[13.03.14] Upcoming performance in Huddersfield (on Monday)

Apologies for the short notice but I’m delighted to announce that my solo guitar piece bet maryam is being performed in Huddersfield on Monday 17th March by outstanding Chilean guitarist, Diego Castro. My ridiculously challenging short piece for solo guitar will be presented alongside works by Marc CodinaBrian FerneyhoughMichael BaldwinHoratiu RadulescuAaron EinbondScott McLaughlin and Bryn Harrison.

The concert is at 7:30pm in St. Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield and is part of the University of Huddersfield‘s new music concert series. Further details can be found here.

Hope to see some of you there!


[11.03.14] PhD Thesis Online


Some of you may have heard - some of you may not have heard - some of you may now be bored to tears by the “news” - that I was awarded my PhD in composition from the University of Huddersfield at the end of last calendar year. The award was officially conferred on 22.11.13 after the successful completion of my viva voce, examined by Dr Aaron Cassidy (University of Huddersfield) and Prof. James Saunders (Bath Spa University).

The recent arrival of my PhD certificate (pictured above!) has prompted me to say something briefly about the whole experience on here (which I haven’t done before), including the (possibly temporary) posting of my thesis online for download by anybody who might be interested.

My project - entitled the churches of lalibela: erosion and encrustation as transformative musical processes - was financed by a scholarship/grant awarded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and was supervised by Dr. Bryn Harrison and Prof. Liza Lim. The project outlines/demonstrates new technical/aesthetical approaches adopted in my recent compositional practice, concerning re-considering acts of musical transformation in terms of erosion and encrustation. Here, erosion and encrustation are understood as classes of compositional processes defined by operations of erasure/removal and addition/accrual respectively.

I can say with absolute sincerity that undertaking this project has been one of most rewarding and thought-provoking steps my compositional work has taken thus far, largely due to the amazing help and support offered both by my supervisors and the awesome music department at Huddersfield as a whole: a very very exciting place to be. It’s going to take a long time to unpick and chew over all the ideas and issues that has thrown up in the aftermath of this project - and in that respect there is a hell of a lot of new work to be done - but that is a new process that I’m already really excited about and is already well underway!

If anybody is interested in reading more about the work I undertook for this project, my PhD thesis can be downloaded here.

And - on a more personal note - if anybody is thinking about embarking a PhD in composition in the near future, then I strongly advise considering the University of Huddersfield: it certainly was a life-changing experience for me.


[11.02.14] Upcoming performance in Sydney, Australia

Whilst it’s great to be posting again after my winter break it’s even better to be able to announce that the awesome ELISION Ensemble will be giving the Australian premiere of my piece for brass and percussion, ymrehanne krestos (2012-13) on Tuesday 18th March 2014 at 8pm (UTC+10).

The concert, entitled And the Scream, Bacon’s Scream, will take place at Carriageworks, Sydney and, in addition to my piece, will feature music by Liza LimTimothy McCormackAaron Cassidy and Richard Barrett.

If you’re in the right hemisphere, you should go. If only for the other fascinating musical voices alongside my own.

I wrote ymrehanne krestos for ELISION during the winter months of 2012, the piece being premiered at the University of Singapore on 01.02.13, conducted by Tony Makarome. The same players (Tristram Williams, flugelhorn; Ben Marks, alto trombone; Peter Neville, percussion) brought the piece to Huddersfield for its UK premiere on 08.02.13, conducted by Aaron Cassidy and the same team is also taking the piece to Australia this March, this time conducted by Carl Rosman.

The piece is ridiculously problematic on so so many levels. I’m still ‘dealing with it’ myself: it’s probably just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve yet created. The music is hyper-virtuosic to say the least and, at times, pushes against and crosses the threshold of physical possibility on the instruments employed. In addition, the music runs almost entirely non-stop for nearly 13 minutes. Nobody gets a rest. At all. (One of the original players playfully described the piece to me as “like being stuck in a jet engine for 13 minutes.” That’s actually very fair. It is.)

Why? Well, the piece is an example of a way of working with material that I came to develop for myself whilst working on my PhD. I called the process ’re-coupling,’ which involves the unsympathetic collision of various separately composed layers or streams of musical information. In ymrehanne, these layers consisted of various physical dimensions of the instruments employed (valve combination, slide position, articulation, air pressure, air speed) as well as more abstract strata (bar length patterns, patterns of rhythmic compression, arbitrary repetition of bars of material). Add all that together and you get a fairly consistently hectic sonic surface. I’ve written more about the piece (alongside other related examples of my compositions) in a conference paper, which is freely available here.

The reality of all that composer-nonsense is a score that any sensible musician would look at and assume was some kind of sick joke. Thankfully, in the almost unfeasibly virtuosic hands, arms, lips and tongues of the ELISION musicians for whom it was written such a reaction did not occur and for that I will be for ever in awe and in debt.

Reminder: Performance in London tomorrow

Just a reminder that brilliant organist, Tom Bell, will be performing my piece five visions from the book of enoch (2009) at 3pm Tomorrow in Westmister Central Hall. I hope some of you might be able to pop along.


[14.11.13] New video online

I’m really excited to be able to show you this short trailer for a project* I’m involved with (deliciously shot and edited by Angela Guyton). It’s only a couple of minutes - have a watch and see what you think.

The project itself is called m62 (yes, like the motorway). Here’s the official promo paragraph:

“Just as the M62 highway spans the North of England, connecting several of the major cultural centres of the region - Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds - m62 connects three extremely diverse compositional aesthetics from the same region - Emily Howard (Liverpool), Matthew Sergeant (Manchester) and Maurico Pauly (Leeds) with the virtuoso chamber ensemble scapegoat (Joshua Hyde - saxophone, Noam Bierstone - percussion). The composers and performers have been placed into a position of unusually close collaboration and through such collaboration three new works are emerging, each taking their composer on a new and unanticipated journey, (re-)discovering new sonic spaces and places along the way.”

Words such as space and place are particularly useful to the kind of rough ideas I’m working with for the new piece. I’ve ben reading a bit about the psycho-architectural notion of ‘place’ quite a lot recently. Place as distinct from space.

What’s occurring to me from my investigations is that 'space’ is an architectural substance, a substance from which a 'place’ is made. That is to say that a place is more than just a somehow distinctive point or zone in an architectural (or 'architectured’) world, a place becomes a place through the human experience that engulfs and intertwines with it. To put it another way: St. Paul’s Cathedral might be considered a place because of a multitude of experiential aspects of its presence - not just its’ looks’ (its distinctive façade, etc.), not just the possibly reverential 'atmosphere’ of its interior but also its location within the city (of London) and the means one can accesses it through the the various transport infrastructures (etc.). In short, it becomes a place through peoples’ un/shared experience  of the space it occupies.

And this got me a-thinking. What is a musical ’place’ as distinct from a musical ’space’? I.e. Can two different musical personalities (a musical personality assigned to, say, a saxophone and a different musical personality assigned to, say, a percussion-ist/instrument) be felt as occupying the same musical place, even though their own instrumental-cum-material personalities are completely distinct? Like witnessing two unrelated persons of contrasting temperaments explore St. Paul’s Cathedral simultaneously. Can a sense of St. Paul’s somehow emerge through relaying these two persons’ experience of such a place?

As regular readers might by now have presumed, this piece will form one of the final components of my cycle ’the eleven churches of lalibela’. This one - the work currently in progress for scapegoat via m62 - is called bete gabriel-rufa'el. As always, the title refers to one of the eleven(+) churches at the Unesco World Heritage site in Lalibela, Northern Ethiopia. This particular church is the only example within Lalibela dedicated to two icons simultaneously: the angels Gabriel and Rufael.

So, my questions for the new piece follow this line of enquiry. What is a musical space? How might it be occupied to form a sense of a musical place? And how might the occupiers remain as felt somehow distinct from that which is occupied?

That’s the idea anyway. I’ll let you know how it pans out…


[28.10.13] South West Music School

Really excited to have been invited to spend part of this week teaching on the South West Music School’s autumn residential composer’s course in Exeter. It’s my first time working with on this particular project and I look forward to meeting all the awesome young artists involved.

I’ve subtitled the course: “The String Quartet: Inside/Out” - we’re going to be writing for and learning about string quartets, working closely with professional players who are going to be in residence throughout the course. I’ve designed the course to look particularly at the ways different composers have approached issues of idiomatic writing in their music and what that does/can come to mean. They’ll be composing. They’ll be listening. And they’re be quite a lot of crazy, exciting music. Hopefully a fun time will be had by all!

This week is actually a ludicrously busy one for me. I’ll be rushing back from Exeter to be around for the second half of the 2013 New Music North West festival, hosted by the RNCM and The University of Manchester. It was such a shame that these two exciting projects have overlapped. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be in Manchester for the Tom McKinney’s performance of bet maryam at 5:15pm on Wednesday, which I am really disappointed about - although I’m absolutely convinced that it will be stellar - but I shall be attending everything else I possibly can from the evening of the Wednesday to the close of the festival on the Saturday, including Tom Bayman’s performance of my own bet merkorios at 10pm on Thursday night.

So, on this occasion, I genuinely plead with you that you do go along in my absence and send some support to both the Toms. While I’m away, I’ll be sending out the best possible vibes I can from down in Exeter.

Hope your weeks are all equally exciting, if not more!