older pieces (1995-2000)Floating Poles (1996)
Written for Stephen Altoft
Duration: 5 mins
First performance: Stephen Altoft, 18 April 1996, St. Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield.
Floating Poles begins by setting up a regular movement from sparse music to a more compressed equivalent. This flow occurs around ‘poles’, defined harmonically. Later the poles float away from their fixed positions, dragging the associated material with them, leading to an overlap between blocks. The holes that result are filled by low echoes of the original material. Floating Poles was written for Stephen Altoft and first performed by him in Huddersfield on 18th April 1996.
Changing Rings (1996)
Instrumentation: violin, viola
First performance: Jenny Dillon and Liz McLaren, 18 June 1996, RNCM, Manchester
Changing rings was written during my involvement in a research project run by Dr. Jane Davidson on how composers work. In the course of writing the piece, I had to keep a diary and respond to specific questions, explaining everything I was doing.
The piece stems from a woman I saw on a train journey home from Manchester. She was perpetually fiddling with an elaborate set of rings, changing them around to try to find the most acceptable arrangement. After each manipulation she examined the result before moving on to another, never totally satisfied. This gave me the title for the piece and eventually a link with the practice of ringing changes. This campanologist’s technique involves permutating the sequence in which a set of bells are rung in order to create a variety of patterns. The piece does the same thing with two sets of pitches, always searching for an ordered state. Unfortunately, I never found out if the woman decided on how to wear her rings as I had to get off the train before she found her own ideal arrangement.
Those birds (1996)
Instrumentation: 4 clarinets
The idea for the piece came from an interest in flocking behaviour, particularly in birds, fuelled by Stephen Levy’s excellent book Artificial Life, which outlined ways in which such dynamic processes had been modelled by mathematicians and computer programmers. The title derived from seeing a particular flock of starlings flying over some waste ground on a train journey.
Six Pieces (1996/7)
Original set written for the Martel Ensemble, and commissioned by the Ryedale Festival with support from Yorkshire Arts
Instrumentation: flute, oboe and viola
First performance: Leticia Fanesi (fl.), Christian Kemper (ob.), Konrad von Coelln (vla.), 1 August 1998, Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik, Darmstadt (Germany)
Six Pieces is a selection from a group of short pieces for small ensemble composed in 1996-7.
Two Pieces (1997/8)
First performance: Annie Parker, 13 May 1999, BMIC, London
Two pieces are drawn from a group of short pieces composed between 1996-8. Piece II was written for painter Daniel Diankov as a birthday present in May 1998.
Preventing Fluidity (1998)
Written for Luciano Tristaino
First performance: Luciano Tristaino, 21 June 1998, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (Italy)
In Preventing fluidity, the flautist gradually disrupts the smooth movement of the sound by superimposing an increasing variety of different articulations on more consistent material, altering its timbre.
Like Wool (1998)
Written for the University of Huddersfield Symphony Orchestra
Duration: 20 seconds
Instrumentation: 3 (1. pic). 3 (3. c.a.). 3 (1.Eb, 3. Bb bass). 3 (3. contra)/188.8.131.52/ 3perc (crotales, 2 tam-tams, 2 bass drums)/10.0.5.5.3
First performance:University of Huddersfield Symphony Orchestra / Barrie Webb, 2 May 1998, St. Paul’s Hall Huddersfield
Wool is made up of fine fibres that interlock to form a larger mass
Compatibility hides itself (1998-9)
Original version written for Tim Parkinson and Annie Parker
Duration: variable (c.13-30″)
Instrumentation: any combination of flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion (2), vibraphone, harp, piano, violin, cello, double bass
First performance: Annie Parker (flute) & Tim Parkinson (piano), 28 January 1999, BMIC, London
The title comes from a quotation by John Cage:
“Sometimes compatibility hides itself. Probably, we are ultimately compatible with everything, but we make it impossible for things to reach us, or they just don’t cross our paths, or some such thing.”
In the piece, the separate instrumental parts are precisely notated but can be played together as the performers wish, enabling the possibility of unforeseen coincidences to appear in the music.
Scanning trees (1999)
Instrumentation: alto flute, oboe, violin
First performance: Carin Levine, Peter Veale, Melise Mellinger, Darmstadt Internationalen Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, 19 July 2000
The title comes from looking at trees in woodland, and the way that they shift in relation to each other as you walk past them. Look at a tree in relation to its neighbours, walk to another position and look again: same tree, different context.
511 Possible Mosaics (1999)
Full version written for 175 East; the original violin part was written for Brian Lee.
Duration: 18 secs
Instrumentation: any combination of flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, trombone, percussion (2 large toms), violin, cello, double bass.
First performance: Brian Lee, 22 October 1999, St. Cyprian’s Church, London (original violin version); 175 East, 16 April 2000, Auckland, New Zealand (ensemble version)
mosaic n. a picture or pattern produced by an arrangement of small variously coloured bits of glass or stone.
The nine instrumental parts can be played in any combination, revealing different facets of the piece at different hearings. 511 possible mosaics was written for 175 East; the original violin part was written for Brian Lee.
Fingers barely touching (1999/2000)
Instrumentation: 2 recorders
First performance: Kathryn Bennetts & Peter Bowman, Leicester University, 1 March 2000
Lightly touch the tips of your thumb and index finger together: they should oscillate within a very small range of movement, sometimes touching, sometimes not. The piece similarly explores a very small dynamic range, from silence to extremely soft harmonics, sometimes audible, sometimes not.