What if...? (op[f]er)
This short work was requested by the London Contemporary Music Group in 2008 as part of a collection of tributes for Elliot Carter’s 100th birthday. The title has a number of veiled meanings in common with much of my work), the most immediately obvious one is a reference to Carter's "What Next?", high-lighted by the square parenthesis around the letter [f] in opfer which gives oper (opera in German). Opera in Italian means 'work', and the brevity of this piece belies the work involved for the players. The second reference in the title refers to the hidden use of the Royal Theme and two versions of the subject-derived canonic material from Das Musikalische Opfer by J.S. Bach, which is present, alongside a Carter cypher, passed through my own sound world.
However, the title is actually part of a comment made by Carter to me when I was invited to dinner with him by Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Virgil Blackwell (the American Clarinetist and Carter's long-time friend) some years ago. I hoped Carter might sign my book of his collected letters and essays. Knussen asked Carter to write something memorable in it. Carter turned to me and said:
"But what if I don't like your music?"
This piece is dedicated to him, therefore, without permission. I don't seem to remember him saying whether he liked my work or not after all, though he did sign the book.