This is About (and other things)

It has been a while since I’ve written here. The past few months have been pretty busy with the demands of my job in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, as well as getting to grips with parenthood (I’m not quite in it a year yet).

Nevertheless, I have been trying to do some things, that some people might find interesting.

In early January, an extensive interview with me appeared in the Journal of Music conducted by the musicologist and critic Adrian Smith. In the article, I responded to some criticisms from Raymond Deane about my music and the work of some of my peers. Respectfully disagreeing with Raymond, I argued against dialectics, drama and narrative in music. Instead I offered examples of what I consider to be good music that eschews this tradition in favour of work that is more contemplative and offers space in an increasingly claustrophobic and anxiety inducing world. There are also a few words on some of my own pieces and compositional processes. You can read the article/interview here if you are interested: Tired of the Confrontational.

In February, I released the recording of my piece ireland england. I toured this piece around the UK in 2018 supported by Culture Ireland GB18 and was very happy to release both the video with text projection (link above), as well as the audio recording on my bandcamp label, available here and below. I’m very happy with how this piece turned out, as I think (at the time at least) it drew people’s attention to several pertinent questions. Additionally, I was very fortunate to meet and play with many incredible musicians during the tour.

Between February and May, I was engaged in the composition and devising of a new piece co-composed by myself and Andy Ingamells called This is About (pictured above, photo credit: Tom Earl). Using the Irish sport of hurling as a starting point, the piece tries to explore subjects related to fatherhood, friendship, Englishness, Irishness, (toxic) masculinity, cooperation, and being open to suggestion. Lasting about an hour, the piece saw us running old basketball drills in space blankets, making field recordings of hurling matches in counties Clare, Galway as well as the recycling plant in Poolbeg in Dublin (in search of an 18th century handball alley), using these field recordings as a score (in parts), pucking around with each other with varying degrees of complexity, playing synthesizers, hurling over a piano, recording and layering freestyle moves in real-time creating a complex web of sound, using cue notation to determine coordinated events, playing a piano with a hurly stick, whistling, talking, and finally, singing in the style of football hooligans. There was a lot in the piece both physically and emotionally, and it took a number of days for me to recover from the first performance, which we gave in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire to launch the Birmingham Record Company // NMC partnership on 2 May. The piece was recorded by BBC Radio 3 and will be broadcast in a feature show in the autumn of 2019. Myself and Andy also have plans to tour the piece around Ireland in 2020 as well as some places in the UK. If you’re interested in putting us on anywhere get in touch with me here.

A day or two before this event, I had the pleasure of playing in Centrala in Birmingham with some students and friends (Khyam Allami, Sam Underwood, Sarah Farmer, Gloria Yehilevsky, and Jesse Perlstein) in an instalment of Jesse Perlstein’s graphic score Braided Sound. It was very nice to meet Jesse (his first time in Birmingham I believe) as well as playing with some really fantastic musicians. If you’re interested there is a recording of the performance here.

On Thursday 20 June, Sunken Foal released a recent piece of mine Green, Yellow, Blue on his lovely countersunk label. This was part of his 101BPM project in which he asked a number of composers/producers/artists to write an electronic piece where the only brief was that it needed to be 101 bpm. For me it was a great honour to be asked to be part of this compilation as it includes many, many people that I respect and admire. Dunk has also done a wonderful job mastering and sowing the whole thing together to bring the listener on a coherent journey. I very much enjoyed the process of this project and hope to do more stuff like this in the future. You can hear the track here and below, and I believe there will be a physical release of the whole compilation later in the year.

In some forthcoming news, I will be releasing my new album and then you… through my Bandcamp label on 2 August 2019. This new album is made up of three pieces connected to my sons life. The first and longest piece called and then you came into existence is about 30 minutes long and was written and recorded the night before my son was born. The second piece called and then you smiled was written when I was away from my son working in Birmingham and recorded whilst my students were on their break from my gamelan class. It is about 4 minutes long. The third and final piece is called and then you had a sleep regression and is based on a recording of me shakily singing and trying to sooth my son to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. It is about 15 minutes long. The whole thing is an incredibly personal album, and I’m really happy with the results, but I hope it resonates with other listeners also. More on this, with an excerpt in a slightly later post…

Finally, in related news, on 19 October 2019, NMC will re-release (in a limited physical run) my Birmingham Record Company album Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football performed by Ensemble Krock. This is very exciting for me as this piece was my first long-form composition and also my first release, so I’m very excited that it will filter down into a larger network through the work of NMC. It should be available to buy from their online shop here in October, as well as appearing on all streaming services.

For now, I’m taking about a month off to spend with my family, but for the future, I’m planning some nice projects with some very interesting people, as well as sitting on two albums worth of recordings (schematics and a collection of name pieces) which will hopefully see the light of day in 2020. So if you’re interested in any of these releases or projects, check back here or twitter.com which I update a bit more regularly.

Till soon etc…