"Will Todd branches out with this extraordinary visual and musical work"

Will Todd’s Symphony of Letters is a musical font with every letter of the alphabet visually realised in the written score.

A symphonic work in which each page of the music depicts a letter of the alphabet.  This piece explores the interaction between the visual impact of the western music notation system and the sounds that are made when it is played. It conjures up an emotive soundscape derived from the written word and the result is this delightful compact symphony which makes sense both as a musical work and as a visual puzzle.

The work was unveiled at Ditchling’s, Blue Shed studio during May 2022 as part of the Artist’s Open House series.

Will Todd writes:

“This piece started life as a bit of fun.

Feeling bored and overwhelmed one day in spring 2021 I decided to express my feelings by writing an expletive in musical notation.

To do this I chose my expletive (a four letter word) and then crafted symphonic music such that when you looked at the score you saw, visually the letters of the word. Sonically, the music I created had a kind of pounding rhythm which seemed fitting to the mood and I posted it to various friends using the computer software to give a reasonably decent orchestral playthrough.

People thought it was quite funny and I enjoyed the fact that it was both a ‘musical joke’ of which there is a long tradition in western classical music (eg hidden meanings, hidden names in the notes, cheeky references to other pieces of music etc) and sort of interesting in that you could be drawn into it both visually and sonically.

And that was that, I thought.

Then David Browne saw it and suggested I turn it into an exhibition for the Ditchling Festival. Or a book. Or a piece of interactive artwork. Or something.

I quickly figured I might be able to do all the 26 letters used in English and set myself the task of ‘orchestrating’ from A to Z, making sure that when they were played in sequence the whole would have a kind of symphonic form. Thus there are three (very) short ‘movements’. A – K, L -S, and T – Z.

I have lavished a stupid amount of care on this project, using it to avoid any proper composing that I should have been doing and, as a consequence, have loved every second of it!

The annotations and descriptions flow from the ‘symphonic letters’ and have inspired me to make certain observations about the orchestra and how to write for it that I have picked up on the journey of being a composer. There are also a few memories and insights into how and why I ever came to be interested in writing for orchestra in the first place.”

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