The BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, gave a fantastic performance of Codex (Homage to Serafini) on Thursday night at Maida Vale Studios. The programme also included world premieres by Ben Oliver, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, Emily Howard‘s Solar, and a UK premiere of Robin Holloway‘s In China. The whole concert was recorded for Radio 3, and will be broadcast on the BBC’s contemporary music programme Hear and Now on January 11th, with interviews from all the composers involved.
Before the concert, Aaron, Ben and I spoke on the weekly LSO Soundhub hour on Resonance FM, alongside interviews from conductor Garry Walker, CEO of Sound and Music Susanna Eastburn, and Chief Producer of the BBCSO Ann McKay. You can now hear the show archived below, and read a blog post that Aaron wrote about the process.
For the past year, I have been in residence with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of the Embedded scheme run by Sound and Music, and on Thursday 14 November my new 12-minute piece for the orchestra, Codex (Homage to Serafini), will receive its premiere. Garry Walker will conduct my piece at BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, alongside new works written by fellow Sound and Music Embeddees Ben Oliver and Aaron Holloway-Nahum and music by Emily Howard and Robin Holloway. It’s been a thrilling and illuminating experience working with the BBCSO and the finished score is immeasurably better thanks to the wonderful workshop time we had on earlier drafts. Tickets are free and can be booked at the BBC website, and if you can’t make it, the concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the new year.
I’ll also be speaking about the piece and the process as well as playing some examples from the workshops on Resonance FM alongside Aaron and Ben two days before the concert. It’s part of the weekly LSO Soundhub Hour, where composers on the LSO’s flagship development programme discuss matters musical. We’ll be broadcasting live on the 12th November between 9.30 and 10.30pm, and the programme will also end up archived on Soundcloud.
Some other news – Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux has been awarded Second Prize in the Sun River Composition Prize, awarded by the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, China. The First Prize was awarded to Shou-Zhu Yang. Closer to home, the piece will also receive a repeat performance by Psappha in Manchester on the 7 March, after they performed it at the Bangor New Music Festival earlier this year. The concert is at the Cosmo Rodewald Hall, and also features Schoenberg’s arrangement of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Slide Stride, and a new commission by my old teacher Camden Reeves.
I have been commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival to write a chamber orchestra piece for the Orchestra of the Swan conducted by their director David Curtis. The piece will celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and will be performed during the festival on 14 March 2014 alongside a new violin concerto by Guto Puw and pieces by Peter Maxwell Davies, Huw Watkins and Tansy Davies.
Also in early 2014, my Piano Trio “The Chronophage” will receive its UK premiere on the 27th February 2014 in the capable hands of the Fidelio Trio (Mary Dullea, Robin Michael & Darragh Morgan), at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. The piece was originally premiered by the Third Angle Ensemble in Portland, Oregon last year after it won their New Ideas in Music Competition. Also in the concert are trios by Schumann, Graham Fitkin and Ravel.
For the past 10 days I’ve been in Aldeburgh at the Contemporary Composition course, working with Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Michael Gandolfi. I’ve been writing a short piece for 15 players entitled ‘Rainbow-Shooting Cloud Contraption’, after one of the inventions in Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus (the image to the right is, of course, the contraption in question).
Tomorrow it’ll be performed at the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings, by the players of the Britten Pears Composers Ensemble conducted by Gregory Charette, ahead of its official (and revised) premiere at next year’s Aldeburgh Festival. There’ll also be premieres of new pieces by Louis Chiappetta, Nicholas Moroz, Robert Peate, Emma Ruth Richards and Michael Taplin.
In other news, the Centro Culturale San Fedele are releasing a CD of compositions written for their Niccolò Castiglioni Prize, featuring my piece Ariadne’s Thread. Trio Magritte and clarinettist Paolo Beltramini perform the piece on the CD, alongside pieces by Manuel Contreras, Yair Klartag, Naomi Pinnock, Samy Moussa and Maurizio Azzan, and music by Alberto Carretero and George Christofi is performed by percussionist Domenico Melchiorre. It’s currently being pressed and finished and I’ll let you know when it might be available…
Ahead of the premiere of Four Perpetual Motions by members of the Philharmonia Orchestra a week on Thursday, I have written a blog post for the Royal Philharmonic Society, who commissioned the work. It’s on flippancy and music – and how I attempted to write Four Perpetual Motions with some of that tone.
…Flippancy, especially as expressed in art, is a kind of levity and frivolity delivered with a subversive mock-seriousness – a matter-of-fact insincerity that is charming and disarming in equal measure. To be flippant is to indulge the noble urges to dodge every serious question, to prize wit over sincerity, and to take hedonistic delight in obtusely counter-intuitive formations. And if those urges don’t sound very noble at all to you, then perhaps you have misread my flippant tone…
The full post can be read over at the RPS Blog. The premiere will be at 6pm, 27th June at the Royal Festival Hall, conducted by Rüdiger Bohn (details here). The concert also features the premieres of Ad Bestias by Arne Gieshoff and Casement by Christopher McAteer.
The ever-wonderful Trio Atem will perform a selection from my ‘Seven Face Pictures‘ at the Nip & Tipple bar in Manchester this Sunday the 2nd June. Scored for mezzo-soprano, flute and cello, the piece is a song cycle on the poetry of Caroline Bird, and has been performed by Trio Atem several times since they premiered it in 2011. The Trio are starting at 4pm, and are also featuring music by Eleri Pound, Larry Goves, Mic Spencer & their own singer, Nina Whiteman.
In other news, I have completed my ensemble piece for the Philharmonia Orchestra, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society. It is entitled Four Perpetual Motions, and you can read about it here. It will be premiered at the Royal Festival Hall on the 27th June, conducted by Rüdiger Bohn alongside works by Arne Gieshoff and Christopher McAteer.
The April edition of the Tempo journal, published by Cambridge Journals, contains an article by me entitled ‘Pierre Boulez’s Sur Incises: Refraction, Crystallisation and the Absent Idea(l)’. It’s an analytical study exploring how Boulez’s extraordinary piece for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists relates to its solo piano predecessor Incises, and also to Boulez’s late style in general. The article is rather technical in nature but hopefully sheds some light on how Boulez’s late music works and how his approach to recomposing existing material can produce such wonderful and luxurious music. Cambridge Journals Online requires a subscription or a University login, so anyone without access can contact me to get a PDF of the article.
In other news, I had a second workshop on my orchestral piece, Codex (Homage to Serafini) yesterday with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the wonderful conductor Garry Walker, as part of my Sound and Music Embedded residency. I will now set about completing the piece for its premiere in November – I know that the finished product will be immeasurably better thanks to the dedication, professionalism and advice of Garry, the players and administrative team at the BBCSO, and the mentorship I’ve been receiving from Richard Causton. A picture from the first workshop is below.
An update on various bits of news – I had brilliant workshops of works-in-progress with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia on the 18th and 25th of March, and I’ve also got one more workshop with the BBC, on the 22nd April. It’s such a joy and a luxury to try out material ahead of the premieres, and the eventual pieces will have benefited immeasurably from the process. Also last month, I was awarded the William Mathias Composition Prize by Bangor New Music Festival last week, after a great performance of Enimimés II: Aller-Mümsige Burggoven by Psappha conducted by Mark Heron. I’m now going to write a piece for next year’s festival – more details to follow…
Some upcoming repeat performances – this Saturday the 13th, the London Symphony Orchestra‘s Tom Norris will perform my Two Études for Solo Violin in the Barbican Centre Foyer, in the LSO Futures ‘Aftershock’ event in association with Nonclassical. On the 2nd May, Helen Tonge of the Rivoli String Quartet and pianist Richard Whalley will perform ‘Limp‘ at a lunchtime concert at the Cosmo Rodewald Hall in Manchester, after their premiere of the piece last year. Then on the 11th May, ‘Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux‘ will be performed by Ensemble Platypus at the Echoraum in Vienna.
Then in July, I will be attending the Contemporary Composition course at Aldeburgh, where I’ll be working under the tutelage of Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Michael Gandolfi. While there, I’ll write a short piece for the 15 players of the Britten-Pears Composers Ensemble. It’ll be good to go back to Aldeburgh after I attended the New Music New Media course last year.