The title of this work is taken from the poem Around the Far Edge of Circling by Ed Roberson. His text deals with questions of mortality by making analogies between land and sea and the boundless edge of human existence.
It was first performed at their annual Festival of Remembrance which incorporated all ages and faiths, signifying the importance of peace against conflict and demonstrates how current conflict and war casts a dark shadow on a striving for world peace. The festival also aims to commemorate all those that have lost their lives during conflict past and present.
The Horizon Written was commissioned by Elliot Walker and St. Pauls Church in Rotherham, UK.
Scorched Songs was inspired by the work of Cai Guo Qiang (http://caiguoqiang.com/), a Chinese artist who primarily uses gunpowder as his tool for creation. His craft involves various lines of colour being carefully added and distributed onto large sheets of Japanese hemp paper, creating the whole image he has in mind. The works are prepared over a period of months but are fixed within just a few short seconds after a fuse is lit and the canvas ignites.
Similarly, the source material for each movement is ‘scorched’ through processes and fused as a new musical object in time. The individual titles are taken from popular songs by bands which had an important influence on me as a bass guitarist such as Cream, Freelance Whales, Metallica and Milburn. The movements are given below.
I – Lights close their tired eyes
II – Vaguely attracted to rooftops
III – Off to Neverland
IV – Pass me a book and I’ll read you a sonnet
The piece uses a number of techniques to transform these source materials in an ‘incendiary’ manner. These include modifying the attack on the instrument giving pitches a more aggressive timbre, by using phonemes like ‘k’ or ‘t’. Sometimes the flow of air through the instrument is altered to produce a distorted sound or to create multiphonics which are very resonant and unstable. All the information for the multiphonics used in the work were taken from Spectral Immersions: A Comprehensive Guide to the Theory and Practice of Bass Clarinet Multiphonics by Sarah Watts.
There are also lyrics written above the stave, which the performer is required to speak into the instrument whilst fingering the pitches as they would normally on the instrument which creates an echo effect of speech
Below is a link to a recording made by the fantastic Sarah Watts, who I am incredibly grateful to for the time she took to work on this piece with me at the RNCM.
Jenny Whittaker and I performed this piece back in April as part of a charity concert, in which we raised £700 for Cancer Research UK and the Stroke Association. The recording includes the premiere performance audio, with overdubbed string parts recorded by musicians from the RNCM. Keep an eye out for news of an on location performance of this piece which will be live streamed at some point during October!
More about the piece here:
After the premiere at the Victoria Hall in Sheffield, I was lucky enough to be able to conduct my work Night Sky Partials on a tour in Tuscany with three choirs from the local area, in three astounding church venues.
The SATB acapella choir for my piece was made up of close friends and family, which made the experience even more wonderful.
Below, there are links to both the recording and a previous blog with more information about the piece.
Sopranos – Emily Atkinson & Hilary Osborn
Altos – Anna Day & Emily Needle
Tenors – Harry Chapman and John Grundy
Basses – Daniel Timmins, John Anstie and William Day
Photo: Victoria Hall, Sheffield – 27/05/17
Photo: Bassilica Santa Maria Assunta, Montecatini – 30/05/17)
Photo: Convento di sant’ Agnostino, San Giminiano – 31/05/17)
Photo: Parrocchia del Ss. Stefano e Niccolao, Pescia – 01/06/17)
I have a lot of exciting gigs/projects coming up soon with various bands and artists. The first of which will be playing with Nick Bennett Trio at Yellow Arch Studios this Sunday and I’m also very excited about playing bass at the EP launch of Jack Chapman, more details here!
I’m very happy that two of my pieces will be included in tomorrow nights programme a part of the Kinetic concert series. You can read more about the concert here:
https://www.anthonyburgess.org/event/concert-kinetic/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1760274300952984/
Daniel Portal will be playing the fourth movement from my piano cycle, Five Pieces/Colour in Water. The colour in the title refers to melodies and their subtle ornamental variations which form the basis of the musical narrative, they appear at first like drops of dye in water which gradually dilute to become part of a whole. Pitch cycles swirl and dance around parallel to this process, creating a paradoxical moveable stillness. The combination of these two layers of material in motion over time creates the effect of a kaleidoscopic contrast in colour, combined with time which is stretched and irregular.
After that, Charlotte Badham and James Girling will be giving another performance of my piece …and wisdom comes quietly which you can read about here:
Ahead of tomorrow’s concert, I’m excited to announce a new piece of my own which will be featured as part of the programme. It will be performed by Jenny Whittaker (soprano) and myself.
Autumnal began simply as an attempt to compose a work inspired by my love of the landscape surrounding my home in the Autumn time. I asked my friend John Anstie to write three short haikus which would describe an Autumnal scene. He responded with these wonderful lines:
Rainbow hues turning
chill air low sun (but) warm hearts
beauteous day-long dawn
pink light (on) timeless trees
yield a golden fleece and warmth
(for) aching Mother Earth
sleeping beauties wake
from enduring frozen night
in Spring refreshing
I began working on the piece by setting this short text to music, testing out melodies on the violin. The vocal line centres around the Dorian of Ab, which to me (in an old romantic and quasi-synesthetic way) suggests the dark yellow colours which leaves become in the Autumn. ‘Folk-like and with little vibrato’ is the instruction for the vocalist regarding the expression of the lines, which Jenny achieves beautifully. Beneath the vocal line there are electronic samples of leaves and piano chords suspended in time which provide a kind of aural canvas for the vocal line to make its mark.
Autumnal was written especially for tomorrow’s concert, in memory of John Hirst. Find out more here – https://josephshawsite.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/the-music-of-john-david-hirst-24-11-41-21-06-11/
Tickets are now available! Please contact Anna Day at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase them.
There are only 100 available at £6 each, but the concert will be filmed and all the music recorded for a separate DVD of the event. Sales from this will also go to the Stroke Association and Cancer Research UK. So if you don’t manage to purchase a ticket in time, or would like a DVD of the concert regardless then they will be available at a later date during the Summer (tbc).
I look forward to seeing you there!
A very rough sketch of my new piece for Meera Maharaj and James Girling, playing alto flute and prepared classical guitar. It will be the first piece in my new cycle Incendiary Colour, for various chamber ensembles and an added installation element also.
Each colour and shape represents a different set of ideas/materials which have yet to be pieced together into a functional work. Until then, at least the colours are pretty!
I’m very excited to announce a concert which will take place on the 8th April in Stocksbridge, Sheffield. The programme of the evening will focus mainly on John Hirst’s original compositions, interspersed with other items from a variety of performers and genres. All proceeds will go to both Cancer Research and the Stroke Association. I’m very lucky to have the help of friends and family in putting this together, which so far is going very smoothly! This concert which I hope will be the first in a series will be an ideal opportunity for his work to be performed and recorded in the local area.
I feel a special connection with his music because he was the only other person in our family (so far!) who attempted serious composition for instruments and voices throughout his life. Although our approaches are very different, I can’t help but feel part of a lineage somehow and being influenced by the sounds he created which is really inspiring. I’ll be writing more information on the background to his life and music very soon.
So far I’ve catalogued 30 of his works for mainly chamber ensembles with a few larger scale works too. Music for solo piano, violin duet, string quartet, piano quartet, chorus and orchestra is all there waiting to be heard. I would describe his music as romantic in style with hints of more modern ideas as well. His level of craft as a composer has produced pieces with a wonderful sense of melody, harmony and structure that are a joy to listen to.
Keep an eye out for the regular updates I’ll be posting about the concert and his music in this section of my blog, including how to purchase tickets and donate to both charities.