March 14, 2024 Edge

Q&A: Missing Pieces | part 2 (us)

We sat down with Gemma and Amy from (us) trio to find out all about Missing Pieces, making its way to The Edge on Saturday 16th March at 7:30 pm…

So, first things first, tell us a little more about Missing Pieces…

Gem: Missing Pieces is my first proper attempt to be a composer, having played other people’s music for 3 decades! I’ve made 5 scores which intentionally have bits missing. They’re like games – there are some instructions but what actually happens is up to the players.

Amy: Missing Pieces is a gem-like little book of magical pieces for musicians who like to make shapes and sounds together. It’s a beautiful thing which is already folded, so you don’t have to scrunch it in your bag.

What are the main themes and inspirations in the show that audiences can look forward to?

Gem: It’s all about whoever’s playing bringing their own ideas and musical language, our interaction is important too – audiences so far have commented a lot on the communication during the set – lots of eye contact, and occasional giggles…

Amy: Yeah there have definitely been some (shared, I think)  moments of ‘what are we doing right now’ which is an amazing feeling to have when you’ve got an audience with an open mind. My inspirations here are Gemma and Rich and the space we’re in. There’s trust between us and we make space for each other where we hear it’s needed. Someone described it as ‘folk horror’ – is that helpful?! 

Gem: Ha! Yeah, but the next night people said things like ‘spellbinding’ and ‘mesmerising’ so it’s different every time, which I like.

What inspired the concept behind the work?

Gem: I’m really passionate about improvisation, I think it’s a really powerful tool in music-making because it gives so much power to the performer, it’s really personal and immediate. I also have a background in project planning! So I guess these things came together to form the Missing Pieces scores. They’re like structural frameworks but with lots of space for improv.

I think it’s really important for musicians and audiences to recognise themselves in the music that they play and hear so I wanted to experiment with that.

How do you structure things, moving between what’s written and what’s improvised? 

Gem: We came up with a set list and decided on moments we wanted to open up and let free. But there’s space for spontaneity in that as well. I guess a lot of the time the audience won’t be able to tell what’s improvised and what’s planned!

Amy: To back what Gemma said: I don’t think people can tell what’s directly from the score and what’s improvised – that’s why Missing Pieces is so great. A lovely audience member commented that she was really moved by ‘the piece for violin and cello’. She was mind blown when I told her we’d made that up. It just happens like that! There are certain triggers we’re listening for, but most of it is down to how we feel on the spot. The spoken words are forming most of the structure, plus some predetermined pitches which change for each set of words.

Can you share some sneak peeks of what audiences might hear?

Gem: There’s some talking in it. We recorded one of our rehearsals and then Amy painstakingly went through and chose bits of what we’d said. They’re grouped into 3 chapters I guess. The first one is us talking about how we met and other environments we work in. The second is us generally trying things out in the music and getting confused! The third is once we’ve hit our stride and things start to work, plus we become more comfortable with each other and start to open up a bit.

Amy: I’m not sure exactly what you’ll hear, but I think it’s fair to say you’ll have some feelings and opinions by the end! There may be some giggling, a bit of confusion, some beauty and some shocks. It’ll be a new way of hearing a traditional set up of piano trio – we sometimes lean into that classical/folky sound but you’ll also hear a mix of our different backgrounds, meaning jazz/contemporary/experimental. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to make their own versions of Missing Pieces?

Gem: Do it! It’s fun! You can buy the score at the gig and just go for it. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you do or what level you’re at, just get some pals together, follow the instructions and see what you come up with.

Amy: Just do it – you can’t go wrong and the more you do it, the more you feel free within the suggestions.


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