The shadow of the thing

2022 |   4’

for violin

Commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music as part of their 200PIECES project

Since our meeting twenty years ago at the Royal Academy of Music my dear friendship with Philip Venables has been a constant source of joy, love and mutual support. This short piece takes the opening viola solo from his String Quartet, written whilst we were studying, and glimpses at it as though looking only at the long shadows it is casting. 

Thank you to the Academy, to Philip Cashian and the Composition Department, and to Brian Elias my teacher, for those pivotal years of learning and experimenting. 

First performed at the Royal Academy of Music, London by Emily Trubshaw. 

Recorded by Daniel Stroud and available to view and hear here


2021  |   5’

for trombone

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta

I did not expect to survive,

earth suppressing me


                   Louise Glück, from ‘Snowdrops’

Whilst thinking about the liminal space of burial, of traces left behind after loss, I re-captured and re-imagined a melody for a very high solo flute from my 2016 piece, Music for Europe. The trombone voice is beneath the surface and receded, repeatedly moving, gently pushing up and gradually expanding. Moving between worlds.                                                                                         

First performed at King’s Place, London by Byron Fulcher, 2021

Available to watch online here

passing. vanishing

2020  |   8’

for cello

Commissioned by Garrett Sholdice with funds provided from The Arts Council Ireland/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon

Since I first heard it, I’ve always loved the Cavatina from Beethoven’s String Quartet no. 13 (Op. 130). For this piece, I wanted to look at it through my own filter, from a faded distance. Through this lens the solo cello gently meshes untethered harmonics in a delicate dialogue with stretched-out fragments from the Cavatina.

Written for Kate Ellis and first performed by her at the National Concert Hall, Dublin 2022


2019 |   6’

for bass clarinet

Commissioned by sound  festival

I’ve always been drawn to Billie Holiday’s agile, distinctive voice but her penultimate album, Lady in Satin, was new to me. You can hear how the years had worn down her voice, there’s a gravelly-ness and heaviness to it, and her range had become contracted. But with this comes a rawness of expression which startled and moved me. 

There are two takes of I’m a fool to want you that appear on the album, a song written by Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf and Joel Herron in the early fifties. I decided to hone in on the bridge section, where the lyrics are: time and time again, I’d said I’d leave you, time and time again, I went away. Using my approximations of her rhythms, slowing them down and repeating them; transmuting the characteristic swooping and vibrato of her voice onto the bass clarinet; and expanding the range, I have created this short homage to Billie Holiday. 

Written for and first performed by Gareth Davis at sound  festival, Aberdeen, 2019

Lines and Spaces 

2015  | 13’

for piano

Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society

Dedicated to Richard Uttley

Whilst composing these miniatures I kept coming back to Agnes Martin’s exquisitely simple paintings. They have shown me over and over again how much is possible with lines and spaces. They are just grids and lines, and yet they evoke much more with the delicate layering of paint and beautiful imperfections. 

These miniatures fluctuate between compressing or expanding, creating a bold line or subtle bands of faint colours.

Selected performances:     

Richard Uttley

- hcmf//, Huddersfield UK, 2015 (premiere)

- Manchester UK; Paris, 2016

- Klangspuren Schwatz, Tirol, Austria, 2017

- London, 2019

- Künstlerhof Schreyahn, Germany 2020

Fidan Aghayeva-Edler at unerhöhrte musik, Berlin 2019


2006/9  |  6’

for piano

I    Transparent

II    (Untitled)

III    Frozen

IV    (Untitled)

My initial idea centred around different characteristics of ice. ‘Is’ is the Old English (and also used in some Scandanavian languages) for ice. This transformed into a desire to write pieces that just ‘are’: that had simple, mostly non-developmental structures.  

Selected performances:     

Rolf Hind at the  Wigmore Hall, London (premiere); Edinburgh; Cardiff, UK 2006

Yannick Wirner, Karlsruhe, Germany 2007

Ninon Gloger,  Lübeck, Germany 2016