Potrait Rebecca Saunders
© Astrid Ackermann

an exceptionally original creation…. that was at once uncomfortable, tender, frightening and poignant (jury British Composer Awards 2017)

British composer Rebecca Saunders won the British Composer Awards 2017 for her composition "Skin" in the category chamber ensemble, after already receiving the Royal Philharmonic Society Award in May 2017. The piece was first performed  2016 by Klangforum Wien in Donaueschingen and had it's UK premiere in Huddersfield.

Rebecca Saunders — Skin

skin /Skin/ n. a taut flexible continuous outer covering or layering of the body or thing; a film like a skin on the surface of a liquid or solid; the skin of a flayed animal with or without the hair.

  1. the delicate membrane separating the body and its environment – implies the phenomenon of touch, one of the five external senses, and through which the subsidiary sensory modalities of temperature, pain and vibration are partly perceived.

Touch, somatosensory, tactition or mechanoreception: a neural perception generally in the skin, but also in the tongue, throat, and mucosa. Receptors respond to variations in speed and pressure (firm, brushing, sustained, etc.). adj. somatic, tactile.

skin /Skin/ v. to skin, to peel back the surface of; to shed an animal of its skin.

Under ones skin: so deeply penetrative as to irritate, stimulate, provoke thought, or otherwise excite.

Under the skin: beneath apparent or surface differences: at heart.

Skin as a metaphor for transience – the continuous process of shedding dead skin and the growing of new.

Struck by a recording of an early production of Samuel Beckett′s television play The Ghost Trio (written in 1975 and first broadcast in 1977), this text, spoken by the narrator in Act 1, was the catalyst for this piece:

...this is the rooms essence

not being

now look closer

mere dust

dust is the skin of a room

history is a skin

the older it gets the more

impressions are left on its surface

look again....

The main text in Skin is my own which gradually materialised during the long compositional process, and was partly inspired by the extensive collaborative sessions with Juliet Fraser. A section from James Joyce′s Ulysses, from the final passage of Molly Bloom′s Monologue, is quoted towards the end of Skin

(Rebecca Saunders, 2016)

15 October 2016
11 a.m.
Donaueschingen, Donauhallen, Mozart-Saal Donaueschinger Musiktage An Evening of Real Class Struggle UA UA UA

Michael Wertmüller — discorde UA
Bernhard Gander — Cold Cadaver with Thirteen Scary Scars UA
Rebecca Sanders — Skin UA

Steamboat Switzerland
Klangforum Wien

Juliet Fraser, Soprano

conductor: Titus Engel

20 November 2016
8 p.m.
Huddersfield, St. Paul‘s Hall Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Skin

Rebecca Saunders — Skin
Eva Reiter — Noch sind wir ein Wort
Bear Furrer — intorno al bianco
Reinhard Fuchs — MANIA

Juliet Fraser, Soprano
Eva Reiter, Paetzold contrabass recorder
Bernhard Zachhuber, clarinet
Uli Fussenegger, doublebass
Peter Böhm & Christina Bauer, sound design
conductor: Bas Wiegers

11 June 2018
Paris, Centre Pompidou IRCAM Skin

Franck Bedrossian — Epigram
Rebecca Saunders — Skin Frech Premiere

Juliet Fraser, Soprano
Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Soprano
conductor: Titus Engel