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

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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!

Release of 45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football and so on and so on…

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Good news! Birmingham Record Company will be releasing my electric guitar quartet Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football on 7 August 2015. Performed by Ensemble Krock and recorded & mixed by John Murphy at Guerrilla Studios (with mastering by Simon Hall). It is my longest piece to date and was a true collaboration between myself, Krock, & John and I’m absolutely delighted that it’s coming out soon. It will be available on Bandcamp from 7 August and on other streaming services soon after. In the interim, a short excerpt can be heard on my soundcloud page and you can watch a wonderful video of the whole piece here, made by Seán Zissou.

In other news, I’ve updated some new(ish) tunes here and I have also created a video page here, where you can see videos of some of my performances.

For now, back to writing on harmolodics!

Planes, Trains, and… Walking

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From 6 – 12 July Joe Cutler and I will walk from Birmingham to London along the Grand Union Canal in support of Orkest de EreprijsYoung Composers Meeting. Orkest de Ereprijs have had severe cuts over the past number of years making their annual cultural and educational programmes increasingly difficult. For more than twenty years, this course has been particularly beneficial to young composers in the UK and Ireland, many of whom have been prize-winners and have gone on to do great things. I would be incredibly saddened if future generations of composers would not have the opportunity to partake in this fantastic course because of funding cuts. Joe and I really want them to continue their valuable work so that our students and others like them can benefit from their fantastic approach to music making. If you would be interested in supporting our cause please take a look at our just giving page here and consider donating what you can.

End of Year at Birmingham Conservatoire

We have just finished up the academic year 2014/15 at Birmingham Conservatoire and I am immensely proud of, and happy for our students and how well they all did. It is fantastic to work in such an environment where we are constantly surprised and astounded by the work that people are capable of creating. Each year the bar is constantly raised, and each year it is surpassed. I will be particularly saddened to say good-bye to this year’s outgoing fourth years, as this is the first year group that I have taught from first year right up until fourth year. I have no doubt however, that they are going on to brighter and better things!

 Kirkos Ensemble Blackout

A little over two weeks ago I had the great pleasure and fortune to hear Yseult Cooper Stockdale perform a new piece of mine Sixteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Sitting in Kirkos Ensemble’s Blackout Series. Not only was Yseult’s performance beautifully focused and refined, but the whole concert was remarkably well conceived and executed by Kirkos, which not only contained other wonderful performances and pieces by Steve Reich, Raymond Deane, Gráinne Mulvey and Tom Lane, but offered a completely immersive listening experience involving all bar one senses, smell, taste, touch and sound, omitting sight and opting to perform each concert in complete darkness. It was fantastic to be featured in such an innovative concert series, and Kirkos with Ensemble are to be commended on such a bold undertaking. I wish them every success for the future.

Moog Soundlab residency

Two weeks ago I was incredibly fortunate to be selected to have a two-day residency at the Moog Soundlab, which was based at Birmingham City University in partnership with Capsule/Supersonic. I used the residency to collaborate with Thomas Parkes and experiment with new modes of working as a composer, devising pieces collaboratively in an organic and symbiotic way, where artistic thought was not preempted but created through the time spent in collaboration. We used the time to explore analog sound-scaping and synthesis, working within chance determined structures to build and develop a vocabulary that will hopefully be released online in the coming months. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these wonderful machines and to have collaborated with Tom. Leaving the studio each day I heard the world in a different way.

Bandcamp

 I have just set up a personal Bandcamp page here. I hope to use this to release the majority of things I do in the future either as personal releases or through Birmingham Record Company. There’s not a whole lot up at the moment but there will be at least two more releases up before the end of 2015. If you’re interested, check it out and keep an eye on it.

Krock Video and Release

Speaking of releases, the video for Ensemble Krock performing my Guitar Quartet Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football has been finished and signed off on. It should be appearing on The Practice Tapes site any day now. It has been a wonderful journey working with Ensemble Krock, Seán (video) and John (audio) on this project and I’m delighted that the fruits of our labour will shortly be arriving.

In addition, the audio recording has been sent off to be mastered and will be released in the very near future!

 Electronic album

I am more than half way through the composition and recording of my electronic album, which has turned into a kind of tribute album to Ornette Coleman who recently passed away. Ornette Coleman’s music and thought process has been such an inspiration on my journey as a composer. Although our paths never crossed, his impact on me was so great that I felt I needed to mark his death in someway.

Other projects and so on and so on

Additionally, I am conceiving of and working on five pieces for some very exciting groups and organisations that will culminate in performances towards the later half of 2015 and into 2016. For next few weeks however, I’m undertaking some intense study of the music of Christian Wolff, whose music I feel leads one to consider heretofore unexplored territory. It’s sunny where I am now and there is an air of positivity. Long may it continue…

Nowhere Better Than This Place

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Last Saturday I went to an exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin where I saw Untitled, 1989/1990 by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a piece consisting of two large stacks of paper with the sentence Somewhere better than this place printed on one, Nowhere better than this place printed on the other. It certainly was food for thought in this age of mass migration and transition and maybe also a good analogy for thinking about music. Aspiring for the other is good, so too maybe is where one is… with that in mind, although this part of the internet resembles the land that time forgot, here is where I am for anyone that may be interested.

Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football Release

My forty-five minute electric guitar quartet performed and recorded by Ensemble Krock last July in Guerrilla Studios in Dublin (with production by John Murphy) is almost ready to be released by Birmingham Record Company. This release will also be accompanied by a video by Seán Zissou. Keep an eye on this page for an exact release date and how to obtain a copy.

Kirkos Ensemble – Blackout

I have recently been commissioned by Kirkos Ensemble to write a piece for solo cello as a companion to Steve Reich’s Different trains. My piece which uses the structure of Jonathan BurrowsBoth Sitting Duet will be performed in Kirkos Ensemble’s innovative concert series entitled Blackout in which all pieces will be performed in complete darkness and accompanied by a menu created by Gruel Guerrilla. For more details on this exciting project and how you can get involved please click here. It promises to be a truly unique and remarkable series of events.

Workers Union Ensemble Composer in Association

I am delighted to announce that I have recently been made composer in association with Workers Union Ensemble. This group is an amazing bunch of players and have recently completed a UK tour featuring Simon Steen Andersen’s wonderfully inventive On And Off And To And Fro. I am delighted to be working closely with them over the next year particularly on my most recent piece Thirty Minutes of Music on the Subject of Guillaume de Machaut written for them and fellow comrades Ensemble Krock. I’m really looking forward to beginning rehearsals with them this coming Sunday and seeing how this project and association unfolds over the coming months.

Xenia Pestova and smaller pieces

Two weeks ago during her fantastic Frontiers Festival performance in Birmingham, the wonderful pianist Xenia Pestova premiered a recent toy piano piece of mine Four Pieces of Music lasting Thirty Seconds Each. It was immensely refreshing to have the restriction of writing a very short piece (I have of late essentially only been writing very long pieces) and really made me think of the immediacy and distillation of ideas. It has opened up a series of thought processes which I will be pursuing (in conjunction with longer pieces) for the foreseeable future. Thanks to Xenia for affording me the opportunity to engage in this thought process.  To hear me hacking my way through these pieces click here (Four Pieces of Music Lasting thirty Seconds Each) and here (Three Lines of Music Lasting Seventy Seconds Each) 

I See Now Why People Hide performed at Leeds College of Music

Also about two weeks ago students at Leeds College of Music performed my 2011 ensemble piece I See Now Why People Hide in a slightly new arrangement. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the performance, but thanks to the students in Leeds and to Damien Harron for putting the piece on and I hope they enjoyed it!

Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards featured at David Lang’s What?… Wow Festival

In March my trio Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards was performed by Crash Ensemble at David Lang’s What?… Wow festival of music in Dublin. It was such a great pleasure to have my work performed alongside my most respected friends and peers by my most respected musicians. It was also an honour to be featured in a festival by many of the people who inspire me to compose on a daily basis and I was extremely privileged to hear fantastic brand new and newish work by Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang. Click here to hear Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards and click here and here to read some reviews of the festival.

Incidentally, it was an even greater pleasure to see my friends Stephen and Isobel get married that same weekend! 

Roberto Alonso Trillo Recording

In January I finished a piece Seven Minutes of Music on the Subject of Simulacra for solo violin which will be a companion piece for JS Bach’s Violin Partita in B minor BWV 1002. This piece will be recorded and released by Roberto Alonso Trillo which will feature the complete Partita in B minor and companion pieces to each moment composed by some of the leading composers in Europe and further afield. It was a great pleasure to be involved in this project and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition.  

David Adams performance

Way back in November, David Adams performed a new piece Ten Minutes of Music on the Subject of Furniture for piano and piano playback as part of the Irish Composers Collective ten-year anniversary. It was wonderful to hear this piece come to life with such a sensitive reading by David. Very nice also to be included in the celebrations of such a wonderful organisation. Thanks to all involved!  

Other projects and so on and so on

In addition to these activities, I am as always thinking of Somewhere better than this place. Incredibly interesting machinations have been set in motion for future projects with a number of different groups and artists who I think are the best around and I am also in the planning stages of a minimal electronic album which will be recorded over the summer of 2015. All the while I to and fro between Dublin and Birmingham Conservatoire where I am immensely fortunate to have the support of the most wonderful colleagues on the planet and the most inspiring students who constantly surprise with their inventiveness…

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