Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So does 2013 hasten to its end

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It is that time of year again to reflect (in a profoundly public arena) upon what I have been doing for the past year, as well as looking ahead as to what’s in store for 2014. As has been the case for the past number of years, things have been incredibly busy with virtually no time off (not a bad complaint)! Many fortunate opportunities came my way, affording me the great pleasure to meet and work with some incredibly brilliant musicians and allowing me to create art of which I am very proud.

2013 got off to a fantastic start with a wonderful performance of Findetotenlieder in Birmingham by Thumb conducted by Dan Watson. It is always a pleasure to work with Thumb and Dan. They work so hard on my music and really seem to understand it, resulting in brilliant performances. The year continued with me having the good fortune to work again with Thumb and Dan in March, this time joined by BCMG musicians Alexandra Wood and Kyle Horch for a performance of a new double concerto Strange to See You Again. I was so delighted both with this piece and its superb performance as I took many structural chances with this piece; which for me, completely paid off. I am indebted to the RVW trust for making this project possible. Staying with the early part of the year, I was commissioned by the UCD Ad Astra Scholars to set a WB Yeats text, resulting in the piece Décès for mixed voices and mixed ensemble which received its premiere in February conducted by Ciaran Crilly. It’s great to work with Ciaran and students from UCD, having been a student there myself with many fond memories; I always relish any opportunity to go back.

Also in the Spring, I workshopped a short piece Red, Blue, Orange with the incredible Fidelio Trio as part of New Music Dublin which was part of Ireland’s EU Presidency Cultural Programme in March. Although I was unhappy with the composed piece, I got a sense of what worked and what didn’t work within the medium of a piano trio. Nevertheless, I love working with Darragh, Mary and Robin. They are amongst the best players around and are so encouraging and dedicated to new music, performing with a heart and fastidiousness that is difficult to match. March also saw a number of repeat performances of I See Now Why People Hide in London and Birmingham by my close friends collaborators, Decibel conducted by Daniele Rosina. Having worked with Decibel a number of times on different pieces they really know my music inside out. It’s in their blood. They have so much energy and know exactly what I want. With such a dedicated group, I can only hope that this collaborative partnership lasts long into the future.

In addition to these early 2013 events, my band Nippons released their debut album to critical acclaim in the Irish Times, Red Bull Music and a number of independent music blogs, examples of which can be found here and here. A free download of the album can be obtained from our Bandcamp page here.

Later on in the year, I had the good fortune to be commissioned by the Britten-Pears foundation and Little Missenden Festival to write the piece Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards for Sara Minelli, Aisha Orazbayeva & Matthew Schellhorn. This piece marked a radical shift in direction for me in which I explored writing a music that explores singular activities that are devoid of drama. These are the ideas that currently occupy my thoughts and manifesting themselves in my work. Memetically, these same ideas found their way into a number of pieces composed during the Summer months; including, Fifteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Butterfly Dreams, a meditation on a philosophical premise by the Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi (to be realised in 2014), Ten Minutes of Music on the Subject of IKEA, (to be realised in 2014) and Three Minutes of Music performed a number of times by my new friends Workers Union Ensemble.  In addition to these Summer activities, I also wrote a short piano piece, Karnity June 2013 for my friends Emmet and Kashia to celebrate their beautiful Wedding in Poland as well as recording a second album with my band Nippons, featuring just two extended tracks and scheduled to be released in 2014. Whilst keeping with the subject of record releases, The CMC released an orchestral piece of mine Changing Rates of Change on their latest CD entitled New Music::New Ireland. This is a beautifully packaged CD featuring many new voices from Ireland and featuring a superb performance by the RTÉ NSO conducted by Gavin Moloney. I am grateful to all at the CMC  for selecting one of my pieces to be released and for all their hard work in getting it disseminated.

In the Autumn, I had the great pleasure of meeting and working with new collaborators in the form of the Workers Union Ensemble. It is so great to meet new ensembles that have a passion and excitement for new music and they performed Three Minutes of Music with great energy and precision on a number of occasions in London and Birmingham. I hope we can work together again in the very near future and I wish them every success in their bright future.

Special mention must be given this year to my time spent with the Bozzini Quartet. On two separate occasions, the first in Montreal and the second at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, I had the great privilege of working with this amazing quartet as part of their Composer’s Kitchen Project. Here I was a participant alongside fellow composers Marielle Groven, Simon Martin and Amber Priestley, as well as mentor composers Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle. It was such a fantastic experience to get to know my peer composers Marielle, Simon and Amber and Mentors Laurence and Michael on these two separate occasions. A pleasure to hear their music, hear them talk about their music and experience all their little eccentricities and how these filtered into their music. Their music for me was an extension of their personality and it was so heart warming to hear this play out. It was incredibly beautiful to hear their work develop over the two separate weeks and how it was tweaked, refined, rendered and given birth to in high-definition. It was also an honour to work with a quartet so dedicated to our music and so interested in bringing it to life. This was trumped only by their friendliness, hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth. Moreover, it was extremely fruitful getting to see this project through over two separate legs; hearing the pieces grow and becoming more and more refined, developing a strong relationship with the performers and seeing an incredibly polished object at the end of the project at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a group working as hard over such an extended period of time as the Bozzini Quartet. They performed my piece Neue Kraft Fühlend superbly, with the energy and delicacy that it deserves, balancing light and darkness perfectly. I am immensely proud of this piece as I am with this collaboration. This project had a huge impact on my aesthetic and working method and I am so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a class act as the Bozzini Quartet and I hope our creative paths cross again in the very near future.

All of this compositional work has taken place in tandem with my teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire where I am now a lecturer in composition. I am so fortunate to have a group of incredibly gifted colleagues and students who inspire me on a daily basis. It’s so interesting being in such a healthily creative environment and I am constantly stimulated and kept on my toes! Moreover, this year saw the launch of our new record label Birmingham Record Company that already has seen two releases by my esteemed colleague Michael Wolters in the form of Danserye and the double disc Kathryn and Peter Play the Recorder. This will soon be followed by a release by the remarkable composer Joe Cutler with future releases planed by Ed Bennett and myself later on in 2014.

As 2013 comes to a close, there is still much to look forward to at the very end of the year. My band Nippons play on 28 December in Dublin celebrating our convergence on the same geographical land mass. This event includes a number of great support acts including Liz is Evil, Monotone Bower and a new venture by myself and Thomas Parx called Appliance City.  As I move into 2014 there are many interesting projects and events lined up, including teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire, my RTÉ NSO Horizons concert in Dublin on 4 February, as well as the first part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Frontiers Festival which will focus on Downtown Music, including performances of Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, David Lang, Rhys Chatham, Pauline Oliveros, Elliott Sharp, Carl Stone as well as many student and faculty pieces.  I will be composing a new solo piano piece for Vicky Bonham for this festival as well as composing and performing in a new piece entitled Thirty Minutes of Music on the Subject of Soap Operas. Furthermore, I am incredibly excited to be working with the fantastic Swedish Ensemble KROCK and production company The Practice Tapes on an extended electric guitar quartet entitled Forty Five Minutes on the Subject of Football that will be realised in the summer of 2014. Also to look forward to is the release of Nippons second record, which is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in.

It’s an incredibly busy time ahead, but sure what else would I be doing! I hope you have had an equally brilliant and busy 2013 and I wish you every success in 2014.