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.

Hototogisu

2007

children’s choir (SA divisi), piano duo

25’

Text: Bashō

Commissioned by Finchley Children’s Music Group

f.p. Finchley Children’s Music Group / Grace Rossiter, St Pancras Church, London, July 2008

Hototogisu was commissioned by Finchley Children’s Music Group for their 50th anniversary season in 2008. It sets seventeen haiku by Bashō, linking them into a seasonal cycle from Spring to Spring. There are three haiku to a season, as well as a fourth which is set as a piano interlude or prelude (in graphic notation), representing the changing of the season. At the start and end of the piece a refrain invokes the hototogisu or cuckoo, revered in Japan as the ‘bird of time’.

Hototogisu is dedicated to Finchley Children’s Music Group and its musical director, Grace Rossiter.

Come Away

2008

soprano, violin, cello, piano

12’

Text: Song of Songs (French)

f.p. Kürbis, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, February 2008

Come Away continues my abiding interest in paring down to musical fundamentals in search of strength and clarity of expression. The four performers articulate a sparse patchwork of quite simple, repetitive figurations. The singer sings, in French, words from the Song of Songs (‘Rise up, my love, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth’ etc). Come Away describes a tentatively budding new life and love.

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Orlando Tenebrae

2010

SATB choir, 25′

includes
O vos omnes (2006) 4′
Aestimatus sum (2010) 4′
Ecce quomodo moritur justus (2010) 3′

Texts:
Liturgical (Tenebrae responsories)
Adonis: from The Desert
Visar Zhiti: Love
Ken Saro Wiwa: The True Prison
Wu Mei: The Agreement

O vos omnes commissioned by Rev. Toddy Hoare; f.p. Chantage (James Davey, director), St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, 24th January 2007.

Ecce quomodo moritur justus commissioned by Orlando Chamber Choir with funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund; f.p. Orlando Chamber Choir (James Weeks, director), St Mary Aldermary, London, 24th July 2010.

The complete Orlando Tenebrae commissioned by Orlando Chamber Choir; f.p. Orlando Chamber Choir (James Weeks, director), St Andrew, Holborn, London, 17th March 2011.

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There is a great upsurge of human-inflicted suffering in the world today: our capacity for inhumanity towards each other (to say nothing of other living creatures) seems to be boundless. I turned to the texts of the Tenebrae as a way to deal with this ever-more pressing subject in a timeless way, trying to avoid contemporary agitprop but at the same time removing them from an explicitly Christian context. I found several Tenebrae texts that speak of oppression in a general sense, and to them added four poems from Fire in the Soul, a collection of poems from around the world on the subject of human rights, published by New Internationalist.

Like the service of Tenebrae, Orlando Tenebrae is structured as a ritual, and similarly moves between different modes of delivery, from free speech to singing to chanted speech in a continuous loop. The modern poems are simply read, and the Tenebrae responsories are both read rhythmically in English and sung in Latin.

Again, like the traditional music of the Tenebrae rites, the music of Orlando Tenebrae is sparse and pared-down, divided into panels separated by silences. The materials are archetypes – static chordal declamation, lamenting descents, a sudden leap at the word ‘liber’ (‘free’) – familiar from hundreds of years of musical tradition, given a new context in this piece.

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