A picture of an old lighthouse

I usually post something about music. Today I’m posting a photo I took on my phone in North Wales of a lighthouse.


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The dance along the artery

Below is the complete score and recording of a recent work for solo flute written for Kathryn Williams. This is a recent live performance recorded at Manchester’s International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

The piece is essentially in progress and is eventually intended as part of a substantial set.

The starting point for the piece was a conversation and some ideas surrounding Dalcroze. The pieces will all be based on techniques and ideas inspired by Dalcroze and movement.

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Decontamination #4 – Fantasy & Artificial Landscapes

I’m delighted that I can finally confirm the programme for November’s Decontamination concert featuring composer and cellist Oliver Coates:

Oliver Coates

Oliver Coates

Decontamination #4 – Fantasy & Artificial Landscape
Tuesday 10 November 2015, 8pm
Royal Northern College of Music, Studio Theatre

Trains – Joanne Bailie (cello and soundtrack)
Kottos – Iannis Xenakis (solo cello)
Unreal Estate – Oliver Coates & Lawrence Lek (cello, electronics, soundtrack and projection)
Opus 17a (extract) – Hanne Darboven

You can book tickets here.

The centrepiece of this short concert is Coates’ and Lek’s collaboration from earlier this year. Here Lek uses video game software to imagine a future in which the Royal Academy of Arts in London has been sold off as a privately owned luxury estate accompanied by a soundtrack by virtuoso cellist Oliver Coates and a voiceover of a found text from Russian Tatler magazine, translated into Mandarin by Joni Zhu. You can watch and hear this extraordinary piece of artwork here however the soundtrack and, potentially, the visuals themselves are tailored for each performance.


Lawrence Lek – ‘Unreal estate’

Joanna Bailie’s 2014 work Trains takes us on a fantastical journey by meticulously blending the her field recordings of trains with sounds from the live cello. As the processing and cello exposes more tangible pitch content the original field recordings are masked and well-known ‘found’ material from the cello cannon is revealed. The result is understated, surprising and ravishing.


Joanna Bailie


Iannis Xenakis

Kottos, Xenakis’ 1977 monolith for solo cello, is a piece of immense physical energy . The music evokes the fantastical imagery suggested by the title, Xenakis write in the score ‘Kottos is one of the three Giants (Sons of Ouranos, the Sky, and of Gaia, the Earth). Each one had a hundred arms and fifty heads. They were the allies of Zeus in his fight agains the Titans that were eventually defeated; allusion to the fury and the virtuosity necessary to the performance of this piece.’


Hanne Darboven

German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven’s Opus 17a forms part of her Mathematical Music output. Systematically controlled numerical data, prevalent in her installation work, informs the organisation of this  characteristically uncompromising minimal music.


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The dance along the artery

I’m very happy that my new solo flute piece The dance along the artery is going to be premiered by flutist extraordinaire Kathryn Williams at the 2nd International Dalcroze Conference tomorrow alongside a second performance and her presentation of a joint paper partially on the process of writing and collaborating on this. Rather dauntingly this piece is being premiered alongside Kathryn’s interpretation of Brian Ferneyhough’s monolithic solo flute work Unity Capsule.

The piece marks the start of a collaborative project exploring how observing and learning about The Dalcroze Method might inform an approach to composition as well as examining how Kathryn has employed the method in complex repertoire and music than has elements of parametric decoupling.

piece extract 3_0002 copy

The piece has, at its core, a very simple physical limitation; it only features fingerings that either use all the fingers, all the fingers of the left hand, all the fingers of right hand or no fingers at all. This has led to a surprising palette of pitches (more, given the range of harmonics and some multiphonics, than I might have expected initially). As part of the trajectory of the piece it has been fun to have some sections in which Kathryn has to battle with the instrument to pick out potentially problematic pitches, and at other points allows the fingering, embouchure, dynamic and embouchure indications to suggest the pitches (which are not specified).

piece extract 4_0003

It has, in some respects, been (for me) a refreshingly different approach to writing a short piece and I’m looking forward to being able to post a recording soon and developing the set and the related writing.

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New track extract

Ahead of The House of Bedlam playing at the Sandbar for Tom Rose and Jack Sheen’s ddmmyy series a week today here is an extract from a new track. This is the opening of Rta in its electronic form – next week it will be for flute, clarinet, guitar, cello as well as electronic sounds.

It’s always a pleasure bringing the group together and I’m also chuffed we’re playing, for the first time, Small brown spots by David Fennessy.

Also looking forward to Laurence Crane playing his own music with Michael Perrett.

Details here and here.

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Captive Perfumes

photo (1)

I’ve just been updating the information on my course for music and performance art for next year at the RNCM. I found this photograph (from one of the 2014 lectures) and it made me smile. I wasn’t able to use lighted cigarettes in the RNCM refectory so we used an e-cigarette with a pin concealed in the end. I’m not sure that Dr Sirocofran or Filippo Tommaso Marinette would have approved of this 21st century version and good behaviour.

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A couple of Radio links

I have a couple of pieces being featured on radio shows this week that I’d like to share.

Firstly the Norwegian broadcast of my piece for HCMF 2014 and Borealis 2015 is now online. This is a 30-minute piece for eleven instruments and was an enormously rewarding process with Ensemble BIT20 (and an outcome I’m proud of). You can hear it on NRK Radio here.

Also very happy to have ‘Radio tune’, a short bit of my EP for Slip Discs ‘A creche for the lonely and peculiar’, played on Beatrice Dillon’s NTS Radio Show which you can hear here. She plays it at 33rpm and I’ve come to much prefer this slower speed for this track. If you’re interested my track is about 1 hour and 40 minutes in but I’d listen to the whole show. I have and enjoyed it.

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Decontamination #3

I’m very happy that Decontamination #3 is happening this Sunday at 11am and 3pm in the RNCM Library and Studio theatre as part of the Big Weekend.

It’s humbling how many people have contributed so much time, effort and energy to this programme. There are seven acoustic world premieres for the occasion from exceptional RNCM students; four short responses to Erik Satie’s furniture music from Ben Parker, Aaron Breeze, Sergio Cote and David Curington; a prepared improvisation by double bassist and composer Otto Willberg; a response to Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports from Richard Evans and; a new piece for saxophone and ensemble considering ideas of ambient music by Jack Sheen. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing and seeing the RNCM library used for half of this concert.

There are also new or new versions of electronic pieces by Michael Brailey, Aaron Parker and Harry Fausing Smith’s band Pope Vivian.

Other featured composers are Morton Feldman, Michael Perrett, Erik Satie, Kaija Saariaho and Tom Rose.

In the Foyer you will have the chance to hear music by Eric Satie, Brian Eno, John Cage, Matthew Sergeant, Aaron Parker, Chris Watson and myself with an unusually specialised sound system and some interesting mixing or works. This will be running all day.

Each part of each concert will last less than 40-min. Full programme details below.


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A little sketch (kind of)


I’m in the process of starting a new work commissioned by the kick-ass saxophonist Meriel Price (for saxophone, cello and piano). I don’t usually post sketches but I thought I’d share this as it’s a little difference (for me).

The project is a kind of chain reaction starting with a piece I wrote back in 2006 for saxophone and piano. Meriel (who is a saxophonist, artist, improviser and composer herself) has made a film in response to my original piece and then has commissioned different practitioners to respond to each preceding piece in the chain. I’m now in the process of making a new piece to round the process off. You can read more about her project, Stimuli, here.

In the spirit of this multi-disciplinary approach I thought I’d have a go at making a little visual sketch. This is somewhat cathartic in itself. When I was 14 I was taken aside and gently told that despite my wide-eyed enthusiasm, extra time spent in the relevant part of the school, love of the subject, and saved pocket money to unnecessarily buy high quality materials (I could go on); that it would be in my best interest if I did not apply to take GCSE art. I believe that an unintentionally abstract expressionist interpretation of a still life pencil drawing is ultimately to blame. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m still not entirely over this.

I’ve also been thinking about an approach relevant to two recent(ish)pieces; the first movement of the orchestral work The Rules and the first movement of the ensemble work The Devotions. In both cases musical material is confined to specific instrumental groups and gradually transforms and overlaps (in the former case against a borrowed chorale and in the latter far more starkly). In the sketch above the three layers are these three instruments/instrumental groupings. The fixed element is the darkening blue squares that are initially separated and, in groups of three, gradually overlap. All the other shapes and colours are what emerges naturally from this pattern; pairs from left to right that reduce in size (red/brown and green); a pair that seems like it might behave in the same way but vanishes half way through (pale blue); and two ‘solos’ that increase and decrease in size in the right hand two-thirds of the sketch.

I haven’t decided how I’m going to employ this. It has really just been a way or organising my thoughts at the start of a new piece. However in my own naive way I think it looks kinda pretty (although the colours look very different here to how they look in the original software, a fitting testament to my monumental lack of knowledge of web colours etc.) however much it may vindicate the opinion of a GCSE art teacher two decades ago.

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Decontamination #3 –


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