I’ve started to consider ways in which I might use John Gwynn’s survey of 1772 as a basis for a score and after various ideas decided the best place to start was – obviously – with the measurements Gwynn recorded; measurements of the size of properties in the centre of the city.
The following is an image taken from a reproduction of the survey, showing Gwynn’s statistics of 1772, and those taken in 1911 for Holywell Street.
For the moment I have decided to concentrate on the south side of the High Street and have reproduced the stats for this part of the city which can be downloaded as a PDF. After various attempts at translating the measurements into time so that the score might be structured in this way, I finally came up with the following method: the yards and feet I converted into inches (36 inches in a yard, 12 inches in a foot). I added the remaining inches and then converted back into yards (the idea was to end up with a figure or figures that most resembled time, e.g. 10.789 seconds). So for example; Mr Brockis owned property on the south side of the High Street which was 14 yards, 2 feet and 4 inches in length. By using the wonders of Excel, I ended up with a figure – through calculating with the above formula – of 14.77777778 yards, which although was more like the period-of-time-type measurement I was looking for made me feel uneasy; there was something about decimal points and imperial measurements which didn’t add up so to speak. The obvious thing therefore was to convert this sum (14.77777778 yards) into centimetres, which in another column of my ever-expanding spreadhseet I did by multiplying the sum by a factor of 91.44. Mr Brockis’ propery therefore came out as being 1351.28cm in length, or 13.5128 metres. Much better; I had my figure.
The next thing to do was to take these seconds and see how long the composition for the south side of the High Street would be. Again using Excel, I calculated that the entire piece would last 13 minutes and 32 seconds and today I decided to try it out. Armed with a stopwatch I walked the length of the street (in quite appalling weather) and found that at a reasonable, ambling kind of pace, it took me about 10 minutes 25 seconds. Although not quite 13 minutes 32 seconds (others would of course walk much more slowly) it nonetheless means that any following composition is imbued with a sense of space; the music (whatever the music will come to be) will liaise directly with a walk through the city.