My need to compose is frequently driven by questions. Why, for example, since 1570, are there so few multi-part vocal pieces? What would it mean to write one today? As a resident artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, I was able to develop some alternative modern approaches to traditional polyphony, concentrating on methods for improving clarity between parts and creating, huge, spatial textures in a 35 minute piece for one hundred singers, one to a part.  I’ve been interested in the opportunities that writing one to a part vocal music can bring for developing some extraordinary sounds in choral pieces. The possibilities for large, monolithic blocks of sound, contrasted against subtle and carefully positioned individual lines are extremely exciting in this format. I’m going to call this type of writing, for want of a better term, macropolyphony. Probably risky, I know, as Ligeti has famously claimed micropolyphony, but this isn’t related to that process. I’m working on methods for how parts might interact and inter-relate across extreme expanses of textural space.  If composition could do ‘big-data’, this would be it. Continue reading

Premier of new commission Pod Twoją obronę

Pod Twoją obronę  is a major new choral work commissioned by the Gaude Mater Festival, Poland, for the 24 voice Polski Chor Kameralny. It is written to commemorate the 80th birthday anniversary of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.

Large-scale, intricate evolving textures emerge to create a haze of harmony and internal detail. Each singer is both a soloist, and part of the ensemble. Pod Twoją obronę goes beyond my previous work Architexture I in exploring new sounds for choirs through bringing a 21st century view to early music techniques. I have tried here to keep the spirit of  Górecki alive, though no material is quoted or borrowed.  The world premier is in Gdańsk on May 1st.

Read more about the concert, conducted by John Lukaszewski | Kościół św. Katarzyny | Gdańsk | May 1 2013

Ebor Singers performing Achitexture 1 live | 19.9.2012 | Photo (C) Kippa Matthews.

Architexture One for 10 voices

Specially commissioned, this  large-scale  polyphonic work is for ten voice choir which is spatially distributed.

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on devising some new types of polyphonic process, specifically for vocal music. This piece is the first fruit of some of my recent thinking about overlapping structures, and the wonderful sounds they can create. Polyphony can’t just be a structure or a system – it must appeal to our emotions, must result in singable parts without awkwardness, and provide a whole which is, somehow, more than the sum of the parts. Here are the Ebor singers, directed by Paul Gameson, in a short extract from the 22 minute work. Use headphones and switch to HD mode if you can, as the recording is very spatious.

Read more on the ideas behind this work >