Next week Kathryn Williams is performing her concert Coming up for air. This concert, preoccupied with breathing and breath, is being put on to raise some money for Help Musicians UK.
Last year Kathryn was in serious risk of having to rethink her career. A long-standing sinus problem aggravated by allergy and infection was making it increasingly painful and impractical to play the flute. She required an operation and had been on an NHS waiting list for over 18 months.
Help Musicians UK acted within a fortnight of Kathryn contacting them. They were warm, understanding and completely helpful. They paid for the operation which was done within a month. I am in awe of the efficiency of their system. I’m also aware that Kathryn’s is one story amongst many. In the music profession, where even relatively minor injury or illness can prove career damaging or ending, this charity is so important. In this uncertain political climate, an efficiently run charity that prioritises the wellbeing of musicians, regardless of genre, is essential.
You can make a donation to Help Musicians UK through Kathryn’s Coming up for air JustGiving page here. Please donate; they do good things.
The concert is at 1900 on the 7th of June at Islington Mill. Info here.
Rather excitingly the concert includes new pieces by a diverse bunch of composer friends including:
Michael Baldwin, Megan Grace Beugger, CHAINES, Oliver Coates with chrysanthemum bear, Eleanor Cully, Vitalija Glovackyte, Mauricio Pauly, Michael Perrett, Jack Sheen, Laurie Tompkins, John Webb and Nina Whiteman.
She is also playing Brian Ferneyhough’s megawork Unity Capsule and Alvin Lucier’s Self portrait for flute & wind anemometer (the anemometer is pictured in the flyer).
I’ve made a text score for the concert. Here it is:
Here is the new version of a fairly recent piece Extracts from South Korea and Japan 2002 – a ‘setting’ for solo flute and projected text of extracts of Matthew Welton’s long poem responding to fixtures from the 2002 World Cup. It is played extremely well by Kathryn Williams in a live recording from Café OTO last December (performing as part of the #ddmmyy series).
This was originally written in 2015 in response to a commission from The London Sinfonietta. That version had a rather demur projection and was scored for oboe. This update is definitely an improvement. This was the first piece I wrote with projected text, something I’m still exploring. I’m fascinated by how, as I read the text, the sounds are coloured. This goes further in The book of Matthew (performed in the same concert) and I have more experiments planned.
This is also part of an ongoing set of pieces with Kathryn. The first one in the set The dance along the artery is being revised now and I’m adding a small projected part.
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.
I’m completely delighted that my piece the clouds flew round with the clouds is now out on Oliver Coates wonderful new records Towards the blessed islands on the PRAH label.
I wrote this piece for Olly’s 30th birthday and I’m really happy that it has been released and been broadcast more extensively than anything I’ve ever written.
You can hear my track here.
Wonderful mix from slip discs founder Laurie Tompkins is now online as the November nonclassical podcast. You can hear a sneak preview of a couple of tracks from the forthcoming GOVES ep available on 3 December.
Check it out here.