A walk I do

carlaARUComposed for Carla Rees (Kingma system alto flute), with support from the Britten-Pears Foundation and first performed at The Forge, London in May 2016. Like my other recent works.  A walk I do is a composed work that combines instrumental performance with live audio and text processing. In this case I asked Carla to send me an informal description of a favourite walk, which I used as found material. As in another similar piece, Paul’s walk, originally written for clarinetist Paul Roe, the text itself is not so important as the fact that in describing, a person conveys their relationship to place, and the way we all relate to our environment through personal memory and experiences.

Download the app (contains score and info) and important installation notes  [only runs on Mac – OSX 10.9 or higher, email if any probs] You need an audio interface and dual display/projection to perform the piece but can test it without these]. Have a look at the score.

Here’s a screen movie (for audition/viewing purposes only)

carlaDMU

A walk I do was made in Openframeworks (visuals) and puredata (audio) although the final software interface is packaged as a standalone mac osx app. Although written for specific performers initially, all my recent works are designed to be adaptable to other instrumentations and performable with software that requires minimal technical knowledge. Get in touch if you’re interested in discussing a version.

 

 

Paul’s Walk

for performer(s), live text and audio processing. Text by Paul Roe. First performance (original version), Up Close With Music, Concorde Ensemble, Dublin April 2015. I’ve recently revised the piece significantly, and it is now available as an app for Mac.

Paul’s Walk is a semi-improvisatory live work. It can be performed by any instrument (or two, sharing the part) but probably works best for sustaining instruments (e.g. woodwind or strings). This screen movie is of an older version. Paul’s Walk version 2: updated 2017 – download here: score / app (Mac OSX) / performance instructions

Paul’s Walk from novamara on Vimeo.

To try it out all you need to do is download the score and app, and use headphones and the mac’s internal microphone.

Lately I’ve been making interactive or ‘responsive’ pieces that are a mix of music, text and sound, on themes to do with place – what it means and how it feels to walk and be in a landscape. This piece was originally composed for clarinetist Paul Roe. The words are taken from Paul’s informal description of a favourite walk, Upper lake at Glendalough in Co. Wicklow – a walk he says he ‘truly loves’.

 

 

 

Trying to translate


Duration 15 minutes, composed 1992 (revised electronics, 2014), for piano, live electronics and digital sound.

Score

Please contact me if you’d like more information on performance materials — the latest version uses puredata software (open source) and the patch is more-or-less automated

In Trying to translate I treat the distinction between a recorded sound world and the live piano performance as a metaphor for translation more generally.

Much of the recorded source material comes from a radio documentary in which a female speaker describes the problems of translating from Gaelic to English and how translation affects meaning, vocabulary and ‘takes away from the magic of the sounds’. In the course of this discussion, she describes the decline of Gaelic music since the 1950s ‘with the advent of television’, and in particular Gaelic heterophony, where congregations sing ornate renditions of psalm and hymn tunes, each person singing at their own speed. I was struck by both the beauty of the speaker’s voice and the emotion behind her meaning; I share her sorrow that old ways of making music about, and for, everyday life have disappeared or faded from general use, and also have a particular fondness for the glorious, but intimate, sound of Gaelic psalm singing, which appears in the fixed sound part and — transcribed and ‘translated’ — forms the basis of the piano writing.

Trying to translate was commissioned by the Mead/Montague duo, with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and was first performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1991.The speech is from a BBC Radio 3 Soundings documentary, and is used by kind permission of the BBC (I don’t know the identity of the speaker). Trying to translate is recorded on Transparent things (Metier), music by Katharine Norman performed by Philip Mead

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Memory places

for small ensemble

Composed in 1991, Memory places is a piece I wrote as a graduate student at Princeton, almost as an ‘escape’ from being immersed in the world of computer music and sound manipulation. It draws its inspiration from the Renaissance notion of the ‘Theatre of Memory’ (I had recently read Frances Yates’ extraordinary book on the subject), and the fact that instrumental music – played by live, human performers – is a remembering of sound quite unlike that of recorded sound, entailing a building of sonic ‘edifices’ before our very ears. While I was probably dwelling overly on ontological niceties, I was also enjoying the experience of writing for people, to play. Aspects of these concerns are built into the way the piece is composed, with performers responding to each others’ materials and ‘picking up’ aural objects for quasi-improvisation. It was the last piece I wrote in this vein, but I was quite pleased with the result – and this wonderful performance by the Princeton New Music Ensemble.The piece has been performed in both the UK and USA, and reached the finals of the ALEA II International Composition Competition, receiving a performance conducted by Gunther Schuller.

Recording: Princeton New Music Ensemble, live performance. Please contact me if you’d like a score.

Helpful Instructions for Circus Performers

featuretopScore

This rather eccentric set of pieces for solo percussion, intended as not a little ironic in tone, was commissioned for Simon Limbrick to play at a concert of music by composers then working at Goldsmiths, University of London. The university supported the concert, held at The Warehouse, London and hosted a reception afterwards. Simon did a fantastic job, and even wore a bow tie. I think it may have been a revolving one. This and the other newly commissioned works were duly entered as ‘research outputs’ for the impending Research Assessment Exercise, so guaranteeing more likelihood of prestige and – more importantly – funding, for another few years. Jumping through hoops does not feature in this piece, except for figuratively speaking, but a number of other circus tricks are described.

Outside its original context, the piece provides a set of light-hearted virtuoso pieces. If you’d like to perform them, please feel free to cut and edit to suit the occasion. See the score for essential programme notes. Unfortunately there is no recording.

Icarus


(live performance, Electric Voices)

Score (scan of hard copy – 18MB)

Icarus (for four voices and ‘tape’ – fixed digital sound) was commissioned by Sonic Arts Network and first performed at the Purcell Room, London, in 1993 by Electric Voices. It was also selected for the ISCM World Music Days, in 1995.

In this piece the myth of Icarus is interwoven with brief extracts from Leonardo’s astounding writings on flight, and on the sun, some of which are given below. Both could be said to represent a yearning for distant possibilities, spiritual or otherwise.

…You will study the anatomy of the wings of a bird together with the muscles of the breast which are the movers of these wings. And you do the same for man in order to show the possibility that there is in man to sustain himself amid the air by the flapping of wings…

…Why the sinews beneath the bird’s wings are more powerful than those above. It is done for the movement… … in order that the process of going up may be easy, and that of going down difficult and meeting with resistance, and it is especially adapted for going forward drawing itself back in the manner of a file…

…That bird will rise on high which by means of a circular movement in the shape of a screw makes its reflex movement against the coming of the wind and against the flight of this wind, turning always upon its right or left side… When the bird passes from a slow to a swift current of the wind it lets itself be carried by the wind until it has devised a new assistance for itself… …the bird has always time to redirect its course and in safety adjust its flight which will always proceed entirely free.

The sun does not move.
The sun has substance, shape, motion, radiance, heat… …for in the whole world I do not see a body of greater magnitude and power than this… …all vital force descends from it since the heat that is in living creatures comes from the soul and there is no other heat or light in the universe.

These texts are used as material for the singers and the digital part, in the latter they are processed using a variety of computer techniques. The recordng is from a live performance and doesn’t really do the singers enough justice – they did a marvellous job, and toured the work throughout the UK. I’ve also used and reworked the material from the digital part in Leonardo’s Lists, a piece for dance, live image and video (by Brian Newbold) and live sound, commissioned by Elektrodome and South West Arts (2000).

Two Thumbs Up (July 15th, 1978)

solo piano, 3 minutes – 2005.


(Clive Williamson)
Composed to be played with thumbs only, a baroque suite in miniature based on Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’.

Download score 

 

 

 

 

 

Programme notes (to be read at performance):

a one-minute true story…(remembering to inhale)…so me and linda cadge a lift to bob dylan’s gig in ‘78 from our stoned english teacher and very pregnant wife who realise they forgot their tickets when we reach guildford so me and linda get out and stick up our thumbs to hitch – festooned in beads and indian print – hoping for hunky hippies in a vw camper van but getting a nice clean st john ambulance man in a mini who took us all the way to where we sat down with 250,000 people and were just preparing to ‘inhale deeply’ when we saw my little sister sitting 10 feet away – it sometimes seems like life is mostly thumbs.

Composed for Clive Williamson to play at the 2005 Guildford International Music Festival—(sorry, Clive!). Full-quality recording released on Cadenza, as is a score of the whole collection.

Transparent things

Solo piano, 1996.

(Philip Mead, piano)
Score

Transparent things, through which the past shines!
Man-made objects, or natural ones, inert in themselves but much used by careless life (you are thinking, and quite rightly so, of a hillside stone over which a multitude of small animals have scurried in the course of incalculable seasons) are particularly difficult to keep in surface focus: novices fall through the surface, humming happily to themselves, and are soon reveling with childish abandon in the story of this stone, of that heath
Vladimir Nabokov

The pieces can be performed as a set (keeping the order below) or individually/in pairs, as the pianist prefers.

  • Cold Light, 6.a.m.
  • Still, Clear (for VRM)
  • Frozen Edge
  • Long Causeway

Commissioned for Stephen Gutman, with funds provided by a Holst Award.

Duration approx. 16 minutes (whole set).

The four pieces which make up Transparent things each explore notions of transparency: the idea of looking through a surface in search of something less tangible, and more resonant. They were inspired by both the above quotation and my long walks on and around Stanage Edge, in the Peak District, Derbyshire (UK). Although the individual pieces came from memories of specific times and places, they are not overtly programmatic. Perhaps I was seeking a musical analogy for that growing clarity of mind than can arise during a solitary walk, when there is time to reflect, to remember and to get thoughts and dreams into focus.

This piece is recorded by Philip Mead on CD (Transparent things)

Fuga Interna (suspend)

Piano, 2010.

Fuga Interna (begin) is the fifth piece in a series for piano, Fuga Interna, and was first performed by Philip Mead.

Download score

All the works in the Fuga Interna series are inspired by my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Like all the pieces in the series, this Fuga Interna (begin includes brief references to any that came before, though it is not necessary to know this to appreciate the work, nor to perform the works in order. This Bach fugue is a constant companion in all my compositional endeavours, and has been for some thirty years.

B contained

For solo clarinet and digital fixed sound, 2000.

confined … enclosed … implied … revealed

[B] contained was commissioned by Jane O’Leary/Concorde for Paul Roe to play at the Galway Arts Festival. I wrote this piece very much with Paul in mind, and his particular ability to explore the more experimental timbres contained within the clarinet. The first performance was in the context of a contemporary art exhibition on the theme of ‘containers’, and the pieces were played in the midst of the exhibition with the audience around.

Listening to music offers, among so many things, a refuge in which to be contained. Here, the digital sound provides a sonic container for the live performer. All the electronic material in this piece was created from an initial recording of the note ‘b’, played on clarinet. This note, less than a second long, is looped and played continuously throughout, though sometimes the original is almost inaudible, masked by its various incarnations and developments. The player doesn’t actually get to play a ‘b’ until the final section of the piece. Instead, the clarinet line gradually incorporates pitches to either side of this elusive goal, which it surrounds or ‘contains’ and – at the same time – strives to reach.

A thank you to Ross Bencina – this was my first piece using his very nice software, Audiomulch.

Making Place

Making Place

Here, setting out alone,
feet heavy in the clay,
travel seems a blind cacophony
replete with ancient allegories.
read full text

Scroll down to download materials and for more info.

 

Making Place is a poetic exploration of place, and place making, for one or two performers and live interactive processing of animation, text and audio. It can be performed by any instrument capable of realising a version of the semi-improvisatory score.

click to: DOWNLOAD MATERIALS AND INFO (Macapp, score etc).Please feel free to experiment – or get in touch.

Everything you need is at this download link. As of 2016 the performer uses the score in conjunction with a mac app (OSX) that can be preloaded with the performer’s choice of field recordings and images. You are encouraged to incorporate your own images and recorded sounds.There are currently score versions for piano solo, piano duo, violin solo, violin and ‘cello, and ‘cello solo, but almost any pitched instrument could interpret the score.

Making Place was commissioned by Kate Halsall with funds from the Arts Council of England and the Britten Pears Foundation. First performance, Sonorities festival, Belfast, April 2013 (one piano version).Other performances Falmouth University, Cornwall, May 2013 (two pianos – Kate Halsall, Fumiko Miyachi), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (Kate Halsall), New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2015 (violin, Maja Cerar), International Computer Music Conference Athens, ZKM Karlsruhe (piano, Sebastian Berweck), Mannes College, New School NYC (piano, Daniel Schreiner).

Insomnia

Oboe, percussion and fixed sound, 2001.
for oboe, percussion and digital sound, performed by New Noise

 

insomnia-preface

insomniascore

contact composer for ‘tape part’.

Insomnia. The inability to sleep, despite attempts at rest. Like an insomniac this piece is agitated and unable to settle. The instrumentalists inhabit a dark, oppressive world which is constantly active, fragmentary and bordering on nightmare. The work was partly inspired by my own experience of insomnia, which usually strikes when I am making work or writing, and by Sylvia Plath’s poem, ‘Insomniac’.

Although composed for oboe and percussion, I’m happy for you to arrange it for any instrument and percussion or to discuss alternatives.

Losing it is a related text-based digital piece using similar materials.

Insomnia was commissioned by New Noise (Joby Burgess and Janey Miller) in 2001. Recorded on their CD Insomniac.

High Force

for piano solo, 1988.


Score (scan of hard copy – 24 MB download)

The piece was originally written for pianist (and physicist) Steven Neugarten, who said ‘why not write a piece about turbulence?’ and got my particular interpretation of the idea, a virtuoso piece that proceeds from bottom to top of the piano, becoming more and more complex, with a structure based on a quite rigorous use of Fibonacci principles. The piece was first performed by Steven as a finalist in the British Contemporary Piano Competition. This recording is from Philip Mead, who set up the same competition.

High Force is a waterfall in County Durham, surrounded by impressive pine trees and dark rock walls that have an almost cathedral-like presence. The water falls headlong for about 70 feet, landing in a surging pool, coloured by the surrounding peat and granite. Watching it, I was mesmerised by the great mass of water which seems at once changeless and constantly changing. After staring for a while the granite and the water seem to merge as one. In this piece I sought to capture that feeling of relentlessness and turbulent motion, and the erosion of one, apparently unyielding, element by another, more fluid idea.

Recorded by Philip Mead on Transparent things.

Thescore was computer set by Barnes Music Engraving, to use as an example of their work. I remain extremely grateful to this day that they were so kind as to do this for one penniless young-ish composer. But the amazing quality of their work is its own recommendation.

Fuga Interna (begin)

Piano and fixed sound, 2011.

Fuga Interna (begin) is the sixth piece in a series for piano, Fuga Interna, and the first to include a digital part, which also includes a text by myself. The work is about listening, learning to play the piano, my mother, age and memory. The digital part contains a transformed version of the first piece in the series, Fuga Interna (opposed sonorities), performed by Philip Mead – who, by a nice coincidence, at one time taught Xenia Pestova, for whom this piece was written. Please contact me if you’d like the digital part sent to you. You can download the score below.

beginpic
Download score

She said…
Put your hand here, beside mine
Where the black key meets the white
(She said…)
Lift your finger — that’s right
Now, down again
Here
…and listen.
A simple act of causality.
The first notes begin.

One day you will look down at your hand
and see your mother’s,
underneath the surface.

The way the skin has creased into old age,
The way the knuckles have thickened,
The way the fingers move and stretch,
The way things fall.

She forgets things now.
I place my hand beside hers
To steady her in the fog where life is no longer black or white
Her small hand against mine…

She says…
I play the piano, sometimes — I sing, sometimes
I still know the old songs.
(She says…)

She is losing herself gradually — in parts
Things no longer follow one after the other
There is less and less to remember.
The last notes begin.

This is the last (to date) of a series of Fuga Interna pieces for piano. All the works in the Fuga Interna series are inspired by my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Like all the pieces in the series, Fuga Interna (begin) includes brief references to those of the set that came before, though it is not necessary to know this to appreciate the work, nor to perform the works in order. The Bach fugue is a constant companion in all my compositional endeavours, and has been for many years.

Fuga Interna (ascent)

Solo piano, 2000.

Fuga Interna (ascent), composed in 2000 for performance by Philip Mead at the British Music Information Centre, London as part of a concert of my solo piano work.

ascentpic
Download score

This is one in a continuing series of relatively short works for piano, , started in 1997 (and very much still in progress). Each contains brief ‘quotes’ from those that preceded it, but the pieces can be performed in any order and combination, as the performer prefers. All are inspired by the pianist for whom I wrote the particular piece, and also from my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a work that’s a constant companion in many of my compositional endeavours. As I play it at the piano, it offers a place to meditate on performing and listening. The way in which the pieces refer to the Bach are often quite rigorous and defined, although deliberately not audibly apparent.

This is one in a continuing series of relatively short works for piano, Fuga Interna, started in 1997 (and very much still in progress). Each contains brief ‘quotes’ from those that preceded it, but the pieces can be performed in any order and combination, as the performer prefers. All are inspired by the pianist for whom I wrote the particular piece, and also from my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a work that’s a constant companion in many of my compositional endeavours. As I play it at the piano, it offers a place to meditate on performing and listening. The way in which the pieces refer to the Bach are often quite rigorous and defined, although deliberately not audibly apparent

Fuga Interna (turn and run)

Solo piano, 2003.

No recording just yet for this one yet, sorry.

turn
Download score

This is one of a continuing series of relatively short works for piano, started in 1997 (and very much still in progress). Each contains brief ‘quotes’ from those that preceded it, but the pieces can be performed in any order and combination, as the performer prefers. All are inspired by the pianist for whom I wrote the particular piece, and from my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a work that’s a constant companion in many of my compositional endeavours. As I play it at the piano, it offers a place to meditate on performing and listening listening.

The way in which the Bach piece is referred to is often inaudible, or not clear, but the methods are often quite rigorous, even if the connections are rarely overtly discernible. Fuga Interna (turn and run) was originally composed for Andrew Zolinsky, and obsesses on a particular figure that is characterized by a final ‘turn’.

Fuga Interna (thirds)

Solo piano, 2000.

 

Fuga Interna (thirds), composed in 2000 for performance by Clive Williamson at The Warehouse, London, as part of the Cutting Edge series.

thirdspic
Download score

This is one of a continuing series of relatively short works for piano, started in 1997 (and very much still in progress). Each contains brief ‘quotes’ from those that preceded it, but the pieces can be performed in any order and combination, as the performer prefers. All are inspired by the pianist for whom I wrote the particular piece, and also from my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a work that’s a constant companion in many of my compositional endeavours. As I play it at the piano, it offers a place to meditate on performing and listening. The way in which the pieces refer to the Bach are often quite rigorous and defined, although deliberately not audibly apparent

Fuga Interna (opposed sonorities)

Solo piano, 1997.
Fuga Interna (opposed sonorities), composed for performance by Stephen Gutman at the Purcell Room, London as part of The Debussy Studies Project, which I helped to organise.

opposedpic
Download score

This is the first of a continuing series of relatively short works for piano. Each contains brief ‘quotes’ from those that preceded it, but the pieces can be performed in any order and combination, as the performer prefers. All are inspired by the pianist for whom I wrote the particular piece, and also from my experience of playing Bach’s Fugue in B minor, Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a work that’s a constant companion in many of my compositional endeavours. As I play it at the piano, it offers a place to meditate on performing and listening. The ways in which the pieces refer to the Bach are often quite rigorous and defined, although not necessarily audibly apparent.

Trilling Wire

clarinet and fixed sound, 1994.

Score (note, this is a scan of a handwritten score, 26.4MB download)

Trilling Wire was commissioned by Jonathan Cooper, whose playing also features on the digital sound part, and is the source of most of the digital material, and the recording here.

The piece is dedicated to him, and was first performed at the Aarhus Concert Hall, in 1994, as part of the International Computer Music Conference. Quite a few clarinetists have performed it since – it’s a virtuoso piece and requires the performer, best amplified, to co-ordinate with a fixed sound part, but does not require extended techniques. The title is taken from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

The trilling wire in the blood

Sings below inveterate scars

Appeasing long forgotten wars.

The dance along the artery

The circulation of the lymph

Are figured in the drift of stars.

Trilling Wire is recorded on London, a CD of music by Katharine Norman (NMC 034), also available by download.