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 20-odd 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.
Three pieces of mine are being workshopped in the coming weeks – a smallish one in Wales on Thursday, a rather large one in London on Monday, and a medium one in London on the 25th.
Monday the 18th brings my first workshop with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of my Sound and Music Embedded residency. My piece, under the working title Codex (Homage to Serafini) after the wonderful Codex Seraphinianus by the eccentric Italian artist Luigi Serafini, will be workshopped by the orchestra under the baton of Garry Walker at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios. The orchestra will also read through music by Ben Oliver and Aaron Holloway-Nahum, ahead of the premiere of all three pieces in November.
Before that on Thursday, Psappha will workshop Enimimés II: Aller-Mümsige Burggoven, as part of the Bangor New Music Festival. The piece is a new ‘translation’ for flute, piano, viola and cello of my earlier piece, Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux. The new subtitle comes from Robert Scott’s German translation of Carroll’s Jabberwocky, rather than the corresponding line in Frank Warrin’s French translation. Psappha will also be workshopping pieces by Sarah Lianne Lewis and Steel Stylianou, and will select one of the pieces as the winner of the ‘William Mathias Composition Prize’, to be played in their evening concert.
Finally, having been awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, I’ve been at work on an ensemble work for members of the Philharmonia Orchestra to be conducted by Rüdiger Bohn. Currently titled ‘Seven Perpetual Motions’, my piece gets a dry run on the 25th March in a workshop taken by Simon Bainbridge. The premiere will be given at the Royal Festival Hall on the 27th June, alongside works by Arne Gieshoff and Christopher McAteer.
Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux, premiered earlier this year by Gemini, will receive its second performance on the 9th December at the Great Hall at King’s College London. It’s being played by Area21, a new ensemble directed by Mischa Tangian, a fellow student of George Benjamin at King’s.
My piece will be played alongside pieces by Mischa himself, Stravinsky, Ligeti, Villa-Lobos and Hindemith. The concert’s at 7.30pm, and is part of the King’s College Music Society weekend that also features performances by pianist Jean Beers and harpsichordist Jane Chapman. For more information about the concert weekend, see this Facebook event. For more about my piece, including a recording and discussion of its Carrollian inspiration, head over here.
I have been awarded a residency with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of the Embedded scheme run by Sound and Music. I will spend a year working with the orchestra through workshops and mentoring, and write a piece to be premiered by the BBCSO conducted by Garry Walker.
Also on the scheme are Ben Oliver and Aaron Holloway-Nahum, and the three of us will workshop sections of music with the orchestra in March and April before the concert at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios in November 2013. The performances will also be recorded for BBC Radio 3. It’s fantastically exciting to be working with such a phenomenal orchestra, and to have so much opportunity for developing and improving the piece.
I’ve been developing a piece as part of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme ‘New Music New Media’ course at Aldeburgh this week, using motion capture technology and electronics. The course is run by Rolf Wallin, Tansy Davies and Alexander Refsum Jensenius, with Juice vocal ensemble and Zoë Martlew providing source material.
My piece, entitled ‘Music Box’, is for performer, cello case and live electronics featuring the recorded voices of Juice, and uses a Wii remote, Kinect sensor and accelerometer to allow the performer to release a 24-voice chord from its home inside a cello case, then ‘explore’ the harmonic areas within it by walking around different corners of the stage. More active, unpitched sounds will be triggered by swiping the remote through the air, as if disturbing some great swarm of insects or bats into life, before all the sounds are once again crammed back into the box they came from.
It’s been fun to work with technology that is so different to my usual way of working – and to do so in such a beautiful setting. The concert, at the Peter Pears Recital Hall at Snape Maltings, will also feature new pieces using motion capture by Stephen Mark Barchan, Camilo Mendez, Laurence Tompkins and Ben Oliver.
I’m delighted to have been awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize. I’ll be spending some time on the Philharmonia Orchestra‘s Young Composers Academy, working with members of the orchestra and with Unsuk Chin, who is the director of the Philharmonia’s ‘Music of Today’ series.
The prize also involves a commission for an ensemble piece for the Philharmonia to be conducted by Rüdiger Bohn as part of the ‘Music of Today’ series at the Royal Festival Hall in London next June. The other winners of the prize are Arne Gieshoff and Christopher McAteer who will have pieces in the same concert, Robert Peate who will receive a commission for the Presteigne Festival, and former Manchester compatriot David Önaç who receives a Susan Bradshaw Fund commission for the Cheltenham Festival.
For the last week or so I’ve been resident at the St Magnus Composers Course in Orkney, where I’ve been receiving tuition from Alasdair Nicolson and Sally Beamish. As well as preparing a quintet for the Gemini Ensemble, I’ve had workshops on two short pieces – ’Wavescape’ for mezzo-soprano & wineglass, workshopped on Thursday by Alison Wells, and ‘Pretty Polly’ for 8 voices, workshopped today by The Cardinall’s Musick.
The larger piece, ‘Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux‘ for five players, will be performed on the 27th June by Gemini, conducted by Hyun-Jin Yun at St Magnus Cathedral as part of the concurrent St Magnus Festival. The title comes from Frank L. Warrin’s glorious French translation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jaberwocky’, and it’s sounding great after a week’s alterations and improvements. Tickets and details here.