Composed 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.
Here’s a screen movie (for audition/viewing purposes only)
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.
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
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’.
Music by friend and fellow composer Richard Hoadley , words by me – written and recorded to use within an interactive work, Piano Glyphs, with pianist Philip Mead. Performed at De Montfort University Cultural Exchanges festival, 26 February 2015.
To start, hands still.
Content at first to pedal,
knees rising and falling,
Making stationary journeys
in Aunt Win’s stuffy parlour
the pianola unfurls its pattern,
punching airy absences
into the middle class gloom.
The invisible other’s papery digits
are miraculously exhumed
and the keys move
to mark the time.
The touch, fingers down.
Fleshy pads leech secret heat
from darkened ebony
and ridged whorls rub
on slivered ivory tusk.
A tactile dissonance beneath this black and white
hints at a sprawling history of lust
(of animal desire)
concealed in those chaste meetings.
they felt so good.
But that rough purchase
has long since been usurped.
Now there’s the syrupy clasp
of skin on plastic.
Now there’s a new glossary,
a different trade.
The moral slip and slide
Keep it legato, if you can (An interlude)
Miss Norman will play some skipping music,
and fifteen infant ballerinas in pink attire will hop
left leg, then right,
across a cold church hall.
They jolt discretely,
too graceless yet to fake that blended join
from leap to leap.
It comes with practice — the piano is the same.
The phrases that we long to get just right.
The limpid, liquid, pearly grains that run and trill,
and peal and flow,
and try to skip along.
One sound follows another,
the action rises, then it falls — no true glissando here.
Think ahead and grasp
towards the next moment.
We dance freely without limits
only in our minds.
Reach inside, be brave.
This overstrung contraption
with its lid-skin lifted
to expose the innards — tendons, hammers, metal frame, and folded felt.
The instrument laid bare for examination.
A candlelit cadaver in a sitting room,
dragged home by night
from some disgusting charnel house.
The lights go down.
The audience waits to be amazed
at revelations from a bloodless corpse.
A hand plucks life from swaddled strings,
a movement etched in clouds of resonating wire.
The internal is entirely strange.
Suddenly, here is a new translation.
Don’t forget to get the piano tuned.
The process is quite arbitrary.
We make assumptions.
Check the 4ths and 5ths,
and choose a scale.
Doubling the frequency
from F to F,
from C to shining C.
But there’s no real independence,
just a wobbling indecision as to possible divisions
that have changed, from year to year.
At last, the piano tuner starts to play,
smiles, picks up a snatch of melody,
and plays again.
Gleefully we sit back down,
lift our fingers,
move them to and fro.
The range is fixed, you know.
and a minor third
to bring things to a close.
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.
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).
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.
Put your hand here, beside mine
Where the black key meets the white
Lift your finger — that’s right
Now, down again
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…
I play the piano, sometimes — I sing, sometimes
I still know the old songs.
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.