19 November 2015
Last weekend I took part in Enterprise Music Scotland’s Creative Exchange with Red Note Ensemble at Crear on the west coast of Scotland. I was joined by fellow composers Shiori Usui, Chris Hutchings and John De Simone, all of whom I’ve known for many years.
Crear is in a beautiful part of the country where the sky and light are constantly changing. The rehearsal room at Crear has floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views of the Isle of Jura. Our stay coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Abigail which limited the amount of time we spent exploring the surrounding area but gave us a good excuse to sit in front of Crear’s open log fire. At night we were surprised by clear skies and an impressive view of the Milky Way.
I spent most of the weekend completing a short solo work for Red Note cellist Robert Irvine (more on that another time) who was joined by violinist Tony Moffat and violist Jessica Beeston.
On Sunday morning, having completed the cello piece, I wrote this little ditty:
31 October 2013
I’LL CADENCE WHEN I DIE! is my new podcast about new music and sonic art in Scotland. I started producing the show earlier this year in an attempt to showcase some of the brilliant and diverse work that’s going on here, work that often gets overlooked by more mainstream media.
Each month I interview a composer who lives in, or is visiting, Scotland about their work. There’s no script and very few prepared questions. The interviews (so far, at least) can meander into some interesting and unexpected areas. Not all this material makes the final cut, of course, but hopefully listeners find out a little more about what, why and how the featured composer composes. We get to hear some of that composer’s music along the way, too.
As a composer myself, I often talk about music and compositional “issues” with other composers. I’d always felt that edited versions of this shop talk may be of some interest to listeners; these sprawling discussions, and frequent disagreements, often see my fellow composers speak about music in simple and accessible terms far removed from the Academicese that often blights programme notes and other formal, written, discussions of music.
After considering creating a website or e-zine to allow these discussions to reach a wider audience, I decided on the podcast format after hearing WNYC’s Radiolab and Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible. While I wouldn’t want ICWID! to be compared with these brilliant and slick shows, the way both make obscure subject matter accessible and enjoyable has been a great inspiration.
There have been five episodes of ICWID! released so far. In the most recent episode, composer François Sarhan discusses his upcoming show Enough Already! (or, Lâchez Tout!) – a surreal and political work which combines film, speaking musicians, an actor and two Foley artists – which is to be performed by Red Note Ensemble this winter in Glasgow, Edinburgh and at HCMF//.
In September’s edition, composer Bill Sweeney talked about the influences behind his recent music for cello, including the work of poets Hugh MacDiarmid and Jorge Luis Borges. Always blending the traditional with the cutting-edge, Bill discusses how imitating Gaelic psalm singing and using Pure Data both contribute to his soundworld. The episode also features wonderful performances of Bill’s work by cellist Robert Irvine.
Earlier shows have featured diverse styles of music: Episode One saw composer John De Simone explain why (and how) he escaped the influence of Dutch-style minimalism to write a Neo-Romantic (-ish) violin concerto. Episode Two featured Sound and Music Embedded Composer Shiori Usui discussing her music derived from the sounds of the human body and includes a brilliant performance of Shiori’s work In Digestion given by A Far Cry. Episode Three saw Scottish Opera’s Composer-in-Residence Gareth Williams talk about two of his site-specific operas, one which took place at the top of an Aberdeenshire lighthouse and another that played-out in a Glasgow pub (whilst the pub was still open).