Friday 30 September 2022
Peter Reynolds Composers Studio with Sandbox Percussion
6 brand new pieces in workshop by members of our 2022 Peter Reynolds Composers Studio.
The beauty of a collapsed star
Emily de Gruchy
Running order TBC.
This is a chance to see new music making in progress and to witness how a new work moves from page to performance.
Within this session, you will see and hear Sandbox Percussion workshop and rehearse these new works, with input from the emerging composers. There is no “performance” as such, although we will be aiming for a final recorded run-through of each work. As such, audience members are free to drop in and drop out where appropriate.
Murrough Connolly is a composer and classical guitarist from Co. Kerry, Ireland. Currently based in Manchester, Murrough is studying for a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Camden Reeves. Through harmonic invention, Murrough’s work seeks to challenge conventional harmonic practices and discover distinctive new sounds by blending classical, jazz and blues styles. More recently, his harmonic explorations have inspired him to write pieces which attempt to connect visual colour and harmonic colour (e.g. Litmus Papers and Ildaite).
Murrough’s music has been widely performed by outstanding performers and ensembles across the UK and Ireland, including: Psappha, Quatuor Danel, Katherine Hunka, Trio Atem, The Scotia Ensemble and The Irish Guitar Quartet. These performances have resulted in exciting commissions to write music for the SCS Killaloe Music Festival, the UCC Singers and The Kerry School of Music. More recently, Murrough was selected for Psappha’s Composing for Piano Scheme 2022 and is working with Psappha’s Artistic Director, Ben Powell, to produce a piece for solo piano.
Rebound is a lively piece which explores how two contrasting themes can be shared and re-interpreted by various percussion instruments.
The first theme is presented on solo vibraphone at the opening. Fast and energetic, it features a distinctive harmonic progression with much syncopation. The theme embraces a more rhythmical role as it moves to the bongos and it eventually appears in the tom-toms, bongos and vibraphone
for an emphatic finish.
On the other hand, the second theme begins in the tom-toms and is purely rhythmical at first. Inspired by the bounce-like action of striking a drum with a stick, this theme features much repetition. It gradually assumes a more harmonic role in the vibraphone, which combines the second theme with the first theme’s opening chord progression. Two interludes with less rhythmical activity and more ambiguous harmonies interrupt the intense thematic development and allow the glockenspiel to demonstrate its melodic capabilities.
Harriet Grainger is a young British composer with a background in dance and as a cellist and pianist. Her music suggests something unquiet within its s stillness, bringing landscapes to life. She creates a quiet moment of observation for the listener that stirs the soul.
Harriet’s music concentrates on achieving an equilibrium between power and fragility. Delicate, weightless, and sparse passages are often interrupted by, or tainted with, darker tones and shadows. Influenced by desolate natural landscapes such as tundra, deserts, caverns, and the deep ocean, the use of wide and resonant spaces plays an important architectural role in Harriet’s creative process.
Harriet studied composition at the Royal College of Music in London as an RCM Award Holder supported by a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds scholarship and a Clifton Parker Award Holder, and also generously received a Vaughan Williams Bursary from the RVW Trust. Previously, she also studied composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.
Harriet has been the recipient of numerous academic and professional music awards. Recently, her music has been performed in concerts in the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, and China.
the beauty of a collapsed star
the beauty of a collapsed star is Harriet’s first composition for percussion quartet, composed in 2022. It seeks to explore the beauty of something that has broken, changed, is decaying, or that exists no longer. At the heart of the work is an atmosphere of mystery and far distance, and so it would suit very well to a
performance within a dimly-lit, resonant space.
For this work Harriet looked to space for inspiration — especially neutron stars, the collapsed cores of supergiant stars that result from supernova explosions. There are thought to be one billion of these in our galaxy, but most are undetectable to us because they are ancient, cold, and radiate very little. What Harriet found interesting was learning that, occasionally, newly-formed neutron stars emit pulsars as they rotate and appear to scientists as a kind of ‘lighthouse-effect’ from a fixed point in space. She became drawn to
the idea of a pulse coming out of deep space; a signal of life from something that represents the death of something else.
The work begins and ends gently, with a number of slow chords that represent pulses from darkness, or from ‘silence’, featuring the glockenspiel and softened with bowed vibraphone. It is the vibraphone that then keeps the most energy throughout the piece, gaining momentum before slowing and returning the
opening atmosphere and decaying to silence. Together, the rest of the ensemble provide surrounding texture and space. The bright but cold tone of the glockenspiel keeps a regular lighthouse-effect throughout, by highlighting certain notes and passages of the vibraphone. The softly-played bongos and
tom-toms, and kick drum, punctuate the music with other kinds of intermittent energy, contributing to a feeling of destabilisation and unpredictability.
Hailing from Jersey, Emily de Gruchy is an experimental, multidisciplinary composer. She has collaborated with some of the U.K’s leading artists and contemporary musicians, including the Riot Ensemble, the Hermes Experiment, Lewisham Borough Council, Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera, Benedict Taylor, Noah Max & The Echo Ensemble and Thēo TJ Lowe & Transitions Dance Company. In July 2022, Emily released her first debut album, and with this coming together… we grow apart – a piece for flexible ensemble – which can be found on most streaming platforms.
She has received notable mentions and prizes since the start of her career, including being a finalist for the National Young Composers Award (NCEM) in 2017; being awarded a year-long compositional residency with the Picture Gallery at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2018; a three-year recurring residency with the Royal Holloway New Music Collective from 2016 to 2019; and being a finalist for the Trinity Laban Daryl Runswick Composition Prize in 2021. She was a recipient of a prestigious Government of Jersey Bursary, and her studies were generously supported by the Henry Wood Accommodation Trust, the John Lobb Trust and the Paul Brown Memorial Fund.
Described as writing pieces with “immense qualities” and producing “assured and controlled compositions” Emily’s music is heavily inspired by chance procedures and unconventional notational practice, inspired by the likes of the 1960s New York School (John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff) and European avant-garde composers Per Nørgård, György Ligeti, Witold Lutosławski, and Olivier Messiaen.
Emily has recently completed her Masters in Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, under the tutelage of Deirdre Gribbin, Dominic Murcott, Edward Jessen and Paul Newland. She also holds a first-class Bachelor of Music (with Honours) from Royal Holloway, University of London, where she was mentored by Mark Bowden, Samantha Fernando, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, and Nina Whiteman. Her research interests include musical cryptography, and depicting psychology, psychiatry, neurodiversity, and neurology in music.
dys·rhyth·mia | \ dis-ˈrit͟h-mń-ə \an abnormal rhythm especially: a disordered rhythm exhibited in a record of electrical activity of the brain or heart.
The interdisciplinary study of the brain and musical composition has become more commonplace thanks to the rise of visual programming languages such as
Max/MSP. More than ever before, composers can create processes that aide their endeavours; upon writing this, a distant colleague of mine (Zubin Kanga alongside Dr. Serafim Perdikis) has learned how to control synthesisers programmed through Max/MSP by using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to read their brain waves. As fascinating as this is, this methodology often relies on the expectation that the brain functions conventionally – and when creating this piece, I was far more interested in exploring what material could be generated from cognitive abnormalities.
Cerebral Dysrhythmia is the medical term applied to an abnormal tracing of electrical activity via electroencephalography, which is a process measured through fundamental brain wave patterns – in the case of dysrhythmia, these wave patterns alternate between normal and abnormal base rhythms. Whilst an
electroencephalogram can provide visual artists with valuable resources for inspiration, it is extremely difficult to naturally replicate such low frequencies musically – at least without accessing the appropriate technology to do so. This uncertainty is what inspired this piece – what could abnormal brain function sound like?
The four percussionists represent the four main wave rhythms monitored in an EEG – Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Theta – and interchange between working together and against each other. Whilst my piece is rooted in scientific exploration, it requires a healthy dose of imagination from its performers – something which inquisitiveness aids well towards.
Israel LAI Miu-yeung is a composer, collaborative pianist, organist, conductor, and hyperpolyglot from Hong Kong. His music has been performed extensively in Hong Kong, the UK and abroad. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition at the University of Manchester, having read for an MPhil in Music at the University of Oxford and a BA in Music at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was previously an exchange student at Lund University, Sweden, and is a member of the Hong Kong Composers’ Guild and the Royal College of Organists.
Israel’s monumental performances include his graduation concert, where he premiered his clarinet concerto and performed Stenhammar’s piano concerto; and his opera in one act, Bou6, a commentary on current events in Hong Kong. He has also given recitals of lesser-known 20th-century works and multiple performances of his song cycle Zerfernte Gedichte, as well as conducting local ensembles such as the St Giles Orchestra. He has worked with renowned ensembles such as Psappha, the BBC Singers, the Mivos Quartet, the Kreutzer Quartet, and the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a two-time finalist of the New Generation competition, which was broadcast on radio. He provided the soundtrack for a 2022 feature-length documentary film. He is now researching the concept of density in composition.
The verb wun6 waa2 refers to a cinema ending the run of a film and starting another. This changes the decor, the exhibits, the merchandise, and the general atmosphere inhabiting the physical space of the cinema. Despite that, the films’ runs usually ease into one another, and at the end of the day, it’s a similar experience of sitting in a dark room with a projector.
This piece extracts a few scenes from my memory of being in Hong Kong, as if excerpts from several dusty film rolls. In rapid-fire succession, it switches back and forth between highly contrasting scenery, from busy street crossings to riversides, from metro trains to hiking trails. Yet as the ending shows, these scenes are all part of a whole, part of the same space, and blend into one continuous experience of a culture and its hustle and bustle.
wun6 waa2 is written for Sandbox Percussion, as part of the Peter Reynolds Composers Studio 2022, at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival.
Chloe Knibbs is a composer and sound artist motivated by lyricism, vulnerability, text incorporating social issues and autobiography in her work. Informed by feminism and interdisciplinary approaches, her work encompasses opera, theatre, choral and chamber works, installations and song-writing. Her music has been described as “quietly effective with every note made to count” and as having an “unmistakable ring of authenticity” (Musical Opinion).
Performed in and out of the concert hall, Chloe’s work has been in venues including Birmingham New Street Station, October Gallery, MeWe360 and the International Anthony Burgess Centre. Her commissioners include the Sound and Music, Birmingham Opera Company, Illuminate Womens’ Music, British Council Music. Recent projects include the release of the EP Bargaining on OddPop Records – a set of songs and chamber works – and a choral
commission for the Marian Consort exploring the life of composer Raffaella Aleotti.
Trepidations deals with feelings of unease, waiting and expectation. Glockenspiel and vibraphone tremolos sit alongside a restlessness in the rhythm section that never fully announces or resolves itself.
Joseph Martin (b.1999) is a British composer, pianist and teacher born in Huntingdon, Cambridge. He grew up and was educated in Carmarthenshire in South-West Wales, before moving to Cardiff to study a Bachelor of Music degree. He achieved his Master of Philosophy degree in Composition from the University of Cambridge in 2021, and now works as a teacher and accompanist.
Joseph’s music is receptive to the influence of human culture and his surroundings, with key themes including various ancient mythologies, the physical world around us and human experiences in the 21st-Century. His background as a performer has versed him in music for orchestra, symphonic wind band, big band, symphony chorus, chamber choir and male voice choir,
all of which inform his compositional process and decisions. Joseph’s music is principally narrative-driven, whether that be derived from stories mythological,
fictional or personal, but more recently he has been exploring the abundance of sounds that can be derived from traditional ensembles.
Joseph is thrilled to be participating in the Peter Reynolds Composers Studio at the Vale of Glamorgan festival this year.
My main drive behind this piece was to explore the range of sounds available when writing for the given set of instruments, using the imagery of a tsunami as the conceptual starting point. This concept largely defined the structure as a crescendo-study of sorts, beginning with the quiet, serene atmosphere set by the bowed vibraphone, growing and building in complexity, before moving to a more driven and rhythmic character, which eventually collapses at the point of climax.
The tone of the piece is uneasy right from the beginning, with the contrast between the perfect fourth interval and the tritone in the vibraphone. The tritone and major ninth interval feature prominently throughout, emphasising this sense of unease, which is contributed to by the constantly shifting metre. The tuned percussion instruments are often interrupted by the more ‘percussive’ instruments in the form of stabs, but this role is reversed later on in the piece where the rhythmic character established by the tom-toms and bongos is interspersed by more melodic and harmonic material in the vibraphone and glockenspiel.
The piece ends with an element of performer-improvisation, where each player is left to their own devices when it comes to tempo and dynamics; the result should be a gradual descent from a tightly performed rhythmic unit into a chaotic mess.