On Saturday, Sparrow received its world premiere at Kings Place. It was a joy to hear it played so sensitively by Marianne Schofield, whose astonishing accuracy with its rather tricky notes was matched by a complete command of pacing and drama. A massive thank you to Riot Ensemble, who commissioned and presented the piece. If you want to hear more harmonics and microtones, I have a premiere of a commission from the LSO at LSO St. Luke's on June 15th!
I was particularly pleased with the beautiful programme that Tim Rutherford-Johnson wrote. I’ve been reading Tim’s blog, The Rambler, for years and years, so it was exciting to see him so perfectly capture the essence of my piece. With Tim’s permission, I’ve posted the entire note below. The last sentence resonates with me so much that it’s almost a little uncanny: I’d never have found those words to describe my music, but now I’ve seen them, I know that they’re just right.
"Sparrow is one of dozens of solo works commissioned by Riot Ensemble (and premiered on YouTube) in support of composers during the pandemic. It is inspired by the view behind the Kilburn flat in which Bates, his partner and three friends saw out the first Covid lockdown: a typical London canyon of gardens and railway line running between high-backed Victorian terraces. In the depths of lockdown, sparrows had exclusive access to this domain, flitting between empty commuter trains and families confined to their gardens. Sparrow is not representational as such: for a start, portraying such a small bird on such a large instrument is an amusing inversion of scale. And Bates’s work contains little of the characteristic fidgety chatter of sparrows in a hedge that recalls teenagers hanging around a bus stop after school. Instead, it is evocative of that strange spring in which human life retreated a little and nature expanded: the sparrow’s more-than-humanness captured in chiming microtones and harmonics, like the court music of a short-lived empire."
– Tim Rutherford-Johnson
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