Nancarrow in NY

I'm delighted to report that I am co-curating a Conlon Nancarrow Festival at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in June.  I've been working on some new arrangements for the event, with a solo marimba version of Study #5 to be premiered by Chris Froh, and a four-quartets-at-different-speeds-conducted-by-computers extravaganza to be played on multiple outdoor levels by the extraordinary Alarm Will Sound. Other guests include Saxsophonist Steve Coleman, Henry Kaiser, Lukas Ligeti and The Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation. More information about the event is available at the Whitney's website.

A MIDI representation of Nancarrow's Study #36. A canon in four parts with the tempo ratios of 17:18:19:20 (Image: Dominic Murcott)

Drumming again

After a gap of 14 years I have started playing the drums again. I began my musical life as a drummer but gradually became more involved with composing and teaching before selling my kit around 2001. It is such a pleasure to be playing again, and I've started a free improvisation group with Elliot Galvin, Laura Jurd and Oren Marshall and we will be playing our first gig at the Vortex on the 19th April.

In preparation I'm doing lots of solo imrpovisations:

CALM and depression

The tragic loss of Vincent Sipprell, viola player, remixer, creator, member of the Elysian Quartet and the duo Geese has made me consider our collective emotional and mental health. After a prolonged period of depression Vince took his own life. He was 35 years old. While coming to terms with the loss of a friend, I have been shocked to read that suicide is now the primary cause of death in the UK of men between 20 and 45.

The charity CALM was set up in 1997 to help prevent suicides in men and Vince's friends are being encouraged to donate to them. As an educator in a music college, we are increasingly considering musician's health as a core part of our training. Much of this has focussed on physical issues but as a composer I am all too aware of the dangers of solitude in an incredibly demanding, and rarely lucrative career. We need to discuss these issues openly, and help anyone who is at risk do the same.

Recording Vince on location for Installation for String Quartet in 2005 with film maker Richard Coldman

Domestica for Harpist and Film

I'm one of six  composers who have been commissioned by harpist Sioned Williams to create a piece to celebrate her sixtieth birthday. The other 5 include Michael Finnissy, Paul Patterson and MIchael Stimpson. We are awaiting confirmation of a date for the premiere though it looks likely to be in the Autumn of 2014. 

My piece is called Domestica and includes a film shot by director Magali Charrier. As always the piece uses techniques that I've not tried before, in this case a simple additive structure that dictates the shape and flow of the whole piece: made up of 26 fragments, each with its associated film clip, fragment A is just over half a second long with the following fragments increasing in duration to fragment Z which is 40 seconds in length. The structure is

AABABCABCDABCDABCDE… etc. ending with fragment Z played one time only. Its all kept in time by a recorded ticking clock that acts as a click track and starts at 120bpm and gradually slows down to 60pbm. The whole idea should be quite straight forward because the written material for each fragment is almost the same each time it is heard. The tricky part is that it looks different on the page each time as the clock tempo has slowed. Luckily Sioned is an amazing reader...

Magali and Sioned - Where's the harp?