Softest Numbers

2014

violin, piano

4’

f.p. Amarins Wierdsma (vn), Aaron Burrows (pno), Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, November 2014

Softest Numbers was written for the Ives Song transcription project at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London. Ives’ Cradle Song (1919) is used as source material.

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Olympic Frieze

2014

any pitched instruments (at least 12 players), with movement

open duration

f.p. Participants of CoMA Summer School, High Melton, Doncaster, 21st August 2014

Olympic Frieze is conceived like an Ancient Greek frieze around the entablature of a temple: players should be placed along the walls of the performance space at regular intervals, like figures in a bas-relief. Like visitors to a temple or museum, the audience should be free to wander through the space and out again as desired, and there should be no audible starting or stopping point – ideally the music should be playing before the first audience member enters and continue after the last audience member leaves. Thus the piece functions as part of the decoration of the room, and might be considered a descendant of Satie’s musique d’ameublement; the difference being that Olympic Frieze is not intended as background music but to draw the listener’s attention. It is also fundamentally audio-visual in nature.

The piece explores the fundamental pleasure and beauty of physical exercise that underlie both ancient and modern manifestations of the Olympic games (as well as the Spartan gymnopaedia evoked in Satie’s piano pieces). The music consists of three elements: Exercises, Actions and Disciplines. There are 84 short, repeated Exercise motifs analogous to simple movements of the body, or stretching exercises, in performing which the players adopt stylised (musical) poses akin to those of Greek art. In between Exercises the players perform a number of silent physical Actions devised by themselves. Once stretched and loose each player is ready to attempt his or her own personal Discipline, chosen from a list of 9 possibilities (running, jumping, javelin and trampoline).

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Amor de lonh

2002

soprano and harpsichord

10’

Text: Jaufre Rudel

f.p. Juliet Fraser (soprano), James Weeks (harpsichord), Winchester, June 2002

Amor de lonh, written in 2002, reconstructs two troubadour vers by Jaufre Rudel according to some of my then compositional preoccupations. Both of Jaufre’s melodies receive a highly ornamented treatment, and both use changes of mode to bring about a change of mood, as well as chromatic inflections to decorate the florid lines. In the second poem the chromaticism becomes more pervasive as the mood grows darker. The rhythms are very loose and improvisatory in the first and very detailed and rigid in the second. In the first song the accompanying harpsichord plays melismatic lines in alternatim or heterophonic unison with the voice (nearly doubling, but not quite), and in the second it adds two alternating drone notes to its chromatic lines, punctuating the voice’s fragmentary phrases.

Sint lumbi

2004

SATB choir, S or T solo

4’

Commissioned by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

f.p. Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge / Geoffrey Webber, June 2004

recorded on SIGCD070, ‘All the Ends of the Earth’

Sint lumbi was written for the Choir of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, and is a ‘reading-through’ of the Winchester Troper piece of the same name. It divides the original between two pairs of voices (soprano-alto, tenor-bass), and steadily shifts the music higher and higher as it becomes louder and more florid. The notes, however, are basically exactly the same as the original piece, giving it the status of an alternative (or mis-) transcription of the material.

‘An arresting application of the principles of the medieval Winchester Troper.’ BBC Music Magazine

The Open Consort

2005

mixed voices and instruments

17’

Commissioned by Queens’ College, Cambridge for the Vigani Cabinet Project, 2005

f.p. Members of Queens’ College Cambridge, Farran Scott (director), Long Gallery, Queens’ College, Cambridge, March 2005

Selbstbildnis als Laute

2003

SATB soli

4’

Text: Rilke, Neue Gedichte II

f.p. EXAUDI, National Portrait Gallery, London, October 2003

may be performed as a pair with Liebeslied als Geige.

Selbstbildnis als Laute (‘Self-portrait as a lute’), conflates two poems: in the first, sung by the lower three parts, Rilke imagines himself as the lute in a portrait of a sixteenth-century courtesan. The lute describes itself, and how its mistress Tullia ‘took a little sound from my surfaces into her countenance, and sang to me.’ At this point the soprano (Tullia) begins a gentle Lullaby in a different tonality, and the lute gradually tunes itself up to her, until finally it says ‘my heart entered into her.’

Liebeslied als Geige

2005

SATB soli

4’

Text: Rilke, Neue Gedichte I

f.p. EXAUDI, Vale of Glamorgan Festival, 31st August 2005

may be performed as a pair with Selbstbildnis als Laute.

Liebeslied als Geige (‘Love-song as a Violin’) describes the poet’s struggle against the irresistible force of his love, which draws him and his beloved together like two strings on a violin that combine produce a single sound. The music, derived from the open strings of the violin and ‘double-stopped’ in pairs of voices, oscillates between passionate appeals and hushed confessions before resolving into a measureless coda at the words ‘O süßes Lied’ – ‘O sweet song’.

Fantastic Alarms of the Shaking Luminances

2006

mixed voices and instruments (12 or more performers)

20’

to Ignacio Agrimbau

f.p. CoMA South / The Hola, Ignacio Agrimbau (director), Brighton, May 2006

Fantastic Alarms is an abstract Masque or Gesamtkunstwerk, in the spirit of Hugo Ball and the earliest forms of Zurich Dada he inspired. There are six manifestations (movements), following each other without a pause.