[02.09.13] New Music North West

It’s quite terrifying to think that two full years have passed since the last New Music North West festival, the biannual showcase of new music associated with and active within the NW of England, hosted by the RNCM and the University of Manchester. And it’s a real privilege that two of my pieces are going to be featured:

Guitarist, Tom McKinney, an old friend from the house of bedlam, plays bet maryam (2011, for solo guitar) at 5:15pm on Wednesday October 30th in the RNCM’s Carole Nash Room.

Thomas Bayman performs a composition written especially for him last year, bet merkorios (2012, for solo ‘cello) at 10pm on Thursday October 31st in the RNCM’s Studio Theatre.

It’s really amazing that these two pieces have been programmed at this festival. Both are part of my ongoing cycle of related compositions collectively entitled the eleven churches of lalibela (2010-). The cycle explores, in different ways, ideas of erosion and encrustation as ways of thinking about musical material and its transformation - the subject of my PhD at the University of Huddersfield.

I’m also exceptionally lucky that these two particular examples of my work have been selected to be played: both are extraordinarily difficult to play. When Tom McKinney first saw the score of bet maryam, he documented his initial response in this tweet:

bet maryam makes no secret of its difficulties, in fact, passages of it were written to be deliberately unidiomatic for the instrument (or, less politely, ridiculously darn hard). Other passages, by some way of relief for the player, are constructed in the opposite fashion, in a deliberately idiomatic, efficiently playable, way.

bet merkorios (for solo 'cello) presents similar challenges, although, in itself, it’s not designed to be hard - it just is!  The piece was written for - and here will be performed by - Thomas Bayman, a remarkable young 'cellist with a passion for new music whom I met when I was teaching at the RNCM. Tom never shies away from a challenge - I’ve been massively impressed with the ludicrously complex repertoire he’s conquered in recent years - so I know his was a canvas upon which I could draw to the limits of my imagination. It’s quite a substantial piece - around 18 minutes in duration - and was written by colliding bits of material with each other on the manuscript paper, creating a soundworld of debris-like substances, demonstrating different kinds of ambiguity.

Both of these instrumentalists are some of the most committed folks I’ve ever had the opportunity yet to work, so I’m deeply excited about hearing them play - it’s going to be quite something! I’m so very lucky!

I hope you can pop along. Say “Hi” if you do.


[29.08.13] New online video

I’m delighted to announce a new collaborative project I’m involved in, working with Daryl Buckley, guitarist and artistic director of ELISION. I’m going to be working with Daryl to create a new piece for electric lap-steel guitar, which I’m really excited about; it’s my first time working with the instrument.

To announce this partnership, Daryl has produced this video, where we talk about some of the terminologies that currently underpin my creative work (and, indeed, my PhD thesis) - ideas of erosion and encrustation - words that I’ve come to employ when describing aspects of my creative practice. I thought it might be of interest.

There’s another video (filmed at the same time) in the pipeline where we move to apply these ideas to the instrument concerned (the lap-steel guitar). I’ll pop that on here just as soon as I can.

Hope everyone’s well,


[27.08.13] New writings online

Apologies for the Tuesday posting, Monday was a bank holiday here in the UK.

A conference paper I wrote for the 4th Annual Conference of Visual and Performing Arts, held by the Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), has just been published online. The paper introduces various conceptual aspects of my PhD research with specific regard to an approach to instrumental writing that I have come to refer to in my work as recoupling. There’s quite a lot of detail within the paper, so I won’t get into any specifics in this post, suffice to say, if you’re interested, you can maybe give it a read.

You can access the paper here:

Sergeant, M. (2013) “Introducing ‘Re-coupling’: The Compositional Appropriation of Instrumental Physicality to disrupt Pattern-based Musical Materials” Athens: ATINER’S Conference Paper Series, No: ART2013-0451. 

The paper addresses two of my recent compositions for the purposes of its discussion, bet merkorios (2012, for solo ‘cello) - written for phenomenal young British 'cellist Thomas Bayman - and ymrehanne krestos (2012-13, for brass and percussion) - written for the hypervirtuosic Australian ELISION Ensemble. Both of these pieces have score and audio materials here on this site, just click List of Compositions, above.


PS. It must be said that the somewhat archaic formatting style was chosen and instigated by the conference organisers and (especially regarding their decision to position all the example figures at the end of the text) is not entirely to my taste. I hope it doesn’t create too frustrating a reading experience for you!

[22.08.09] September performance in Gloucester

Brilliant organist, Tom Bell, will be performing my piece five visions from the book of enoch (2009) at 12:30pm on Thursday September 26th in Gloucester cathedral.

I first met Tom when we were both studying as undergraduates at the RNCM in Manchester. Tom was then, and has always remained, an impassioned and dedicated advocate of all forms of new music. During our time at the RNCM, he twisted the arm of many a student composer to write for the organ (an instrument that would otherwise, I suspect, have been fairly untrendy amongst student writers without Tom’s unbridled enthusiasm!).

I first wrote for Tom back in 2003, when I was 19, creating the rather unsergeantily titled Toccata (now withdrawn). This tiny little piece (just three minutes, if I recall), however, became (and I think remains) my most performed piece! In the years that immediately followed its writing, Tom performed it in just about every organ recital series in the UK. So, when he came back to me - in 2009, some six years later - and asked for something a little bit more substantial, I absolutely had to oblige.

The piece that was created to fulfill Tom’s request was five visions from the book of enoch (thankfully usually abbreviated in conversation to ‘five visions’ or just 'enoch’). The composition comprises a set of five 2/3-minute character pieces, each drawing its inspiration from some of the more deliciously bizarre scenes described in the Book of Enoch (part of the Christian apocrypha). The piece comes from a period of my work in the mid-to-late naughties when I was using tales of heavenly intervention in the world as a means to explore notions of 'The Unearthly’ or 'The Strange’ in music (something that I’m increasingly returning to in current projects, although from a completely different perspective).

The five movements of the composition each carry a subtitle, which I’ve listed below. I’ve also temporarily put some links to some original workshop recordings, made back in 2009, of the various movements, which, if anything, should whet your appetite for Tom’s more recent performances of the piece, having now worked with it for nearly five years!

five visions from the book of enoch (2009)

i: enoch the scribe

ii: Sêmîazaz, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl,

iii: summoned by mist and flown up to heaven

iv: sheol with Raphael (one of the holy angels that was with me)

v: the seven metal mountains and the tree of life

I hope some of you can make it to the concert. Maybe I’ll see you there.


[19.08.13] Welcome to my new home

A very warm welcome to my new website, now hosted here on tumblr.com. Hopefully, the refresh will allow for more regular updates of the site, so no longer will you been constantly reviewing old news!

After many requests, this new site features a complete update of my available compositions (click List of Compositions above), many of which now have excerpts for download. The Scores section, above, currently also features two complete scores for online perusal, with more on the way.

In addition, the blog format of the tumblr platform allows for much more in the way of news and announcements, which will appear in this news feed at regular intervals. To hear when such updates are released, simply follow this blog here on tumblr or follow me on twitter (which will automatically announce posts as-and-when they arrive).

Finally, thank you for you patience in waiting for this refresh. There has been some understandable frustration at the lack of up to date information on my old site; hopefully this is now a thing of the long dead past. 

Thanks for your continued interest in my music, I look forward to talking more with you in the very near future.