June Unfolding was written for a concert marking the 750th Anniversary of Macclesfield’s Royal Charter given by King Edward Musical Society in June 2011. Faced with the length of time in question — an unimaginable duration, the change during which is difficult to fathom — it was a challenge to respond in a meaningful way. As time passes we forget and our memories are more and more like eroded stones or fragmented tapestries where the weave has come undone. What we read in a single thread becomes its own imaginary world that seems connected to the past. At various points in June Unfolding we come across fragments of and allusions to other music, each time abstracted and transformed, in a nod to the idea of eroded memory.
Following two workshops with the orchestra in January 2011 playing with open scoring methods using graphic notation and directed improvisation, the finished work plays with the idea of ‘unfolding’ as a way of organising the sound. Maps are a way to lay out information about enormous spaces in a way that is quickly understood. As we unfold a map we uncover fields, forests, cities, streets and the strangely ritualised shapes of human habitation, bit by bit, piece by piece. With time we can gradually delve into sound, unfolding and unravelling its parts to find the threads that had been woven tightly. In music we map out time with sound, placing landmarks to lead us through a landscape we are often only dimly aware of.
Above all, ‘unfolding’ suggests a process of the now. Music exists in time, and it is as the work unfolds that we apprehend it, remember it, forget it and play with it in our minds. In a sense, all music is a play of remembering and forgetting, so perhaps there is no better commemorative medium than that which over the duration of its existence commemorates itself.
June Unfolding was developed for King Edward Musical Society as part of the Adopt-a-Composer scheme, funded by the PRS for Music Foundation and run by Sound and Music in association with Making Music. Thank you to all the players of the orchestra of King Edward Musical Society and especially to conductor Tony Houghton and chairman Tim Ward who were immensely supportive throughout the process.
June Unfolding was first performed on 18 June 2011 and recorded by BBC Radio 3.