Carolyn Sparey: Les Planchistes de Paris au Musée d’Art Moderne for solo viola
8-minute piece for solo viola composed in 2004.
Bound-printout of computer-typset score (5pp).
The contrast between the venue and the activity fascinated me; the wide paved area with elegant stairs, wall freizes and enormous marble statues of reclining naked female figures lent itself more to some serious Greek tragedy than manic skateboarding. The skateboarders were aged between about 11 and 35, and it appeared to be an exclusively male occupation that day, the atmosphere singing with macho energy. The silent, pale reclining statues were in almost comic contrast to the brown- skinned, muscle-rippling skaters who leapt, and sped around them, sweat flying in the sunlight.
I wanted to capture the moment, but at the time had no idea how, other than taking a few photographs. Over the following months an idea began to emerge; through my passive involvement in the sport via my son I was aware that skateboarding was regarded in some quarters almost as a ‘rogue’ sport, a notion which relates in some ways to the position of the viola in the musical domain. As a viola player myself, I decided to write a composition for my own instrument.
The composition begins very quietly with a series of gentle pizzicato notes, attempting to suggest the early morning peace which comes before people begin moving about in the public places of Paris. Since the setting for this skateboarding experience was in Paris, I was very keen to bring into my composition a hint of the French sound; Debussy’s technical innovation of using a whole tone scale of six notes, along with his love of parallel fourths and fifths, lent themselves perfectly to the atmosphere I wanted to convey. Then the peace is broken as the skateboarders arrive, testing their boards on the paving stones and preparing for a long day of noise, action and comradeship.