It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years of being Composer In Residence here at Handel House Museum. I’ve led tons of workshops in the space, got kids to write a mini-opera, worked with a wealth of wonderful musicians via the RNIB’s various projects including summer schools in composing for voice, and hugely enjoyed curating two seasons of new music.

My first commission for the House, the electro-acoustic/spoken-word portrait Graininess and Sheen, now sits amidst other British Sonic Journeys as well as elsewhere online, but it’s been a while since you heard any new music from me!

I’ve actually worked over many a month in 2012 on my second commission; entitled badluck birds, and for the recorder quintet Consortium 5, it had the aim of demystifying the process of composition, by existing only in layers which could be re-arranged by, well, YOU! The piece, which is in three movements (which all take the idea of a British bird’s regional mythology as a starting point) ended up taking many forms.

Two of them, Scribblie and Bog-Drum, exist as live pieces; I wrote two linear pieces, but with the idea that an audience member could ‘turn on’ and ‘turn off’ players as the piece went along. This meant that as I composed, I always had to have in mind that any combination of players might be being heard at any one moment… they were premiered at Handel House in October. Here’s one!
The other movement, Screech, ended up as a different beast. First of all, it is made up only of 51 fragments for recorder, of different lengths, which can be arranged (but only in up to 5 at a time) any which way. I made a graphic score version that Consortium 5 can play live, and also take into schools for younger groups to be inventive with. BUT most excitingly, it also exists as a fabulous webgame, which is here!

Please visit the site and see how YOU can compose a piece for recorder quintet! Think of it as an ‘open-source’ piece, made up of layers that you can put together. The most fun thing is that you work with videos of the girls, and can drag and drop musical fragments at your own volition, then play and watch your work in progress! Make sure you visit the ‘About/How it works’ page before you start, then save and share your work!
Huge thanks to Consortium 5, Vincent Van Uffelen, master web designer, and Pete Gomes, filmmaker, for their hard work on developing this with me.
And before I go, a plug for my third and final commission for the House! I’ve been writing a small set of songs based on London’s lost rivers, what with Handel House being on the site of the old Tyburn. I’ll be singing these with the part-improvised help of wonderful jazz/folk/classical acoustic trio, 7 Hertz, on February 3rd. Not only that, but you can get a guided walk of part of the Tyburn with London’s river guru, Tom Bolton! A perfect Sunday afternoon, if you ask me…
That’s it from me! Big thanks to all at Handel House, and a hello to incoming composer Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian. Over to you, Cevanne!