I get tied in knots whenever I sit down to write myself a composer biography. I dislike most biographies I read, yet when it is my turn, I’m just as stumped as anyone else. The difficulty is that “composer biographies” are used for a number of purposes, each with a distinct audience. Crafting one biography to fill every role is a bad idea, yet seems to be the prevalent model.
To my eyes, there are three key roles for composer biographies: a public-facing biography, used for programmes, a biography aimed at other creatives, used for commissioners, academics and fellow composers, and a biography aimed at industry professionals, such as funders. Broadly speaking, I’d say that most biographies are public-facing, yet written as if they are for industry insiders. I've had a go at thinking about each of these examples, and writing some examples. If you can come up with better or funnier examples, please post them below!
I’m very lucky to have been selected to take part in the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik scheme next year. I’ll be writing a three-minute work for full orchestra early next year, leading up to a public workshop and performance in March.
Writing for orchestra is a wonderful opportunity. My current musical voice was shaped by writing an extended orchestral piece, London’s Other Bones. I wrote it independently, for no specific purpose, alongside a Masters, running Filthy Lucre and teaching in 2015. I was knackered, sad and receiving essentially no performances of my work. Writing it was a middle finger up to practicality: if my work wasn’t getting played, I might as well write the piece I wanted to, even if it was very difficult to ever put on.
I’ve written an EP. It took me some time: I had to develop a lot of new skills and the work was competing for my time with other commissions and with Filthy Lucre. But I’m pleased with what I’ve produced.
I’m just back from a wonderful trip to Modulus Festival in Vancouver. Hosted by the Music On Main and put together by David Pay, it was a festival full of exciting new music.
Thank you so much to everybody who made it down to Filthy Lucre’s Fundraiser on Saturday! We had a great time, and appreciate enormously all the support offered. I was glad to have the chance to perform with Lucy Cox of Sansara Choir and to give the first performances of two tracks from my EP.
Lucy and I will be performing those again as part of a concert with Sansara at Romsey Abbey this Saturday, do come along if you’re based nearby. This is the beginning of a longer collaboration with Sansara on some very interesting work for choir and electronics – I can't wait to let you all know about the next steps!
At Filthy Lucre's Fundraiser on 13th October (invites still available), I'll be performing arrangements of chants by Hildegard for voices and electronics with Lucy Cox. This is both a development of the work I did with Paul Vernon and Filthy Lucre (which will also be shown at the event) and the beginning of a very exciting new project with Sansara (of which more anon).
In my arrangement of Alma Redemptoris Mater I stuck to simple rules, using just one technique: granular delay. Yet the effects can be quite remarkable, particularly when performed over an extended period. I don't want to spoil the novelty of a new work, so here is a short snippet of some of the techniques, using Josephine Stevenson's vocals from my collaboration with Paul Vernon:
I left university with the absolute intention to become a composer, but only a vague meaning of what that meant. I knew I was taking on a hard task with poor financial prospects, but my understanding of this was hazy, based on parental warnings and the half-understood examples of my smattering of older friends. I hoped that as I spent more time in the arts, things would clarify.
Yet the mystery of artists’ finances only grew with experience. I am very privileged; my parents pay my rent, ease my cash-flow, and help with much more besides. Yet I regularly come across people whose existence seems completely out of reach: the musician with thousands of pounds of electronic equipment; the artist who seemed to be 50% late-night debauchery, 50% inspired art, 0% day job. My mystification, to my shame, also extended in the other direction. With all my privilege, I feel like I’m working at full capacity. How do those without such resources manage
I’m really excited to hear the recording of my piece A Noise So Loud from MATA Festival 2018, which has just been put out on their Soundcloud.
I should be frank that there are some infelicities in the performance – while Liminar did a great job with the (very tricky) microtones, some of the rhythmic aspects of the piece don’t come through. That leaves me with a puzzle.