What Have I Been Up To Then?…

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Forbidden City (Beijing)

Hui!

I’ve been up to a fair bit these past two months. If you’re interested you can read below (I am aware that this post may be the victim of TLDR sentiment).

Frontiers Festival Birmingham

The Frontiers Festival in Birmingham Conservatoire (and across the city) is our annual large scale festival, highlighting  the work of students, staff and invited guests. This year we had a focus on the music of Gavin Bryars, as well as work created around the demolition of our old building. As per usual, the student work was mind-blowing, constantly asking questions, and crafted to the highest degree. It was also fantastic to have Gavin around for the few days and it was a rare treat to hear him participate in an improv concert with Percy Pusglove, Hans Koller, & Andrew Bain. Additionally, I had two works included in the festival Six Lines of Music for Seven Players, a piece for Gamelan performed by the Birmingham Conservatoire Gamelan on 9 March, and Five Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop performed on 18 March by Thallein Ensemble, conducted by Richard Baker. I’m hoping to post recordings of both pieces online in the near future, so if you’re interested you can check back here later.

Iceland

Straight after the Frontiers Festival, myself and Jaime travelled to Iceland on a field recording trip to record environmental sounds for a new piece for ensemble and mixed media, commissioned by… Er… actually we just went on a week long holiday, but I did find the landscape and weather infinitely beautiful and inspiring. I can see why people fall in love with the place. It was also nice to get a wee break for a week…

MATA Festival, New York

In early April I was fortunate enough to have a piece included in the MATA Festival in New York City, so I traveled to the Big Apple to work with the wonderful Ensemble neoN who performed Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of greeting Cards. Ensemble Neon played my piece fantastically and were an absolute pleasure to work with. I also met so many lovely and inspiring people and heard many, many incredible pieces. This experience will be etched in my minds eye for many years to come, and I hope to cross paths with those I met there sometime in the future.

In addition to this, my piece was given a little mention in theThe New Yorker as well as getting very favourable reviews in The New York Times, Feast of Music, New York Music Daily, and New York Classical Review. Thanks for all the kind words!

R. Andrew Lee in Denver

on 13 April, R. Andrew Lee performed some of my piano music in Regis University, Colorado. I have long been a fan of his piano playing, particularly his performances of Jürg Frey’s music, and I am incredibly grateful for him taking the time to programme some of my music. I hope we can work together again some day.

Workers Union Ensemble, London

Straight after returning from New York, I travelled to Southampton University to rehearse with Workers Union Ensemble conducted by Ben Oliver on a new piece, Seven Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop as part of the New Dots concert series. The following day (16 April) we travelled to London for the piece’s first performance at the Warehouse. I have been Composer-in-Association with Workers Union Ensemble for the past year, and I have loved every minute of it. They are a fantastic group of musicians and wonderful, wonderful people, with whom I have a great rapport. This combination makes for brilliant music making, and I was immensely impressed with their performance on 16 April. They brought at first a real energy to the piece, and as it unfolds, incredible sensitivity. I hope that our relationship can continue long into the future. The concert was given some nice audience reviews here and here.

If you are interested, you can hear a recording of the piece here.

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Dublin

Soon after the Workers Union Concert in London, I travelled to Dublin on 26 April to work with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Gavin Maloney, who performed my 2012 orchestral piece Changing Rates of Change. This is the third time in four years that Gavin and RTÉ have performed this piece and they are now really making it their own. They perform with so much energy and are making lots of interpretive decisions that are making the piece really exciting! It was also a joy to have my work performed alongside two stunning pieces by Kevin Volans, and Enda Bates.

Just  after the concert, Faith No More followers got interested in the piece and did a wee interview with me. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thallein Ensemble at Beijing Modern Music festival

I have just returned from a trip to Beijing and Tianjin in China with Thallein Ensemble conducted by Daniele Rosina and Birmingham Conservatoire colleagues Joe Cutler, Ed Bennett, Andrew Toovey and Fang Fang. It was an incredibly action packed trip with two performances, the first in Tianjin Conservatory of Music, and the second in the Central Conservatory of Music as part of the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The students played fantastically doing Birmingham Conservatoire proud, and the group were very well received with huge, huge audiences! In addition to these concerts, we also gave talks and masterclasses at Tianjin Conservatory of Music, Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing Normal University and the China Conservatory. We were also treated to performances of some fantastic and incredibly disciplined traditional music in the two later institutions. During the three hours I had off, I managed to sneak into the Forbidden City, which was mind blowing! We made some real lasting connections in Beijing and Tianjin and I’m sure I will return to China sometime in the future.

For now, we are winding up the year at Birmingham Conservatoire, examining and planning ahead for the coming academic year. We had an incredibly strong year this year, with many, many hard working students and it’s really exciting seeing all their hard work paying off. I hope they’re all happy with their results! We have an exciting year in store next year with many distinguished guests and projects for the students to get involved in. I’m looking forward to having added responsibility next year, and feel very fortunate to work in such a stimulating environment.

Moreover, I have two really exciting commissions to work on. One for string quartet (with many performances and recording attached), and one for ensemble featuring my music amongst some of my favourite composers on the planet! I will also be working more on my analog synth projects, which give me endless joy!

Till soon!

Gigs etc. etc.

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Hui!

If you’re interested, here are some details of forthcoming concerts I’m involved in. If you’re about, come and say hui!

12 April 2016 8pm, Scandinavia House, New York

Ensemble neoN perform Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of greeting Cards

This concert also includes music by Alexander Kaiser, Matthew Welch, Neil Luck, Diego Jiménez Tamame, and Jan Martin Smørdal. Part of MATA festival 2016.

More details and tickets available here. This concert was also given a little mention in The New Yorker!

13 April 2016 730pm, Regis University, Colorado 

R. Andrew Lee performs some of my piano music.

This concert also includes music by Nomi Epstein, Michael Vincent Waller, Kirk O’ Riordan, Carson Cooman, and David Borden.

More details available here

16 April 2016 730pm, The Warehouse, London

Workers Union Ensemble conducted by Ben Oliver perform a new piece, Seven Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop as part of the New Dots concert series.

This concert also includes music by Monika Dalach, Nick Morrish Rarity, and Camilo Mendez, with photography by Maja Absa Ngom, Richard Davies, and Cathy Pyle.

More details and tickets available here

26 April 2016 1pm, National Concert Hall, Dublin

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Gavin Maloney perform Changing Rates of Change.

This concert also includes music by Kevin Volans, and Enda Bates.

More details and tickets available here

 

Cool Stuff, Slick Stuff, Neat Stuff, Raw Stuff

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I’m really fortunate to have my work included in a number of really interesting projects and concerts over the first half of 2016. If you’re interested, you can find out more below!

Association of Irish Composers Directions Series in Dublin

On 27 February, composer Ed Bennett curated a really beautiful concert of music for bass clarinet, cello, and electronics in Dublin’s James Joyce Centre as part of the Association of Irish Composers Directions series. It was very nice to have my piece Three Lines of Music on the Subject of Sitting included in this wonderful programme which was performed delicately by Kate Ellis. She brought a real sensitivity to this little piece, and you can hear a recording of her performance here.  

Frontiers Festival in Birmingham

We’re currently in the middle of our annual Frontiers Festival in Birmingham Conservatoire. I’m involved in a number of concerts, and I have two new pieces being performed. The first, Six Lines of Music for Seven Players is a piece for Gamelan performed by the Birmingham Conservatoire Gamelan on 9 March, and explores the differences in the two tuning systems found in Gamelan. The second, Five Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop will be performed on 18 March by Thallein Ensemble conducted by Richard Baker. The piece will be part of the last Thallein concert (alongside the work of my wonderful colleagues) in the Adrian Boult Hall, and contains five lines of music that slow down and eventually stop. I’m very much looking forward to both performances.    

MATA festival, New York

I’m extremely happy to have had my work Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards selected for the MATA Festival, 2016 in New York. This piece will be performed by Ensemble Neon from Norway on Tuesday April 12 in Scandinavia House. The piece revolves around the idea of mapping out a life through terse texts found on greeting cards, and I’m very much looking forward to this North American performance.

New Dots Concert

On April 16 in the Warehouse (Waterloo) in London, I’m really fortunate to have the ever brilliant Workers Union Ensemble conducted by Ben Oliver perform a new piece of mine that they have commissioned in New Dots’ latest instalment. The piece entitled Seven Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop tries to explore the idea of beginning in one place and ending up in a very different place, without quite knowing how one got there. I have been working with Workers Union Ensemble over the past year as their composer in association on a number of different things, leading to many fruitful ideas. They are a fantastic group of musicians and really wonderful people, and I hope we collaborate for many years into the future.

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra Concert

on 26 April, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Gavin Maloney will perform my 2012 piece Changing Rates of Change. This is the third time in four years that RTÉ have performed this piece, and I’m extremely grateful to them for being so supportive of my work and new music more generally.  The work takes Faith No More’s Jizzlober as its starting point and is marked by constant and unpredictable variations.

Birmingham Conservatoire Composers in China

Later on in the beautiful month of May, myself and colleagues at Birmingham Conservatoire will embark on a trip to Beijing in China for a series of concerts featuring our work. I have never been to this part of the world before, and am really looking forward to it!

In other news, I’m currently writing for two really interesting projects to take place in 2017, and am trying to get my head around the rabbit hole of modular synthesisers. I am also looking forward to heading to Reykjavík in Iceland in the very near future.

If you happen to go to any of the above concerts, pop by and say hello!

Always Washes His Hands

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I’ve started using a new moniker ‘Always Washes His Hands‘ to compose, perform and release new electronic music I’m working on in parallel with my instrumental music. My first offering is a nineteen minute piece imaginatively titled ‘Always Washes His Hands 1’ and can be heard here for anyone interested. Hope you enjoy!

Fortunately, No Complaints

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The antithesis to destruction is creation…

Austrian Cultural Forum

At the beginning of November I was fortunate enough to be included in the Soundings Series at the Austrian Cultural Forum in London. It was such a marvellous experience to be featured alongside the other fantastic composers Daniel Moser, Hannes Kerschbaumer, Mirela Ivičević, Kate Whitley, and Christian Mason. We had many interesting talks and it was incredibly refreshing to hear different perspectives on new music throughout the week. Our public talks were facilitated by Piers Hellawell who asked incredibly intelligent and insightful questions, and had many intriguing observations on all of our music.

Moreover, we were treated to a host of fantastic performances of our music from many of the UK’s finest musicians as well as the wonderful students from the Royal College of Music. For my own part, at the first concert, Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea, gave an incredibly focused and sensitive performance of a new piece I wrote for them, Five to forty seconds, a piece concerned with how long people spend viewing pieces of art. The following day I was immensely pleased with energetic and refined performances of Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Noszferatu and Three Minutes of Music all Performed by Students at the Royal College of Music Dakota Martin, Kimberley Foster, Christine Cheng, Alex Fryer, Jess Martin, Alice Angliss, and Lucy Keller.

The level of conversation and performance was complemented magnificently by the hospitality and warmth of the staff at the Austrian Cultural Forum. Special praise must go to Theodora Danek and Mary Dullea for putting together such a wonderful series of events. I was sad to leave the ACF, but happy to have left with some new friends…

New Pieces

I have recently finished a solo piano piece for Composer/Publisher  Richard Stenton’s 1571 Anthology of Piano Music due for publication in 2016. The brief for the piece was to create a work that could serve as music to be played in a domestic environment and it is called A Line Repeats Slightly Differently Each Time. It will hopefully be published sometime in the new year.

I am now writing a new largish piece for Workers Union Ensemble to be performed at a New:Dots event in London, the piece is scored for the full group and is somehow dealing with co-operation, sound, art, and life…

After this Workers Union piece, I am writing a piece for Thallein Ensemble at Birmingham Conservatoire for the last concert in the Adrian Boult Hall. The piece is scored for trumpet, cello, vibraphone, and piano and will respond in someway to the closure of the ABH, which in the later part of the 20th century hosted the premieres of some incredibly important pieces of music, including David Lang’s The Passing Measures. I hope to base the piece on a tune by the 17th/18th Century Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan. 

Moving into the future, I am also writing pieces for the Crash Ensemble and for RTÉ ConTempo Quartet for performance in 2017… 

Karin Rehnqvist at Birmingham Conservatoire 

In mid-November we had the fantastic Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist visiting us for an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University. I met Karin for the first time in 2010 on a project between Birmingham Conservatoire and The Royal College of Music in Stockholm and it was wonderful to have her back in Birmingham. She is such a kind, warm, and funny person, and was entirely generous with her time for students. We were treated to two days of her fantastic music and it was particularly inspiring to hear her Who’s That Calling astonishingly performed by Johanna Bölja Hertzberg and Sofia Sandén with Richard Baker expertly conducting Thallein Ensemble.

Synths n’ Stuff

Recently, I have also been playing some more synth music with Thomas Parkes in Dublin. Building upon our Moog Soundlab residency during the year, we hope to get together more regularly to perform and record extended electronic pieces.

Stuff that is happening elsewhere 

Two really good albums I have bought recently are Vertigo by the Necks, and Divers by Joanna Newsom. Both are astonishing for their approach to structure, orchestration, discipline and general attention to good music making. They come highly recommended.

Tonight (4 December) My colleague and former teacher Howard Skempton is having a new piece, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, performed by Roderick Williams and BCMG in Birmingham (Info available here). The programme is also being repeated in London tomorrow (5 December) in the Wigmore Hall (Info here). Howard is one of the most remarkable composers on the planet and has been working on this extended piece for a long time. It is going to be fantastic, and if you are in either London or Birmingham over the next two days, it comes highly recommended!

Finally, The World According to Bob is a two day festival taking place in London in March. It is a festival celebrating the life of musicologist Bob Gilmore who sadly died earlier this year. Bob wrote passionately and intelligently about new music, and was incredibly supportive in a multiplicity of ways to younger composers. Whilst I met Bob only a handful of times, I know that his presence is missed by many, many people. The festival is taking place with much goodwill, but still needs some support. The organisers have a kickstarter page here, where contributions can be made. At the very least, there is some incredible music being performed!

That’s about all I got.

Till soon…

…and So On and So Forth…

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I’ve been keeping busy. If you are interested in anything that I do, below you will find some highlights of the past few months. I also just posted a newish piece to soundcloud here.

Walk from Birmingham to London for de Ereprijs

In July, myself and Joe Cutler walked from Birmingham to London along the Grand Union Canal to raise money for Dutch Ensemble Orkest de Ereprijs and in particular their Young Composers Meeting, which has been crucial to the development of young composers over the last twenty years or so (Both myself and Joe were participants at different times and Joe has been back as a teacher). We had a very nice walk over seven days, saw some really beautiful parts of the UK countryside and had some fantastic chats (Joe is a wonderful travel companion!) More importantly, the weather was bad for only three out of the seven days! All told we managed to raise £5465 for the young composers meeting and we are incredibly grateful to all who gave us words of encouragement and gave us the £££!

You can read about our story here

Birmingham Record Company Release

In August Birmingham Record Company released my first full length album entitled 45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football.

Performed by Ensemble Krock from Sweden, the album was recorded and mixed in Guerrilla Studios, Dublin by John Murphy and mastered in Birmingham Conservatoire by Simon Hall. There is also a video performance made by Seán Zissou here.

The album can be streamed and/or downloaded here for the low, low price of four english pounds.

It has also had some nice airplay by Bernard Clarke on RTÉ Lyric FM Nova and John Schaefer on WNYC New Sounds.

Electronic Music

Over the past few months I have been working on an electronic album (to be released sometime in 2016). It is being created entirely on an Op-1 Synthesiser and is made up of synthesis and found sounds that I have been collecting over the past year and a half. The pieces also use a dialectical structure that I have been devising over the past number of months. Some of this work will be getting an outing in Birmingham next week. (Details below)

Holidays in America

It’s always good to get away and I had a wonderful couple of weeks on the east coast of America visiting Jaime’s family in August. While it was nice to take some time off, it was also a very inspiring trip. We stayed in Madison, the exact same place where Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote Stimmung in the 60’s and we also visited La Monte Young’s Dream House in New York City, which was an incredible experience. We also had fantastic days at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and the recently (re)opened Whitney where I saw in person some of my favourite works of art on this planet. It was an incredibly refreshing trip and just being in an incredibly different environment, with different sights, smells sounds and so on and so forth gives much food for thought.

Culture Night

I was very fortunate to be part of the Contemporary Music Centre’s programme of events for Culture Night 2015. I created a site specific work which featured the CMC’s staff as collaborators, writing texts to be displayed around the building, which were then featured in a 40 minute live electronic piece created collaboratively by myself and Thomas Parkes.

It was a really enjoyable experience working with the CMC staff in the week leading up to the performance, and it was very enjoyable performing again! It was also wonderful to hear the work of other composers and performers on the night including the Brennan-Cahill duo, Anna MurrayMichelle O’ Rourke, Gavin Prior, Enda Bates, Ian Wilson and Cathal Roche

Back to Birmingham Conservatoire

We are already in week two at Birmingham Conservatoire. It has been nice to meet all of our new incoming students and welcome back all of our returning students. I have some very exciting classes planned for this year, and am very glad to be back in this wonderful place with brilliant colleagues and fantastic students.

New Pieces to Write

I am currently continuing with the composition of my electronic album mentioned above. I am also writing a new solo piano piece for an interesting publication in 2016 as well as a new piece for Workers Union Ensemble in 2016 and a new piece for Crash Ensemble for 2017. Additionally, myself and Thomas Parkes are sifting through 8 hours of Moog material to release an album sometime in 2016. They are all brilliant projects to be working on!

Some Upcoming Performances

My new electronic work Six Minutes of Music Created From Sounds Around My Home will be performed in the Legacies in Technology concert series 12-13 October 2015 at Birmingham Conservatoire. More details available here

I am a featured composer in the Austrian Cultural Forum, London’s Soundings Series along with Christian Mason, and Kate Whitley from the UK, and Mirela IvičevićHannes Kerschbaumer, and Daniel Moser from Austria. I will have a number of pieces performed there between 2-5 November 2015, including a new piece especially written for Darragh Morgan & Mary Dullea. I’m very much looking forward to this exchange of music and ideas and more information can be found here

Shout outs!

Ergodos have just released an amazing CD of music by Kevin Volans. I was at the launch concert last night and it really is incredible music, pristinely recorded and beautifully  packaged. You should go get it here.

The Jimmy Cake recently released one of the best albums ever to come out of Ireland. If you like long music and synths, then this is one for you! Get it here

That’s about all I got right now. Hope to see you soon!

45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football is here

45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football Cover

I’m delighted to announce that last Friday, Birmingham Record Company released my first full length album with them entitled 45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football.

Performed by Ensemble Krock from Sweden, the album was recorded and mixed in Guerrilla Studios, Dublin by John Murphy and mastered in Birmingham Conservatoire by Simon Hall. There is also a video performance made by Seán Zissou here.

The album can be streamed and/or downloaded here for the low, low price of four english pounds.

I’m really elated with how everything came out and very grateful to all involved in the process. If you’re a fan of minimal music, post rock, or extended pieces I hope that you might enjoy the album too!