KROCK perform a work by Seán Clancy on 11 July at the Kevin Barry Room, Dublin


Looking forward to welcoming this amazing group in Dublin!

Originally posted on Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland:

Ensemble KROCK

Ensemble KROCK

Swedish ensemble KROCK specialise in playing contemporary music for electric guitars and electronics and since forming in 2005 have commissioned and premiered more than 30 pieces from internationally renowned composers.

Fresh from Birmingham’s recent Frontiers Downtown Festival, they present Three Objects in a Concert Hall featuring Seán Clancy’s Forty-Five Minutes on the Subject of Football, Monolog X’s Where a Powerful Song of the Earth is Unleashed, and Joe Cutler’s Chords on the Shore.

The concert, which takes place in the Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall on 11 July at 8.30pm, will be the first time Ensemble KROCK performs in Ireland.

Commissioned by Ensemble KROCK, Seán Clancy’sForty-Five Minutes on the Subject of Football relives the intense minutes that took place during a game 20 years ago. With the players needing to find stamina equal to professional football players, you can hear the different…

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IICS & Future Performances


I’m just back from two weeks in Izmir in Turkey with my friend and colleague Ed Bennett where we were both teachers on the Interdisciplinary Involvement and Community Spaces project with Students from Birmingham City University. This project involves 30 students from across Europe coming together in a city that many of them will never have been to before. They form smaller groups with people they will never have met before and work together with a community in the host city to create a piece of interdisciplinary art that resonates with the given community in some way. The students come from a variety of different walks of life and a variety of different disciplines and over the course of ten days or so hammer out ideas, foresee and resolve problems and create something beautiful that usually has a lasting impact on the community.  It was such a fantastic project to be involved in and such a wonderful experience to see the six people in my group, all of whom spoke different languages and came from different countries coming together to create something that resonated with each individual student and the space in which they were placed. I was very fortunate to have six fantastic students and co-mentor Mantautas Krukauskas in our group and we were all very fortunate to have such a wonderful host community in Cafe del Mundo who allowed our students free rein to create whatever they wished. They all came together to create something wonderful, of which I was very proud. Likewise did the other groups in the project, whom all created something that was poignant, funny, observant, significant and beautiful. If politicians can learn anything, they can learn from this project.

Furthermore, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk with other artist colleagues working across Europe in a variety of different disciplines and media. Many heated conversations about art and education took place over some lovely Turkish food and Effs Malts. Special praise should be given to host organisers Emre Yildiz and Payam Susanni who in spite of relative political anxiety, handled the whole project with sensitivity, precision, safety and integrity, at all times maintaining the ethos of the project and the safeguarding of every student present.  In them along with the other IICS staff members I have made some new friends.

For now I’m back to reality and marking our wonderful student portfolios at Birmingham Conservatoire. It is always refreshing to see and hear what they’re all up to! In addition, I’m preparing for some concerts and recording an extended piece which I’ve listed below. I hope you can make some of them!

28 May 2014 at 1800 National Concert Hall, Dublin 2, Ireland. Matthew Schellhorn performs Thirteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of the Transformation of Things alongside works by Ian Wilson, Linda Buckley and Gráinne MulveyDetails 

3 June 2014 at 1930 Recital Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham, UK. Ensemble KROCK, perform Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football alongside works by Johan Ericsson and Joe Cutler. Details

11 July 2014 at 2030 National Concert Hall, Dublin 2, Ireland. Ensemble KROCK perform Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football alongside works by Johan Ericsson and Joe CutlerDetails

Well, Well, Well


So after our fantastic Frontiers Festival there was but a small respite in work before another group of performances of my music in the UK and Ireland as well as a current trip to Stockholm (where I am now writing this blog post) and a future trip to Izmir.

This period of work began with a brilliant and delicate performance of Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Noszferatu performed by Noszferatu as part of Wednesdays at the Forge Series in London. It was the first time (but hopefully not the last) that I have worked with Noszferatu and it was an absolute pleasure to hear them play my piece with such conviction, pinpoint accuracy and sensitivity.  As ever it was also great to be featured alongside my colleagues at Birmingham Conservatoire Ed Bennett, Joe Cutler, Howard Skempton and Michael Wolters.

From London, I travelled to Dublin to work with the ever-fantastic Crash Ensemble on Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards as part of Free State 8. This is the third time Crash Ensemble have performed my music and I always relish working with them. They performed my piece with such energy and poignancy that left me taken aback, whilst a nicer bunch of people to work with would be hard to find. It was also incredibly wonderful to be featured alongside Barry O’Halpin, Bebhinn Nic Dhomhnaill, Elis Czerniak, Chris McCormack, Dermot McDermott and Raymond Deane, and really great to hear how exciting, fresh and engaged the current musical climate in Ireland is.

I am currently on a residency in EMS in Stockholm working on my largest piece to date Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football with the Electric Guitar Ensemble KROCK. It is absolutely incredible to be working in this studio with such fantastic facilities and wonderfully friendly staff whom have been incredibly nice and helpful, making me feel right at home. As I write this, KROCK are working on Joe Cutler’s exciting new piece Chords on the Shore which is shaping up fantastically and displaying a really visceral soundworld.  KROCK and myself have been working on this project for the best part of a year now and they have been such a great group to work with. Not only are they wonderful guys whom I would count as friends, they are also amongst the finest musicians I have worked with, ever excited by the sonic possibilities of both myself and Joe’s Pieces.  We will be presenting the fruits of our labours in Birmingham on June 3 as part of Frontiers Festival and in Dublin on 11 July. Stockholm is also an incredibly beautiful city with wonderful people. Yesterday evening when misfortune befell me, I was saved by the kindness of the staff at The Bishops Arms Bellmansgatan.

On Tuesday I travel to Izmir with Ed Bennett and Conservatoire students to work on the final year of the IICS project. It its my first time on the project and also my first time to Turkey. I’m really looking forward to having this new experience and working with the students on their creative endeavours. So it’s all go, go, go! For now though, back to working on a forty-five minute piece for electric guitars!

Behind the Door by Giulia Berto

A number of weeks ago, I was invited to be photographed in my workspace for a project. Now, my workspace is not very exciting, it is the room in which I sleep with a desk in the corner. There are a few images around the place mostly from art exhibitions I have been to over the years, it is very tidy and everything is in the right place, but for the most part it is not what most people would consider very inspiring. Yet this is where the majority of my work has been composed since 2006. (Not in this exact room, I have moved many times but in rooms like it – a bed in the corner a desk in the other corner and images on the wall). The whole project made me think about what it is about workspaces that fascinates us. I think of Francis Bacon’s studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and how chaotic it is, and I think of the many composer’s workspaces I have visited over the years and how often their space is a reflection of their art and what great work was created in these rooms. But why do we find this interesting? More to the point, what it is about the lives of others that interest us?

I mention these things because I was recently taken aback by Behind the Door a photo essay by Giulia Berto in which she has documented the inhabitants of 83 Meserole Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. I was attracted to this photo essay because I think the images are incredibly well composed and very beautifully shot, but I think the most striking thing is that she has managed to capture a sense of ease about the subjects.

In today’s society, it seems as if many people have two personas (particularly in the art world), the public and the private. Often the public persona is a little more guarded, a little less edgy and a little safer. However, what I like about Giulia’s photos is there is a sense that all of the subjects are comfortable. They don’t seem to be putting on their public faces.

Maybe this is why we have a fascination with people behind closed doors. It is here, either in their workspaces or dwellings that they are most at ease, where there is no pretence.

Morton Feldman talks in his interview with Walter Zimmermann published in Desert Plants about artists having to be comfortable with loneliness and having to deal with this sense of loneliness for six or seven hours a day to create. I think this is what Giulia has captured in these photographs: A sense of ease with loneliness facilitated by being behind the door.


Frontiers Festival Birmingham


(Andy Ingamells pictured with the remains of the day)

So we’ve all just about recovered from two weeks of Frontiers at Birmingham Conservatoire, which has been the most ambitious and extensive festival to date and in the space of two weeks we had a host of events written and performed by our fantastic students, my incredible colleagues as well as such American luminaries like Pauline Oliveros, Elliott Sharp, Carl Stone and Object Collection. The festival culminated in a special concert dedicated to the late great Robert Ashley which also highlighted the brilliant work of my colleagues Joe Cutler, Michael Wolters, Ed Bennett & Andrew Hamilton performed by Trojan workers Decibel.

So much has happened in the past two weeks that it’s kick-off two weeks ago seemed like an ocean away; nevertheless, I’ll try to recount the festival for those unlucky enough to have missed some of these incredible events.

Sarah Farmer got proceedings underway with an incredibly dedicated response to Laurie Anderson’s As:if where she performed solidified in ice skates encased in blocks of ice for around three hours on a wet and windy Birmingham Afternoon, such dedication is hard to find and we are fortunate to have such amazing performers studying at Birmingham Conservatoire. At the same time Ryan Probert’s 36 views of Mount Fuji were given a beautiful and delicate performance by the Vickers-Bovey Guitar Duo, both composer and performers are ones to watch. In addition, in Birmingham’s new state of the art library Joe Scarffe & Beth Derbyshire curated a fantastic exhibition of graphic scores through the ages which were complimented by thought-provoking performances of Andy Ingamells & Beth Derbyshire’s Ringing Out. This exhibition continued throughout the festival and was enhanced by a graphic score performance at 3pm every day in the new Library of Birmingham by students at Birmingham Conservatoire. These library events were further enhanced by events such as Little Composers in a Day and Kirsty Devaney‘s Young Composers Project encouraging school children to experiment with their own music making producing startling wonderful effects.

On 25th of March we were treated to James Oldham‘s Waste Paper Opera Production of Bastien und Bastienne. James has sifted the original material through centuries of baggage and his own unique mind whilst bringing it kicking and screaming into the 21st century in one of the most imaginative uses of space and resources I’ve seen in a very long time. The following night standards remained high with Luke Iveson‘s Dorothy Hale: Oratorio which amplified Dorothy Hale’s life, through her own voice and through the people who knew her using a variety of sources which was sensitively set with some strikingly poignant music.

Due to other commitments I missed out on events from the 27th-29th of March but I returned to Birmingham on the 30th to hear Vicky Bonham perform wonderfully in a concert featuring stunning performances of Henry Cowell, John Zorn and a new piece by myself which was given a delicate and sensitive performance by Vicky for which I’m very grateful. This event was followed by the wonderfully imaginative Crimson Pangolin Private Collection: Artefacts of Contemporary Music which saw many priceless artefacts being auctioned off to the public. The day continued with a fantastic performance of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint performed by Daniel Bovey and diffused by Matthew O’malley as well as really stunning pieces from Conservatoire students Ryan Probert & Sam Taylor. The evening concluded with a fantastic concert by Apartment House which featured an incredibly intimate performance of Lou Reed‘s poignant Songs for Drella with Leo Chadburn as well as stunning performance of Phill Niblock‘s incredible drone music (one of my festival highlights!)

Monday began for me with an acrobatic and concentrated performance of Robert Ashley’s Maneuvers for Small Hands performed by Reinier van Houdt which saw pianist as gymnast cum trapeze artist as he balanced, danced, fell and jumped to execute the smallest of sounds and gestures. Something I won’t forget in a hurry. This concert was followed by Pauline Oliveros in conversation which was later followed by a fantastic concert of the ever imaginative Maya VerlaakJohn Cage, Morton Feldman and Earl Brown. This concert was very special not only because it was directed by a clearly delighted Howard Skempton (I don’t think I have seen someone smiling so much than Howard after directing the European premiere of Feldman’s The Swallows of Salangan), but both Howard and Michael Wolters gave the most beautiful performance of Cage’s Variations I & IV I have ever seen. Imagination knows no boundaries. The evening concluded with the Conservatoire’s Thallein Ensemble joined by members of BCMG and soloist Jack McNeill for a most striking and controlled performance of my old mentor David Lang’s The Passing Measures which is truly one of the great pieces written.

Tuesday was taken up with two very special events. Pauline Oliveros performed via the internet, a quartet with players from 3 other countries (Quartto Telematico) whilst Decibel rose to the challenge of not only performing an entire programme of incredibly exposed and difficult early Philip Glass pieces, but did so with great style, energy and fastidiousness. Most performing groups perform one, sometimes two early Philip Glass compositions in a single programme, but Decibel did several! Moreover, this programme also featured the fantastic work of four of our 3rd year composers which showcased the wealth of student talent we have. Decibel deserved a day off after this programme, but the continued on to give another concert on Wednesday!

Wednesday saw our Marathon Festival in a Day programme which had many, many highlights. Pauline Oliveros got proceedings underway with a Deep Listening Meditation at the IKON Gallery whilst the Recital Hall was set up for the world premiere of Robert Ashley’s remarkable String Quartet Describing the Motions of Large Real Bodies. I ended up being an electronic performer in this piece and it was incredibly exciting to be involved with a realisation of  such a subtle, delicate and beautiful piece. also included in this concert were Pauline Oiveros’ remarkably beautiful 70 Chords for Terry and Elliott Sharp’s energetic and complex Occam’s Razor excitingly performed by the Elysian Quartet and Nuntempa. Excitement grew for what was potentially my festival highlight in the guise of Andy Ingamells Piano Recital. It is the second time I have seen this piece and it is as close to a perfect gesamtkunstwerk as I have seen. A meditation on contemporary composition, piano recitals, video diaries, social media and narcissism. Next, Howard Skempton led Via Nova (conducted by Daniel Galbreath) in Robert Ashley’s striking piece She Was a Visitor and Pauline Oliveros’ Sound Patterns. Next came two concerts by Decibel & Noszferatu highlighting the diverse range of talent and interests amongst our students at Birmingham Conservatoire of which I am very proud. These concerts were followed by another of my festival highlights; Elliott Sharp’s solo performance of Momentum Anomaly which displayed the composer as performer blistering through a set highlighting Elliott’s concern with structure, improvisation and sound in a truly breathtaking performance which had everyone’s jaw on the floor. The evening concluded with computer music pioneer Carl Stone’s Fujiken which blended filed recordings made throughout Japan and Southeast Asia.

Due to teaching commitments I missed some events on the Thursday, but I managed to catch Object Collection’s imaginative interpretation of Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing staging something which for many (including Ashley himself!) was considered impossible. This was followed by a big band performance of Elliott Sharp’s immensely complex and graphically beautiful Foliage a tour de force in interpretation, group dynamic and sound.

The real highlights came for me with events taking place on Friday. The day began with a resoundingly positive and uplifting performance of Terry Riley’s In C led by one of the most fantastic musicians I know Sid Peacock. This event was followed by a concert which I programmed and performed in which saw two of my students Anthony Leung & Sam Taylor performing a spectacularly creative response to a call for ‘a drone piece’ as well as my dear friends and colleagues Andrew Hamilton and Howard Skepmton performing their wonderful music on their own instruments. I was honoured to also be able to write a short piece for Howard, which he performed brilliantly. The concert concluded with me performing the premiere of my own piece Thirty Minutes of Music on the Subject of Soap Operas for piano & electronics which seemed to have been positively received. This concert was very special for me as highlighted three generations of Birmingham composers. My own teacher Howard, myself and my students, as well as our most recent member of staff Andrew.

The festival culminated in a very special concert given by Decibel conducted by Daniele Rosina in which the fantastic music of Joe Cutler (Extended Play), Michael Wolters (The Lady Plays Rachmaninov), Andrew Hamilton (Product No. 1) and Artistic Director Ed Bennett (Sometimes Everything Falls Apart, Heavy Western) were programmed alongside Robert Ashley’s Outcome Inevitable, Quartet and Hidden Similarities. This concert had an immense degree of sadness and poignancy attached to it owing to the recent death of Robert Ashley who was meant to attend to receive an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University. In his place, emotive video tributes were paid by those who loved and knew him best adding a degree of pathos to what is usually the most joyous event in frontiers. Nevertheless, Decibel were stunning and played brilliantly all works with energy, sophistication, delicacy and beauty concluding their residency in which they performed some 30 works in the space of a single week.

This account was just the live music aspect of the festival and there was so much more on including talks, exhibitions, readings and film screenings. Moreover, there is much more to come in June which sees another week of extraordinary music from Birmingham, New York and beyond.

Each year Frontiers festival is the highlight of our composition department calendar and we all love getting involved (both staff and students) in welcoming visiting composers and visiting ensembles and putting things on. This year the festival happened on an unparalleled scale and magnitude and it in no way would have been possible without the tireless work of the festival director Ed McKeon whose vision and execution of the festival was incredible. This was matched in trumps by staff and students of Birmingham Conservatoire from the concert office staff Emily Bartlett, Libby Hall and Mark Scott (and their team) to student volunteers Rosie Clements, Christine Cornwell and Ed Denham (and their team) to tech support, Simon Hall, Matthew O’malley, James Dooley Jamie Bullock and Richard Cornock (and their team), our composition department administrator Lynsey Satchell and Orchestral manager Zoe Poyser. Not to mention all of the students that met and greeted visitors, documented every aspect of the festival and performed in a multiplicity of incredible events.

This year’s festival involved every single facet of the conservatoire and highlighted what a vibrant, dynamic, active, dedicated and talented conservatoire we have and what can be achieved by masses working together. I have wonderful students who always surprise me with their resourcefulness, creativity and imagination and I have heroic colleagues who go above and beyond what is asked of them in making things happen and fostering the attributes of our students. I am immensely proud and privileged to be part of such a community of musicians and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the second part of Frontiers in June!



This is the News


(Chiharu Shiota: Dialogues, New Art Gallery Walsall)

It has been an incredibly busy time over the past few months and I have neglected to post anything here in the past while. However, for those of you interested I’ve been extremely busy multitasking between teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire, writing new pieces, scoring films (The Inquiry), attending performances (notably my Horizons concert with the RTÉ NSO!), giving guest lectures at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Royal Holloway, University of London and graduating from my PhD. (In this space of time I also turned thirty…) That’s all in the past though and we must look (and sing!) to the future.

This past weekend our Birmingham Conservatoire’s annual new music festival Frontiers kicked off in style and it continues over the next two weeks with incredible music from New York and Birmingham. Highlights include A stellar line up of US artists including Elliott SharpCarl StonePauline OliverosRhys Chatham, Warren Smith, Henry Hills, Object Collection, John O’Gallagher, my old teacher David Lang  and we make a special feature of works by the recently deceased Robert Ashley. The festival also features work by many of our students as well as my dear colleagues Ed Bennett, Joe Cutler, Andrew Hamilton, Howard Skempton and Michael Wolters. My own work features with performances by Vicky Bonham on 30 March (Thirteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of the Transformation of things), Howard Skempton on 4 April (One Minute & Thirty Seconds of Music for Howard Skempton) and myself performing Thirty Minutes of Music on the Subject of Soap Operas again on 4 April. My work will also feature in the second part of the festival in June in a very special event (More details to follow!)

From this festival I travel to London to hear Noszferatu perform Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Noszferatu alongside works by my colleagues at Birmingham Conservatoire on 9 April as part of the Wednesdays at the Forge series. The following week I travel to Dublin to hear the wonderful Crash Ensemble performing Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards on 17 April at the Project Arts Centre.

I have a small respite before travelling to Stockholm in Sweden to undertake a residency at EMS at the beginning of May which is immediately followed by a trip to Izmir in turkey to work with students from across Europe on the IICS. From here I return to teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire before heading back to Dublin to hear Matthew Schellhorn performing Thirteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of the Transformation of things on 28 May at the National Concert Hall.

June and July are mostly concerned with realising a fantastic project with the Swedish group Ensemble KROCK and writing. But for now, that should keep me going!

Forthcoming Performances

Here is a list of some forthcoming performances that I’m involved in.

I would be delighted if you could make them!

Tuesday 4 February 2014 National Concert Hall, Dublin 1pm

Changing Rates of Change for Symphony Orchestra Performed by RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gavin Maloney.

Ten Minutes of Music on The Subject of IKEA for Symphony Orchestra performed by RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gavin Maloney

Both works featured as part of my RTÉ NSO Horizons concert. Also features works by Joe Cutler, Michael Wolters, Ed Bennett and Howard Skempton.

Also features a pre-concert talk by myself at 12.30pm

Sunday 30 march 2014 Recital Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham 12.30pm 

Thirteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of the Transformation of Things for solo piano performed by Vicky Bonham

Part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Frontiers + Festival also featuring works by John Zorn, Henry Cowell and Bobbie Gardner

Friday 4 April 2014 Recital Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham 3pm

Thirty Minutes of Music on the Subject of Soap Operas for piano and electronics performed by Seán Clancy

Part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Frontiers + Festival also featuring works by Sam Taylor, Anthony Leung, Andrew Hamilton and Howard Skempton