Propaganda From The Islands

I’ve had a busy few months island hopping between the +353 and +44, but have been involved in many wonderful projects with fantastic musicians…

September

In September I had the great pleasure of hearing  my 2013 String Quartet Neue Kraft Fühlend performed by the RTÉ ConTempo Quartet as part of the Composing the Island Festival. They did a superb job on the piece and played with great energy. This was the first time that I had worked with the quartet and we will go on to do more concerts in 2017 with a new piece that I have recently completed for them (see details below). It was also great to hear really superb pieces by David FennessyEnda Bates, and Gráinne Mulvey in this concert. It was very nice to have been included in this festival, and it afforded me the opportunity to hear the best piece of orchestral music I have heard in a long time courtesy of Andrew Hamilton. This was really a stunning piece full of Joy and a little melancholy, and for me undoubtedly the highlight of the festival. I hope you can hear a recording of it soon!

Also in September, I had the immense fortune of working with Katie Kim and the Crash Ensemble on arrangements I made for them of Katie’s latest album Salt. These were  performed for the first time at the Engage Arts Festival in Bandon Co. Cork. Katie’s music is incredibly beautiful and resonates quite strongly with me, and the whole process from writing, to rehearsing, to the gig was one of the highlights of my career. We have plans to do this show again, and I hope more and more people get to hear this wonderful music.

At the same festival, my acousmatic piece Six Minutes of Music Created from Sound Around My Home was defused in a 1960s kitchenette. This piece, which I wrote in 2015, was the first piece of electronic music I had written since around 2008, and it is very nice to hear it being defused in different environments. Through this music I developed a renewed interest in electronic sound and it has led to many fruitful results.

October

In October, the above mentioned piece, Six Minutes of Music Created from Sound Around My Home was defused in Salerno in Italy at the 2016 AumentAzioni Festival alongside some of my Birmingham colleagues James DooleySimon HallEdmund Hunt, and David Revill. As mentioned above, I’m very happy that this piece is being heard in different spaces, and it was particularly nice to be featured in a festival alongside two heroes of electronic music John Chowning and Jean-Claude Risset.

November 

November was a very busy month, particularly around Birmingham Conservatoire. We auditioned potential students, had Ensemble Paramirabo over from Montreal doing both a student workshop and a wonderful concert of contemporary Canadian music, and also in the space of three weeks we welcomed Richard Ayres, Kevin Volans and  finally Michael Oesterle. It was wonderful having these three amazing composers around and hearing their insights into new music. A particular highlight for me was hearing our Thallein Ensemble conducted by Richard Baker perform a new piece by Michael Oesterle California, which was beautifully conceived, crafted and full of joy. The same concert contained fantastic new pieces by two of our students Peter Bell, and Patrick Ellis, and a really beautiful performance of my 2015 violin & Piano piece Five to Forty Seconds which was played magnificently and full of tenderness by Lieva StarkerEric Mcelroy.

Around this time, it was also an immense pleasure to hear two brand new pieces by Kevin Volans performed by BCMG and the The Signum Quartet. Both pieces were largely based around the same material, but realised in different ways. The String Quartet was incredibly clear, focused, refined and perfectly composed, like a beautiful black & white photograph. This was executed brilliantly by the Signum Quartet. The Piano Concerto displayed the same material handled in different ways; however, this time it was full of colour and antiphonal dialogue between the ensemble, all the while the piano steadfastly held everything together, performed amazingly by Barry Douglas and BCMG.

Forthcoming projects

I am delighted to have been included in the 2017 New Music Dublin Festival which focuses on the music of Gerald Barry and Thomas Adès. My new String Quartet Four Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop will be premiered by the RTÉ ConTempo Quartet on 4 March 2017, alongside works by Linda Buckley and Thomas Adès.

Throughout the month of March, the RTÉ ConTempo Quartet will continue to perform my new piece, touring it around the country on the following dates:

16 March 2017, 1800: City Gallery, Limerick 
19 March 2017, 1500: St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny 
23 March 2017, 2000: Triskel, Cork
26 March 2017, 1500: Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin

These concerts will also feature music by Joseph Haydn and Béla Bartók.

More info and tickets available here.

Also, towards the end of March, I will be performing a new hour-long piece on modular and FM synthesisers with some projected conceptual literature. This will be my first outing as a solo synthesiser performer and will take place during Birmingham’s Frontiers Festival. We are living in troubled times, and I hope that this performance will be in some way a response to these times, which will make people think…

Top Tips

Finally, I listen to a lot of new music, but I’d like to single out two recent releases which you should really check out. The first is Hubris by Oren Ambarchi  which is frankly one of the best things I’ve heard in a long, long time. The second is Thought Withdrawal by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, who is one of my favourite musicians on the planet, and as far as I can tell, can do no wrong… Both are stunning records, get them if you can.

Till soon!

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