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January 2020

New Year, New Me!

The first month of 2020 has been utterly incredible. Without straying too far from the music focus of these blog posts, I've been so supported and overwhelmed with positivism from literally everybody. It really has been a wild ride. In terms of composition, it's been a really busy and productive period, and a lot of the music I've written this month will be appearing in performance or workshop later in the Spring.

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One of the really exciting things to look forward to is that this month I was short-listed as a finalist in the Prix Annelie de Man (prize for contemporary harpsichord) and on Sunday 5th April I hope to be in Amsterdam to hear my piece "Bursting Out" being performed by the amazing Ensemble Black Pencil

Also, following another successful shortlisting, here's a preview (with score) of my piece "Fist In The Air" which will be performed by London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra at the end of February:

"...I'll give you a dose but it'll never come close

to the Rage built up inside of me

FIST IN THE AIR in the land of hypocrisy..."

I always loved these lines from Rage Against The Machine's 1992 song "Wake Up" - an amazingly powerful song which is just as relevant now as it was nearly 30 years ago. The image of a fist in the air - raised in anger, raised in defiance, raised as a symbol of the struggle against racism and inequality is eternally powerful. This piece starts with restrained anger, but the fist gets raised higher and higher in defiance as the music builds. I wrote this piece in a day of (rage and anger) for a workshop with the London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra.

If you're reading this bit for the musicology stuff, it's based entirely on a 13/8 riff which changes groupings from 2/2/3/3/3 to 2/2/3/2/2/2 alternately, so it's written out as the 4-bar pattern 7/8 - 6/8 - 7/8 - 3/4. Against this riff other parts play different groupings which accentuate other beats. If you like this kind of thing and you ALSO like rock music, check out the band Tool - they specialise in this kind of geeky metrical stuff. In terms of the instrumentation, I've actually conceived (mostly) of the orchestra in three groups: Metal (Flute, Trumpet, Horn Trombone, Glockenspiel, Gong, Cymbal, Cowbell) Wood (Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Woodblock, Marimba, Bongos) Strings (Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass & Snare Drum) The instruments generally play together with the others in their group (but not always - I never found a system I didn't want to break)

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In terms of commissions, I also completed "Janiman" - a solo viola piece for the remarkable Aimée Johnson, based on Persian dance rhythms, which she'll premiere in a recital in Belfast on March 5th 2020, along with another piece of mine, a duet for 'cello & piano entitled "Beyond The Gates of Dawn". I hope to be able to share a recording of her performance - the rehearsals I've heard are AMAZING!

And in the same theme, this short movement is one of a set of chamber pieces I've written recently which have been influenced by classical Persian & Arabic music. I guess it's just a bit of fun really, for the players & for the audience - a bit Arabian Nights, a bit wonky-time-signature, and a flourish to finish! What's not to like in this recent studio performance from Ensemble NP?