[02.09.13] New Music North West

It’s quite terrifying to think that two full years have passed since the last New Music North West festival, the biannual showcase of new music associated with and active within the NW of England, hosted by the RNCM and the University of Manchester. And it’s a real privilege that two of my pieces are going to be featured:

Guitarist, Tom McKinney, an old friend from the house of bedlam, plays bet maryam (2011, for solo guitar) at 5:15pm on Wednesday October 30th in the RNCM’s Carole Nash Room.

Thomas Bayman performs a composition written especially for him last year, bet merkorios (2012, for solo ‘cello) at 10pm on Thursday October 31st in the RNCM’s Studio Theatre.

It’s really amazing that these two pieces have been programmed at this festival. Both are part of my ongoing cycle of related compositions collectively entitled the eleven churches of lalibela (2010-). The cycle explores, in different ways, ideas of erosion and encrustation as ways of thinking about musical material and its transformation - the subject of my PhD at the University of Huddersfield.

I’m also exceptionally lucky that these two particular examples of my work have been selected to be played: both are extraordinarily difficult to play. When Tom McKinney first saw the score of bet maryam, he documented his initial response in this tweet:

bet maryam makes no secret of its difficulties, in fact, passages of it were written to be deliberately unidiomatic for the instrument (or, less politely, ridiculously darn hard). Other passages, by some way of relief for the player, are constructed in the opposite fashion, in a deliberately idiomatic, efficiently playable, way.

bet merkorios (for solo 'cello) presents similar challenges, although, in itself, it’s not designed to be hard - it just is!  The piece was written for - and here will be performed by - Thomas Bayman, a remarkable young 'cellist with a passion for new music whom I met when I was teaching at the RNCM. Tom never shies away from a challenge - I’ve been massively impressed with the ludicrously complex repertoire he’s conquered in recent years - so I know his was a canvas upon which I could draw to the limits of my imagination. It’s quite a substantial piece - around 18 minutes in duration - and was written by colliding bits of material with each other on the manuscript paper, creating a soundworld of debris-like substances, demonstrating different kinds of ambiguity.

Both of these instrumentalists are some of the most committed folks I’ve ever had the opportunity yet to work, so I’m deeply excited about hearing them play - it’s going to be quite something! I’m so very lucky!

I hope you can pop along. Say “Hi” if you do.