Robert Percy


True Story
for string quartet

duration: 5 minutes

True Story
Important to this piece are the notions of speech pattern and physical gesture. The intention was to write a short piece for string quartet which featured the players individually, rather than maintaining a democratic unity throughout. The result of this is the recurring cello solo, and also the violin and viola passages which are based on the pitch and rhythm of speech.

The cello solos, which constitute four of the work's seven sections, begin and end the piece and also introduce each of the three remaining sections, each time with an ascending glissando. The outer two of these three sections include, respectively, the 1st violin and the viola 'speech' passages, and they present alternative accompanimental approaches: the former section involves timbral variation on a single sustained pitch, and the latter section is the realisation as an accompaniment of the tutti pizzicati which are present throughout the work.

In contrast with the other sections, the central section focuses on an ensemble element. It comprises a series of gestural surges which are set off by double stopped ascending glissandi, usually in the cello.

Born in 1961, Robert Percy grew up in the suburbs of South West London. Through his teens he developed an interest in drawing, particularly in producing portraits of the black musicians whose music he listened to. He left school at 16 and, after spending six months as a shelf-stacker at a local supermarket and six months as a clerical assistant, he began a five year draughtsman's apprenticeship for an engineering firm in Brentford. During this time he began to teach himself to play Jazz guitar. In 1983 he completed his apprenticeship and then cycled to the south of France. For the next three years he alternated between working as a contract draughtsman, travelling abroad, and studying the guitar.

In 1985 he committed himself to full-time musicianship. As well as teaching guitar, he worked as a guitarist in various lesser-known, London-based function bands, big bands, jazz ensembles, and duos.

During this period he wrote increasingly for the jazz groups and big bands in which he played. In 1992 his feelings of inadequacy about contrapuntal and compositional technique led him to begin evening classes in harmony and counterpoint. At about this time he formed the jazz ensemble Art in a State, for which he wrote music which combined compositional techniques, acquired at the evening classes, with improvisation, and with the soul, funk, latin and jazz fusion rhythms he had listened to since his teens. In 1996 he began a music degree at City University, passing with a first in 1999.

He now lives in north London with his partner and two children. He is studying as a PhD composer under Rhian Samuel at City University, where he is also a visiting first year composition lecturer. He continues also to teach guitar.

He has had pieces performed in workshops given by Jane Manning & Manning's Minstrels, Skaila Kanga, the Archinta String Quartet, and the Kreuz String Quartet. He had a piece selected for performance by the Brunel Ensemble in the 1999 BMIC Cutting Edge Workshops series. He has also had pieces performed at the 1998 & 1999 Park Lane Group London Colleges' Composers' Symposium, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London.

In July 1999 he participated on the International Course for Professional Choreographers and Composers at Breton Hall, and in February 2000 bodies.notes, a collaboration with choreographer Julia Hole, was performed at the Place Theatre, London. His piece True Story has been shortlisted by the spnm for the 2000/01 season.
He has recently completed two music-theatre pieces, for flutes and clarinet, and for solo treble recorder. He is currently working on a piece for string quartet and tape, and is also planning a piece for orchestra.

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