of Memory; in particular, the inherent plasticity of memory. For example, the way that some attempts to recall remain perpetually just beyond our grasp - we can almost touch or even taste them; we know the flavour of them, but we are unable to bring to mind any detail no matter how hard we try.

Conversely, sometimes the tiniest of details seem almost to be carved in granite within our minds, like a monument to an inconsequential detail of our past, permanently erected in the vast museum of our other recollections, many of which we have no idea why they remain so steadfast.

Both Heather and I attempted to respond to these and other ideas about memory and to each other’s work to create the piece.


How did the project and the collaboration come about?

I had been in discussions with Enterprise Music Scotland about a commission for a new piece to mark the 10th Anniversary of their very successful Artist Residency project. It's a project that has, over 10 years brought a number of composers and ensembles together, and resulted in a lot of new works, so it was nice to be asked to help mark this with a new work of my own. Maxwell Quartet, who incidentally are a complete joy to work with, were I believe the first ensemble to be involved in the Residency Project when it started, so it was great to be able to write for them.

From the outset we had decided this was not to be a standalone concert piece, but that we would find the right Artist for me to collaborate with on an interdisciplinary work. We looked at a lot of different work from a wide variety of artists - a lot of really interesting work, but that perhaps wasn't quite right for this project. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but I felt I'd know when I saw it. Sure enough, when I was sent a link to some of Heather's work I was immediately taken by it, and knew that this was something that would work, so then it was a case of proposing the collaboration to Heather and hoping she'd be interested in us working together, which happily she was.


What was the most exciting aspect of the collaborative process?

I don’t know that I can single out something, it was all enjoyable and engaging. Early meetings with Heather discussing the work and finding common ground were really very interesting – I love that stage: chatting things through with everything still to play for, and learning more about another artist’s process. Later, the meetings when we both had sketches to show/play was also exciting. Hearing the Maxwell Quartet run through the music for the first time up at Crear, and then seeing the music and the visuals come together for the first time. It was all great.


What other pieces have you seen or heard in the last year that you think will stand the test of time?

I have no idea of which pieces will stand the test of time and which will not, and I'm not sure it's necessarily a good measure of a piece's worth. Some great pieces have fallen into relative obscurity.

That said, performances/pieces that have stood out for me this year include Setan Jawa: an amazing, virtuosic performance of a Javanese Gamelan film score by Rahayu Supanggah alongside the movie in the Royal Conservatoire earlier in the year.

It's not a new piece, or even a new recording, but I discovered and have been enjoying Samuel Vriezen's recording of Tom Johnson's Chord Catalogue this year, and which I weirdly love listening to in the car.

Finally, I saw some great performances by various musicians bands/ensembles, including Trio Mágico (Paul Harrison, Stuart Brown, Mario Caribé), playing the music of Egberto Gismonti, Ilan Volkov with The BBCSSO, the Alyn Cosker Group, and Siobhan Wilson to name a few.


If you were to collaborate again with an unlimited budget (the dream!), what would your ideal project be?

The Imperfection of Memory was kindly supported by the PRS Foundation, the Hope Scott Trust, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow Life, and this allowed Heather and I to create the work.

The idea of an unlimited budget is not something that is necessarily a dream for me. More money doesn’t necessarily result in better work, and sometimes limitation can itself be a huge creative impetus.

That said I’m keen to work with Heather again, and I imagine if we did we'd be able to build on what we achieved while taking our work in a new and different direction, and produce some good original work.








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