Andrew Toovey
Photography by Morgan Hayes

PhD Thesis

Viscerality in music:
Directness as a form of communication

"A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of
Birmingham City University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

September 2018

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media
Birmingham City University


Chronological list of the compositions (2015-2018)



Table of Contents:

1: Composition Portfolio (Volumes 1-6)

CD Track listing (4 CDs)


Past Tense: An historical context


The Piano Music:

First Out
Preludes and Schrott
500 Triads
500 Treble Notes
Nearly there
Queer sensibilities (piano duet)

2) The Songs:

Don’t let the snow fall (three James Purdy settings)
The way it is now (various text materials)
The moods (seven W.B. Yeats settings)
Almost (seven Emily Dickinson settings)
The poetic consciousness (seven Colin Blundell settings)
Wringing out the knots (Dutch interior) (Mark Storey setting)
Knob (Richard Cutler setting)

3) The Chamber Pieces:

Contrecto (version for harmonium and tabla)
Contrecto (version for harmonium and violin)
Ej upp (recorder quartet)
Pump Triptych (solo Eb/Bb/Bass Clarinet
The Trumpet in my life (solo trumpet)
Skein (violin and piano)

4) The Ensemble Pieces:

Holding you (eleven string players)
Verboten (ensemble)
Euonia (ensemble)

5) The Orchestral Piece:

Fast, slow, faster

6) The Chamber Opera:

Narrow Rooms


Appendix: Timeline and Looking/Listening Log


Chronological list of the compositions (September 2015-2018)

Holding you - eleven string players
Verboten - ensemble

First Out – solo piano
Don’t let the snow fall – solo voice (three James Purdy settings)
The way it is now – voice/viola (various text materials)
Euonia – ensemble
Contrecto – version for harmonium and tabla
Contrecto – version for harmonium and violin
Ej upp – recorder quartet
Pump Triptych – solo Eb/Bb/Bass Clarinet
The Trumpet in my life – solo trumpet

Preludes and Schrott – solo piano
500 Triads – solo piano
500 Treble Notes – solo piano
Skein – violin and piano
The moods – voice and violin (seven W.B. Yeats settings)
Almost – voice and violin (seven Emily Dickinson settings)
Fast, slow, faster – orchestra
Nearly there – solo piano (with text)

The poetic consciousness – voice and violin (seven Colin Blundell settings)
Wringing out the knots – voice/accordion (Mark Storey setting)
Knob – voice and orchestra (Richard Cutler setting)
Queer sensibilities – piano duet
Narrow Rooms – opera – four singers/8 players (2017/18)


The culmination of this practice-based research takes the form of a portfolio of scores and recordings of musical works along with a written commentary. As a core part of the research process I also developed a comprehensive composer website. Because of the extensive scope of the work submitted, I have categorised the compositions chronologically by genre from solo piano music, songs, chamber, ensemble, orchestra and opera. The pieces were more effectively discussed within these genre groups in a discursive programme note/analysis form. The six volume Portfolio of Compositions is also grouped in the same genre structure giving a clear methodology of the key features developed within my music and allowing the reader a coherent path through the music.

My work as a composer is a contribution to knowledge. The main aim and reason I undertook this research period was to observe, develop and potentially change my composing process through a series of compositions, in an attempt to consolidate my compositional voice. I was also interested in ideas and questions that may prove useful to, among others, students of composition who need to focus on a wide range of approaches to musical composition.

Initially placed within the context of a considerable œuvre starting in 1981 and outlined in Past Tense: An historical context, this focus and consolidation has produced a body of work that has reinvigorated my visceral passion for the act of composing. It has taken my work in unexpected directions, de-cluttering the music from previously diverse stylistic features and honing in on a nuanced collection of material and ideas.

All the music written within the research period is included, as each work adds another thread to the overall embroidery that attempts to articulate aspects of visceral reactions. Each piece either progresses or consolidates aspects of previous material in a cross-fertilisation of ideas. With this commentary I have undertaken an extensive and wide-ranging investigation into other composers, artists and writers on their attitudes to visceral reactions regarding their work processes and those of others. This has also enabled me to focus directly on how I approach the act of composition. I have also posed questions that may, it is hoped, help young composers on their creative journey.

It is rare to hear or read someone mention the word visceral or even directness when talking about their creativity. Perhaps the occasional ‘gut reaction’ or ‘feelings’ or inspirational comment might allude to a similar bodily sensation.
During the course of this commentary what I mean by visceral is captured in the following sentence. To be visceral is to be opposed, or at least compared to intellectual or thinking through ideas, ‘gut reactions’ as against reasoned deliberation. So, can feelings be translated into musical sound? I have researched many composers, artists and writers, to discover what sense they feel about their ‘gut reactions’ regarding initial creativity.

It is clear from my research that there are many different ways of trying to explain creativity and ‘gut feelings.’ A slightly old fashioned idea where there has been much past medical research is the idea that the human brain functions in a way that, basically put, suggests the Right side of the brain cultivates creativity and the Left logical thought. Of course, ultimately a combination of both sides of the brain functioning in harmony is ideal, as the spontaneous (or sometime slow exposure) creative urge is initially nurtured to be organised and harnessed in the case of music onto manuscript paper or whatever way best captures the sounds in one’s head. A balance and mixture between both sides of the brain is surely the best way for a functioning human being with an everyday life and a creative inner life.

By direct communication in music I am attempting to explore how I have developed in the last three years regular creative bursts of activity, that are informed by my past, but direct and visceral. Researching other artist’s attempts to verbalise and articulate their reactions to the same phenomenon has been enlightening and has enabled me to capture a ‘real’ sense of viscerality.


All my composition work and research is dedicated to my three teachers: Jonathan Harvey, Michael Finnissy and Morton Feldman. It is impossible to quantify the impact these people have had on my life and music.

I would like to thank my brother, Peter Toovey, sister, Janet Chandler and her husband Paul Chandler, who have been continuously and fantastically supportive.

Also I would like to celebrate the fact that I am among such wonderful friends and colleagues at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Ed Bennett, Seán Clancy, Joe Cutler, Christopher Dingle, Duncan Fielden, Andrew Hamilton, Rose Redgrave (and son Arthur), Daniele Rosina, Howard Skempton and Michael Wolters. They have all been tremendously supportive. Thank you all! I am also tempted to list all the marvellous RBC students that I work with, and all those from the past few years, but that is a separate tome in itself, they know who they are so thanks for your support and being such gifted musicians. I would also like to thank the Midlands3Cities (M3C) for their three years of funding that made this practice based composition research PhD possible in the first place.

Over the last three years and beyond I have been very fortunate to work with, and be supported by many amazing performers, composers, writers and friends, and among the many I would particularly like to thank the following (in alphabetical order as I cannot make a hierarchical list):

Dani Blanco Albert, Nichal Aracchande, Monika Beisner, Colin Blundell, CoMA, Richard and Ann Cutler, Molissa Fenley, Lucy French, Patrick Gigučre, Antony Gray, Suzanne Hartley, Morgan Hayes, Deirdre Henderson (with husband Jon Williams and sons Fynn and Noah), Project Instrumental (Harri Allan), Robin Martin, Shawn Mativetsky, Joyce McNeill, Nathan Meurant, Mel Moore, Charles Mutter, Robert Nettleship, Enyi Okpara, Xenia Pestova, Stephen Pettitt, RBC Recorder Consort, Gregory Rose, Chris Shurety, Andrew Smith, Joseph Sonnabend, Mark Storey, Thallein Ensemble, Roma Tic, Emma Tring, Paul Zaba and Yfat Soul Zisso.



Volume 1: Piano Pieces:

First Out (2016)
Instrumentation: Solo Piano. Duration: 6 minutes
Preludes and Schrott (2017)
Instrumentation: Solo Piano. Duration: 25 minutes
500 triads (2017)
Instrumentation: Solo Piano. Duration: 16 minutes
500 treble notes (2017)
Instrumentation: Solo Piano. Duration: 10 minutes
Nearly There (2017)
Instrumentation: Solo Piano (with optional spoken text). Duration: 5 minutes
Queer Sensibility (2018)
Instrumentation: Piano Duet (four hands). Duration 4 minutes

Volume 2: Songs:

Don’t let the snow fall (2016)
(Three James Purdy settings)
Instrumentation: Solo voice. Duration: 5 minutes
The way it is now (2016)
(Various text materials)
Instrumentation: voice and viola. Duration: 12 minutes
The moods (2017)
(Seven W.B. Yeats settings)
Instrumentation: voice and violin. Duration: 9 minutes
Almost (2017)
(Seven Emily Dickinson settings)
Instrumentation: voice and violin. Duration: 12 minutes
The poetic consciousness (2018)
(Seven Colin Blundell settings)
Instrumentation: voice and violin. Duration: 12 minutes
Wringing out the knots (Dutch interior) (2018)
(Mark Storey setting)
Instrumentation: voice and accordion. Duration 6 minutes
Knob (2018)
(Richard Cutler setting)
Instrumentation: voice and orchestra. Duration 3 minutes

Volume 3: Solo and Chamber Pieces:

Contrecto (2016)
Instrumentation: harmonium and tabla. Duration: 30 minutes
Contrecto (2016)
Instrumentation: harmonium and violin. Duration: 30 minutes
Ej upp (2016)
Instrumentation: recorder quartet. Duration: 7 minutes
Pump triptych (2016)
Instrumentation: solo Eb/Bb/bass clarinet. Duration: 8 minutes
The trumpet in my life (2016)
Instrumentation: solo trumpet. Duration: 5 minutes
Skein (2017)
Instrumentation: violin and piano. Duration: 16 minutes

Volume 4: Ensemble Pieces:

Holding you (2015)
Instrumentation: eleven string players. Duration: 6 minutes
Verboten (2015)
Instrumentation: chamber ensemble. Duration: 3 minutes
Euonia (2016)
Instrumentation: chamber ensemble. Duration: 5 minutes

Volume 5: Orchestral Piece:

Fast, slow, faster (2017)
Instrumentation: orchestra. Duration: 8 minutes

Volume 6: Opera:

Narrow Rooms – vocal score (2017/18)
Instrumentation: 4 singers/8 players. Duration: 70 minutes


ANDREW TOOVEY: CD Track listing
(Please note: Recordings are set high in volume so lower CD player volume)

CD 1 Piano Music:

Track 1 First Out
Performer: Michael Finnissy.
Track 2 Preludes and Schrott
Performer: Antony Gray.
Track 3 500 Triads
Performer: Antony Gray.
Track 4 Nearly there
Performers: Charles Mutter - text and Antony Gray - piano.
Track 5 Queer sensibilities
Piano duet performed by: Michael Finnissy and Antony Gray.

CD 2 Songs:

Track 1 Don’t let the snow fall - three James Purdy settings.
Performer: Yfat Soul Zisso - mezzo soprano.
Track 2 The moods - seven W.B. Yeats settings.
Performers: Emma Tring - soprano and Robin Martin – violin.
Track 3 Almost - seven Emily Dickinson settings.
Performers: Emma Tring - soprano and Robin Martin – violin.
Track 4 Wringing out the knots (Dutch interior) - Mark Storey setting.
Performer: Paul Zaba - voice and accordion.
Track 5 Knob - Richard Cutler setting.
Performers: Orkest de Ereprijs/Thallein Ensemble, Daniele Rosina.

CD 3 Solo and Chamber Pieces:

Track 1 Contrecto - harmonium and tabla.
Performers: Xenia Pestova – harmonium and Shawn Mativetsky – tabla.
Track 2 Contrecto - harmonium and violin.
Performers: Charles Mutter – violin and Antony Gray – harmonium.
Track 3 Pump Triptych - solo Eb/Bb/bass clarinet.
Performer: by Andrew Smith.
Track 4 The Trumpet in my life - solo trumpet.
Performer: Dani Blanco Albert.
Track 5 Skein - violin and piano.
Performers: Charles Mutter – violin and Antony Gray – piano.

CD 4 Ensemble and Orchestra:

Track 1 Holding you - eleven string players.
Performers: Project Instrumental.
Track 2 Verboten - for ensemble.
Performers: Thallein Ensemble conducted by Patrick Gigučre.
Track 3 Euonia - for ensemble.
Performers: Thallein Ensemble conducted by Daniele Rosina.
Track 4 Fast, slow, faster - for orchestra.
Performers: North London Orchestra conducted by Enyi Okpara.



‘When Lavretsky reached the ferry crossing, he fell to his knees and wept. The east wind wrapped around him and entered his heart. His tears stopped as if the wind had dried up the source. He stood up and gazed at the River Dvina. A late afternoon sun cast a long shadow from the riverside birches and white poplars onto the slow flowing water to make a pattern in his eye – a prison fence laid flat, opened, to be stepped over – and out. The small Catholic Church on the further bank was white against the shadows of the hills cradling the river, its twin cupolas marking its acceptance by an Orthodox faith. The high cross lit up as a beacon in the low sun’s rays.’ 1

The opening paragraph of Richard Cutler’s novel, based on the life of the character Lavretsky, is an inspiring starting point for this commentary because it encapsulates very eloquently a visual representation of a journey, freedom and openness, a sense of history, the past and a potential future, a visceral sense that exemplifies the directness of a moment captured.

In the five years preceding this research period, I had been a very committed Head of Music at a mixed London Secondary School. Composing had become irregular. The title of this commentary and Portfolio of Compositions, Viscerality in music: Directness as a form of communication was chosen because it exemplifies aspects of the path and consolidation my music has steadily taken over the research period. Given the time to focus on composition I have increasingly become aware of connections between the previous years of thinking and living with music and the arts more generally, that seep through directly onto the manuscript paper at the present time.

Jonathan Harvey articulated the idea of this conectedness of previous experiences:

‘Many composers have drawn a distinction between the type of musical decision that arises logically as the result of what has gone before, and the musical insight that appears initially to be unrelated to its surroundings but then turns out on closer inspection to provide a satisfying solution to problems previously experienced.’ 2

Of course it is often commented upon that such experiences can go back as far as childhood, but for the moment a cautionary note on this subject is sounded by György Ligeti,

‘I do not think we should overestimate the importance of childhood experiences.’ 3

This can perhaps be the subject of a future research thesis.

At the start of the research period, I tried to formulate questions that initially led to my thinking as I had in the past, of a multiplicity of ideas combined into one. I therefore decided to focus on the following questions which are answered either directly or obliquely throughout this commentary. It is hoped they may prove useful to student composers on their initial compositional journeys.

1) What path is my music heading in?
2) How can I coherently develop my musical language?
3) What do other composers, artists and writers think about visceral aspects to their creative practice, even if they do not use the word visceral?
4) What effect do the ideas of other composers, artists and writers have on my work?
5) How does listening and looking at other music/art affect my music at any given moment?
6) How can I effectively focus on a single idea or musical strand for an entire piece?
7) How do I find, develop and communicate the most direct musical material?

In the Six Volumes of the Composition Portfolio, submitted with this commentary, each composition is prefaced by an original, hand-written example of that work, to attempt to exemplify the directness of thought to paper, the inner world to the outside world.

In this commentary, I have specifically refrained from placing either music scores or examples, as it is easier for the reader to look directly at the scores and reference both page and bar numbers for each piece. The structure of this commentary follows the course of the Six Volumes of music presented in the Composition Portfolio, from piano music through to the chamber opera Narrow Rooms. Not all the pieces are recorded (I have included an exact track list for the CDs of works included), but all scores for the research period are included for perusal purposes. I decided to submit all the music written over the research period to reflect the consistent focus and creative intention that occurred over the period. Instead of music score examples, I have quoted many different composers, artists, writers and experts in the field of creativity. These exemplify the nuances and difficulties inherent when articulating in words ideas connected to visceral directness in its many forms and possibilities. I wanted to examine a broad range of direct and visceral experiences and creativity from many different people, initial moments and thoughts to attitudes regarding inspiration or biological,

sensory and ‘gut feelings.’ A summary of artists’ and composers’ work practices, interests and influences, even the current position of new music in the world today are good indicators of visceral impact.

Past Tense, an historical context is a detailed prehistory of my composition activity before the commencement of the research period. An appendix: Timeline and Looking/Listening Log for October 2015-August 2018, a comprehensive Timeline (for the years 2016 and 2017) outlining important events, both personal and musical. For the three years (October 2015- September 2018) a looking/listening log, that lists cultural events (focused on concerts, exhibitions and cinema) that I have attended, provide an overall snap-shot of life and cultural activities during the period of research. As a starting point Luciano Berio, attempts to define music in a very open sense:

‘Trying to define music – which is not an object, but a process in any case - is rather like trying to define poetry: it’s an operation made happily impossible by the futility of trying to establish the boundary between what is music and what isn’t, or between poetry and non-poetry… Music is everything that one listens to with the intention of listening to music.’ 4

A step further, Philip Glass opens up the question of originality:

‘I sometimes hear about work described in terms of ‘originality’ or ‘breakthrough,’ but my personal experience is quite different. For me music has always been about lineage. The past is reinvented and becomes the future. But the lineage is everything.’ 5

Glass is suggesting in greater terms about the potential influence of music from the past and the effect of everything around us on our creativity. Perhaps taking a step further, this could also suggest aspects of our recent personal past and its potential connectivity to what we have composed most recently. Pierre Boulez is direct and clear:

‘I made my choices instinctively and rationalised them afterwards. Twenty-five or twenty-seven years later, my preferences at that time as regards the music I knew remain virtually unchanged, though sometimes the emphasis has shifted.’ 6

These direct, instinctive connections can be visceral as Morgan Hayes recently articulated,

‘I hope that there’s a physical excitement about my music and that it has a visceral kind of impact on listeners.’7

Mark Rothko takes this notion of viscerality a step further in the chapter from his collection of writing The Artists Reality: Art as a natural Biological Function:

‘The notion of biological immortality, which involves the process of procreation, the extension of oneself into the world of the perceptible environment, very much as Shakespeare expresses in his sonnets. This relates the artistic process to every other essential process; one that is biological and inevitable’. 8

This inevitable biologically direct notion, in the context of composing, or creating ‘things’ is captured by John Maizels in his book on Outsider Artists. He includes Adolf Wölfli’s method and need to hone in on writing, drawing and even composing:

‘Drawing calmed Wölfli; it became an essential part of his existence. He worked every day, from morning to night, drawing, writing and composing. As well as being a skilled draughtsman, Wölfli was fascinated with algebraic forms and with musical composition, at times signing himself ‘Adolf Wölfli, composer.’ 9

Brian Ferneyhough eloquently captures aspects of the first sensation of the initial pre compositional thought process:

‘The first sensation, the experience which begins to persuade me that I am actually going to write a piece, is very often a cross between a tactile, a visual, and an aural one. That is, I tend to perceive a mass, almost a tangible sculptural or sculpted mass, in some sort of imagined space, which is made up of these various elements.’ 10

The idea that Ferneyhough espouses here of a starting sensation to composition being a combination of a tactile, visual and aural sense is very compelling and akin to the approach that many composers seem to articulate, sometimes emphasising certain aspects of the moment over others. As Boulez mentions earlier,

‘the emphasis has shifted.’ (6)

Michael Hall draws us back to the idea of a composer being influenced by a direct connection to various objects that can, potentially ignite the composer’s imagination. Writing about Sir Harrison Birtwistle:

‘It is evident that the visual arts contribute a great deal to Birtwistle’s music. Cezanne, Picasso, and Brueghel; later the names Dürer and Paul Klee’s appear. …deeply affected by visual things, not only paintings but visual objects of all kinds: landscapes, fossils, maps and films being but a few. He calls his pieces ‘musical landscapes’, his sections ‘objects’. He talks of frozen frames, of labyrinths. At every level, visual arrangements provide ideas, suggest ways to proceed. Indeed his genius is his ability to adapt the visual to the aural.’ 11

There are also many examples of artists who want to capture the spirit of reality within their work, perhaps more possible in a visual art work. Gloria Moore in writing about Ana Mendieta’s work articulates this, and takes the idea further into a potential political arena:

‘The creative urge involves an attempt to appreciate reality in some way, and indeed interface perceptively with it. This implies a certain disposition to intervene in all the areas where criticism can be exercised, which especially nowadays, covers all fields of knowledge. This undeniable fact draws creators into the political arena (whether this be their intention or not) independently of the context in which they move.’ 12

Some performance art can be seen in a similar context, mimicking or reflecting reality, but placed in a different context or performance space. When teaching, beyond the direct personal intervention, how is the creative urge kindled at an early stage? John Cage:

‘I had been taught in schools that art was a question of communication. I observed that all of the composers were writing differently. If art was communication, we were all using different languages. We were, therefore, in a Tower of Babel situation where no one understood anyone else.’ 13

Morton Feldman states in 1972:

‘The trouble with music composition as taught in colleges is that what you’re learning has only one word: analysis. You’re given models, and the implication is that there’s a secret to learn that will help you compose. That’s the first tragic assumption.’ 14

More directly and amusingly on the subject of analysis of music, Pierre Boulez when talking about analyses:

‘Most recently this has led to investigation based on statistics and information theory which amount to enumerating or describing the fruit on a tree without reference to the tree itself or to its process of fruit-bearing. We are swamped with vast tables of ridiculous symbols, reflections of a void, timetables of trains which will never leave!’ 15

I feel that some analysis can prove useful to a fuller understanding of many technical aspects of music including form, structures, pitch and rhythmic material. However, it is clear that a purely academic analysis does not necessarily capture the character, essence or ‘meaning’ of a piece of music, its visceral or direct underlying intention. Finally Marion Molteno captures what effect teaching can have in her book, if you can walk, you can dance:

‘It was my explorations in the SOAS library that suggested a way – “An African studies degree?” Paula flipped through the course prospectus. “What would you learn?” All the things no one taught me first time round. How people in Africa lived and thought before white people arrived. What stories they told, what music they made – and still do. “And what would you do with all that?” But it was more about being than doing.’ 16

Why do artists and composers strive to make works, music, painting, sculpture et al? Morgan Hayes makes the strong comment,

‘whatever you write has to come from some inner drive, otherwise composing is a vacuous exercise.’ 17

This thought is in line with three earlier composers. Schoenberg wrote that ‘One must be convinced of the infallibility of one’s own fantasy and one must believe in one’s own inspiration.’ Webern expressed a similar point of view – ‘Trust your inspiration! There is no alternative’ – while Stockhausen wrote that

‘The essential is what inspiration tells you.’ 18

Alan Bennett finds a note struck by Seamus Heaney in The Government of the Tongue when analysing the need the poet has to write, describes first how he:

‘Appeases that need by learning to find his own unique and distinctive voice, then begins a bothersome and exhilarating second need, to go beyond himself and take on the otherness of the world in works that remain his own yet offer rights of way to everybody else. What poets do is to encourage our inclination to credit the prompting of our intuitive being. They help us to say in the recesses of ourselves - Yes, I know something like that, too.’ 19

Luc Tuymans examplifies the choices and connections to other artists and schools that James Ensor made early on in his life.

‘Ensor focused chiefly on drawing and etching between 1885 and 1888. It was at this point that he developed a highly personal icongraphy and visual language, influenced by the likes of Rembrandt, Odilon Redon, Francisco Goya, Japenese woodcuts by Hokusai and Kono Bairei, elements from Bruegel and contempory cartoons. He rejected French Impressionism and was never fully convinced by symbolism. Ensor devoted himself to the expressive qualities of light, line and colour, and to grotesque and macabre motifs like carnival masks and skeletons, which he incorporated in crowd scenes such as those in the series Visions: The Aureoles of Christ or the Sensibelities of Light.’ 20

Ensor’s fascination with masks and false faces could also be suggestive of the potential for composers to hide behind the facade of technical fascility as opposed to a combination of technique and inspiration.

We have choices. To follow a recent trend or school, to imitate another composer, to ignore everything around us and to compose for our own pleasure. The possibilities are endless. How do we want our audience to respond to our work? In her writings Response to Art Agnes Martin writes about the insatiable urge in most people to find clear definitions in a response to art:

‘When we go to museums we do not just look, we make a definite response to the work. As we look at it we are happier or more sad, more at peace or more depressed. A work may stimulate yearning, helplessness, belligerence or remorse. The cause of the response is not traceable in the work. An artist cannot and does not prepare for a certain response. He does not consider the response but simply follows his inspiration. Works of art are not purposely conceived. The response depends upon the condition of the observer.’ 21

Calvin Tomkins captures an opposing side to personal and visceral directness in creativity when writing about John Cage’s views:

‘The power of art to communicate ideas and emotions, to organise human life into meaningful patterns, and to express universal truths had ceased, in Cage’s view, to be worthy of effort. In place of an art created by the imagination, skill and taste of the individual artist, Cage espoused an art of chance, in which every effort would be made to extinguish the artist’s personality, his memory, and his desires. Behind this seemingly negative quest lay an intensely positive idea. Cage had come to feel that art, in our time, was much less important than daily life, to which so many of us had become more or less oblivious.’ 22

I feel exactly the opposite; art has enhanced my life and makes the everyday life possible. The idea that everybody can be an artist is laudable but in an everyday life, only having artists is somewhat impractical on many basic levels and less of a utopian dream than one might imagine. Art/Music can be approachable by all and non-elitist at best, maintaining the push-pull between artist and listener/spectator.

Jon Thompson argues that in modern societies alienation extends to every type of relationship –as Karl Marx comments:

‘between man and man, man and object, man and society, man and myth, man and language.’ It colours all human psychological and physiological behaviour, from that of extended social groups to the most private preoccupations of the individual. 23

Much ‘Modern music’ is considered alienating by many and diverse groups of the population and what may sound direct and visceral to one pair of ears, may be dull, boring and unintelligible to another. The final word in this introduction is left to a comment in a newspaper review regarding Morton Feldman’s Coptic Light, Feldman’s last orchestral work, is performed for the first time on 30th May 1986 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Gunther Schuller. Feldman is deeply shattered by the remark by the New York Times reviewer that he is

‘the most boring composer in musical history’. 24

During my first encounter with Feldman at the Dartington Summer School in 1986 he played a cassette of this first performance of Coptic Light, and we followed the score. It was a pivotal moment for me, and opened up a world of possibilities in music that I had never encountered or even dreamed of.

Past Tense: An historical context

Pilot research and archival records have formed a crucial part of the initial preparation for investigation into my previous output. A brief outline of formative compositional and musical activities will help solidify the process into a life-long research into music. When I first started composing (aged about seven) I wanted to copy composers I tried to play on the piano and violin (later viola). These were mostly baroque and classical composers (Bach, Scarlatti, Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart) and lesser known composers who wrote pieces specifically for children. I also sang in a local church choir, and began to write simple anthems for them, aged about eleven. At this time I was not aware that I should try to have an original voice or style, but tried to imitate the composers I played, sang and listened to.

By the time I went to University, (Surrey University BMus (Hons), a joint MA in composition with Jonathan Harvey and aesthetics with David Osmond-Smith and an MPhil in composition at Sussex University) I had become fully aware that my compositional experiences thus far needed to be developed. Viewing these initial experiments from this distance in time it is clear that I had been developing an individual direction and trying out different combinations of ideas through research into many different composers. When I played Béla Bartók, for example, I would try to listen to and study scores of as many of his pieces as I could find. My attitude to music and specifically composition has remained the same since these early days, one of passion for the music followed by research, building of knowledge regarding the technical aspects of music composition from the various composers to eventual osmosis into the compositions.

Drawing upon art as an additional input to facilitate part of the musical language is prevalent in the earlier work. The MA and MPhil degrees centred upon developing a response to abstract expressionist artists using structure, timbre and aesthetics as a means of shared connectivity. The ensemble piece Ate (1986) is an example of this. It is structured using the proportions observed in a series of paintings called ‘The Stations of the Cross’ by American artist Barnett Newman. A pertinent comment about his drawings focuses on the important point:

‘The most immediately striking aspect of Barnett Newman’s drawings as a body is their persistent singularity. Despite an apparently limited visual vocabulary… no two drawings are alike. This fact is especially remarkable since the drawings do not appear to have been calculated, planned, or drafted schematically; rather, they are felt, intuitive, spontaneous.’ 25

Ate also attempted to present similar musical material in a way that always seemed different but cut from the same cloth.

A core part of the initial research included making a comprehensive composer website. Defining my past composition work by delving into a large archive of material, including articles written on my music, newspaper reviews, recordings, scores and many other documents. This website encompassed as much information as possible and captured much of my composition and artistic life. It includes a biography, historical timeline where artistic details could be explored; a complete list of all compositions, reviews, recordings, PDFs of most scores, discography and video list.

Two pieces, Splice (1991) for chamber ensemble and Cantus Firmus (1992) for solo piano, were written developing some of the colour collage techniques I observed Bridget Riley engaged in while working in her studio.

‘Each painting formulates a connection of visual events or happenings which will take place in this particular way solely among the selected elements, according to their specific scale, and within the unique constellation of the structural framework’. 26

Her direct methods of combining colours became a useful springboard in the use of juxtapositions of many different musical materials exploited in the opera Ubu (1991-92) and Viola Concerto (2005). Michael Craig-Martin writes describing Bridget Riley as:

‘Modernist and international, abstract, passionate and rigorous, optimistic and idealistic, committed to questioning, a new experience, engaging the direct and immediate experience of the individual viewer in a heightened experience of colour.’ (26)

Music scores are not specifically placed within this text as I hope it will be possible for the reader to listen to as much of the music as necessary on the composer website that was developed specifically during the research period for this reason. These pieces mentioned above and below can all be listened to, and scores are available as well on the composer website:

With experience in writing pieces for a diverse group of performers, from solo instrumental pieces to large orchestral pieces, I have written text based pieces, songs combining different and diverse contexts, piano pieces, solo and chamber work, as well as an orchestral piece and opera. I am also exploring the sense of how the composition is changing and developing from my earlier work to the present day.
Carlos Chávez writes:

‘A composer transforms, in terms of music, whatever he absorbs from the outside and whatever he is congenitally; he depicts his present moment in music, so that, in reality, all music is autobiographical…’ 27

There are many people, including composers, artists, writers and friends who are crucial to the development of my composition stance; they are listed in acknowledgements. Philip Glass captures this perfectly:

‘For me, a musician at the beginning of his own road of discovery, these two painters (Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns) were monumentally important. And then when you threw the work of John Cage and Merce Cunningham into the equation, everything made sense and lifted right off the ground.’ 28

For a brief overview of composition from before this research period I would suggest the five examples of music listed below. These are selected from the time at both Surrey (BMus (hons), 1981-1983) and Sussex (MA, MPhil. 1984-1987) University courses and beyond.

1. Alleluya for Christmas (1981) for SATB Choir. 29

This work was the first carol I wrote for the Guildford Cathedral Surrey University Carol Service. In many ways this piece encapsulates my music at this time. Still traditional, but with dissonances that are moving forward in style. This carol was initially called Two thoughts for Christmas and the New Year because apart from the traditional Christmas message (written by Morag Morris, 1923-2013, the twentieth century poetry lecturer at Surrey University), I also set a short verse by Thomas Hardy that contrasts this by saying after two thousand years of mass we've got as far as poisoned gas. It was written when I was nineteen in my first term as an undergraduate studying music at Surrey University in Guildford, and was performed at the University Carol Concert in Guildford Cathedral in December 1981. This piece also harks back to my years as a treble, then tenor at the local Church Choir, St. Michael’s and All Angels, Stonebridge, Harlesden, London, NW10.

2. Elegy for England (1982) for tenor voice and piano.

This piece reflects my interest in composers such as Britten and Shostakovich at this time, a collection of four poetry settings for tenor and piano also written in the first year studying music at Surrey University in Guildford. The poets are A E Housman - Into My Heart, Edward Thomas - In Memoriam, Robert Graves - She tells her love, and Philip Larkin - The Trees. These settings are traditional in their musical language and keep the text of the poems clearly defined and audible, a feature that prevails in my more recent text settings.

3. Ate (1986) for 16 players is a piece where I feel an individual style and voice began to emerge. This is shown by the episodic structure and the sometimes aggressive intensity of the gestural language.

4. Cantus Firmus (1992) a short piano piece which deals with collaging fragments of pieces by J S Bach. It was inspired by the work of artist Bridget Riley who in the 90s was creating art by cutting up strips of coloured paper and placing them very effectively into various combinations.

5. Finally, an extract from the opening from Ubu (1991-92) clearly defines the variety of the poly-stylistic sound-world from this opera.

My older music has been recognised as having inherent directness, so I am attempting to deal with past compositions by placing them within the context of a selection of literature written about this music. Norman Lebrecht in his new music dictionary observed of my work:

‘Rebarbative rhythmicist of the Damien Hirst generation; you could imagine him pickling a sheep for orchestral display in Red Icon (London, 23.ii.96) – an apparent tribute to the artist Mark Rothko.’ 30

Andrew Porter commented on my second opera The Juniper Tree (1993) in much more positive terms:

The past history of my music was captured by Nicholas Williams:

‘Predominantly fiery, yet also containing a core of radiant tranquillity within its ambit, the music of Andrew Toovey has a dual aspect that looks as much to the school of Cage as to the new complexity of Ferneyhough and Finnissy. Sources of extra-musical inspiration range from the theatre of Antonin Artaud and the poetry of e e cummings to the painting of Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. With the new-music group Ixion, Toovey – a pupil of Jonathan Harvey and Morton Feldman – has created a formidable repertoire of works for small ensemble, including Adam (1989) and Adom Adamah (1991). Several pieces are ‘combines’, capable of simultaneous performance together. Stage works The Spurt of Blood (1990) and Ubu (1992) gained a reputation for scabrous aggression, also reflected in the title of the piano quartet Fetish Figure (Timid Brute) of 1993.’ 32

‘In the festival programme for 2005 the focus was on the remarkable music of maverick London-based composer Andrew Toovey, played by one of Britain’s most exciting new music ensembles, IXION. This composer’s music once heard, is never forgotten – a vast range of expressive intent and a stylistic pluralism underpins an approach that manages to combine wit and seriousness of intent in a highly successful fusion.’ 33

To attempt to define what is created by a composer so that listeners can fully appreciate the implications of its visceral directness, and place it effectively within the vast range of 21st century composition progression begins to gain some clarity when reading the comments of Eric Salzman:

‘The era of exploration is over. All experience is now available raw material for art – through 360°and on a continuum. Live and electronic, strictness and freedom, rational control and irrationality, fixed detail and improvisation, total unity and open form, symmetry and asymmetry, periodicity and a-periodicity, pitch and noise, extreme sound and silence, extreme register and extreme dynamics, maximum motion and stasis, high and low tension, thinness and density, complexity and simplicity, clarity and confusion, intelligibility and purity, image and abstraction, verbal sound and musical meaning, association and invention.’ 34

An extract from an article in the quarterly review of Modern Music, Tempo, on my music by Michael Finnissy effectively opens up the whole issue of placement:

‘Identifying points of reference in Andrew Toovey’s music can present quite a challenge. Not only are his musical sympathies unusually diverse and deliberately unaligned to the readymade categories of our recent past (minimalism, neo-Romanticism, new complexity), but the fundamental stylistic ‘gesture’ can as readily be compared to the visual arts as to any music.’ 35

Finnissy understands the compositional currents of the time and appreciates the possible benefits in maintaining an open mind towards the multiple possibilities that exist in composition. He also suggests a key area of interest in my musical thinking, music that relates to aspects of the visual arts. This aspect has been a constant companion for me, directly linked to the composition process.

Further details within the music are also defined by three extracts from a review in The Musical Times, written by Arnold Whittall reviewing two CDs of the music that were released in 1999:

‘With his guilt-free diversity of style, Andrew Toovey is the very model of the late-modern composer.’ 36 There is an implication that composers may feel guilty in using a diversity of styles that do not conform to what might be considered the more traditional expectations of how music is categorised. He may also simply be stating that composers need not feel guilty when changing their styles from piece to piece, or even within a single work. This may be confirmed by his suggestion that this music is an example of what has come to be expected of composers’ in this time period and no guilt should be attached to making such choices.

Whittall continues:

‘This tradition-evoking yet convention-rejecting simplicity is – and should be – only one aspect of Toovey the multivalent late-modernist. Such a style is inherently unstable, and, for that very reason, could well be around for some time’. (36)

Whittall has clearly identified the ability of the composer to work with various traditions and eschew them when necessary. He also seems to accept the potential pit-falls and dangers in maintaining a diversity of styles, but affirms that this may be an aspect of the music that has longevity. In the third comment Whittall concludes his review:

‘It could all add up to a recipe for abject derivativeness, the creator in helpless awe of his mighty models: but it is clear from the cross-section of Toovey’s work on these welcome CDs that he has the Schoenbergian knack of building quite personal structures on the most august foundations. These structures might not always succeed, but they are distinctive and, in most cases very well worth hearing.’ 36

Whittall ends his review on a cautionary but positive note. He feels that for the most part, the music is distinctive.

There are certainly reviews that do not fully understand or engage positively with the music. A challenging review of the first opera Ubu (1991-92) by Barry Millington in The Times newspaper, suggests that this work had no redeeming features; it assumes that there are certain rules to be adhered to and that the composer does not attempt this. It does not fit within the accepted expectations of either the genre of opera or perhaps of some traditional expectations of music itself:

‘There is no moral to be drawn or theatrical action to be savoured: none of the characters changes or develops, none suffers or learns, and nothing here offers any dramatic interest above the level of a Punch and Judy show’.37

Even the title of the review is very dismissive Please don’t carry on, connecting the opera to the Carry On Ealing Comedy film genre, which is either loved or hated.

Two other reviews of the Ubu opera by Jamie Portman and Peter Roberts offer a more positive sense of the directness displayed in many aspects of the work:

‘The 30-year-old Toovey shows a chameleon-like brilliance, capable of moving his score seamlessly from soaring melody to extreme dissonance to cunning parody and pastiche’.38

This comment captures the essence of my intentions very precisely, as does the following:

‘No sound from grand opera down to the end of the pier band and organ grinder seems alien to Toovey’s industrious mill which he grinds up for his own busy purposes. The writing is full of tongue-in-cheek parody and allusion so it keeps you on your toes’. 39

Stylistically diverse music tends to polarise and to some extent challenge critical opinion. I think stylistic diversity is a positive and accurate way to view most art, of whatever kind, as it is a reflection of society today.

Another extract from the article in Tempo by Michael Finnissy concludes with an apt summing up of the whole composition activity:

‘I could be describing Messiaen or Xenakis, but Toovey is evasive, doesn’t neatly conform to the Darmstadt/Modernist stereotypes either (even if he has been there or done that). He tends in a manner increasingly familiar from post-modern pluralism, to regard – as grist to his mill – any process or inherited formal principle for its treatment (‘development’ used to be the word!). There is no particular fetish for originality. With so much material placed in inverted commas (cross-referenced and great fun to de-code) this would hardly be appropriate. The particularity of Toovey’s work lies in its flair for combining ideas, and timing their interaction. He doesn’t need to worry about always being, quite recognizably, Toovey.’ (35)

Put simply a ‘flair for combining ideas’ defines certain aspects of my earlier work that was very prevalent at the time. From those reviews a clear sense of how other people view my work has been outlined.
Kevin Korsyn very eloquently sums up the position of music in the 21st Century when he writes about the disciplines of musicology, ethnomusicology and music theory as:

‘Confronting a crisis of discourse … Contemporary classical composition is demonstrating similar aspects of complex historical changes through globalisation and commodification of knowledge. A distinctive feature of the early 21st century world is that at no point in history has music experienced such a diversity of compositional styles.’ 40

Arnold Whittall describes this as:

‘contemporary music’s search for a firmer ground as the topic of what might constitute a mainstream at a time of persistent stylistic plurality.’ 41

On the question of whether there is a sound, style or composer truly defining the present time, I position my works within a plurality that I believe defines the current state of composition, embracing a large range of musical possibilities and not limiting the scope to a few prevailing trends.

Chapter 1: The Piano Music

First Out

First Out is dedicated to Michael Finnissy on the occasion of his 70th Birthday year.

The piece, in three distinct sections, begins forcefully with 21 high clashing ffff! chords, venting the direct experience of loss through force and anger. Multiples of the number 7 (my ‘lucky’ number), in this case 21, are a regular and instinctive way of organising musical materials. There is no metronome indication as I felt the performer can decide exactly how long to let the semibreve chords resonate in the higher range of the piano. The next section is in immediate contrast, in that it is reflective and based on the music of Frédéric Chopin (whom I have referred to and collaged in past pieces – Out, a double piano concerto for example). I had been asked, many years ago to write a piano piece (for Nicholas Hodges) that would use just the left hand of one of the Chopin Etudes as a starting point. I never fulfilled this project, but felt strongly about the idea of directly combining Chopin’s music with mine, so I chose 14 bars (Agitato section, modulation into B minor bars 88-101) of the left hand part of Chopin’s third Nocturne in B major to do this. I consistently changed C sharps to C naturals (bar 92 onwards, corresponding to the fifth bar of this section in First Out), as I wanted to maintain the reflective mood. I then added my own simple melodic line in the right hand in ascending and later descending crotchets that as this short section settles become minims.

The third, and final section, although also reflective in mood in contrast to the opening section of chromatically dissonant semibreve chords explores simple crotchet triadic chords (crotchet = 35bpm) that clearly reflect a harmonic sensibility that is consistently explored and developed throughout the whole collection of pieces. This aspect of the portfolio will be examined in detail and the somewhat obsessive urge, when writing pieces to improvise around relatively simple triadic chord progressions will be a direct and constant factor binding all the compositions together.

In this instance the third section begins on a C major chord and gradually (over 59 triads) progresses to three chords, root C major, 2nd inversion F minor and 1st inversion Bb minor. Added to these chords is a simple melodic cell using the notes G, F and E. This is repeated 4 times and then a further 16 times with a short hiatus after 4 repeats to suggest a sentence structure rather than just continuous repetition. In this section of First Out the pianist is asked in the left hand to hold down a cluster of notes that enable the resonance to be more sustained and pick out the harmonic progression rather than cloud or fuse the pitches which the sustain pedal would do.

In the past, having written many complicated piano pieces, it was surprising that the first piece to be written during this research period was both connected to the past and also trying to refine aspects of the music’s material, making them direct in the sense of not being cluttered by too much material, in some ways simplifying and defining what had been written before. Writing in 1974, Christian Wolff:

‘Almost everything’s been done now. There are just a few bizarre things that haven’t been thought of…. There’s a desire now to come back and get reconnected to what most people have been trained for. I think it’s perhaps more a desire to relate to music which can reach a larger public and which has clear-cut technical demands.’ 42

The title, First Out, was a friendly, almost ‘family’ LGBT café, just off Tottenham Court Road in London that I frequented for over twenty years, and is now gone and not replaced. I wanted to mark its existence, project a little anger (at the loss), nostalgia and pose the question are aspects of our lives really so integrated, accepted and normalised that such places are truly no longer needed?

This piano piece is not hedonistic and is more reflective of ‘loss’ rather than hedonism, but a comment on Francis Bacon still suggests that his lifestyle had a direct impact on his art:

‘For Francis Bacon, who immersed himself in the city’s covert gay culture, he was an infamous figure of queer Soho… This queer community, coupled with his hedonistic lifestyle, had a direct impact upon his paintings.’ 43

In this instance, I preferred the calmness of a café where I could relax and enjoy the company of others. In the chronological timeline this was the first solo piano piece written after the ensemble pieces: Holding You and Verboten. First Out effectively celebrates my thirty year friendship with composer Michael Finnissy, having initially studied with him in the mid-eighties. His openness in both music and sexuality are very important to me, and his comments on sexuality are captured in the following comments written in 1996, over ten years after we first met:

‘I think the moral or political crusades on which one might go are a rather small part of what one’s doing anyway, but as the situation becomes worse one either becomes more open about it or not. I’m being more open now because I think the situation has become worse and I have a responsibility to younger artists who don’t want to be terrified of their sexuality and not be dominated by, entirely bogus as it happens, hetrosexual politics. I’m not against hetrosexuality, that would be equally stupid – it’s just about equal rights.The fact that Cage or Barraqué or Tippett are also homosexual doesn’t make their music sound stereotypical homosexual. As far as the English go that would mean limp-wristed, handbaggy, shrieking hysterically – in other words: a caricature. I was taught that all composers were straight, white-skinned, and male. Ha Ha Ha. Recent revelations about Handel and Schubert are apparently provoking controversity: so you see, it does make a difference. It is definitely not good to be gay, or to be black, or a woman. You can climb up the ladder far more easily with a mask on, so people don the mask rather than tell the truth.’ 44

Preludes and Schrott.

This solo piano work consists of 14 short pieces, 7 Preludes and 7 Schrott, each of 20 bars of 4/4 time signature with the last four bars repeated, and all slow in tempo. The Preludes are all (except Prelude 6) semi-breve chords which tend to alternate between dissonant and consonant harmonies. The Schrott pieces, in contrast, have simple melodic lines with chordal harmony as accompaniment.

These pieces take the initial ideas first heard in First Out, semi breve dissonant chords, melodic material and simple harmonically related chords. The word ‘Schrott’ is German for garbage or rubbish. The notion of simple melodic/harmonic pieces being rubbish and the choice to use the German word as opposed to an English equivalent potentially encapsulates the idea that prevails in parts of the German new music scene (that I have witnessed in various festivals of music in Germany) that any music that does not contain a high level of complexity is less culturally significant and therefore Schrott. On the worry that his work is too simple, Goran Djurovic said:

‘They were always disappointed, because, instead of something ‘new and wild,’ they saw only semi-darkness, stuff like that – and they thought that my work was very conservative.’ 45

Also Dawn Adčs on Franco Siron on high and low art:

‘In any case, it was the fragility and the sense of marginality as an artist (quite literally in that he learned his craft on the margins of others’ ateliers) of his early years as an artist that enabled him to become so robust a painter. His robustness has very particular qualities in the context of contemporary art. He is untroubled by certain problems that may inhibit artists concerned with keeping the proprieties of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.’ 46

The same thought was present when I called an ensemble piece Verboten (forbidden) regarding the use of what could be potentially be seen as outmoded harmony and playfulness.
Prelude 1: The outer notes of the chords are D’s, a recurring pitch across all the pieces (Schrott 6 for example is in the key of D minor) and the internal notes of these chords shifts between consonant and dissonant relationships. The Schrott pieces are an example of an idea I realised very early on (I was about 10 years old) when listening to the music of Bartók, that the melodic ideas when simple and direct in both contour and pitch material can, if desired, have much more complicated harmonies supporting the melody. In Bartók’s case this was often relating to his use and transcription of the original folk material he collected and recorded, often used in his own compositions.

Prelude 2 uses a greater pitch range, not confined by the D pitch boundary as in Prelude 1 but still alternating between consonant and dissonant sounds. Schrott 2 retains the melodic and chordal harmony (with sequences of falling 7th chords), but with scalic quaver movement and some decorative mordents in the melodic line. Unlike all the other pieces Schrott 2 ends abruptly as if in mid-line or phrase, a feature I favour in other compositions I have written (Verboten for example that ends with a crash of xylophone bars being thrown to the floor).
Prelude 3 has much denser harmony (to my ear reminiscent of early Messiaen scores) and the last two chords of the piece are pedalled together to add to this near sense of cluster harmony. Schrott 3 is an example of as repeated melodic line where initially the harmony beneath is more discordant until the repeat of the melody in bar 9 where the chordal harmony becomes more tonally fitting to the pitches used in the melodic line.

Prelude 4, once again has the outer limits of each chord on the D pitch with some of the internal chord movement in parallel motion between the hands, giving a more direct sense of unity between parts. Schrott 4 is by far the most straightforward combination of quaver patterning with the melodic material in a four bar sequence of open fifth accompaniment in the left hand.

Prelude 5 in contrast to the other Preludes, is mostly non chromatic (retaining the D pitch at the top of the chord), while Schrott 5 has melodic material (in two bar phrases) combined with a simple rocking bass line.
Prelude 6, in contrast to the other Preludes is not a collection of semi-breve chords alone, but includes a repeated crotchet sequence of chords expanding in layers – from the interval of a fifth to a cluster of eight notes. This is ‘answered’ as such by (if not exactly) a pair of chords that have a cadential character, adding to the sense of tension and release in each phrase. Whereas the other pieces certainly allude to tonal relationships both directly and indirectly, Schrott 6 is in D minor and is the only one in this set of pieces that is clearly focused in a tonality. It is also the only piece with the melodic material and chords reversed so that the melody is in the bass or left hand. Jim Samson comments:

‘For some theorists ‘tonality’ has become understood in such broad terms that the concept of ‘atonality’ becomes entirely meaningless. Hindemith, for example, viewed tonality as a sort of competition for dominance of the individual tones in a melodic line or harmonic progression.’ 47

Prelude 7, high additive chords (with high D pitch at the top of the pitch range) has both hands in the treble clef and a generally wider spread of pitches within the chords, giving, as perhaps Messiaen might have felt, a more celestial quality. Schrott 7, concluding this collection of pieces has mostly minims (in both hands) and is to some extent a ‘slowing-down and combining of the melodic and chordal material, the left hand rocking only between the open fifth of D and A pitches. Added to this (twice) in the right hand is the final emphasis of D minor tonality, the sound of the D minor scale (in quavers) with flattened sixth and seventh notes. This collection of short pieces exemplifies my interest in material presented in a direct way that has both clarity and a visceral understanding that can be captured by both performers and listeners.


500 Triads

500 Triads for solo piano - 2017 dedicated to Howard Skempton on his 70th Birthday.

From the start of June 2017 I started thinking about making a piano (or possibly accordion, Indian harmonium, lute, guitar, etc.) piece that consisted of just triads. So the piano version is effectively for one hand only. I am not sure why I wrote these triads. Obviously I had them in the final section of First Out but I did not think about that at the time. Jonathan Harvey quoting Stockhausen:

‘A creative person is always most excited when something happens that he cannot explain, something mysterious or miraculous. Then he is very nervous.’ 48

As the chords do not progress in a completely regular harmonic progression, was I trying to think about, and at the same time reject, tonality or modal systems? Jim Samson captures perhaps where my thoughts were at the time:

‘The rejection of tonality by no means occasioned a rejection of all the concepts and procedures associated with tonal music, and early atonality often relies heavily upon the retention of such traditional features to give it form and coherence.’ 49

After all these years of composing I seem to have settled on writing triads! In the chapter on Marlene Dumas, Painter as Witness:

‘An artist for thirty years, Marlene Dumas has only recently began to articulate her practice as a visual accounting of our time through the representation of individuals or, rather, of bodies and souls as they move through the incidents of life, politics, and art. Her notebooks of images, arranged and rearranged by type or visual sympathy, constitute years of research.’ 50

Since the start of June 2017 each day I wrote about 20-30 triad chords and eventually had 500. When I finally tried them out on the piano, I played them in a slow and (mostly) regular tempo with a quiet and subtle dynamic. Eventually hearing them in concert, I was struck by the feeling of stasis that seemed to come over me. Morton Feldman on this subject:

'Stasis, as it is utilized in painting, is not traditionally part of the apparatus of music. Music can achieve aspects of immobility, or the illusion of it: the Magritte-like world Satie evokes, or the ‘floating sculpture’ of Varese. The degrees of stasis, found in a Rothko or a Guston, were perhaps the most significant elements that I brought to my music from painting. For me stasis, scale, and pattern have put the whole question ofsymmetry and asymmetry in abeyance. And I wonder if either of these concepts, or an amalgamation of both, can still operate for the many who are less prone to synthesis as an artistic formula.’ 51

This piece encapsulates my sense of what I have been attempting to do as a composer for the past three years, responding intuitively to my visceral instinct, direct, simple. I work directly from my head onto manuscript paper and see how the music progresses, sometimes fluid, other times hesitantly, stumbling. As the sample hand written facsimiles of the compositions in the portfolio show, I regularly try to stick to my initial thoughts, to what comes directly into my mind at that moment. In this way I have found a consistency within the compositional output that has not been present before. Using very little musical material has become a major focus of my work, an aspect of my work which I have only recently become conscious of. Previously much of the compositional output could be called eclectic and exploratory in nature and with openness to stylistic diversity. I realised as an undergraduate student that I was not inclined to be easily pigeon-holed and wanted to be open to all the different musics available to me.

Some of the music present in the portfolio, for example the orchestral work, Fast, slow, faster, still exemplifies a tendency to stylistic diversity and historical references. The use of suggested tonal harmony in the form of triads can also be seen as a reflection on past music and may even go back to my time in a Parish Choir, where I attempted to write choral harmony when setting the text of The Magnificat and Nunc Demittis for church evensong. I am indebted to the work of both Morton Feldman and Howard Skempton, who, in their very different approaches and attitudes to tonal progressions and harmony have for many years been an inspiration to me.

500 Treble Notes

500 Treble Notes was developed after the initial 500 Triads piece over a few days at the end of June 2017. Gradually writing an extended melodic line (freely pedalled, when playing it on the piano for sustained sonority) in treble notes, eventually adding up to 500 individual notes played slowly and quietly. Although potential repetition and harmonic connections do become apparent, it was composed without forward thinking or preparation. The music score is proportionally notated as I wanted a more improvised, free flowing sense of rhythmic progression and pacing. Morton Feldman referring to the notation in his piece Why Patterns; ‘Notation allows for more flexable pacing.’

In the book on Marina Abramovic, Klaus Biesenbach comments:

‘The concept of rhythm as pace, of years as measurable periods of one’s biography, of repeatable units, time loops, and alternative temporal and spacial experience, runs throughout Abramovic’s work.’ 53

In The Myths We Live By, Mary Midgley pertinently mentions both ‘the quest for simplicity’ and referring to the world:

‘We glimpse only that small part of its riches that is within our reach, and within that range we must continually choose the still smaller parts on which we will concentrate.’ 54

Many of the recent pieces are slow in tempo and quiet in dynamic. Clearly this seems to mirror the more reflective mood when given the time and space to compose.

Perhaps at that time I was to some extent trying to write myself out of the picture, to condense all my previous musical thinking? Or perhaps as John Cage says: ‘I have nothing to say … and that is poetry.’ Cage believed that by the year 2000 composers would be obsolete: ‘By then, sounds will be enough, entirely sufficient for and of themselves.’
10 I prefer to think about this in a more positive and personal way:

‘Why, in particular, should we choose to represent the development of our knowledge always in terms of building, rather than, for instance, of an interaction with the world around us, leading to growth?’ (55)

Nearly there is a short solo piano piece comprising a series of sequential chords of cadential material. It can be performed as a solo piano piece or added to by reading a part of the text on cadences in the Harvard Dictionary of Music. The full text can be read in the Composition Portfolio. The idea of adding a text (not a new idea) came from recently working with Colin Blundell (see also settings of his poetry in The Poetic Consciousness) in Benslow Music. In one of his improvised pieces he wanted random texts overlaid with each other. In my piece I specifically wanted a text connected to the subject matter of the composition material.

In many ways this piece continues the path of the other piano pieces, exploring direct material, referencing previous composers (First Out with Chopin), triads, individual pitches, tonal harmony and cadences. In an interview referring to her method of working on her drawings Anna Zemánková:

‘I have the best thoughts when I get up early. Maybe a theme. But I don’t see it one hundred percent clearly, just the beginnings. And then I shape it while working. I capture it. It’s just like when a composer hears a note. Perhaps a pot falls to the ground and he hears the bang. He captures the note and off he goes, as if he has caught onto some kind of key. And so it is with drawing, or when a poet is at work. It’s enough to capture one line. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s enough to set things in motion. It’s one of those mysteries that will probably never be solved.’ 56

This piece was written especially for the birthday of Robert Nettleship, as at the time he was taking a journey to Amsterdam, hence the title, which also alludes to the cadence being nearly there in the sense of the piece concluding. At the end of the recording submitted as part of this research, I wanted to make sure there was a contingency plan to have the whole cadence text more or less fitting with the duration of the piano part, so I talked with the performers who suggested it would be good to add a Moravian Cadence (used firstly in Janácek’s Taras Bulba and mentioned in Martinu’s writings, it is a type of plagal cadence from a dominant 13th chord on the subdominant to the tonic – in this case: Eb to F octaves in the bass with Db Eb G C to D F Bb in the treble) to fill in any time left, so this was decided, and was added effectively to the recording.

I did not at any time want the narrative of the cadence text to be reflected in the actual choice of the order of chords within the piece. So it would not make a text book example of the actual development of the cadence as outlined within the text. The connections are more open and independent. Edward Lucie-Smith writing on photography:

‘Photographs encourage us to look at what they represent more directly… sometimes we think of photographs as having a kind of independent reality of their own, and not as being mere representations of reality.’ 57

How do we understand the notion of cadences being the commas and full stops within music?

Queer Sensibility

By the time Queer Sensibility for piano duet (four hands) was written I was aware that I might not follow the path, so far ventured, of the other piano pieces. So this work is in effect a different path leading directly to a mixture of material, much of which is not related. Also having started with a ‘gay’ title in First Out, I decided to go even further and perhaps less subtly ‘out’ with a title mentioning queer things:

‘One key element is contributing to an immense acceleration in the ongoing globalization of gay rights: the internet and social networks. Once isolated, homosexuals are now connected with one another, and as we will see, this revolution is the most significant of all.’ 58

The earlier comments on sexuality from Finnissy, and reference to Bacon’s life seem apt to think about again at this point. Especially Bacon’s, as this piece does suggest an amount of fun and randomness in its use and connections of the material and is a short conglomerate of ideas:

‘Recent histories examining the emergence of a gay identity, yet a more informal, self-defining tendency is identifiable; it reflects a new sensibility in sexual orientation, inspired by images, derived from painting and sculpture, print and photography. Playful and serious at the same time, a heightened engagement with visual culture, art criticism and collecting helped in the construction of a shared identity for ‘gay’ men and women, for a kind-of ‘coming out’ long before either of those terms was coined.’ 59

The sense of loss in First Out is still perceptible in Queer Sensibility suggesting my sense of outsider, marginalised culture. This is suggested by the rhythm and chord progressions that seem upbeat at times, but decay, slowdown and fall apart in a tired lethargy. Connections to a harmonic approach are still persisting in the work.

In 2012 I went to a photography exhibition of the work of John Deakin, who worked with among others Francis Bacon (he used them to create portraits) and some captured the various characters mid-walking on the London Soho streets they frequented. Queer Sensibility could suggest these people walking, perhaps drunk down the street and the sense of hustle and bustle of street life.

The piece could identify with the following comment from Alex Ross:

‘If Twenty-First-Century composition appears to have a split personality – sometimes intent on embracing everything, sometimes longing to be lost to the world – its ambivalence is nothing new.’ 60

Chapter 2: The Songs

Imagining a time in early music history when no independent purely instrumental music existed, Tim Ingold in the chapter, On the distinction between speech and song in his book Lines briefly expands on the history of word setting:

‘In an oft-cited passage of The Republic, Plato has Socrates assert that “music is composed of three things, the words, the harmony, and the rhythm”. The words, then, are not just an integral part of the music; they are its leading part. “The harmony and the rhythm”, continues Socrates, “must follow the words.” Evidently for Plato and his contemporaries, serious music was an essentially verbal art.’ 61

Later in the chapter, to continue this historical progression Ingold goes on to say:

‘Early church music was sung in a declamatory style designed to give priority to the word. St Jerome in the fifth century, advised worshippers to sing “more with the heart than with the voice” and “not through the voice, but through the words he pronounces” …For much of history, music was understood as a verbal art. That is, the musical essence of song lay in the sonority of its words. Yet we have somehow arrived today at a notion of music as ‘song without words’, stripped of its verbal component. And complementing that, we have also arrived at a notion of language as a system of words and meanings that is given quite independently of its actual voicing in the sounds of speech. Music has become wordless; language has been silenced.’ (61)

For some time I have been interested in setting texts, poems, librettos. I have recently particularly concentrated on short sets of poetry for voice and either violin or viola accompaniment. There is a precedent to this in two earlier pieces, Fallen (1991) four settings of Rainer Maria Rilke, for voice and violin, and Irish Settings (1994 – various poets) for voice and viola.

The initial idea came about because I was reluctant to write for the combination of traditional voice with piano accompaniment. I had done so in my first year as an undergraduate, Elegy for England (1982) and did so again in further Rilke settings in Einsame (2007), but strived for more equality between the performers, so being an amateur violin and viola player, I felt the connection between these and the voice could enhance and complement each other. The idea was also clarified by one of the Rilke poems I set in Fallen.

Here is the poem in translation from the original German:

The Neighbour
Strange violin, are you following me?
In how many distant cities already
has your lonely night spoken to mine?
Are a hundred playing you? Or only one?
Are there in all the giant cities
men like this, who without you
would already be gone into the rivers?
And why am I always the one who hears it?
Why am I always the neighbour to those men
who force you in fear to sing
and to say : The heaviness of life
is heavier even than the weight of things

This poem beautifully captures the essence of wanting to write for voice and violin. This connectedness allows clarity between the two performers. To continue with Tim Ingold:

‘Those of us, like myself, brought up in the Western ‘classical’ tradition are inclined to contrast the uses of the voice along the axis of a distinction between language and music.’ And, ‘What we concentrate on is the sound of the music, with its attendant emotions effects and implications and the meaning and sense of the words become the focus.’ (61)

All poetry and texts are prefaced before each piece in Volume 2 of the Composition Portfolio. I particularly enjoy hearing poems and stories read out aloud and attend writer Richard Cutler’s regular readings where he chooses different types of voices for particular texts. I selected some passages from a recent novel to set in Knob, the final piece in this chapter, but in the meantime, as a break in the narrative, here is a passage from the start of the short story, Do hurry:

‘When Issac Blum was fifty he noticed he had a second shadow. The arrival was sudden and disturbing. A summer’s evening, coming home from a promenade concert, standing at the park entrance – there it was. A chill ran through him.’ 63

Don’t let the snow fall

Don’t let the snow fall - For a long time now I have loved the work of the American writer, James Purdy (1914-2009), and have written an opera based on his novel Narrow Rooms with a libretto by Michael Finnissy (see volume 6 of the Composition Portfolio). Of his many poems, I chose three which I feel are haunting and obsessive about the nature of love, perhaps unrequited. I had already set, in a completely different way, the third poem Come Ready (2006) for SATB choir to celebrate the wedding (then it was a civil partnership) of Michael Finnissy to Philip Adams back in 2006.

It was good to revisit this text afresh, and all three settings are simple and direct. The first song is based around a declamatory high E pitch with some grace notes to accent and focus certain words. The rhythm is basically constant minims. The second song is more reflective and based on rising and falling phrases in continuous crotchets. The third and final song is much more embellished and melismatic in nature with an irregular rhythm pace. These three short solo settings are dedicated to the fond memory of James Purdy who sent me collections of various poems attached to the letters and drawings he sent regularly. Perhaps what Mary Midgley says in her book The Myths We Live By is pertinent here:

‘What makes thinkers carry reduction further must then surely be, not a formal search for order, but the pursuit of an ideal.’ 64

Roger Sessions on text setting:

‘I read the text over, and it begins to set itself to music – in vocal terms. I’m very apt to make notes in the margins, to draw a little staff and put a few notes here and there. Little by little, it takes shape. But, in the first place, I think that in setting a text to music – and this I try to make very clear to my students – one certainly has a responsibility to the text, not so much for the sake of the text as for the sake of the music. If the music and the text fit, then the music will take shape; if they don’t, then the music won’t take shape properly, and the accents will come in the wrong place.’ 65

The way it is now

In The way it is now, seven songs for voice and viola I have used cuttings from the Metro Newspaper I read regularly on the underground train in London. I have been collecting ideas from the papers for some time. I adapted words and sentences of selected stories that gave an outline of the subject matter and sometimes combined different stories. Marion Molteno’s book, if you can walk, you can dance, captures the idea of using real life experiences in a book of fiction: ‘This story is entirely fictional, but it grew out of real-life experiences. The strands of inspiration from other lives are by now impossible to disentangle.’

Topical subjects used in The way it is now range from identity theft, climate change, parenting issues, Korean political power games, personal life struggles, Grayson Perry in conversation, Bingo and people rescued from being trapped underground. The 24/7 news updates are a part of life now, and these subjects are already confined to history.

Here is one example of text I summarised and collaged together regarding Grayson Perry that I set in The way it is now:

I don’t care enough about most issues to get passionate
My teddy bear is a lifelong possession, central to my entire mythology.
They want to go in and be shocked
They’ve switched from suspicion to an expectation of spectacle in art.
I might be the ‘tranny potter’, but at least it’s a brand.
I like my ceramics because they’re wobbly and hand-made and not mass-produced.

The Moods

I had previously set a Yeats poem Father and Child in the Irish Settings (1994), and I selected seven poems from the complete poem collection trying to find connections, contrasts and a reflective ‘mood’. I was instantly drawn to poems that had a similar pacing and tempo and quickly decided on the order of the seven settings. Some of the titles clearly have a similar subject matter; The Pity of Love, The Lover Mourns for the Loss of Love, Take But His Love Away, and all have the same atmosphere and emotional intensity. So the general idea of contrasting materal fell by the wayside.

Although mostly monosyllabically set, I wanted this collection to be somewhat restrained emotionally, to enable the text be clear and direct, almost like folksong in its intention. The violin adds simple elements to the settings with drones, repeating note patterns, echoing the vocal line, unison melodic lines, two-part harmony in an attempt to make the voice and violin

symbyotic in their relationship. Jonathan Harvey on melodic and vocal impulse:

‘… much of our melodic feeling derives from a vocal impulse which first of all is connected with the vital act of breathing and is subject to its nuances.’ 67

Allowing both the poems and melodic line to have a clarity became an important focus for these settings. Judith Weir suggests:

‘For me, clarity could mean simply that certain ways in which the composition is working become clear. A really well-structured, well-argued piece can bring a feeling of more than pleasure or repose; it can bring a sense of satisfaction, a feeling that everything’s all right in the world because everything in the music has dropped into place.’ 68

I was attempting to write melodic shapes that were not sequential, but unfolded in a natural way, that is, following the shape of the words and not emphasising the actual meaning of these words, letting them speak for themselves.

Describing how she in a very visceral begins to compose, once again Judith Weir captures how I feel about text setting as a natural extension of speaking the words out loud – putting the notes to the words almost creeps up on me:

‘My pieces begin with a lot of thinking and my not doing very much (it would seem). The process isn’t just difficult to describe; it’s difficult for me to know. It’s almost as if the music creeps up on me. I notate things that might seem to be of no use at all, and so by the time I’ve really started to write the piece down – in lots of sketches and then in neater copy – I feel that I’m well into the process. In other words, I’m sometimes composing when I’m not aware of it. Or pondering questions that haven’t yet been answered sufficiently for me to get going with the piece.’ (68)


The collection of seven settings of Emily Dickinson poems selected after reading her complete poems, and chosen because they reflect a profoundly personal and powerful vision of the darker, less luminous side of life, death and relationships that captured the visceral imagination. Their mood is one of perception and memory.

In the preface to the complete poems:

The main quality of these poems is that of extraordinary grasp and insight, uttered with an uneven vigour sometimes exasperating, seemingly wayward, but really unsought and inevitable.’ 69

Arnulf Rainer:

'My ideal is the completely dark picture, full of some overwhelming silence. Only as ‘almost,’ a ‘nearly’ is possible.’ 70

In wanting these settings of Dickinson’s poetry to be understated and subtle, allowing the poetry to have clarity and unfold in their own time brings to mind this observation by Alan Bennett referring to iconography:
‘…being more taken up with what a painting looked like than with what it might mean. This seems pretty obviously short-sighted as one of the bonuses of iconography, of unpacking the meanings within a picture, is that you are detained longer in front of it; like sleeping policemen, iconography slows you down and you have to dwell on the picture with a particular purpose in mind and then, as a side effect (and side effect is exactly the right word because it’s something that happens out of the corner of the eye), the beauty of the painting, which is hard to confront directly, begins to unwittingly be taken in. As E. M. Forster says,

“Only what is seen sideways sinks deep.” Though I think Emily Dickinson had the same thought.’ 71

Mark Storey (whose poem Dutch Interior I set, under the tile of a later line Wringing out the knots) writes eloquently on Emily Dickinson:

‘…One of the means I have of coping with all this is to think of Emily Dickinson, many of whose poems concern the nature of time in all its complexity. … Emily Dickinson has her own idiosyncratic form of punctuation, using dashes to take the place of commas and full stops: her poems begin and end on the page, in that those dashes cannot be voiced… it helps to think of her dashes, which place a gap between words and phrases, and so often leave the poem hanging in mid-air.’ 72

I feel that Colin Blundell’s poem the same blackbird has a visceral connection to the poetry of Emily Dickinson; this poem could almost be directly addressing her poetry:

He had (he thought) never known
the light weight of words-
the way they could dance nimbly
round the most weighty of subjects
touching briefly like ephemerids
on the surface of a shady pond

The poetic consciousness

The order of the seven poems contained in The poetic consciousness were chosen by Colin Blundell. To a certain extent they capture some aspects of his philosophical thinking and storytelling. Unlike the previous settings some of these use more chromatic pitch material (Songs I and V) and have (at the performer’s choice) some songs played using the overbow violin. This means using a deconstructed bow (taken apart and wrapped around the violin so the horse hair is loose) and allows for the 4 note chords, for example in songs III, VI and VII to be more integrated and resonant. I first heard musician Laura Cannell performing with this technique in a concert for BBC Radio 3 at LSO St. Luke’s (Looking/Listening log, 13/01/2018) and immediately wanted to write in this way.

The techniques and music material in the violin is otherwise similar to that used in the other songs; Song I: simple two note harmony. Song II: Arpeggiated sequenced pitch patterns. Song III: four-note chords. Song IV: repeated sequential pattern. Song V: Ascending changing 12-tone scales. Song VI: Tremolo chords and Song VII: Initially a drone, then a sequence of rhythmic chords. The songs alternate between 4/4 and 6/8 time signature. In the original score facsimile for this piece in the Composition Portfolio (Volume 2 p.66) the 4 note chords and pitch relationships are sketched in this preparatory work.

Wringing out the knots (Dutch Interior)

My setting of Mark Storey’s poem, Wringing out the knots (Dutch Interior)
74 was written for singer and accordion player Paul Zaba. The poem gives a delightful sense of looking at a famous Dutch Old Master painting, warts and all. The setting mostly uses the accordion as a simple harmony accompaniment, with occasional melodic content. The vocal line is much more embellished, with grace notes and melismatic phrasing throughout. Like the Knob setting this work is in 6/8 metre and deviates from the usual 4/4 or 3/4 metres of the other songs.
From Mark Storey’s poem: Stonecrop:

Things are not seen so much as felt: the sun’s explosions blind our gaze.

From Mark Storey’s poem Thief: Beethoven, Op.135:

…of my father, no longer there to make sense of things: Beethoven a sharp reminder of the theft death brings. 75

And finally from Mark Storey’s short story: Are we having fun yet?:
‘When I sit up here,’ Herr Steiner said, as though there had been no break in their conversation, ‘I either think of nothing at all, and just let myself go, taking it all in, in colours, the light, the huge sky, the clouds forever altering shape; or I think of Frau Holtzen.’


Knob was especially written for the Orchestra of the 21st Century. The title, according to the Oxford English Dictionary could mean a rounded lump or ball, especially at the end or on the surface of something (eg. a handle, door or drawer). A round button for adjusting or controlling a machine (eg. ‘She fiddled with the knobs on the radio’). A small lump of substance (eg. ‘Add a knob of butter’), a prominent round hill, or a man’s penis (vulgar slang). It is a setting of a collection of random phrases selected by me from Richard Cutler’s book ‘Openings and Endgames.’

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies remarked in 1968 that

‘I have for a few years now been working with series or ‘sets’ (not necessarily 12-tone) which are in a perpetual state of transformation.’ 78

As can be seen from the facsimile preparatory pages in the Composition Portfolio (Volume 2 p.92-94) this piece uses 12-tone rows as the basis for the pitch material and chords. One row ending in a C major arpeggio (E, G, C) allows for the common place final cadence in C major, tonality asserting itself, even if rather crudely. This is the only piece in the collection that directly uses these pitch sets. I wanted to explore a very different way of manipulating pitch material, and to some extent be directed by the pitches themselves. The opening violin cadenza is, on the contrary, not 12-tone and is basically a diversion at the start of the piece that suggests the work could be on a completely different path to the one it actually quickly takes.

Even though 12-tone, I have carefully chosen pitches so that they have tonal implications. The three facsimile sketches placed in the Composition Portfolio (Volume 2 p.92-94) show the 12-note vocal line, the seven Knob note rows and the 12-tone slow instrumental chord distribution. All the material is limited, 12-tone melodies, chords (all distributed 12-tone rows) which are either short and ppp in dynamic or long and sfff in dynamic. Scalic material in strings and piano/harpsichord. Bass drum and clashed cymbal loudly framing the quaver sfff chords. Guitars/accordion having regular interjections at the same time as the voice. The vocal line sets randomly chosen sentences that have a surreal effect, and no sense of being connected in any kind of narrative. I wanted the effect of automatism to be projected. A strange and unfathomable world.

The last thought in this chapter on The Songs will end as the chapter started with the insight of Tim Ingold on poetry of the kind that has been expressly written to be read aloud:

‘In so far as the poet exploits the sonority of the spoken word to achieve his effects, the poem is closer to music than language, but in so far as it remains an essentially verbal composition, it remains closer to language than music. The poetic text is thus at once script and score, or purely neither the one nor the other.’ 79

Chapter 3: The Chamber Pieces

Contrecto (Version for harmonium and tabla)

Initially Contrecto (Latin: to touch/handle/finger or caress/contemplate) started out as a commission for piano and tabla for Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky. Previously working in a secondary school where many students were keen to learn instruments including tabla, dhol, harmonium, South Indian Carnatic violin, among many others, I could see the enjoyment these students had on these instruments. I quickly realised (especially as Xenia was also very keen on other keyboard instruments) that this would be the perfect opportunity to write for harmonium and tabla, a traditional and very effective combination. It should be noted that the score is written for the harmonium an octave higher than it actually sounds. The Indian harmonium is small, and the left hand works the hand-pump bellows, effectively making it a single hand instrument that can play a combination of chords and individual notes.

As most tabla music is not notated I turned to a notational system that Shawn Mativetsky had developed, that is both simple and very effective, allowing the relative freedom I wanted with the score. Eventually, the duration of Contrecto could be up to thirty minutes. I wanted to use the inspiring sense of journey that is often present in classical Indian music, and partly because of this I found that the piece truly started to freely walk a line (as Paul Klee would have it) all its own, taking control of the pacing and structure:

‘In Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook, first published in 1925 … he deals initially with the ways in which a static dot or point can be transformed into something dynamic, something linear. A line can simply be a line, it needs no necessary direction or intention, but it is always in motion, always dynamic; ‘a walk for a walk’s sake.’ 80

Regarding melodic line, rather like the manipulations of a raga or scale/melody, Peter Maxwell Davies was attracted to this as well:

‘Much has also been made of his use of plainchant and the formal routines he devises to fashion subsequent melodic derivations from a source.’ 81

Morton Feldman’s comments on pacing and scale:

‘I was once in Rothko’s studio when his assistant restretched the top of a large painting at least four times. Rothko, standing some distance away, was deciding whether to bring the canvas down an inch or so, or even a little bit higher. This question of scale, for me, precludes any concept of symmetry or asymmetry from affecting the eventual length of my music.’ 82

Firstly, a sense of Indian classical music:

‘Indian classical music is believed to be a form of knowledge and practise that has been continuously maintained and refined by successive generations of teachers and pupils, transmitted from time immemorial’. 83

And some of the technical intricacies of the practice:

‘A raga is a map of melodic terrain that lives between scale and tune. It is not a scale: there are too many ragas in the same scale. Nor is it one specific tune: there can be many tunes in one raga… an opening prelude, the alap, in which performers gradually unfold the melodic features of the raga and which can last anything between a minute and an hour.’ (83)

And the structure:

‘Instrumental composition or gat (usually accompanied by the tabla) can be used as the starting point for improvisation using the melodic phrases of the raga and the rhythmic framework of the tala (cyclic metrical framework).’ (83)

Contrecto starts with a G drone note and open melodic line on the harmonium used the notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, the note F first appears in figure C in the score. The tabla accompanies this by punctuating the almost spoken/sentence-like pacing of the repetition of rhythmic patterns. It should be noted that the whole score is completely bar-less, and written in a space-time notation, which allows freedom of interpretation to the performers. Also circled notes in the harmonium part require the performer to hum these notes while playing them at the same time.
In the recording presented to accompany this commentary, great sensitivity is given to the pacing, with acute sense of phrasing and pauses indicated regularly in the score with a breath mark = ’, emphasising further the sense of spoken or sung phrases

Timothy Hyman catches the notion of the flow of life:

‘I’ve felt much closer to some of those definitions Bonnard came up with, near the end of his life, of art as “the Transcription of the Adventures of the Optic Nerve;” or as “Many little Lies for One Big Truth.” A long-term collector of my drawings, asked to characterise them, suggested “Catching the Flow of Life.” 84

Writings about Callum Innes’s idea of time passing in the chapter Keeping Time:

‘The use of ‘exposed’ a word whose primary visual reference is to photography, connects the process at work in the paintings back to that involved in making a photograph, aligning Innes’s exposure of painted colour to turpentine with the photographic exposure of coated paper to light. Immediate in their impact, Innes’s paintings, like photographs, remain intimately connected to the durational time of their creation.’ 85

‘Time seems to pass at different speeds in Innes’s paintings. In the Monologues, Identified and Isolated Forms, there is a narrative time at work, as the viewer recognises a link to something they already know in what they see. Because the paintings look like something else – comets or stars in a night sky, waterfalls, rock faces, sea mist – they take on the time of that thing and move according to its dictates.’ (85)

Nearly nine minutes into Contrecto the mood and choice of notes changes (at figure F in the score), with the introduction of a diminished chord (D#, F#, A) which is used as a drone with emphasis on the lower G note within the melodic shape/line until figure G. At figure H, the harmonium begins as soloist without the tabla accompaniment and punctuation (this section is also repeated at figure O in the score). It is effectively in a regular 4/4 crotchet rhythm, playing a very simple melodic line. The chord structure of Am, Em, F7, B and Em, and additional chords which are all semi-breves.

This chord structure is extended until figure H, when the tabla re-enters and the harmonium (with drone note A) once again loses its regular pacing to become free in rhythmic terms, and uses notes from the Aeolian mode until the sudden addition of Bb’s as the piece starts to gather tempo at the top of Page 18 in the score. At this moment, a different emotional atmosphere is created and projects a sense of ‘uncertainty’.

The piece is ‘traveling’ on an unknown journey or path, trying to find its ‘place’. It is not until figure L, that the work seems to find its path again, with the introduction of spoken text. This takes the form of fragments of texts by the Greek poetess Sappho, which are mostly focused on aspects of passion/desire/love/future.
86 Initially fourteen individual sentences of texts are irregularly distributed and spoken by the harmonium player, and to some extent replace the humming heard earlier in the piece. Now actual text is heard, the sentence-structure and pacing of the work has more clarity and can be understood by way of human breathing or inspiration.

The following comment on the early life of Arnulf Rainer seems relevant at this point:

‘Born in 1929, Rainer was largely self-taught as an artist and began at an early age to draw from nature. By 1948 he had discovered Surrealism, the most important and influential style of the 1920s and 1930s, and was attracted to the movement’s theoretical positions, in particular its emphasis on automatism which liberated the imagination and allowed the artist to give concrete form to the emotions, dreams and desires that ensued.’ 87

At figure O, the repeat of section H occurs, and on reflection of the Sappho texts, this music has an altogether different emotional sense than before, and is at its most intense at about twenty-two minutes into the piece.

Figure P, once again releases this tautness of emotional tension, and becomes a bridge into a much faster tempo, which lasts until figure T. A journey exploring the melodic line ensues, knotted with grace notes and unstable rhythmic patterns. This descends into a dark wasteland of what seems a despairing world, until at figure S, Sappho ‘Love shook my heart like the wind on the mountain rushing over the oak trees.’

From then the Sappho texts are heard only spasmodically until the end of the piece. Still, the atmosphere and emotional quality is unsure, questioning. Finally at figure T, (with drone on A note and melodic notes from the Aeolian mode) the harmonium and tabla become one, totally connected, clearly in finishing cadence mood. The piece ends in calm reflection, still questioning in Sappho’s words:

‘If you will come, I shall put out new pillows for you to rest on.’ (86)

Writing about two different versions of Contrecto, I initially thought of the comment made by Kevin Korsyn:

‘Even the same statements can mean radically different things when they appear in different discursive formations, so that the appearance of similarity can be deceptive.’ 88

Contrecto (Version for violin and harmonium)

This is a version of the piece originally written for harmonium and tabla. Initially my thought was to add a violin line to the original piece and this version is still perfectly possible. But when the chance came to record with just the violin and harmonium (and no tabla part) I was intrigued as to how it would work without the rhythmic element. The resulting performance, recorded and presented with this commentary, was very different from the original version. The approach from the two performers was generally faster in tempo and the pacing of the rhythmic space-time notation and breathing marks (pauses between melodic phrases or patterns, as in sentence-like structures) were digested in a faster way. As if tracing through a more densely packed line, especially the melodic material in the harmonium part. The fact that the duration of the original performance was thirty minutes and this version is twenty minutes also suggests a more tightly-packed reading of the score.

Even so, the relationship between violin and harmonium is very intense and intimate while projecting a very different emotional sense to that of the earlier version. They ‘feel’ like very different pieces, partly due to the way the violin line is constructed. The harmonium is exactly the same as the version with tabla in every detail. Because of the complete lack of bars within the piece, I wrote the violin line by hand because of the innate problems with the Sibelius notation programme coping with no bar lines which tends to reshape the positioning of other notes in different parts.

I have already made detailed reference to the progression of the harmonium part when referring to the first version of the piece, so I will concentrate to the new violin material in this section. Initially the palette of violin pitches is limited to high G, F, with E and A played as natural harmonics. By figure B the note D is added (but only once) the use of natural harmonics is an important pure sound within this piece and especially the perfect fifth of A-E (used also at the conclusion of the piece the highest at four and six ledger lines above the treble stave), which I feel echoes the purity of the open strings.

The addition of scordatura, (changing the usual tuning of the violin strings, G, D, A, E to A, E, A and E), further emphasises the importance of the pairs of perfect fifths. This arpeggiated grace note usually before a natural harmonic on either A or E occurs at various pivotal points throughout the piece especially at the beginning and at the end.

At figure F, with the introduction of a diminished chord (D#, F# and A) in the harmonium, the violin is much higher in pitch range, playing two notes only, B and A (four ledger lines above the treble stave) until it is tacit at figure G. The quality of sound is almost like whistling in timbre. At H, high A and G pitches are initially used and as the tempo gets faster, many more patterns of notes are used which echo precisely the notes on the harmonium, but are very different in their space-time notation and rhythmic contour.

At K, the violin is tacit again as the harmonium develops further extensions to the pitch range. At figure L, the violinist reads the Sappho poetic text fragments, while echoing the harmonium line as before, this time adding portamento to its elegant freedom of both pace and metre. At O, once again the violin is tacit to hear the reflective repeat of the harmonium’s metrically simple melodic line and accompanying chords.

At P, the violin echoes the same simple crotchet melodic line heard on the harmonium at O. The violin is then tacit during a knotty grace-note filled harmonium line which brings out the struggle to articulate the contours of faster lines. The instrument almost seems to be challenging the performer to continue to play in this way, the keys banging percussively at every turn. This suggests a truly physical quality to the performance that captures the struggle emotionally within the piece.

At R, the violin adds a very slowly ascending chromatic glissando, and by S, another scale rises to T, where the initial material of the piece is heard again. The Sappho fragment: ‘and when I die I shall never be forgotten’7 used at this point is most potent. The piece ends with very high natural harmonics on A and E, the perfect fifth, which complements the same lower notes in the harmonium. The instruments are finally joined, as one; perhaps this journey was plotted from the start, in Sappho’s words: ‘lustily they threw their bodies joined together.’ 7
Before the next piece, a moment to ponder on an extract from a Colin Blundell poem which has a suggestion of the mood of Contrecto:

Muddle resolving into order
One thing connected to another –
And stillness infinite stillness & a full moon
High in a light green diamond sky

Or it as Alan Bennett suggests regarding another artist’s work:

'I’m less taken by the finished portraits, which are staid and wooden, than by his preliminary sketches, some of them so rough and full of energy they’re reminiscent of Frank Auerbach, though none of this dash survives into the finished portraits.’ 90

Or might it be (Chris Dercon on the work of Bhupen Khakhar):

‘A glimpse of truth in one’s work is more important for me than whether you use colour well or other such technical virtuosities.’ 91

Ej upp

This piece in three sections for recorder quartet Ej upp (meaning ‘no exit’ in Swedish) starts with the solo treble recorder playing seven versions of a melody in a notation that is a mixture between proportional and set rhythmic patterns. This melody keeps its basic contour (and notes), but the rhythmic relationships gradually change and become slightly more complicated. On the fourth time the tenor and bass recorders enter, the tenor using pitch material mostly based around the intervals of fourths and fifths (the treble melody also rotates around these intervals), and the bass in a descending scale which slows down to the point that the notes become more drone-like in function.

The descant is added and a contrasting section with all four recorders play a rhythmic unison embellished heterophony, the line in intervals of the fourth. The third and final section, in contrast to the previous one is rhythmically free, and uses the space-time notation (one line for all the players) as in the piano piece 500 Treble Notes. The descant recorder starts, playing the melody that has grace notes added to it later in both small and large intervals. I imagined the sound of the Northumbrian pipes at this point. Gradually ad. Lib., the other performers pick out notes (holding them for up to ten seconds) from this melodic line to make drones and chords. This suddenly stops.

Pump Triptych (2016):

In three contrasting movements for respectively Bass Clarinet, Bb clarinet and finally Eb clarinet, Pump Triptych is in many ways a backwards reflection to previous compositions that were filled with a diversity of musical material. The emphasis on performer virtuosity is a paramount factor in the outer movements. In this case the first movement, for bass clarinet is a mixture of very chromatic motifs, extreme repetition (especially of notes G and Ab) which is interspersed with grace note multiphonic sounds producing a screech from the instrument.
This comment by Edward Lucie-Smith writing on photography can be applied to music:

‘The tendency to focus our attention on the subject itself is related to another characteristic which I find in many photographs – what I can only call their ‘rawness.’ The subject appears uncooked and unmasticated. The whole digestive process, whereby visual elements are transformed and subordinated to the purposes of the picture, has not yet taken place; the spectator has to undertake it for himself.’ 92

In contrast the second movement is relaxed, reflective and an embellished folk-like melody in a repetitive and decorated modal scale. Both the first and second movements are in 4/4 time signature but emphasise rhythmic flexibility within this framework.
Contrast in tempo and dynamics are a feature of the first movement, for bass clarinet which is as fast as possible and mostly fff! with one notable dynamic contrast at bar 58 when it is suddenly ppp! before a crescendo. The second movement, for Bb clarinet, is slow, less rigid and with dynamics ad lib., sounding as one might write in a song or melodic line where performer interpretation and personality is able to play a part. The third movement for Eb clarinet, although mostly very loud in dynamic, mixes up the tempo and draws in some of the elements from the previous two movements, although to very different effect. The embellished melodic writing, a feature of the second movement is now based around one decorated pitch and later contrasted to the lower repeated pitches (B-E or C-B).

The Trumpet in my Life

Over the years I have been very fortunate to work with a vast range of fantastic musicians. Dani Blanco Albert is both a composer and exceptional trumpet player. I wrote this short solo to attempt to encompass the player’s strengths; he is versatile, theatrical and compelling and plays many different types of music. This explains the fanfare-like rhythmic elements; important also as this was the starting piece within a diverse programme. The title directly alludes to Morton Feldman’s collection of pieces The Viola in my Life. The first three notes are the players initials (DBA) and apart from this motif the piece uses a wide pitch range, diverse tempos and dynamics, glissando, flutter-tonguing to reflect the player’s virtuosity. A theatrical element was added to enable the performer to ‘act-out’ the piece and improvise movements and actions to take advantage of the acoustic of the performance space. Playing into the piano (with pedal held down by either his pianist or a heavy object) enables the resonance to create potential subtle harmonies in the central section of the work which is ppp! with ascending arpeggiated glissando chords with very high flutter-tongued notes.


‘The work of urban and rural artists continues to refer to traditional forms and themes as part of the process of cultural enhancement.’ 93

The title Skein has many possible meanings, I was particularly thinking about a wound ball of yarn or a unit of length used by weavers and tailors. One of the other possible meanings which may well seem fitting refers to a flock of geese or ducks in flight.
When listening to Skein, I am put in mind of the work by Judith Scott:

‘Clearly, the introduction to new materials and processes that she encountered in Sylvia Seventy’s workshop had provoked, or perhaps unlocked, something in Scott’s creative imagination. Following her audacious first sculptural object, she quickly made a series of similar wrapped and bound pieces, their essential form consistent with her initial creation: bundles of twigs or sticks, attached to one another by carefully knotted and wrapped twine and coloured yarns. This sudden shift in her work was as unexpected as it was unprecedented… her own will to form had begun to dominate. Scott made highly idiosyncratic objects – organic, three-dimensional structures, fastidiously assembled by hand from found and scavenged everyday materials – that ultimately challenged, and even actively resist, attempts to define, categorise, or rationalise them as sculpture.’ 94

Written for violin and piano (one hand only), Skein is a version of the piano piece 500 triads to which I have added a violin line above the 500 chords. For most of the piece, including the first two pages (about a third of the total fourteen minute duration) continuous quavers (4 quavers to every minim chord) were added in a mixture of sequences, scalic patterns, and repetitions that usually fitted some aspect of the triad of notes beneath.

Arnold Whittall referring to minimal music:

‘This music not only cuts down the area of sound-activity to an absolute (and absolutist) minimum, but submits the scrupulously selective, mainly tonal, material, to mostly repetitive, highly disciplined procedures which are focused with an extremely fine definition.’ 95

In the performance presented with this commentary, I asked Charles Mutter (violin) and Antony Gray (piano) to try and project as little emotional emphasis (in phrasing, dynamics and pacing) in the patterns of notes and chords as possible, and they held-back for the duration of the piece which was recorded in one take, with no edits or post production enhancements. Jon Thompson on Outsider Art:

‘… all human minds are fundamentally the same and that this ‘sameness’ is manifest in the works of Outsider and mainstream artists alike.’ 96

Morton Feldman on patterns:

‘For me patterns are really self-contained sound-groupings that enable me to break off without preparation into something else.’ 97

It was important that the piece (and hence the recording) be subtle but direct in content, and avoid an obviously emotional quality that could have been projected onto the contours of the lines. The violinist rarely has slurs or indications of phrasing and the dynamic is consistently pp (pianissimo) with ad lib., slight crescendos and diminuendos. These were kept to a minimum in the recording presented, and the tip of the bow was mostly used to retain a light airy pressure. In the score at stave 3 page 91 Volume 3 of the Composition Portfolio, an ascending scale is heard on the violin, this is one potentially transcendent moment where a sense of emotionally charged tension occurs, despite the generally relatively and purposefully emotionally taut performance I wanted throughout.

Timothy Hyman makes a connected point when writing about his drawing:

'When a drawing is going well, it takes on its own momentum and autonomy – unburdened, unimpeded, free of all the weight of stylistic and cultural baggage that Painting inevitably carries; free also of commodification, of any considerations of exhibiting or selling. It feels ‘clean.’ It is one of the ways in which the human spirit finds liberty.’ 98

Chapter 4: The Ensemble Pieces

Arne Glimcher on Agnes Martin:

‘Painting only when inspired, Agnes emptied her mind of all cognitive activity and was obedient only to her art. She said that the intellectual was the enemy of making art.’ 99

Agnes Martin has produced a collection of thoughts over the years that can easily translate into musical terms. In her essay entitled What is real? she wrote the following comments:

'We are in the midst of reality responding with joy. …Beauty is an awareness in the mind. …You’ve got to paint only what you like. …The difference between nature and art is that there’s no perfection in nature.’ (99)

The title of an exhibition of her work in New York in 2008, The Complexity of the Simple, sums up her work and the present idea of some music composition.

Compairing the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs with Mark Rothko’s paintings is an interesting line of thought that directly connects with the time of writing Holding You. I spent much time sitting in the Rothko room at Tate Modern Gallery and Sugimoto’s Seascapes book lay open in my study, at a different page daily:

‘It is clear that Sugimoto’s Seascape possess a vitality that stands in contrast to Rothko’s last paintings, which took the reductionist passion of modernism – the desire to erase everything – to its extreme. In composition and tonality, the seascapes strikingly similar to Rothko’s final works, at first glance. What, then, is the difference between them? The difference between Seascapes and Rothko’s Untitled (Blue on Gray) is … the seascape. It is the sky and the sea and their clear division. It is the air and the water with their exuberant life. It is the minute variations in the shapes of the waves, the light, and the shadow. It is the way that Sugimoto once again affirms leela – the playfulness of the cosmos. It is a fertile tranquility of eternally recurring time.’ 100

Holding You

Holding You for Project Instrumental (11 string players) was inspired by a conversation with photographer Malcolm Crowthers, to whom the piece is dedicated. We visited an exhibition of the recent work of David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2012). Malcolm concentrated on how Hockney focused on the minutest of details and yet held the overall structure and scale of each picture clearly in his mind. He likened this to a photographic portrait where the focus was on the sitter, but the surroundings could also tell a great deal about the inner character of the subject. When I tried to put this into musical terms my piece, Holding You, became one idea, very high harmonics focused on a limited melodic pitch range (see the facsimile example of pitches at the start of the piece placed in the Composition Portfolio) and a very soft dynamic, muted and subtle throughout. I wanted it to encapsulate one moment (the flicker of the camera shutter) or elaborate detail. Or fancifully, the embellishments on the first letter of a medieval illuminated manuscript.
Similarly referring to Jeremy Gardiner’s paintings:

‘Although these paintings are in a sense snapshots, they contain not one single moment (as a photograph would) but a layering of different moments and meanings. The key word to describe Gardiner’s work is lamination: a process of working closely, dependent upon the fixing together of layers of material in an attempt to produce an equivalent to the way we experience the world around us.’ 101

Holding You can be played exactly as the score suggests (as in the recording presented) with all strings playing together in time with each other, or as 11 individual solo players combined - they start together but are completely independent from the outset. In the combined solo player’s version, we tried players in various special positions at a rehearsal: I thought that placed in different areas of the performance space were effective, and a sense of ‘surround sound’ was achieved. Herausgeber, referring to Goran Djurovic art comments on a similar sense of mood:

‘To translate the very unique tones and colours in Djurovic’s most recent works into written moods would mean one would have to create, beyond all finely detailed coloration, one’s own little school in praise of light and shadow.’ 102

In some ways this work has a sense of otherworldliness and brings to mind the comment regarding escapism from Mark Rothko:

‘Art has often been described as a form of escape from action. It has been pointed out the artist, finding the practical affairs of the world too unpleasant, withdraws from the world of true activity and ensconces himself in a world of the imagination in order to exempt himself from this unpleasantness.’ 103

On the whole I feel I’m in the real world, but no harm is caused by occasionally visiting other places:

The term dreamtime is commonly used in Aboriginal Australia to refer to Aboriginal Cosmology, encompassing the creator and ancestral beings, the laws of religious and social behaviour, the land, the spiritual forces which sustain life and the narratives which concern.’ 104


Verboten (Forbidden) was written for the Thallein Ensemble for performance in February 2016, and is dedicated to two potters Marcel van der Heuvel and Peter Smith. I wanted to write a piece that uses (for me at least) very little music material. And in contrast to the recent string ensemble piece Holding You this is a fast, rhythmically energetic work that has a focus on traditional harmonic progression (especially the circle of fifths) and its subversion both in the texture and the structure of the piece reminding me of artist Fahrelnissa Zeid’s love of calligraphy:
‘Throughout her career Zeid made works on paper: stylised black drawings that reveal her interest in Turkish calligraphic traditions, small abstract works with serpentine thin black lines and iridescent colours, lithographs, and sketches of landscapes, scenes and people she wished to remember in her notebooks.’

I wanted to limit melodic content and some instruments (piano, harp) use only one note, E (a major tenth above middle C) and are also very limited in the scope of their material. I was thinking about a type of mechanised construction that eventually breaks down, perhaps a metaphor for a range of attitudes towards harmonic content in 20/21st century music. Is harmony possibly the detritus of music history?

Throughout her life, Ana Mendieta produced an art whose figurative appearance carried with it the fragile aura of a disembodied trace of the real, of the remains of life amongst the ruins of modern culture.’ 106

During the writing of this piece, I found that I was regularly walking through areas of London and along the canal near to where I live, partly to clear my mind. From a catalogue of his work the following observation was made:

‘Leon Kossoff’s London is a place of tightly bound connections: of associations and memory, routine and revelations: In his railway subjects – trains and stations, junctions and bridges – people are kept constantly on the go, London’s enormous rail network processing them around the capital, linking underground to overground, people to places, eliding transient moments into patterns of behaviour.’ 107

On my desk I have a wind-up toy that is a clown playing a squeeze-box attached to a little monkey that bashes two tiny cymbals together. When wound-up it makes a single sound, an E note (hence the harp and piano on an E) and a tinny clash from the cymbals. This simple toy and other such things have been a trigger to compositional ideas:

‘The wilful recovery of childlike modes of figuration was a vein exploited by Paul Klee, who governed his ‘primitive’ spontaneity with the resources of a powerful intellect, nourished on the highest fruits of culture. He is not unlike Miró in the way he developed a personal calligraphy to express the inarticulate.’ 108


Euonia (has no exact meaning, but combines all five English vowels, AEIOU) was especially written for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new music ensemble Thallein for their debut performances in China. It celebrates the birth of Arthur (born 23/03/2016) son of Rose Redgrave and Joe Cutler.

A brief description of the musical material heard in the piece: the first page (p.42 of the Composition Portfolio) presents much of the material used, random sounding piano triads accompanied by a thud on the bass drum, high weaving and interlocking lines from piccolo and clarinet, chromatic ascending vibraphone notes (which on p.42 becomes the regularly heard decorated melodic line on the crotales), long held notes (Eb and G) on trumpet and piano (reminiscent of Verboten), a walking bass snap pizzicato double bass line and finally strings in rhythmic groups, five in the time of four quavers texture playing a mixture of natural and artificial harmonics.

Considering Wölfli’s works:

‘Detailed and near-symmetrical compositions, many numbered in sequence, introduced a rich visual vocabulary that was to remain with Wölfli all his life: highly repetitive and detailed decorative borders and bands which sweep around each composition, the use of musical manuscript fragments (still empty of notation at this stage), the introduction of lettering and word forms, the inclusion of small self-portrait heads and distinctive ‘bird’ motifs, even the introduction of collage. All these elements were combined to form richly textured compositions with flowing circular and linear forms.’ 109

The elements outlined so far crisscross until a sudden stop when bowed vibraphone (which then returns regularly using different notes for the rest of the piece) three bars after figure C (p.47). This is reminiscent of the second setting in Don’t let the snow fall (p.10 Volume 2 of the Composition Portfolio) and is a moment of repose and reflection in a work that feels somewhat chaotic. Alternation between this texture and the previous then ensues. At figure E (p.51), an extract taken from Verboten introduces a playful atmosphere: marimba and sleigh bells are prominent in the texture. This has a tangible sense of splicing in a film. For instance where the scene cuts suddenly from a busy street to a green meadow.

There is some brief elaboration of this material on p.53, before recommencing the initial material from the opening bars of the piece, with the addition of the recurrent feature (first heard in the vibraphone earlier) of upward notes in the piccolo, clarinet and trumpet. At figure G (p.54) the wind players are now making a breathing sound through their instruments as if exasperated by the slightly chaotic nature of the piece so far. Ligeti said:

'In the early 60’s I was interested in other areas of form and expression (in this case you cannot separate form from expression), in a frantic, tormented quality of sound which may seem like a disorderly, wild gesticulation, haphazard and completely uncontrolled.’ 110

I wanted to suggest the connection of inspiration (also visceral and gut feeling) to inspiration - (inhalation) and expiration (exhalation). Euonia has a much more diverse textual palate than either Holding You or Verboten which in contrast use relatively sparse musical material.

Perhaps this music is also attempting to connect with my past music in its range of changing textures, Djurovic said:

‘Even when they happen to be painters and pretend to rarely leave their studios – and then only if they have to – it does somehow seem as if they are always going somewhere, always managing to find things all over the place. They connect the past with the present, experiences with expectations.’ 111

I am trying to recreate a sense of automatic writing in Euonia, this meaningless title/word leading to a collage of materials:

'This belief in the mental strength of the artists he most admires leads Dubuffet to argue that they know perfectly well what they are doing. The phenomenon of inspiration is thus not to be explained as submission to unconscious dictation, in a way reminiscent of surrealist automatism.’ 112

And to continue:

‘…in Breton’s terms these would be perfectly equated with the notion of automatism, or inspiration projected from the unconscious.’ (112)

This chapter on the ensemble music concludes with a section of a poem by Colin Blundell:

From the secure stronghold
of natural moments binding the will to earth
comes this unnatural challenge; and the will,
unwillingly, whipping the blood to fire
moving my hands
to touch the sky
and the seas under me

Chapter 5: The Orchestral Piece

Fast, slow, faster

As seems to be regularly the case, confronting a blank sheet of paper, in a composer’s case usually with staves on it, can be quite a daunting moment. Often composers may now be in front of a computer screen, but it adds up to more or less the same sensation. Perhaps hand writing needs thought as to pens, pencils, rulers required, the idea of fussiness regarding what equipment is needed can be part of the preparations. What exactly to write? Often a few things will already be known. What combination of instruments or voices will be used, perhaps an existing text to be set, a title or framework might be in place, or thinking about a particular performer might conjure an idea or two, and so on.

Tim Ingold observed:

‘A master of all he surveys, the writer confronts the blank surface of a sheet of paper much as the colonial conqueror confronts the surface of the earth, or the urban planner confronts a wasteland, in preparation for the superimposition upon it of a construction of his own making… so the written text is produced in the space of the page. Thus the text is an artefact – a thing fabricated or made – that is built where before there was nothing.’ 114

Fast, slow, faster was written towards the end of 2017 and dedicated to the memory of Robert Rauschenberg.

This work is a good example of how different elements and material can be put together and in some ways encapsulates a type-of Rauschenberg approach (particularly collage, overlaying, inserts) to the use and structure of different ideas and materials within music. The context of the piece was a charity concert performed by the North London Orchestra from Camden, North London (mostly young students from the area) and put together for the children’s charity, The NSPCC, conducted by Enyi Okpara. Grayson Perry comments:

‘Few civilizations spring up spontaneously or develop in isolation. Cultures borrow and adapt. I enjoy artefacts where this give and take is more obvious and dissonant. New religions try to recruit by using the sites and symbols of the belief system they are trying to replace. Craftsmen make artefacts they think will appeal to visitors from abroad. Sometimes they get it wrong in a charming way. Creativity is often just mistakes.’ 115

The piece seemed to take shape when I was trying to mend a broken vase, and found it difficult to accurately put the pieces back together. Fragments were lost, and some I realised later were connected wrongly, making the task more difficult. I had already started writing ideas for a new orchestral piece and my experience with this vase caused me to set all that material aside and focus on writing a piece that was somehow broken. I also thought initially about writing a fanfare, and have incorporated certain fanfare elements into this piece.

Firstly I needed ‘objects’ (music) that I could connect together (like the pieces of the vase) so I decided to make some Baroque-type pastiche music (mostly inspired by leafing through random pages of Rameau operas – some of my favourite music from this period) partly because of the idea from the Rococo period of Rocaille which is the broken-shell frilly carvings often found on furniture, silver and ceramics of the period that connected with my putting the music (vase) back together. Parts don’t always fit together, but can be close and nearly mended. I enjoyed creating new connections with the material, bumpy, clumsy, cracked music that nearly works, but not quite.

In the book Joan Miró, selected writings and interviews, Margit Roswell comments:

‘Despite his long reflection before taking up a given medium, Miró’s ideas always came to him during the execution of a work, inspired by his contact with the materials and the forms taking shape before his eyes.’ 116

And in his working notes Miró makes this suggestion:

'When sculpting, start from the objects I collect, just as I make use of stains on paper and imperfections in canvases – do this here in the country in a way that is really alive, in touch with the elements of nature.’ (116)

The title, Fast, slow, faster is also a typical tempo scheme in much music (String Quartets, Suites, Symphonies etc.), here telescoped together in a single movement of eight minutes duration. The dynamics are also typically blocked into mostly either ff (very loud) or pp (very quiet). Often instruments are layered with incorrect transpositions of the material (the vase looks effectively mended, but hairline cracks are apparent) and parts of the puzzle fragments are incorrectly placed together. I have also thrown in some fragments (not Baroque in sound) that don’t seem to fit within their placed context.

In attempting to make choices about what musical material to use, this observation regarding this aspect of choice in Bhupen Khakhar works comes to mind:

‘Khakhar takes us on a kind of itinerary through ‘the world’ – that is, a small, humdrum, contemporary Indian town, with its motorcars, shops and dwellings, its figures half-seen behind a metal grille, the fluorescent pink light, the man reaching to pick ripe mangoes out of a tree. Khakhar’s topographical sources lie in his memories of the back lanes of his Bombay childhood, as well as his daily experience of Baroda. ‘Each evening after five o’clock, I walk in the bazaar and take mental notes to decide if I will use this or that shop in my next picture.’ 117

The piece starts with a false beginning in the woodwinds which is non-defined abstract texture music. Almost as though they had started to play the wrong piece, but quickly realised and adapted. This is immediately spliced into a sequence of notes in hetrophonic layers in the key signature of F minor. The rather clichéd crash cymbal sound sets the general use of percussion within the piece. Timpani playing perfect cadences or punctuating dramatic moments and changes, likewise cymbals usually in a close relationship with the timpani.

The facsimile of hand-written material on page 4 of Volume 5 of the Composition Portfolio shows examples of the initial fragment bars that are inserted into the work: Two woodwind bars, the brass fanfare and the string artificial harmonic chord.

The sequence of musical events moves quickly in the faster outer sections of the piece. By bar 5 the potential tonality of the piece is becoming skewed, and instruments seem to be lost or have miscounted their bars. Tonal logic has been thwarted, even when the timpani robustly plays A major perfect cadences (E-A) from bar 5 onwards, and other instruments seem to tally (A major arpeggios) with this. Even the doubling of material between woodwind and strings suggests unity of purpose initially. The brass interrupts (as though they are lost, but trying to keep together as a section) with a fanfare outburst just before figure A in bar 10 in the wrong key. They could be a marching band starting their piece at the wrong moment.

The same type of disruption happens in a more subtle way when two ideas collide in bar 20, the first time a very quiet string artificial harmonic chord is heard. This high sound is greatly extended in the slow section of the piece. Charles Ives is certainly a predominant composer fascinated by the notion of combining different musical material.

At figure B, the brass (with lower strings) take centre-stage but are pp dynamic in contrast to their earlier outbursts. In bar 34 another abstract interruption (as with the opening bar) occurs to question the overall pacing of the piece. At moments the work seems to sound as if two or more pieces are happening simultaneously, for example from bar 34 until figure E, the brass begin a choral, oblivious to the surrounding material and at figure E this is replaced by a ‘cloud-like’ texture of extended artificial harmonic chords in the strings until figure G.

Figure G is the start of the slow section of the piece and apart from the high string texture (ppp), includes a plaintive duet initially between oboe and clarinet, later flute takes the oboe line still with clarinet. Solo lead violinist adds to this texture but is playing individual material not connected to the woodwind duet’s material. In Bar 72 once again the brass adds (by mistake) a very loud fanfare bar which somehow prompts the tambourine to start tapping out a rhythm which is soon improvised and varied by the performer.

At figure H the final faster section begins with the piece continuing to collage and overlay oddly and sometimes wrongly combined material that nearly matches in terms of tonality and contour, but not quite. At figure K piccolo is added and the mood changes and becomes more animated with repeated notes and scalic passages. Figure L more semi-quaver scales to repeated notes and dotted rhythms build up to figure M when triplets predominate. Once again the brass articulates a potential fanfare, in the wrong place, as if throughout the piece they collectively wanted to simply play fanfare material. But, they do seem to finally catch-up in the last two bars with the final descending scale to a resounding final chord of C major.

Pastiche has been something that has always interested me since I first studied music as an undergraduate at Surrey University where it was part of a composer’s initial training. Specifically writing short pieces to explore texture, orchestration, harmony (including 4-part), styles of music, Haydn (string quartet), Stravinsky orchestration among many other areas.

The piece is dedicated to the memory of Robert Rauschenberg an artist who made many ‘combine’ works that collaged and placed many wonderful ideas together and has been an inspiration for many years. He also created ROCI – Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange which shared ideas and artistic connections between different parts of the world. At the present time I feel very strongly that connections, collaborations and sharing of ideas is not only essential, but a priority to at least try to sway the growing feeling of isolation and the broken society felt by many who love the diversity and openness that we have perhaps taken too much for granted.

Chapter 6: The Opera

Narrow Rooms

Narrow Rooms, an intimate, dark and shadowy affair, where small town attitudes are forced to confront a tale of family loyalties pushed to the limit. Visions of love, fate, jealousy and death entwine the relationships between two brothers (Sid and Vance), a mother and son (Irene Vaisey and Gareth), a rogue figure, Roy, the dead Brian McFee and the local Doctor Ulric. They tell their stories to shine a light on the complex and passionate connections between each other. Needless to say things don’t end well.

Narrow Rooms is an Opera in one act (five scenes) with a libretto by Michael Finnissy based on the novel by James Purdy. The cast has six characters (in four performers): Sidney De Lakes – tenor, Vance De Lakes, his younger brother who also plays the character Gareth Vaisey, counter tenor, Mrs Irene Vaisey, Gareth’s mother, soprano, Roy Sturtevant /Doctor Ulric, bass. There are eight players: Flute (Piccolo, Alto and Bass), Clarinet (Bb, Eb and Bass), Bassoon (Contra Bassoon), Percussion, Harmonium, Violin, Viola and Cello. The Duration of the opera is 70 minutes.
The full libretto, synopsis and vocal score can be read in Volume 6 of the Composition Portfolio submitted with this commentary. The first performance will not happen until 2019. In the meantime, while the instrumental parts are being placed onto the Sibelius notation system, I have (rather like the versions of Contrecto) made an independent uncluttered skeleton vocal score that limits the texture, honing down the harmonic ideas to a basic outline. The vocal score can also be a performing version in a very intimate space.

The story of writing this opera started in the early 1990s when I was visiting the Banff Centre in Canada for rehearsals of my first opera Ubu (1991-92), having had successful performances of my Antonin Artaud music theatre work, The Spurt of Blood (1988-90) the previous year. I had, by chance picked up a copy of the novel Narrow Rooms and had read it during the first flight to Canada, and was immediately struck as to its potential as a possible opera text. At this point I was just beginning to write Ubu, so put Narrow Rooms aside.

The year after Ubu had been performed (and toured the UK with the opera company who had commissioned it, Music Theatre Wales) I was invited back to Banff to be on a libretto writing course and started to think about the Purdy novel again. I was also able to arrange a flight to Canada via New York enabling me and opera/theatre director Robert Chavara to visit James Purdy to discuss the possibility of an opera based on his novel. This went very well and we kept in touch and corresponded, receiving letters about his work, including poems, which I set (Don’t Let the Snow Fall), and felt-tip portrait drawings that James enjoyed making. He also gave some invaluable suggestions and support for the initial attempts at making a libretto.

This project took a long time in the making due to commissioning commitments: two other chamber operas, The Juniper Tree (1993) and I’ll be there for you (2000). With the amount of teaching I was doing at the time, I am tempted to think of the phrase from the Philip Glass and Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi (a word in the Hopi language): meaning

‘Life out of balance.’ 118

On reflection I think that the timing was not right for writing such an intimate opera. Writing, at that time in a way that encompassed so many musical possibilities (as can be heard in the previous operas) was not focused enough for this particular subject and text.

James Purdy died in 2009 and only recently with the focus of this research period, having time to work on Narrow Rooms and the libretto by Michael Finnissy have I felt able to complete the work that has been somewhere in the back of my mind for many years. As Jonathan Harvey comments in his book Music and Inspiration:

‘For composers of song or opera, a period of intense meditation upon the text to be set may form an important part of the preparation for inspiration.’ 119

Reflecting on my initial visceral response to the novel, it is surprising that it has taken such a time to bring this opera to fruition, and having done so, I feel that the narrowing down and scope of the musical material finally used could only occur after this long period of reflection. I spent much time deliberating over the finer details of this text, changing or omitting lines, extending passages and when finally setting the text, much changed again as the emphasis seemed to continually criss-cross between the original novel and Finnissy’s libretto. It was a complicated journey that eventually ended up being focused on what feels like a through-composed setting, where the vocal lines of the characters connect very intimately together in a continuous single line joined together like a work of embroidery.

Before embarking on a description of the music connected to the outline of the story, it is important to remember that the characters in Narrow Rooms all have a past that is reflected in their behaviour. Paul Binding emphasises this in his introduction to the novel:

‘Behind the principal characters stand nameable people, nameable forces, unnameable people and unnameable forces. Such recognition makes glib judgement, moral or sociological, of, say, the driving cruelty of Roy Sturtevant or of the beseeching masochism of Sidney De Lakes totally beside the point. Thus in considering Roy, the terrifying controller of the lives of all the main people in the book, we have to remember his parents – his outcast father who killed himself; his gentle, adored mother who left him bereft at so early an age.’ 120

The synopsis of Narrow Rooms (in Volume 6 of the Composition Portfolio) is clearly a dramatic and sometimes explosive story. In contrast to the possibility of emphasising and exaggerating the extreme aspects of the text, I have placed the whole opera in shadow, dimly lit and to some extent dramatically held back. It is as though the story unfolds as if these occurrences happen, without surprise, on a daily basis in any small town environment. In the vocal score, the instrumental parts outline the harmony and accompaniment in a similar way as a baroque continuo part (using harmonium, violin and cello).

The vocal material fluctuates between modal melodic lines and more embellished chromatic material depending on the meaning of the text. The vocal setting is seamless, in that the characters almost always pick up the melodic thread of the previous character in terms of actual note cells, melodic contour and dramatic intensity of the text. An ebb and flow of material is consistently developed throughout the work enabling a focused, intimate and uncluttered atmosphere to prevail.

This intimate, uncluttered atmosphere will also be an aspect of the stage craft where the physical space is purposely limited, dark and shadowy. I envisage a small space, with minimal props and costumes, with basic changes for instance when two characters are played by one performer, and an almost claustrophobic sense as the audience should be very close in proximity to the performers.


The last three years have been compositionally productive, with much time for reflection on what I want to do as a composer, and how I want my music to develop in the future. The direction my music has taken has surprised me in that I have not just continued with the stylistically diverse range of materials that I have used in the past. Yes, there are certain aspects of this still in works such as Euonia, Fast, slow, faster and Pump Triptych, but the main focus has been on connecting similar, reduced musical ideas and materials. Focusing on what I hope will be heard by the listener as a more refined, simplified palette that is both direct and subtle. Works such as Holding You, Contrecto (in both versions), 500 Triads and most of all the opera Narrow Rooms, are all conceived in a visceral way that is difficult to articulate in words as to the how and why of conception. I have attempted to do this through not only my own compositions, but also the words of other composers, artists and writers.

To briefly answer the seven questions posed in the introduction in the hope that these questions may prove useful to students of composition who need to focus on a wide range of music thought:

1) What path is my music heading in?

During the three years of research I have developed a more coherent musical language that is pared down to what is often primary material, removing the clutter and excesses of my previous music. This may be because I had the time, unheeded by an all-consuming teaching position, to consistently focus on gradual and more sustained thought processes. I hope to refine this process further in the future.

2) How can I coherently develop my musical language?

My musical language, having gone through a re-evaluation, has gained some clarity in many of the techniques used, including aspects of harmony, melodic writing, text setting, textural and structural features. I am about to embark on a violin concerto and some more poetry settings, so the recent works for voice and violin will enable me to concentrate on further enhancing of ideas that have already germinated in the songs.

3) What do other composers, artists and writers think about visceral aspects to their creative practice, even if they do not use the word visceral?

From my extensive reading around the subject there are many different angles of approach to this subject and I have consistently tried to give examples of the range of feelings and reactions from many different people. Frankly there are a multiplicity of answers to this question, and many composers, writers and artists have provided eloquent observations throughout this commentary, covering a range of issues pertinent to aspects of viscerality.

4) What effect do the ideas of other composers, artists and writers have on my work?

It is difficult to live in a busy world and ignore or not be influenced to some extent by its contents. Sometimes the effects are subconscious, sometimes direct. For example reading a poem, or looking at a painting can immediately suggest aspects of potential musical material. Perhaps because it is removed from being actual music there is an oblique intensity which can be both visceral and have direct impact on the forming of musical ideas. Other composer’s music can direct the mind to effective ways of dealing with different approaches to technical possibilities. Inevitably some composers touch a visceral nerve that ignite connections and passions that inspire.

5) How does listening and looking at other music/art affect my music at any given moment?

I created the looking/listening log over the research period because I wanted to monitor what I looked at and listened to had any connection to the music I was writing. So for example, I could, from looking at my diary see what pieces I had recently heard and the music I was concurrently writing. As it happens this is a difficult area to quantify, and I am aware that other people who have looked at the log seem to make more connections to various events than I do. Perhaps much of this is subconscious; I have yet to fully unpick this aspect of my composition.

6) How can I effectively focus on a single idea or musical strand for an entire piece?

Initially I found this difficult to do as I previously had a tendency to combine a multitude of ideas. There are still recent pieces that reflect this stance, but gradually I honed in on limiting my material, and found this very satisfying. If this music is of interest beyond my own appreciation it is too early to tell.

7) How do I find, develop and communicate the most direct musical material?

In limiting my chosen material I have attempted to be more direct in my musical language. This has surprisingly established a more subtle and nuanced approach to
textural diversity than previously. In the simplification of approach I find certain (perhaps) obvious material (use of triads, ambiguous tonality, simple melodic contours for example) has reinvigorated my passion for composing.
Perhaps the following description of David Hockney or Jonathan Harvey’s comment on everyday life versus inspiration and Marlene Dumas’s (imagine this translated as if she were talking about music) regarding recognition, empathy and physical sensation capture some aspects of how I feel as a composer:

Describing David Hockney:

‘In a deft balancing act, his art dances between past and present, sentiment and satire, and with a smile, gingerly places one foot on either side of Greenberg’s Manichean binary of avant-garde and kitsch. The work is inscribed with the same dualities as the man himself – part Bradford, part Los Angeles, plain-spoken and artful, virtuoso practitioner and erudite theorist, reactionary and radical, populist and paladin’121

Jonathan Harvey’s comment:

‘Many have felt that they have two sharply contrasting lives: the mundane, everyday life, and the mysterious, spiritual life of inspiration.’ 122

Marlene Dumas says:

‘The traffic of images, the unabated ebb and flow of visual information, has now swamped our ability to distinguish reality from fiction, extract truth from a photograph. How do we recognise one another? …The aim of my work, I have come to believe, has always been to arouse in my audience (as well as myself) an experience of empathy with my subject matter (be it a scribble, a sentence, or a face…) more so than sympathy. Sympathy suggests an agreement of temperament, and an emotional identification with a person. Empathy doesn’t necessarily demand that. The contemplation of the work (when it ‘works’) gives a physical sensation similar to that suggested by the work.’ 123

The last words are left to Walt Whitman in an extract of his poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, especially as I am about to set a collection of his poems.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the
Spheres to connect them.

Appendix: Timeline and Looking/Listening Log for October 2015-August 2018

Timeline (Capturing the years 2016 and 2017)

2016 commenced was a day trip to Hastings where my brother, Peter, has lived since November 2015. I had some excellent performances of my music this year. A trip to Beijing, China in May, with composers and Thallein performers from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Starting up my ensemble IXION with two concerts at the CoMA Summer School in August was an excellent way to begin my plans for the ensemble’s future.

Throughout the year over fifty visits to concerts, operas, art exhibitions and films: Highlights included the multi Michael Finnissy events celebrating his 70th Birthday, operas by Philip Glass, Gerald Barry, Leoš Janácek and Wagner including Opera North’s marvellous complete Ring at the RFH. Art highlights included visits to see the work of John Davies, Nek Chand, Armando Alemdar, Geogia O’Keeffe and the We are all human, The SBC exhibition of Offenders art. Saw many films, and especially enjoyed The Dutch Girl, Julieta, Moonlight, Koyaanisqatsi and a marathon Star Trek day.

Among many new compositions I heard this year I especially enjoyed those by Robert Crehan, Patrick Gigučre, Samuel Bordoli, Ryan Latimer, Tazul Tajuddin, and many student composer concerts at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The year ended with a very special Christmas time with many of my family and friends, so all in all it was a good year.

During 2017 I composed eight pieces, mostly smaller in scale as I have also been working on my chamber opera Narrow Rooms. I have also been to many varied concerts, exhibitions, operas and films, highlights include: Exhibitions: James Ensor and Jasper Johns at the RAA, Rauschenberg, Giacometti, Zeid at Tate Modern, Grayson Perry at the Serpentine, Harriet Riddell exhibition at the GX Gallery London and an inspiring visit to the Venice Biennale.

Concerts of music by Laurence Crane, Joe Cutler, Sorabji, Philip Glass, New Music Dublin, Ben Smith piano recital, celebration concert of Skempton/Roxburgh, Handel/Jaroussky and operas by Glass (Einstein on the Beach – Dortmund opera) and Mussorgsky’s Khovanschina at the Proms.
Somehow I managed to keep up with friends and family and enjoy working with the many composers at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well. The focus on my new opera has been a massive presence overshadowing a lot of my thoughts this year. Aside from the opera I seem to have become obsessed with simple piano pieces and collections of songs/settings with violin/viola accompaniment. The year ends with a quiet Christmas with my brother in Hastings and reflecting on the year I feel it has gone well in terms of my creative activities.


1 Richard Cutler, Lavretsky (London: Scotforth Books, 2016). p.1
2 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, ed. M. Downes (London: Faber and Faber,1999).p.XIX
3 György Ligeti, Ligeti in Conversation (London: Eulenburg Books, 1983). p.25
4 Luciano Berio: Two Interviews, David Osmond Smith ed. (London: Marion Boyars, 1985). p.19
5 Philip Glass, Words Without Music, A Memoir (London: Faber and Faber, 2015). p.41
6 Pierre Boulez, Conversation with Celestin Deliegé (London: Eulenberg Books, 1975). p.35
7 Andrew Palmer, Encounters with British Composers (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2015). p.240
8 Mark Rothko, The Artist’s Reality, ed., C. Rothko (New Haven: Yale University Press 2004). p.8
9 John Maizels, Raw Creation, Outsider Art and beyond (London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996). p.24
10 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1999). p.30
11 Michael Hall, Harrison Birtwistle (London: Robson Books Ltd., 1984). p.26
13 John Cage, Richard Kostelanetz, ed. Conversing with Cage (London: Omnibus Press, 1988). p.41
15 Pierre Boulez, Conversation with Celestin Deliegé (London: Eulenberg Books, 1975). p.17
17 Andrew Palmer, Encounters with British Composers (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2015). p.237
18 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, Michael Downes ed.(London: Faber and Faber,1999). p.14
19 Alan Bennett, Untold Stories (London: Faber and Faber, 2005). p.548
20 Luc Tuymans, James Ensor (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2016). p.17
21 Agnes Martin, Writings Schriften (Munich: Cantz, 1992). p.18
22 Calvin Tomkins, Off the Wall, Robert Rauschenberg and the Art World of Our Time (New York: Penguin Books 1980). p.69
23 Jon Thompson, ed., Inner Worlds Outside (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2006). p.51
24 Villars, Chris, Morton Feldman Says, selected interviews and lectures 1964-1987 (London: Hyphen Press, 2006). p.49
25 Richardson, Brenda, Barnett Newman The Complete Drawings, 1944-1969 (Maryland: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1979). p.13
26 Riley, Bridget, Bridget Riley Selected Paintings 1961-1999 (Cologne: Hatje Cantz, 2000). p.49 and p.63
27 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1999). p.70
28 Philip Glass, Words Without Music, A Memoir (London: Faber and Faber, 2015). p.247
29 David Wordsworth, Ed., The Nativity Star, 18 Contemporary Carols, Alleluya for Christmas (1981) (Newport: Cadenza Music, 2017). p.120-123
30 Norman Lebrecht, The Complete Companion to 20th Century Music (London: Simon & Schuster
31 Andrew Porter, ‘Andrew Toovey, The Juniper Tree’ (Opera Magazine. October 1993). pp.1234-1246
32 David Fraser, ed., Fairest Isle, BBC Radio 3 Book of British Music (London: BBC Radio 3 1995). p.117
33 Dermot Gault ‘Sligo Festival’ (Irish Times March 2005).10Eric Salzman, Twentieth-Century Music: An Introduction (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974). p.199
34 Eric Salzman, Twentieth-Century Music: An Introduction (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974). p.199
35 Michael Finnissy, ‘Andrew Toovey’ (Tempo Music Magazine No 181, 1992). p.2-7
36 Arnold Whittall, ‘Andrew Toovey Largo CDs’, (Music and Musicians, 1999). p.62-63
37 Barry Millington, ‘Please Don’t Carry On’ (The Times, October 1992).
38 Jamie Portman, ‘Naughty Little Ubu is taking Britain by Storm’ (Calgary Herald, September 1992).
39 Peter Roberts, ‘Staying Cool in the King’s New Clothes’ (The Stage Magazine October 1992).
40 Kevin Korsyn, Decentering Music (New York: Oxford University Press 2003). p.24
41 Arnold Whittall, ‘Problems of Reference’ (The Musical Times 2004). p.51
42 Arnold Whittall, Music since the First World War (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1977). p.211
43 Clare Barlow, Ed., Queer British Art 1861-1967 (London: Tate Publishing 2017). p. 159
44 Henrietta Brougham, Christopher Fox, and Ian Pace, eds., Uncommon Ground: The Music of Michael Finnissy (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 1997). p.27
45 Herausgeber, ed., Goran Djurovic (Cologne: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009). p.29
46 Dawn Adčs, Franco Siron, Figures and Likenesses, Paintings 1969-1995 (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Index, Ltda., 1995). p.47
47 Jim Samson, Music in Transition (New York: W.H.Norton & Company, 1977). p.152
48 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1999). p.1
49 Jim Samson, Music in Transition (New York: W.H.Norton & Company, 1977). p.155
50 Marlene Dumas, Marlene Dumas, measuring your own grave (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008). p.43 and p.45
51 Morton Feldman, Morton Feldman Essays (Cologne: Beginners Press, 1985). p.137
52 Morton Feldman, Morton Feldman Essays (Cologne: Beginners Press, 1985). p.129
53 Marina Abramovic, The Artist Is Present (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2010). p.13
54 Mary Midgley, The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge, 2004). p.26, p.28 and p.49
55 Carolyn Beckingham, Moribund Music, Can Classical Music be Saved? (Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press, 2009). p.31
56 Anezka Šimkova, and T. Zemánková, eds., Anna Zemánková (Prague: KANT, 2017). p.32
57 Edward Lucie-Smith, The Invented Eye, Masterpieces of Photography, 1839-1914 (London: Paddington Press Ltd., 1975). p.6
58 Frédéric Martel, Global Gay (London: The MIT Press, 2018). p.XXIX
59 Clare Barlow, Ed., Queer British Art 1861-1967 (London: Tate Publishing 2017). p.25
60 Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, Listening to the Twentieth Century (London: Fourth Estate, 2008). p.542
61 Tim Ingold, Lines (London: Routledge Classics 2007 revised 2016). p.1-7
62 Robert Bly, Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (New York: Harper 7 Row, 1981). p.93
63 Richard Cutler, The finder of faces (London: Scotforth Books, 2016). p.92
64 Mary Midgley, The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge, 2004). p.37
65 Cole Gagne and Tracy Caras, Soundpieces: Interviews with Anerican Composers (London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1982). p.362
66 Marion Molteno, if you can walk, you can dance (New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2017). p.482
67 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber,1999). p.7
68 Andrew Palmer, Encounters with British Composers (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2015). p.448 and 449
69 Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (London: Amazon First Rate Publishers 2017). p.2
70 Rudi Fuchs, ed., Arnulf Rainer (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1989). p.46
71 Alan Bennett, Untold Stories (London: Faber and Faber, 2005). p.458
72 Mark Storey, Again (Birmingham: Flemish Old Masters Press, 2018). p.7-8
73 Colin Blundell, the same blackbird (Lincolnshire: Hub Editions 2018). p.51
74 Mark Storey, The Elephants at Aberystwyth (Birmingham: Flemish Old Masters Press, 2007).
75 Mark Storey, Shaking Hands with John Clare (Birmingham: Flemish Old Masters Press, 2010). p.5, p.19
76 Mark Storey, Are we having fun yet? (Birmingham: Flemish Old Masters Press, 2009). p.71
77 Richard Cutler, Openings and Endgame, (London: Scotforth Books, 2013)
78 Kenneth Gloag, and Nicholas Jones, eds., Peter Maxwell Davies, studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). p.47
79 Tim Ingold, Lines (London: Routledge Classics 2007 revised 2016). p.13
80 Jonathan Cross, Harrison Birtwistle: Man, Mind, Music (London: Faber and Faber 2000). p.20
81 Kenneth Gloag, and Nicholas Jones, Eds., Peter Maxwell Davies, studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). p.47
82 Morton Feldman, Morton Feldman Essays (Cologne: Beginners Press/Zimmermann,1985). p.126
83 Michael Church, Ed., The Other Classical Music’s, Fifteen Great Traditions (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2015). p.140, p.142, 144-145
84 Timothy Hyman, Timothy Hyman, Fifty Drawings (London: Lenz Books, 2010). p.9
85 Callum Innes, Callum Innes – From Memory (Cologne: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2006). p.17&19
86 Josephine Balmer, Sappho: Poems & Fragments (London: Brilliance Books, 1984).
87 Rudi Fuchs, ed., Arnulf Rainer (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1989). p.11
88 Kevin Korsyn, Decentering Music – A critique of contemporary musical research (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). p.41
89 Colin Blundell, the same blackbird (Lincolnshire: Hub Editions 2018). p.49
90 Alan Bennett, Untold Stories (London: Faber and Faber, 2005). p.248
91 Chris Dercon, Nada Raza, Eds., Bhupen Khakhar, You Can’t Please All (London: Tate Publishing, 2016). p.166
92 Edward Lucie-Smith, The Invented Eye, Masterpieces of Photography, 1839-1914 (London: Paddington Press Ltd., 1975). p.6
93 Wally Caruana, Aboriginal Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993). p.203
94 Catherine Morris, and Matthew Higgs eds., Judith Scott Bound & Unbound (New York: Del Monico Books, Prestal and the Brooklyn Museum, 2014). p.32
95 Arnold Whittall, Music since the First World War (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1977). p.211
96 Jon Thompson, ed., Inner Worlds Outside (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2006). p.51
97 Morton Feldman, Morton Feldman Essays (Cologne: Beginners Pres,1985). p.130
98 Timothy Hyman, Timothy Hyman, Fifty Drawings (London: Lenz Books, 2010). p.14
99 Arne Glimcher, Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Rememberances (New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 2012). p.12, p. 13
100 Hiroshi Sugimoto, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Seascapes (Rome: Damiani and Matsumoto Editions, 2015). p.9
101 Jeremy Gardiner, Jeremy Gardiner, Drawn to the Coast (London: Paisnel Gallery, 2017). p.1
102 Herausgeber, Ed., Goran Djurovic (Cologne: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009). p.9
103 Mark Rothko, The Artist’s Reality, ed. by Christopher Rothko (New Haven & London: Yale University Press 2004). p.9
104 Wally Caruana, Aboriginal Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993). p.214
105 Kerryn Greenberg, ed., Fahrelnissa Zeid (London: Tate Publishing, 2017). p.24
106 Gloria Moore, ed., Ana Mendieta (catalogue) (Santiago: Centro Galego de Arte Contemporianea, 1996). p.83
107 Andrea Rose, Leon Kossoff London Landscapes (London: Annely Juda Fine Art, 2013). p.15
108 Roger Cardinal, Outsider Art (London: Studio Vista, 1972). p.14
109 John Maizels, Raw Creation, Outsider Art and beyond (London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996). p.24
110 Gyorgy Ligeti, Ligeti in Conversation (London: Eulenburg Books, 1983). p.15 and p.180
111 Herausgeber, Ed., Goran Djurovic (Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009). p.8
112 Roger Cardinal, Outsider Art (London: Studio Vista, 1972). p.30-31 and p.151
113 Colin Blundell, Turning Back (Lincolnshire: Hub Editions 2018). p.5-6
114 Tim Ingold, Lines (London: Routledge Classics 2007 revised 2016). p.13
115 Grayson Perry, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (London: The British Museum Press, 2011). p.57
116 Margit Rowell, Ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986). p.173 and p.175
117 Chris Dercon, Nada Raza, Eds., Bhupen Khakhar, You Can’t Please All (London: Tate Publishing, 2016). p.50
118 Philip Glass, Words Without Music, A Memoir (London: Faber and Faber, 2015). p.327
119 Harvey, Jonathan, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber,1999). p.18
120 James Purdy, Narrow Rooms (London: The Gay Men’s Press, 1985). p.III-IV
121 David Hockney, David Hockney, A Bigger Picture (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2012). p.43
122 Jonathan Harvey, Music and Inspiration, M. Downes ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1999). p.4
123 Marlene Dumas, Marlene Dumas, measuring your own grave (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008). p.47 and p.216
124 Walt Whitman, The Complete Poems (London: Penguin Books reprinted 2004). p.463

Looking/Listening Log for October 2015-August 2018 :

BCU = Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
BH = Barbican Hall, BM = British Museum
ENO = English National Opera
RCM = Royal College of Music
RFH = Royal Festival Hall
ROH = Royal Opera House
SBC = South Bank Centre
WH = Wigmore Hall


Opera: Berg Wozzeck. Concert Performance. RFH SBC 02/10/2015.

Film: The Martians Cineworld Hammersmith 05/10/2015.

Concert: In Modern Dress. Kings Place presentation of City University. Classical music with technology. 7/10/2015.

Concert: Richard Ayres No.48 (Night Studio) BBCSO/Volkov - BH. 8/10/2015.

Opera: Shostakovich Lady Macbeth (Original version) ENO 10/10/2015.

Film: Macbeth. Cineworld Hammersmith 12/10/2015.

Concerts: Two electronic music concerts at BCU 13/10/2015.

Exhibition: The Celts BM 16/10/2015.

Concert: Stephen Isserlis (cello) and Richard Egarr (harpsichord) play Bach – WH 18/10/2015.

Concert: Bertrand Chamayou. Ravel Piano Recital WH 23/10/2015.

Concert: Elizabeth Watts – Soprano, Julius Drake – Piano – song recital of Liszt/Debussy/Hahn. WH 26/10/2015.

Concert: Piano Duet recital with Stephen Kovacevich and Marta Argerich WH 02/11/2015.

Concert: Frontiers Concert Series Philip Bates Prize for Songwriters 2015. BCU 03/11/2015.

Concert: Solo Violin Recital – Barnabas Kelemen Bach, Ysaye, Paganini, Piazzolla WH 09/11/2015.

Exhibition: Re-Form – Art by offenders from Koestler. SBC 12/11/2015.

Exhibition: London Potters at Morley Gallery, Waterloo, 14/11/2015.

Concert: The English Concert, Harry Bicket, Iestyn Davies, Andreas Scholl, Purcell WH 19/11/2015.

Concert: Feldman Piano Violin Viola Cello (1987.) Explore Ensemble. RCM Concert Hall 20/11/2015.

Concert: Michael Finnissy: Chi Mei Ricercari (2013). Neil Heyde/Zubin Kanga RAM 27/11/2015.

Film: Lobster (2015). – Curzon Cinema 20/11/2015.

Exhibition: Frank Auerbach . Tate Britain 03/12/2015.

Exhibition: Artist & Empire Tate Britain 03/12/2015.

Operas: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci Operas ROH 03/12/2015.

Concert: Howard Skempton. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (2015). WH 05/12/2015.

Concert: A tribute to Pandit Sharda Sahai ji by Kaashi Arts - Indian Music Concert at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill 06/12/2015.

Film: The Lady in the Van (2015). Cineworld, Chelsea 07/12/2015.

Concert: Frontiers Composer’s Platform – BCU Recital Hall 08/12/2015

Film: Star Wars VUE Islington 21/12/2015


Film: The Dutch Girl Cineworld Fulham London 13/01/16

Concert: Robert Crehan Hymn to the Martyr for solo organ, St Paul’s Cathedral, London 23/01/2016

Concert: Piano Recital: Xenia Pestova Hans Otte The Books of Sounds Café OTO 27/01/2016

Concert: Vocal Recital: Kozene/Rattle WH London 29/01/2016

Film: Spotlight – Cineworld Hammersmith London 30/01/2016

Film: Room – Curzon Cinima Victoria London 15/02/2016

Opera: Philip Glass – Akhnaten – ENO London 08/03/2016

Concert: Patrick Giguere Orchestral piece LSO St Luke’s 11/03/2016

Concerts: Finnissy at 70 – Guildhall (GSMD) Days London 12 to 13/03/2016

Concert: The London Ear Festival – The Warehouse London 13/03/2016

Concert: Portrait Concert of Ed Bennett – Decibel BCU Birmingham 15/03/2016

Exhibition: Painting the Modern Garden - Monet to Matisse RAA London 21/03/2016

Concert: Samuel Bordoli, Anthem for St Paul’s Cathedral, London 22/03/2016

Concert: Ryan Latimer – Antiarkie! Orchestral piece. BBCSO Maida Vale Studios London 24/03/2016

Film: LGTB Shorts BFI SBC London 25/03/2016

Opera: Gerald Barry – The Importance of being Ernest, Barbican Theatre London 02/04/2016

Opera: Janacek – Jenufa – Mattila/Belohlavek Czech Philharmonic RFH London 18/04/2016

Opera: Wagner - Tannhauser ROH London 23/04/2016

Concert: Finnissy concert: at RCM London 04/05/2016

Opera: Tazul Tajuddin - Puteri Saadong - The Tabernacle, London 14/05/2016

Concert: Finnissy at Club Inegales London 19/05/2016

Concert: Finnissy/McNeill at Cafe OTO London 19/05/2016

Concert: Xenia Pestova piano recital St Catherine’s Church Telegraph Hill, London 18/06/2016

Opera: Wagner – The Ring – Opera North RFH London between 28/06 – 03/07/2016

Concerts: BBC Prom Concerts Mahler 3rd Symphony LSO/Haitink and David Bowie tribute, RAH 29/07/2016

Art: Visit to home/studios of John Davies Cantebury 05/08/2016

Concerts: IXION Concerts at the CoMA Summer School, Doncaster 08/08-09/08/2016

Concert: Boulez tribute concert BBCSSO/Pintscher Usher Hall, Edinburgh Festival 12/08/2016

Concert/Film: Philip Glass Ensemble – Film – Koyaanisqatsi - Amsterdam 16/08/2016

Art: Visit to John Maizels Nek Chand sculptures Letchmore Heath 31/08/2016

Exhibition/Film: Georgia O’Keeffe TM, Armodovar - Julieta Cineworld Haymarket London 04/09/2016

Exhibition: Armando Alemdar GX Gallery, London 07/09/2016

Film: Moonlight BFI SBC London 07/10/2016

Concert: Music by David Breeze and Janet Davey Schott Music London 08/10/2016

Concert: London Sinfonietta St Johns Smith Square London (Sciarrino/Berio etc.) 13/10/2016

Concert: Jonathan Powell Piano Recital – Rosslyn Hill Chapel London 22/10/2016

Concert: Exaudi Vocal Concert LSO St Luke’s London 23/10/2016

Exhibition: We are all human SBC 31/10/2016

Concert: piano and clarinet music McNeill/Quigley BCU Birmingham 01/11/2016

Concert: Michael Finnissy at 70 Explore Ensemble RCM Parry Room London 02/11/2016

Concert: 4th London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Martin Georgiev Contrabass Clarinet concerto with Bach, Haydn, Pergolesi and Brahms. The London Mozart Players, Cadogan Hall London 30/11/2016

Concert: Michael Finnissy complete Verdi Transcriptions Ian Pace – piano, Deptford Town Hall London 01/12/2016

Concert: Morton Feldman Second String Quartet Flux Quartet, Tate Modern 11.30pm 3-4/12/2016

Concert: ‘Night of the unexpected’ student concert BCU Birmingham 05/12/2016

Concerts: London Sinfonietta St John’s Smith Square and later London CoMA St Dunstan’s Church Stepney London 06/12/2016

Concert: Composers Platform student concert BCU Birmingham 12/12/2016


Exhibition: Art opening: GX Gallery 11/01/2017

Concert: Michael Finnissy City University concert series 19/20 – 01/2017

Exhibition: Affordable Art Fair and Paterson Film 21/01/2017

Concert: George Holloway composers talk RAM 26/01/2017

Exhibition: James Ensor Exhibition RAA 27/01/2017

Exhibition: Robert Rauschenberg Tate Modern 01/02/2017

Concert: Piano Recital - Zubin Kanga RAM 10/02/2017

Concert: Bovey Guitar Duo (Finnissy New duet) WH 13/02/2017

Concert: Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky Concert Elizabeth Kelly, Andrew Toovey (FP: Contrecto) 25/02/2017

Concerts/Exhibitions: Dublin New Music Festival 02– 05/02/2017

The New Music Dublin was an actioned packed ten concert series over three days with a range of music that went far beyond just featuring headline acts. The featured composers were Gerald Barry and Tom Ades. Barry was represented by a concert performance of his new opera Alice’s Adventures Under Ground with the RTE Concert Orchestra, the orchestral version of Wiener Blut, chamber works, Lisbon, Octet, piano duet (played by Barry/Ades) Five Chorales and songs Water Parted. Tom Ades was also well represented by his works Totentanz, Living Toys, Piano Quartet and Mazurkas. Pianist in his own Mazurkas and Gerald Barry’s piano duet Five Chorales and conductor of his own work (Totentanz with gripping vocal soloists Christianne Stotijn and Simon Keenlyside). Ades displayed remarkable skill in all three areas of his creative life (composer, conductor and pianist), and demonstrated his obvious passion as a committed conductor of new music.

This trip also enabled me to support three composer colleagues from the Birmingham Conservatoire who had world premieres: Ed Bennett’s new orchestral work, Psychedielia performed by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Sean Clancy’s Five Lines of Music Slow Down and Eventually Stop performed by RTE Contempo Quartet and Andrew Hamilton’s O’Rourke performed by soprano Michelle O’Rourke. Other notable first performances came from Stephen Gardner, Jerk, Linda Buckley, Haza and Simon Mayo Streets Became Liars.

Attendance at concerts forms an important part of the listening log I have produced for my research that relates to my ongoing composition projects. Also as another aspect of this log my research is looking at the wider artistic world, and to this end I visited three important galleries while at the music festival. The Hugh Lane gallery, famous for owning the reconstructed original Francis Bacon studio and many of his paintings, sketches and drawing but also includes a wide range of contemporary art including Guston, Kossoff etc and a room devoted to William McKeown, who work seemed to closely relate to that of Agnes Martin. Doorway Gallery, which deals with local artists and represents aspects of the current stylistic interests in the Irish art world, was useful to assess attitudes to art in a more localised way. The last gallery I visited was the Irish Museum of Modern Art which has an amazing collection of art from around the world.


Concert: Laurence Crane CD Launch Concert - Ives Ensemble 18/03/2017

Concert: BCU Recorder Concert Toovey, Ej upp etc 23/03/2017

Concert: Frontiers all day concert collection including Robert Nettleship perf. 25/03/2017

Concert: Joe Cutler, Professorial concert - Fidelio Trio. BCU 28/03/2017

Concert: Glass Music in 12 Parts BH 01/05/2017

Concert: Steve Reich Drumming and Tehillim (including Rowland Sutherland) RFH 05/05/2017

Concert: Sorabji Opus Clavicembalisticum - Jonathan Powell Piano Recital RHC 09/05/2017

Concert: Duchess of Mulfi play: St Giles Church Holborn 18/05/2017

Art: Mike Turner artist - visit to his home 21/05/2017

Opera: Glass Einstein on the beach – Dortmund Opera House 03/06/2017

Concert: Mr Punch – Michael Finnissy (including Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire) City University 06/06/2017

Exhibition: Summer Art Exhibition RAA 10/06/2017

Concert: Ben Smith piano recital of Lachemann and Ferneyhough – Milton Court London 16/06/2017

Poetry: Richard Cutler Reading from his new short stories - West Hampstead London 17/06/2017

Concert: Zubin Kanga piano recital St Johns Smith Square 23/06/2017

Exhibition: Harriet Riddell GX Gallery London Exhibition 28/06/2017

Concert: LGSO St John’s Smith Square Michael Finnissy WP and Rachmaninov Second Symphony 02/07/2017

Concert: CoMA London Concert St Leonards 08/07/2017

Exhibition: Grayson Perry Serpentine Gallery exhibition 19/07/2017

Opera: Beethoven Fidelio Prom RAH 21/07/2017

Opera: Mussorgsky Kovanchina Prom RAH 06/08/2017

Opera: James Oldham ‘I’ opera - Rada London 11/08/2017

Concert: Glass Passages with AS Late Prom RAH 15/08/2017

Concert: Gerald Barry – Canada WP Prom City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra RAH 21/08/2017

Concert: Double Concert: Indian/Pakistani music Prom RAH 25/08/2017

Exhibitions: Giacometti and Zeid Art Exhibitions Tate Modern 29/08/2017

Concert: Last Night of the Proms BBC Symphony Orchestra RAH 09/09/2017

Concert: Mike Worboys String Quartet (Blackheath Concert Hall) and Quango Art exhib. Café 12/09/2017

Concert: Glass Symphony 11 Newcastle Sage 30/09/2017

Concert: Orchestra North East – Durham 01/10/2017

Concert: Skempton Concert (including Toovey: 500 Triads) Antony Gray Kings Place London 13/10/2017

Exhibitions: Three RAA Exhibitions: Jasper Johns, Matisse, Dada/Dali 14/10/2017

Concert: Florian Steininger piano recital Schott Music Shop London 15/10/2017

Exhibition: Venice Biennale 22/10 – 25/10/2017

Concert: RFH Shostakovich Seventh Symphony and Beethoven Fifth Piano Concerto PC RFH 27/10/2017

Concert: Nash Ensemble WH 28/10/2017

Concert: Jordi Savall WH 29/10/2017

Concert: Beat Furrer piano concert and Joseph Phibbs Clarinet concerto RFH 05/11/2017

Concert: Royal Academy Composers Platform Concert RAM 16/11/2017

Concert: Skempton/Roxburgh and student concert BCU 17/11/2017

Concert: Goldsmiths at Deptford Town Hall Ian Pace piano, Boulez, Stockhausen and Finnissy 23/11/2017

Concert: Philippe Jaroussky recital of works by Handel WH 26/11/2017

Concert: Saxophone Quartet Concert BCU (R Roberts, R Morton and P Bell) 29/11/2017

Exhibition: Private View opening of artist Albert Adams Artspace Islington 30/11/2017

Concert: Stockhausen including Trans London Sinfonietta/Manson Ensemble RFH 06/12

Composer Residency: Benslow Music 08-10/12/2017

Concert: Fast, slow, faster St Martin’s Church, Gospel Oak London (and Carol) 16/12/2017

Concert: CoMA London Gregory Rose conductor - St John, Bethnal Green 19/12/2017


Composer Residency: CoMA String Music 02-06/01/2018

Concert: CoMA Oxford – Robin Michael conductor – St Hilda’s College, Oxford 06/01/2018

Concert: RAM Student Orchestra plays undergraduate compositions RAM 12/01/2018

Concert: Sarah Nichols recital for BBC Radio 3 St. Luke’s, London 13/01/2018

Exhibition: London Affordable Art Fair, Business Centre, Islington 18/01/2018

Concert: Composers Platform BCU Birmingham Conservatoire 29/01/2018

Exhibition: John Davies Turner Contemporary, Margate 04/02/2018

Concert: Xenia Pastova piano recital (music of Ed Bennett) Café Otto London 07/02/2018

Composer Residency: The Royal Conservatoire Den Hague, Holland 12-15/02/2018

Opera/Exhibition: Glass Satyagraha ENO London and Bridget Riley Exhibition Waddingtons Gallery, London 16/02/2018

Concert: Xenia Pastova piano recital BCU Recital Hall 20/02/2018

Concert: CoMA Festival (including WP Nigel Osborne) Shorditch London 04/03/2018

Concert: Song Recital by Emma Tring and Robin Martin (including FP: Almost) St. John’s Church Upper Norwood London 07/04/2018

Concert: Gerald Barry Organ Concerto RPO Tom Ades, RFH London 11/04/2018

Exhibition: Armando Alemdar solo exhibition London 13/04/2018

Concert: Patrick Gigučre new orchestral piece LSO BH 15/04/2018

Concert: Ed Bennett CD Launch Decibel Ensemble, City University London 17/04/2018

Concert: Gregory Rose 70th Birthday Concert, Jupiter Orchestra St. John’s Smith Square 18/04/2018

Concert: Ben Smith Piano Recital Milton Court GSMD London 19/04/2018

Concert: Orchestra of the 21st Century (including FP. Knob), BCU Birmingham 20/04/2018

Concert: IXION Norfolk Composers Concert, Norwich School, Norwich 26/04/2018

Concert: Jack Sheen concert (including Paul Newland, Bryn Harrison, Michael Finnissy) St. John’s Waterloo London 27/04/2018

Exhibition: Nick Wadley Retrospective European Art Gallery Smith Square London 10/05/2018

Concert: Roma Tic violin recital (including Lament, Strathspey, Reel) RAM London 07/06/2018

Talk: Chris Villars Short Films of Morton Feldman, BCU Birmingham 19/06/2018

Concerts: Night of the unexpected and CODA Festival, BCU Birmingham 25-26/06/2018

Concert: The Music of Joseph Sonnabend Fitzsrovia Chapel, London 07-08/04/2018

Exhibition: RAA Summer Exhibition RAA London 10/07/2018

Exhibition: Christo at the Serpentine Gallery, London 24/08/2018

Concert: Ben Smith lunchtime piano recital, Regent Hall, London 27/07/2018

Opera: Dani Blanco Albert Entanglement! An Entropic Tale. Tęte Ŕ Tetę RADA London 08/08/2018

Concert: Jack Quartet, Colin Currie, percussion. Xenakis and WP’s by Simon Holt, Suzanne Farrin, Lunchtime Prom Cadogan Hall, London 13/08/2018

Concert: Handel to Fauré, Gerald Willis Piano Recital Claremont Centre, London 17/08/2018

Concert: Dukas La péri, Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto (Yuja Wang) and Schmidt 4th Symphony. Berlininer Philharmonike, Kirill Petrenko, BBC Prom RAH 01/09/2018

Concert: Mahler 3rd Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, BBC Proms RAH 02/09/2018

Exhibition: Vanitas: Traces of beauty, including the work of John Paul Azzopardi, No 20 Arts, London 06/09/2018

Concert/opera: Handel Theodora, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen, BBC Proms RAH 07/09/2018

Film: BlacKKKlansman, Picturehouse Cinema, London 08/09/2018

Concert: COMACHORD, Acrobats, Andrew Toovey (and D,Burrell, N, Osborne, T, Davies) CoMA Allcomers Orchestra, Gregory Rose, St John’s Smith Square 22/09/2018


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