Tzlil Meudcan

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to take part in Tzlil Meudcan festival in Tel Aviv. Run by the excellent Ensemble Nikel and Yaron Deutsch, this year was especially significant as Nikel celebrated their 10th anniversary (amazing box set available!).

The festival participants included composition tutors Matthew Shlomowitz, Klaus Lang, Sarah Nemtsov and Marco Momi, artists Quatuor Diotima, Ensemble Nikel, Plus Minus, Alexander Schubert, Stefan Prins amongst others, and seven student composers from all over the world, of which I was one. (NB the full festival programme can be seen at the link above.)

The student composers were an absolutely fantastic group, totally diverse in their individual approaches but completely open, interested and positive about their peers’ musical concerns. We benefited from individual sessions with the tutors, wide ranging discussions at the ‘Where Are We Now?’ panels, fantastic concerts every evening (including a performance of James Saunders’  Everybody do this led by Plus Minus) and post-concert beer+beach+chat.

A big thank you to everyone who made this inspiring festival happen, and I hope to see my fellow gang members again soon, perhaps in rural France…

EXAUDI workshop

I was lucky enough to take part in a workshop with the brilliant EXAUDI vocal ensemble when they visited City University in April this year.

I wrote a piece called Near and far, in which fragments from Emily Brontë’s poem Stars (1846) coincide with sine tones of various frequencies spread across a stereo field.

The piece explores spatial and harmonic relationships between the singers and electronic sound, sometimes blending or juxtaposing, and gradually changing from sparse to thick and full. The diffuse electronics spread out across the space, creating ambiguity for the listener about the ‘locatedness’ of the sounds and words they’re hearing. Brontë’s poem also deals with spatiality, contrasting as it does the relative magnitude of stars (infinity, the universe) with a human scale (homes, rooms).

Huge thanks to EXAUDI and their director James Weeks for their help on this project.

Recording below from EXAUDI’s concert at City University, London 24th May 2017.

Riot Ensemble – Nordic Music Days

I’m so happy to have been selected by the brilliant Riot Ensemble for one of their 2017 Call for Scores commissions!! Very exciting!!

I’ll be working with them on a new ensemble piece for the Nordic Music Days festival, which will feature six new works by three Nordic composers and three UK-based composers: myself, Aaron Einbond and Donghoon Shin. We will have a workshop at London Southbank in late September 2017, with the premieres taking place in Sweden in early 2018.

I can’t wait to get started on this project! For full details of all the 2017 commissions click here: http://riotensemble.com/composers/2017-2/

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Distal theories

I was lucky enough to work with Two New Duo – Ellen Fallowfield (cello) and Stephen Menotti (trombone) – when they came to City University for a series of workshops.  http://www.twonewduo.com

The piece I wrote for them examines the physical nature of the instrumental sound by using long, held notes at microtonal intervals, which cause a fluctuating pattern of beats. The sounds are then broken down into constituent parts of transient noise and sustained harmonics.

Rooms acoustics are important in this piece and the ‘locatedness’ of sounds is shifting and often ambiguous. When beats are audible, the composite sound seems to exist somewhere between the instruments. When they play harmonic material, each instrument becomes a more individual voice. And when they play noisy material, there is a closing down or reduction in the feeling of space.

The title refers to philosophical discourse about the nature of sound. Distal theories consider sounds to be located at the object which is vibrating, whilst proximal theories say that sounds are where the listener is. Medial theories locate sounds in the medium between the object and the listener. My response here was to try and emphasise different aspects of listening, shifting the location and spatiality of the sounds at different points in the piece.

Recording from a workshop held at City University, 07.03.17.

840 x NME: New music for voices and strings

I was lucky enough to be asked by 840 to write a new piece for NME (New Music Ensemble) for the next 840 concert. I wrote a piece called Masking set for alto, viola and cello. It’s composed from five combinations of pitches and rhythms, stitched together to make one unfolding form in which groups of notes are covered and uncovered in turn. This process of covering up sounds led me to thinking about the phenomenon of auditory masking, whereby the perception of one sound is altered by another which occurs simultaneously (or very soon before/after). Auditory masking can affect the nature of sounds we hear in various ways, particularly when those sounds are already closely related in pitch or timbre.

Recording from the concert below, performed by Sara Rodrigues (voice), Julia Vaughan (viola) and Roxanna Albayati (cello). Huge thanks to all three for their hard work! And many thanks to Alex Nikiporenko and Nicholas Peters for organising the concert.

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Sounding the Great Hall

Really looking forward to taking part in Sounding the Great Hall at Goldsmiths this weekend, an event for artists experimenting with sound in space organised by Tom Mudd. I will be playing some instrumental and electronic sounds this Saturday 2nd July at 4.45-5.30pm.

It’s free and informal — there will be 8 loudspeakers set up in unusual locations in the hall  (including inside the organ) and the audience is invited to move around and change their experience of the sound.

The event is free and runs from 1-9pm on saturday and 1-5pm on sunday. The full line up can be found here: http://contingentevents.tumblr.com/post/145091688215/sounding-the-great-hall

Post-note: A really successful event, thanks to everyone involved. I particularly enjoyed Pouya Ehsaei’s space filling sounds, Tristan Clutterbuck’s clicks and pops,  Daniel James Ross’ choral manipulations, Sarah Angliss’ instrumental ensemble and playing my string quartet through the organ! Some photographs below (credits to Daniel and Peter Rodgers).
Post-post-note: Tom put together two great radio shows to document the Sounding the Great Hall events, which were broadcast on Resonance FM. An excerpt from my set is in the first show https://www.mixcloud.com/resonanceextra/sounding-the-great-hall-1-thursday-30th-march-2017/  

Embedded: Composers Kitchen part two

Last year I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the Quatuor Bozzini’s Composers Kitchen workshops, part of Sound & Music’s Embedded scheme. Part one happened in June 2015 in Montreal, which was a fantastic week. How could we hope to top that? Well, we gathered in a small Scottish town called Banchory in February 2016 and it was brilliant. We rehearsed the pieces and even found time to visit a local distillery. The week ended with a performance at the Woodend barn, recording and pictures below.

The project has been fantastic and I’m very grateful to the Quatuor Bozzini, Sound and Music, Sound Scotland, Christopher Butterfield, Christopher Fox, Egidija Medeksaite, Kyle Brenders, James O’Callaghan, Nicole Rochman, Nicolas Godmaire and everyone else who contributed to making it happen.

Three pieces for string quartet performed by the Quatuor Bozzini on the 5th Feb 2016 at the Woodend Barn, Banchory Scotland. Recording engineer Nicolas Godmaire.

Post about the first workshop.

 

Tadoussac

While I was in Canada in June this year, I visited a town called Tadoussac which sits on the St Lawrence river where it meets the Saguenay (and is, incidentally, really good for whale watching because of this).

The coast around Tadoussac has a good mix of sounds. It’s dominated by water and wave noises, with wildlife occasionally joining in. Underneath it all is a constant rumble created by the ferry which operates 24/7, taking people and cars to Baie-Sainte-Catherine, across the Saguenay and the mouth of north America’s only fjord.

I made some recordings on one of the local beaches and in Ocotber composed this 18 minute piece with filters and a few other things. It’s about change of listening focus from one element to another. When I stood on the beach the rumble of the boat went from distant to dominant, and the glassy tops of the waves went from unheard to crunchy foreground.

Tadoussac