Some exciting news coming soon about a new series of gigs at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford where pop bands and solo artists are going to collaborate with a classical ensemble that I'm the music arranger for. An outstanding list of artists is going to be announced over the next few weeks...
variations on themes of Richard D. James
A little bit more of a new piece...
Aphex Twin piece
Just putting pen to paper for a commission for Modern Art Oxford as part of the EMPRES Collective's electronic music night 'The Art of Noises'. My variations on themes of Richard D. James is for small ensemble and to be first heard on 3 May 2018 at the gallery, with a few more performances (including a London premiere) later in the year.
the instagram pieces
I started a new little thing this year. I've been writing very miniature pieces for piano which can be played off a smartphone from my instagram account. Here's a few of them...
Nicolas Party's Speakers and EMPRES
As part of the EMPRES Collective I've worked on devising a new collaborative piece based on Nicolas Party's exhibition Speakers which runs at Modern Art Oxford between 25th November and 18th February. Party's art comes in 'response to what the artist considers to be the heavily masculine energy of Oxford’s architecture and academic histories' and consists paintings acknowledging pioneering female figures in Oxford. Our musical response to this draws upon archival and recently collected interviews and various environmental soundfield recordings to create an immersive quadraphonic piece.
The front cover, at least, of mine and Leo's minature opera...
I'm teaming up with my friend and collaborator Leo Mercer again. The weekend of the October 28th see renowed opera director Stephen Langridge take his place as the University of Oxford's Visiting Professor of Opera. As part of his visit, over the weekend Leo and I must some new work for the stage. From scratch. Leo and I have talked of working on something operatic after working together on music for his play ONLIFE in 2015 and so, with interest recently from a couple of places for operatic work, this intense way to start a piece might be the beginning of something very special.
Demons Land trailer...
The Demons Land installation at National Trust Stowe has had its spring/summer run and so perhaps a good time to show off the film's final trailer:
Some more from Festival No.6...
Photographer Rhodri Cooper documented the Festival No.6 Town Hall Sessions, wonderfully capturing the intimate and unique setting.
The notation police.
Dutch Uncles mid rehearsal. Hands down one of the very best bands around.
A very last minute horn part for Palace, utilising the Ford Madox Ford ruler!
Dutch Uncles rehearsing with the ensemble.
Starting some new pop arrangements for an upcoming festival...
Arne's Eliza and film trailer music
With the John Eccles edition almost done and some movie orchestration work to finish, I'm just about starting the edition of Thomas Arne's Eliza from 1754.
Thought it was about time I posted my doctoral writing up. You can read it here.
Official opening of Demons Land at National Trust Stowe
The exhibition of Demons Land – consisting paintings by Tom de Freston, the film by Mark Jones with music and sound design by myself and Jethro Cooke to the script by Simon Palfrey with the wonderful Steph Greer acting all parts – has officially opened at National Trust Stowe.
A tiny poem I wrote some time back appears in the new issue of Dog-Ear.
Little piano improv on a sunday
Let's call it '23.IV.17'
Fetonte is alive! (digitally, at least...)
My current opera project is working with Prof. Michael Burden of New College, Oxford, on a critical edition of Fetonte (1747) by Paradies. Though the work has likely not been performed for centuries, these samples of the opening Sinfonia are especially exciting!
Strings for Wildes
I recently did some string arrangements for a couple of songs by Wildes. I'll post links when the sessions are up.
New work for five violins
It's called two romances. Here's a draft of the first movement:
Often new pieces start with an extended improvisation, here's the one at the root of my new work for piano.
Working on the critical edition of Fetonte by Paradies. Here are rough 'before and after' samples!
I had, and passed, my doctoral viva!
The new critical edition of Cavalli's L'Erismena is finally finished! It'll be published by Barënreiter sometime in the new year.
Field trip to Stowe
With the Demons Land project having an installation in the gardens and building of National Trust Stowe in spring/summer 2017, we went on a field trip to explore the possibilities.
Demons Land at the Ashmolean
We previewed a section of the Demons Land film at the Ashmolean Museum's Fright Friday event. Each showing of the film was preceded by a dramatic introduction by Kathryn Pogson's students at the London Dramatic Academy.
Demons Land is the story of an island underneath the known world, where in the early 1800s a man called the Collector brought a poem terribly to life. That poem is The Faerie Queene, a romantic epic by Edmund Spenser, first written in Ireland in the 1580s and 1590s. Spenser was serving the English crown, subduing the native Irish, and composing his shimmering, hallucinogenic poem. Amid the beauty, much violence.
Spenser never finished his poem – but colonial history would do it for him. In the centuries since its publication, The Faerie Queene has been coming true, over and over again, in colonised lands across the planet. It is coming true now, today, even as we breath.
'Demons Land: a poem come true' is a collaborative research project led by Professor Simon Palfrey of the University of Oxford. Funded by TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) and the AHRC (Art and Humanities Research Council), it employs film, paintings, sculptures, music and text to create an exhibition telling Demons Land's imaginary history.
Palfrey's partners are artist Tom de Freston, film-make Mark Jones, composer Luke Lewis, and actress Stephanie Greer. The exhibition will be installed at specifically chosen heritage sites, starting with the gardens and buildings of Stowe National Trust in spring/summer 2017.
A recording of the performance will be uploaded soon.
a little poem
Nice news that dogear have published a little poem of mine. Coming to many bookshops near you soon!
Working on a critical edition of any music brings about many problems. The question here is of what the correct phrasing of the violins is. The uppermost manuscript is the original Naples copy (1781), in the composer's hand. What is remarkable though is that the other two copies – the middle being Dresden also of 1781 and the lower being the Paris copy of some years later – having different phrasing. As a side point, it's interesting how even the dynamic markings differ! The solution here is relatively though. The violins must play a three-quaver phrase with a staccato fourth quaver. The clue, really, is that violin two of Naples is quite clear.
Cimarosa's first page!
A Parisian Painter in Oxford
Amidst some orchestration, teaching at Oxford, and composition, my current bit of scholarly work is putting together a new edition of Cimarosa's Il Pittore Parigino (The Parisian Painter) from 1781.
It's based on the composer's manuscript held at the Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella, Naples. But, there being two other manuscripts (in Dresden from 1781 and Paris from some time after), I have helpful reference points for solving anything unclear or missing in the original copy. That said, I've a great reason for a holiday to Naples if that all fails...
The work was first performed in Rome at the Theatro Valle in 1781 - as we can see from the first image below – but what's especially exciting is that it's set to be performed throughout July as the summer opera of New Chamber Opera in Oxford, with a new translation of Giuseppe Petrosellini's libretto by Simon Rees.
Below are a few photos of the different manuscripts: Naples, Dresden, and Paris.
I've had the immense privilege of working with Prof. Michael Burden of New College, Oxford on a new critical edition for Bärenreiter of Pietro Francesco Cavalli's (1602-1676) opera L'Erismena (1656). The manuscript itself has a fascinating story and was acquired by Oxford's Bodleian Library a few years ago after an export bar meant the funds could be secured for its purchase. It's an artifact that raises numerous questions: why this opera was translated to English in the first place (a plausible theory is that it was meant for a royal audience in London), who subsequently owned it (one dubious proposition is that Samuel Pepys did for a while), and who translated it into English from the original Italian by Aurelio Aureli? Yet, on top of all this is that it's the earliest surviving copy of an Italian opera in English! An interesting press release on the aquisition is here. A few photos of the manuscript are below:
02.12.15 It's not technology, it's nature 2.0: Leo Mercer's ONLIFE
I've composed music for the poet/writer/playwright Leo Mercer's new one-man play ONLIFE which is on at the Oxford Playhouse's Burton Taylor Studio Theatre from the 1st to 5th December. The trailer is below and what tickets are left can be found here. Much of the music that was used can be found on this little album I made on an old piano a few years ago here.
I've just embarked on an exciting project with Prof. Michael Burden of New College, Oxford. After its first performance for a few (hundreds of) years with just keyboard accompaniment earlier this month, we're putting together a modern full ensemble edition of Leonardo Leo's work of 1731 La Zingaretta (The Gypsy Girl). With a contemporary translation of the original Italian by Simon Rees, it receives its first performances in Oxford on 20th and 21st November.
Rehearsal with Jane Weaver and Joe Duddell & No.6 Ensemble in Portmierion.
Photography by the legendary Karin Albinsson.
flocks and companies
'at first i thought', movement one of the new piano piece. First performance April 2016 in Caernarfon.
going for a beer
'He finds himself sitting in the neighborhood bar drinking a beer
at about the same time that he began to think about going there for one.
In fact, he has finished it.
Perhaps he’ll have a second one, he thinks,
as he downs it and asks for a third.'
– Robert Coover
He thought about writing a post to direct people to this Robert Coover story. In fact, he was already writing it. Just then as he started looking up the writer online to find out what the appropriate stylistic term might be, he had already been pondering the result for a few hours. Fabulation (Robert Scholes, The Fabulators, 1967). The term was new to him, but then he was knowledgable about similar literary experimentations by John Barth and realised it described things by writers he had read like Vonnegut and Calvino. Coover's 'Going for a Beer' played with time, folding it in on itself constantly, resulting in this drawing yet restrained momentum that was amongst the most engaging prose he had experienced. He wondered whether there was a musical equivalent to be worked out as he finished its first draft...
So, he starting logging into his website to upload the post and just then received an email
from someone saying how they were grateful to have been pointed in its direction by him the day before.
This isn't a blog exactly but I suppose it always had the potential. I've been listening again to a band I think are terribly undervalued: Talk Talk. The opening track of their album The Colour of Spring (1985) is a masterpiece. For a start, the confidence to just let the percussion opening run for more than half a minute before anything else comes in... But the real hook for me, as subtle as it is: the hoquetus moment between guitar, piano and bass at 1'05" that, and this is the reason I'm writing this post, I've ripped off countless times.
It's been a busy few weeks amidst working on the doctoral thesis, getting the piano score edited, doing some work for publishers and a couple of orchestration projects. But, so taken was I with using the music box in Flocks and Companies, I've decided to make occasional pieces for its two-octave diatonic range in the curious key of A-flat. The title of this piece is pretty self-explanatory: as a Chinese tourist take a picture of my house in the rain (whilst I'm listening to James Tenney). Suppose it's some kind of musical journal of things. Here's where the rest will go in time.
My new piano piece Flocks and Companies is finished (I think). Here's one element of it:
The Luke Lewis fan club summer meeting.
'Cut ties with BP, composers and music researchers tell Royal Opera House'
I've been involved in putting together a letter to the Royal Opera house asking them rethink their relationship with the oil company BP. The letter unintentionally coincided with the news of BP being fined further for the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. So the fine was actually then $18.7 billion, not the $4.5 billion stated in our by then already printed letter. The letter text is below and can be found here on The Guardian website with all the signatories.
On Friday night, the Royal Opera House will stage a BP-sponsored performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, transmitted across the UK on “big screens” emblazoned with the oil company’s logo. By associating itself with high-profile cultural events such as these, BP buys a social legitimacy that it does not deserve, and attempts to draw a veil over its environmentally destructive projects and corporate crimes around the world.
We are composers, musicians and music researchers who care passionately about classical music, the performing arts and the environment, and believe that the BP logo represents a stain on the Royal Opera House’s international reputation. BP was forced to pay the largest criminal fine in history of $4.5bn for its role in causing the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, despite the warnings of climate scientists, BP pursues new sources of oil in the fragile Arctic, and in the Canadian tar sands, where it tramples the rights of indigenous peoples. Its core business activities and political lobbying are actively pushing us towards a future with a global temperature increase well in excess of 2C.
We believe that the Royal Opera House should join the growing wave of universities, foundations and faith organisations cutting their ties with the fossil fuel industry. Little more than a decade ago, tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions to gain support from – that is no longer the case. Now is the time to also draw a red line on funding from the fossil fuel industry.
More information on this issue can be found at Art Not Oil. I'll try write more soon about why I think this is so important.
After a few busy weeks (especially of trying to finish the doctorate), I'm back composing proper. It's a solo piano piece for the Welsh International Piano Festival in Caernarfon and I'm just trying to get as much written in this space between getting the academic work ready for submission and some more projects with pop bands in the coming months. Oh, and it's called Flocks and Companies after the poem by Bernard O'Donoghue in Farmers Cross.
Active Child in Chicago
I've been doing some more work with pop bands and Joe Duddell. This time it involved transcribing and orchestrating a set for Active Child and members of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion at Millenium Park, Chicago on 22nd June. Hopefully there'll be some videos coming soon!
coming up for air
A little piece I wrote based on the second movement of Sibelius's Kyllikki found itself working as the soundtrack to a video made from fragments of a film by Irina Iordache. Its first public showing was at the Jacqueline du Pre Music Building in Oxford on the 6th June and it's below:
Irina and I have finished working on '5 Fingers'.
It'll have its first public screening on 18th May at the Musichouse in Copenhagen and again at the JdP in Oxford on 6th June.
I'm working with the wonderful filmmaker Irina Iordache from the Ruskin School of Art on a short film. Here's a demo of the soundtrack.
before the devil is a busy man
Two years ago
I found an old piano.
I put some microphones inside it
and just played.
The EP that it became
letter from oxford
Here's a little piece for acoustic guitar I wrote a few days ago. Some studio recordings of my solo guitar music are planned for the next few months!
My most recent programme notes for the lovely people of Music at Oxford for a concert by the English Chamber Orchestra under Howard Shelley.
It's been a quiet couple of months for composition whilst I focus on my doctoral thesis and other writing work, but a few exciting things are on the go. The first is to start work on a new piece based on Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin for the Welsh pianist Iwan Llewelyn-Jones.
the girl with
I'm in the process of writing another electroacoustic piece based on found materials. It's based on a fragment of an obvious piece of Claude Debussy's. Here's a short demo:
Orkest de Ereprijs at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek
Here's a mockup design for my scores created by my brother, the designer and typographer Liam Lewis. As you can see, the work's title is positioned in the middle of the outer covers so that when the score is opened on a music stand it is clearly visible to the audience.
Orkest de Ereprijs at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek
Had some great reviews after two pieces were featured in the Pulsar Festival in Copenhagen. The arts website Seismograf (in Danish) described
machines as'a classic' and 'equal parts reminiscent of Stravinsky and Abrahamsen'. It also got some print coverage in
Weekendavisen where it was described as 'delicious'!
Pulsar Festival interview
Here's a video of the awesome composer Dan Jeffries and I giving an introduction to our pieces in the
electroacoustic concert at the 2014 Pulsar Festival in Copenhagen.
Myself and Hans Peter Stubbe Teglbjærg during the sound check for that very concert at the Studio Hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen (below).