Black Snow Falls
for 23 Solo Strings
Commissioned by Outcry Ensemble with funds from the RVW Trust. World premières given by The Outcry Ensemble cond. James Henshaw at St John’s Notting Hill, 27th April 2017, and Temple Church, 9th May 2017.
Black Snow Falls takes its name from one of the final lines of Sarah Kane's play 4.48 Psychosis, which was completed in 1999 and premiered posthumously in 2000. 4.48 Psychosis is a first person account of the clinical depression that Kane was suffering from while writing it. Kane committed suicide shortly after finishing the play, and subsequently, the play has been interpreted as a long-form suicide note - especially because there are no allocated characters, and no discernible plot.
The three words "black snow falls", to my mind, are an extraordinarily vivid metaphor for suicidal depression. The surreal image of "black snow", brings into focus, for me, ideas of destruction and/or decay particularly because of the image's likeness to ash or soot. But the line's reference to meteorology also suggests a terrifying powerlessness from the perspective of the author - the weather is, like illnesses of the mind and body, something that we are unable to control.
If there is one idea binding my piece together, it is the idea of powerlessness. At the opening of the piece, you will hear fragments of stunted material - written to sound like yelps or cries - which attempt to coalesce into a whole before falling apart again. These fragments of material determine virtually all of the music of the piece - they are warped, distorted, placed in sequence, but never manage to develop in a meaningful way. At the end of the piece, they are overwhelmed and finally suffocated by a sequence of chords on lower strings.
for Two Sopranos and Six Players
Written in collaboration with poet Joseph Minden. Commissioned by The Riot Ensemble in association with New Music Brighton. World première performance given by The Riot Ensemble conducted by Aaron Holloway-Nahum at St Nicholas Church, Brighton, 29th October 2017.
Micrographia comprises six movements, each of which illustrates a phenomenon observed through the microscope and documented in Robert Hooke’s 1665 treatise of the same name. Hooke’s observations are accompanied by beautiful drawings. The conclusions he draws from what he sees are frequently inaccurate and sometimes fantastical. The text therefore communicates a wonderful, naïve exuberance inspired by the experience of seeing tiny things for the very first time.
The first five movements deal with magnified images of the following phenomena: the point of a needle, grains of salt, urine, blue mould, and the wing of a fly. The final movement deals with Hooke’s observations of stars through a telescope, which, bizarrely can be found in the same book. The final movement therefore illustrates a sudden change in scale and direction, although in relation to the human eye, the phenomena presented is just as small and mysterious.
Read the interview here
Commissioned by Bartosz Glowacki and Aldeburgh Open Space, with funds from the Musicians Benevolent Fund. World première given by Bartosz Glowacki at Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, 23rd September 2016.
for Two Violins
Written for Mainly Two. World première given by Mainly Two on 27th April 2016 at The Guildhall School of Music.
“It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunts us. It’s all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs, and things like that. It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them. I’ve only to pick up a newspaper and I seem to see ghosts gliding between the lines. Over the whole country there must be ghosts, as numerous as the sands of the sea. And here we are, all of us, abysmally afraid of the light.”
The inspiration for Ghosts came from my reading Ibsen’s play of the same name. The play is full of anxiety about the past: its characters’ trajectories are determined by residual feelings that have maintained themselves through generations. The ‘ghosts’ in Ibsen’s play affect relations of all kinds, from the familial to the political. My piece attempts to communicate some of this anxiety.
for Ten Players
Commissioned by LSO Soundhub. World première performance given by The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Cohen, at LSO St Luke's April 17th, 2015.
The Blue Lias is a geologic formation found on the coastline of Southern England, which consists of layers of shale and limestone dating back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods. It is particularly rich in fossilized flora and fauna.
Lias is inspired by my experiences looking for fossils in the Blue Lias cliffs of Lyme Regis in the Summer of 2014, and, in particular, a walk that I took along The Undercliff pathway between Lyme Regis and Axmouth during my stay there. The pathway is a tunnel of trees and enormous plants, so densely enmeshed with one another that it is almost impossible to see the sky. Everywhere you look, you can see countless tendrils of vegetation coiling around and over one another, before spiraling up towards the light. The environment has a dreamlike or hallucinatory feel about it, but the roughness of the terrain, the sticky humidity, and the pungent smell of vegetation act as a constant reminder that this is an environment of pure, unabated “living”, for want of a better word. I was moved by the thought that the roots of this tangle of vegetation lay in rocks themselves composed of a jungle of similar organic matter dating from over 150 million years ago.
for Nine Solo Strings and Percussion
Collaboration with artist Peter Shenai. Commissioned by LSO Soundhub. World première given by The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Darren Bloom, at LSO St Luke's April 17th, 2014. Repeat performances given at Green Man Festival, 15th and 16th August 2014 and at The Annexe, LimeWharf, 4th December 2014.
Change Ringing takes its pitch material from the spectral analyses of six beautiful bronze bells, which have been cast by my collaborator, Peter Shenai. These bells mathematically correspond to the “bell-curve” representations of mean temperatures at 17 year periods over the last century. Struck in order, they voice incremental changes in pitch and timbre, thereby expressing sonically the phenomenon commonly known as “global warming”.
Each of the six sections of Change Ringing corresponds to one of these bells. All pitch material is derived from the bells’ inharmonic spectra which, in their original form, signal the beginning of each section. The remainder of the pitch material in each section derives from the sum and difference tones of the corresponding spectrum, the sum and difference tones of the resultant frequencies, and so on.
The sections are organized thus: Bell 2, Bell 3, Bell 4, Bell 5, Bell 6, Bell 1. The final section therefore pulls the narrative back to a time before the the rapid increase in global temperature begun at Bell 2. Between Bell 5 and Bell 6, there is a solo for Bells 2, 3, 4, and 5.
for Violoncello & Double Bass
World première given by The Berkeley Ensemble for the Final of the New Cobbett Composition Prize 2014 at The Forge, Camden, 10th December 2014. Repeat performance given by The Berkeley Ensemble at Worton Organic Garden, July 18th 2015. Awarded Runner Up in The New Cobbett Prize for Composition 2014.
Chorus of Satellites
for Three Female Voices
Written for Juice Vocal Ensemble, in collaboration with poet Joseph Minden, as part of Sound & Music's Portfolio Scheme. Recorded by James Weeks and EXAUDI with funds from the PRS for Music Foundation and The Bliss Trust.
Chorus of Satellites was initially inspired by beautiful passages from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos which describe the moons of Jupiter, their orbits and physical and chemical characteristics. I was struck by the fact that many of Jupiter’s moons are in fact named after the lovers of Jupiter in Classical Mythology. The stories of these nymphs and naiads are at turns violent, beautiful, and bizarre, and almost always involve some sort of physical transformation. Chorus of Satellites attempts to use sound as a means of constructing complex illustrations of the moons Io, Callisto and Ganymede and the stories of their corresponding characters in Classical Mythology. During the piece, sounds, phonemes, and fragments of text are flung between singers as they move through the performance space, combining sonic and verbal depictions of the moons themselves and the stories and transformations of their corresponding characters.
Sonata in Two Parts
for Bass Recorder
Written for Louise Hjorth-Hansen. World première given by Louise Hjorth-Hansen at Konzertkirchen, Copenhagen, October 2015.
for Voice Solo (accompanied by twigs and stones)
World première given by Josephine Stephenson at Nonclassical, 20th September 2013. Text by Knotbrook Taylor. Workshopped by Alison Wells at St Magnus International Music Festival 2013.
for Two Brass Quintets and Percussion
Winner of 2nd Prize in the Junior Category of the International Antonin Dvoràk Composition Competition 2013.
Hair and Stone
for Clarinet Quintet
World première given by The Hebrides Ensemble at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, 23rd June 2013. Written for The Hebrides Ensemble on the Saint Magnus Composers Course 2013.
for 6 Players
World Première given by Jenny Brittlebank, Harry Cameron-Penny, Alex Hamilton, Sarah Cresswell, Aisha Orazbayeva, and Colin Alexander at the Royal College of Music, 11th and 12th March, 2013.
for String Quartet
World première given with members of the English National Ballet, choreographed by Stina Quagebeur, May 2013. Recorded by Aisha Orazbayeva, Sophie Mather, Jennifer Ames, and Colin Alexander. Repeat performance given by Marie Schreer. Sophie Mather, Jennifer Ames and Colin Alexander at Wilton's Music Hall, July 1st 2015.
for Trombone, Percussion and Piano
World première given at the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, April 2013.
- Written for Daniel Serafini, Judith Spencer, and Gwenaelle Rouger.
- Second performance given at the 'Contemporary Music in Action' concert series at the Royal College of Music, May 2013.
for String Trio
World première given by Karina Deyanova, Ekaterina Lazareva, and Ventissislav Stepanov Harkov, 14th December, 2012. Written for performance at The National Portrait Gallery, London for the Taylor Wessing Photography Prize 2012.
for 2 Sopranos, 2 Double Basses and Bass Drum
World première given by Josephine Stephenson (sop), Sinead O'Kelly (sop), Rebecca McChrystal (perc), Noam Faingold (cb), and Jim Vanderspar (cb), conducted by Laurence Osborn at Nonclassical, Café Oto, 20th December 2012. Co-commissioned by Nonclassical and Freedom From Torture: Write To Life.
for Flute, Viola and Harp
World première given by Attacca Trio at St Stephen's Church, London, January 21st, 2013. Commissioned by Martino Panizza for the Music Chamber Lunchtime Concert Series 2013.
for Solo Violoncello
World Première given by Martin Petrov at Ulverston Music Festival (June 29 2012). London Première given by Tom Shelley at NonClassical @ The Macbeth, Hoxton (July 5, 2012). Repeat performance given by Colin Alexander at re:sound, London, 15th December 2012.
for Solo Alto Flute
World Première given by Rehana Browne at re:sound, Vibe Gallery, London (September 7th, 2012).
for Recorder Ensemble
World Première given by Consortium5 at Nonclassical @ V22 Summer Club, 20th July 2012.
for 6 Players
World Première given by members of the Lady Clare Orchestra conducted by James Henshaw at ListenPony, St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, December 2011. Workshopped by Richard Baker and the Composers Ensemble with Colin Matthews at the Royal College of Music, October 2011.
for Violin and Piano
World première given by Fra Rustumji and Freddie Brown at Nonclassical at TRUCK Festival, Oxfordshire, July 2011. Performed by Amy Tress and Jack Symonds at the Royal College of Music's biannual Composers Concert, November 2011.