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April 2020

A month in isolation

A month at home. A month without music? Well not exactly...

There's been a lot going on actually in terms of music-making and music-writing this month. Across the world, musicians have programmed concerts from their own houses and apartments, and they've called out to composers to provide new music for them to play. Well - who am I to say no? With so many cancelled projects and teaching being done remotely, I was able to produce quite a bit of new music across April. A real highlight was this performance of my new bass flute piece Black Ants/Red Ants which was selected by and performed by the amazing Ruth Morley of Red Note Ensemble as part of their Digital Noisy Nights call for scores. I was blown away by the skill and precision of her playing - and also her enormous level of enthusiasm for my music .

Then the Armenia-based Ensemble Assonance launched a quarantine challenge to composers, giving them just 24 hours to write pieces of music. They asked me to write a piece for violin and clarinet, and I provided them with this piece Solenopsidini, which explores rapid alternations of notes against the "open" sounds of the instruments - the open strings of the violin and the open "G" (concert F) of the clarinet in Bb when none of the keys are covered. They absolutely nailed this performance, of a really rather tricky short composition.

Although the concert in Carnegie Hall was cancelled due to the Covid19 outbreak, Ben Wien sent me this recording of his performance of Tuphānī Rakasa. I'm totally in awe of the skills of this young pianist, who certainly deserved to win the Piano Teachers Consortium of New York Prize this year. This is a stellar performance, and I really hope he gets to repeat it in the future when he finally gets to make his Carnegie Hall debut.

I've also been fortunate enough to have my music played around the world over the last month. The wonderful Australian violinist Marianne Rothschild gave an online concert which included the first performance of the violin version of my piece Janiman, which she played with real beauty and pananche - and a confident tackling of the Persian tuning and rhythms on which the piece is based.

The piano and percussion duo Siwan Rhys and George Barton, known as the GBSR Duo, were meant to be artists in residence at the Vale Of Glamorgan Festival in May - and they were going to perform my piece Nest/Mound as part of the Peter Reynolds Composers' Studio. Sadly the whole festival was cancelled, but the wonderful GBSR Duo still work-shopped the piece - luckily they live together - and I was able to take part and record it through the magic of Zoom.

And the awesome Brass Project from New York have selected me as one of the composers they're working with through 2020-21. They're going to bring out a big work of mine in the winter, but they generously offered to record a shorter work now, during the big global lockdown. I leapt at the chance, and hopefully I'll be able to share the results next month.

Finally, I found time to play and record some music myself. Here is my solo clarinet & electronics version of Too Many Zooz track Black Ice. I recorded the synth and percussion (jam jar and washing up bowl) parts first then the clarinet track was done in a continuous take - the clarinet is being run though an effects bank live as I play, so the single clarinet notes are turned into growling electronic sounds live. It's great fun to do!