Today I saw a piece of music come to life

Posted on 29th June 2015 by Svend McEwan-Brown

“We’re here for a very short time and while we’re here we should pay attention.”

So far this week, I saw a new piece of music come to life and a drawing of a violin emerge and then wash away in the tide. Both of them are part of our bid to reach ever wider audiences and communities through the festival.

Two years ago we presented the UK premiere of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit at East Neuk and I was smitten. The piece for 9 to 99 percussionists (we had 30) took place in the open air on a magical sunny day; it was utterly individual and powerful, and had the power to engage a wide audience. That audience was the most diverse we’d ever seen at any ENF event: children dancing on the grass, old ladies in wheelchairs, families and singletons. Mulling on it brought me to the idea that we should make it part of ENF’s mission to commission more and similar work, world class, linked to place / nature and large scale. I added a fourth element – I wanted each work to bring together amateur performers / artists with the best professionals in the world without diminishing either.

So on Saturday I was lying in a field (a bit hippy, I know) as 11 young players (average age around 11), 13 adult amateurs and 8 professionals worked with a Pulitzer Prize winning composer all afternoon to create the first of our commissions. Across the Distance is John Luther Adams’ ENF commission and it is magical. I don’t want to say too much about the piece itself in case it spoils the pleasure for anyone hearing it for the first time next week. Suffice to say that it is a magical listen (as John said “There’s a sound I never heard before”), and it brought together a very diverse group of people to share a very happy day of music making. Hats off to them all. The world premiere is next Sunday at 4pm in Cambo Garden.

Monday morning, early early early, the team from Sand In Your Eye were on Elie beach creating one of their lovely transient art works. The idea is that they draw on a monumental scale on the sand using rakes and brushes. The actual depth of the raking is astonishingly shallow (an inch or two) considering how sharp an impact it makes. All is accomplished between the tides so you have a brief moment of full glory, and then a rather poignant washing away. A flock (collective noun?) of photographers was there to capture the event and one man and his dog even came from Edinburgh to witness the whole thing at 4am. Now it is all over the twittersphere and the media, being carried far and wide and taking the Festival name with it to an audience the size of which we can only begin to guess at.

So our opening weekend is over and the first review is in (good, phew!) Crail and Cambo were full of people attending our Littoral and jazz events and one quote from H is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald sticks in my mind to sum it all up: “We’re here for a very short time and while we’re here we should pay attention.” Quite.