Chamber (2–5 players)
After Severn Cullis-Suzuki
2022 | 6’
Commissioned by Davos Festival
for violin and viola
In 1992, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave a speech to the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, a United Nations conference. Like me, she was born in 1979, and was only 12 years old at the time. The speech is a stunning and searing appeal to save the world from environmental catastrophes.
I wanted to use part of the recorded speech as the starting point for my work. In the middle, Cullis-Suzuki says: “You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer…You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can’t bring back the forests that once grew where there is now a desert. If you don’t know how to fix it, please, stop breaking it.” It’s this last sentence that stuck with me. I look at it through my own filter, – this is not a transcription – fixing the flux of the speech-melody, freezing it, and tracing a slowed-down version of the rhythm. Repeating it. There is little change.
In the 30 years since the speech, climate change has only worsened. We are living in an age of decline.
Premiered in Davos, Switzerland by Eoin Ducrot and Alessandro D’Amico
Music for Europe
2016 | 20’
Commissioned by Ensemble Adapter with funding from the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung
for flute (= alto flute), clarinet, percussion, piano and harp
Hoch und strahlend steht der Mond.
Ich habe meine Lampe ausgeblasen, und tausend Gedanken erheben sich von meines Herzensgrund.
Meine Augen strömen über von Tränen.
Paul Klee (1916)
High and radiant is the moon.
I blew out my lamp, and thousands of thoughts rise up from the bottom of my heart.
My eyes overflow with tears
Paul Klee created a text-painting using these words a hundred years ago, the year he was conscripted into, though never fought for, the German army. I saw this painting just days after the UK voted to leave the European Union. I was touched by it’s simple, fragile vulnerability made at a deeply fractured time.
Performances: Ensemble Adapter hcmf//, Huddersfield UK, 2016 (premiere)
Ultraschall, Berlin, Germany 2019
Psappha Manchester, UK 2019
String Quartet no. 2
2012 | 13’
Commissioned by the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik and hcmf//
The circling, persistent viola solo, with which the quartet begins, is repeated, chopped up, magnified, distorted and stretched out. This treatment of musical material is similar to my manipulation of text. It has a lot to do with memories - how sometimes a vividly experienced dream can suddenly vanish upon waking and all you can grasp hold of are fragments. And how these fragments often linger but finally fade away.
Performances: Arditti Quartet Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik, Witten, Germany 2012 (premiere)
hcmf//, Huddersfield, UK 2012
Siggi Quartet Iceland, 2015
Quatuor Bozzini Tilburg, Netherlands 2019
Southampton & London, UK 2019
everything does change
2012 | 5’
for clarinet, violin and cello
Note: this version is without film
Everything changes it is extraordinary how everything does change.
Getrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography
everything does change is a re-working and extension of a piece I wrote for a film – Klatov - by the Czech artist Pavla Scerankova. After the death of her grandfather, Pavla unearthed reams of Standard-8 footage that he had taken of his family, friends and surroundings. With the digitised versions, she created an homage to the joyful beauty of a place and people she knew, but never experienced first hand. The music is my response to the everyday happiness that the film captures and to these forgotten memories.
Performances: Trio Magritte Milan, Italy, 2012
London Sinfonietta London, UK 2019
2011 | 5’
for viola and cello
Note: this version is WITH film
Everything changes was written for the short film - Klatov - by Czech artist Pavla Scerankova and was premiered by Ensemble Amorpha at the British Film Institute, London in December 2011
The subtitle could easily be luminis (‘a light, an opening’), lucere (‘shine’) or lux (‘light’).
Whilst I was composing I often thought about this image of light: an intense light source and, further away, a light that was much softer and paler. That is what the piece gradually became about – a set of three slow, luminous but fragile variations around a fiery core.
Performances: Quatuor Diotima Centre Acanthes, Metz, France, 2010 (Workshop)
Radar Ensemble Rheinsberg, Germany 2012
Skark Quartett Berlin, Germany 2014
Manon Quartet London, 2017
2006 | 10’
for accordion, cimbalom and two percussion
‘re’ – expressing intensive force
‘sonare’ – to sound
‘resonare’ – to sound and resound
Exploring the resonance of intense musical gestures, this piece is a discovery of the ensemble’s inner sonorities. As the drama of the work slowly unfolds, these gestures are progressively transformed.
Performances: Les Percussion de Strasbourg, Françoise Rivalland (cimablom) & Pascal Contet (accordion) at Abbaye d’Royaumont (France), 2006