Posts in Category: In Progress

Percussion part 2

I’ve spend the last month or so working on ideas for the percussion and electronics piece for Glynn. The initial idea I had was for a 7 min piece for drum kit and marimba. The piece began with a cymbal solo, moving to marimba and then finally to kit but on reflection that didn’t really work as a piece. There was something about the completely different sounds of the marimba and kit that just didn’t marry in my head into a whole piece. Now the piece has shrunk to about 5 min still starting with a solo on high-hat but then moving to the full kit rather than marimba. The sounds of the piece marry up so much better in my head now that the marimba has been removed!

While writing I’ve wanted to have a kit sitting beside me so that I can play about with the sounds and electronics. That is obviously completely impracticable, because I didn’t have one already, but one can wish. I’ve settled with samples from freesound to help build the electronics but that hasn’t helped when its come to writing the notes, well rhythms. Sibelius is usually a pretty good help with this bit but not in this case. Working out pacing and intensity with a string quartet Sibelius can help but trying to do the same with a solo high-hat, playing with the nuances of the cymbals, not so much.

The problem I came across today with today Glynn was the stuff I had written and imagined to be an ok starting section with space to develop really wasn’t. What I’d written was more material for about 2/3 the way through a build up and it really doesn’t have that much further to go. This is the problem and the great thing about doing something I’ve never done before, learning that what I was thinking is doable it’s not exactly what I was thinking. It’s also why I really like working with a player to write a solo piece, you can try stuff out and be told to wise up or you can easily see that it’s not working out.

Needless to say the piece needs tweaked quite a bit based on today’s run through but it’s also sounding pretty cool. Going to aim to meet up with him again next weekend with more stuff and a more solidly running patch (samples are useful to work out sounds but not so much if you are using envelope following, the numbers don’t work live!)

Initial Thoughts Percussion and Electronics

Yesterday I had my first meeting with Glynn Forrest about a piece for percussion and live electronics I’m going to be writing him for the next Edit-Point concert. I hadn’t planned on going in with any preconceived ideas I simply wanted to talk to him about percussion and get him to show me some things with the kit he will be using. The largest piece in the concert will be Trilogy by David Marc so there is quite a large selection of percussion I can use.

My plan of talking to Glynn with an open mind was broken a little on the way in. As I was walking in I had my mp3 player on random and a track from the new Muse album came on. This:

and I thought wouldn’t it be cool to try and do something similar to 1 min 30 with the piece. So at the moment I’m thinking of some kind of dubstep, rock, electronics, percussion solo…. yea not quite sure how thats all going to come together but this is a selection of what I’ve been listening to today to try and inform my thoughts a little more.


Collaboration Introduction

For the next month or two I’m going to turn this under used into a public record of my collaboration with a cellist, Lydia Whittingham, to create a piece for solo cello and electronics. The reason for this documentation is that as part of my masters course I have to do a documentation project which I can document in any way. I first of all thought of keeping it private but then changed my mind. What I’m planning to put on here is summaries of meetings with Lydia, drafts of the score, versions of the electronics and possibly rough recordings by her of the piece so far. All this is with the goal of the premier being in Glasgow City Halls on the 16th of March. This may end up being a little bit of an other ambitious time scale but hey, I like a challenge. Plus she has booked studio time to record it around then anyway.

Random Update

Well calling it 42 is a little wrong because this post wont answer all your questions about life but then will anything? What this post will do is sum up my last few months of inactivity while I’m sitting in Gatwick for the next 8 hours or so.

I’ll start with the most up to date thing first; that of sitting in Gatwick. The reason for this is I’m on my way to Milan for two weeks to attend the soundSCAPE festival. I’m looking forward to it but I am wishing I didn’t decide to do a late night flight to London to get an early flight tomorrow morning but such is life. I get to write this and I might get some of a presentation I have to do written. A weird thing about soundSCAPE is that the composer in residence is Patricia Alesendrini, a phd composer from QUB and the same composer who had to pull of form the composers concert twice due to her performers I’ll health (technically it was the same problem it just happened before the first concert and continued until after the second such is bad luck).

For the presentation I have to talk and give examples of my music for about 30mins or so. I started to look at this about a week ago or so with trepidation but thankfully its a lot better than I thought. Looking through my scores from Quartet No. 1 to Untitled and Relations there is definitely a continuity apart from the obvious obsession I have with Fibonacci. Its quite comforting to find this continuity but slightly annoying that ideas I’ve had recently turn out to simply be codifications of things I have done in earlier pieces. Some of this continuity was a conscious decision, like in Quartet No. 1 a long note moved by a micro-tone after about 1min is used again in Puddle Wonderful (though the recording doesn’t so it that well), others weren’t consciously decided upon, like repeated notes on different instruments in The Space Within and Wondering Wavering Willing. But that’s just a brief start have to work out where to go form that.

I’m going to out a thanks up here both the PRSF/Bliss foundation and Sir Hamilton Harty Scholarship have completely funded my trip to the soundSCAPE festival. So thank you both.

Last week my name changed, well not changed just extended a little. I graduated from Queen’s Belfast with a 2.1 and now have letters after my name! This now means I am on my way to RSAMD next year, not that that was really in doubt because of my offer but its not all confirmed. The only thing that’s a little in the air is that of accommodation, paid the deposit but have yet to hear back if I have got anything or not.

Recent Music

The other night I sat down and worked out what my output has been this year (from Jan 1st) and I was shocked. I have written around 30 mins of music which works out about 20 secs per day. I was shocked how I have written so much but then I have finished Relations (a piece for stereo orchestra), Rain (for soprano and guitar), The Wavering George (Violin and Cello) a bass clarinet solo and Unresolved for solo piano. Then there is a percussion piece and a guitar and violin piece that I have started to write within the last week. I dont know how this has come about but I think a switch has flipped in my head from wanting to compose to being able to compose. Every piece (bar Resolved) has either had a workshop, a performance or a performance scheduled. The situation I’m in at the moment is amazing until I remember I still have essays to write.

Also in the last few months I have had very good press reviews. The first one for Imagined Notes by Michael Dervan of the Irish Times which you can read here and the second for Puddle Wonderful. First real reviews I’ve had and I’m very happy with both!

I feel a bit of info about the pieces is needed, I don’t normally do this unless asked but for some reason I’m compelled to. Imagined Notes was written for my final electro-acoustic composition last semester and is basically a reaction against what I see as noise music. What I mean by this is music with no overt pitch bass and simply uses real world sounds to create a piece. I know a door closing or a footstep does have a pitch but not in the same was as a trumpet. So the piece was written to lie somewhere in the middle of the noise music and real music. To do this I took recordings of a piano and an oboe and processed them via transposing stretching etc. The transpositions aimed to create a triadic harmony with the same kind of pull and push of tonality so chords were built up with 5ths, 3rds etc. Though terms such as chords should be used even more loosely in this piece than most because the transpositions where never meant to be precise but more to give the impression of tonal harmony which I think I succeeded in doing. Please do comment and discuss I’d be interested to hear feedback and if others think I did it as successfully as I think.

Relations is a piece for large orchestra with double of most things. This is to create a stereo effect for the audience. The piece is also based on one chord (G-B-E-F) this chord is intended to resonate the whole way through the piece of the piano mainly at the beginning and the end as this section is built on the harmonic series of each note. The music swings round the orchestra or bounces across from left to right. Unfortunately hearing this effect isn’t going to happen any time soon, I dont think I could pull together an orchestra needed for it, but maybe in the future.

I might talk about the percussion piece a little in a week or two after its completely finished but it is similar to Relations in the sense that it is based on one note rather than one chord and develops in a similar vane to The Space Within, which I conducted in the 3rd Queen’s Composers’ Concerts and a recording will be up soon.

I think this is the first blog post in a while that wasn’t for the reason of bitching, in fact it had no reason behind it I just felt compelled to write one. Please feel free to give me any comments or feedback about my music. Always interested to hear peoples opinions. You can also get some of my scores at Sibelius Music or Emerging Composers Library


Three months have gone by and not even one update, I feel ashamed of myself considering the amount that has happened.
October saw the continuation of rehearsals for the opera, there was quite a lot of stress and a few arguments that had to be calmed down but eventually it all worked well for the concert in November. Really happy with how Puddle Wonderful went and managed to get a, rather bad quality, recording of the last night which is up here. All four operas were well received, we didn’t fill the place but I think there was about 300 came over the three nights. The week after that the second Queen’s Composers’ Concert happened. The hall was about 3/4 filled (which again I was really happy with). Afterwards I got quite a few emails congratulating me on the concert. Again the performance of Untitled went really well, though up until the last two rehearsals it wasn’t quite coming together so I had to step in and flail my arms about in some kind of uniform pattern and tempo, this helped make it an excellent performance.
After this concert there was a rather large feeling of emptiness upon realising I had no planned performances planned. This swiftly changed when I joined, and was made secretary of, the Irish Composers Collective. Due to this group I now have a performance of Imagined Notes (22nd February) and of an as yet unwritten violin and cello duo on the 22nd of March both of which will be in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Two days after the latter concert will be the third Queen’s Composers’ Concert, and the final one organised by me. For this concert I’m conducting The Space Within, a septet written last year for my final composition. It will be my last Composers’ Concert because as of September I will be in Glasgow Collage of Music studying MMus in composition. Finally at some point within the next few months I’ll be getting a performance of a soprano and guitar piece called Rain, with words by Edward Thomas, written for Becca Hopkins and Declan Keenan. Hopefully more concerts will come my way soon but I think thats a decent amount to be going on with. Though I’m starting to think of organising an ICC concert in Belfast before the end of the summer but that is still a very hazy idea.
I think thats a brief catchup of everything thats happened for anyone thats interested.

Before Leaving

I leave to Paris and inter railing tomorrow! Will be trying to update this thing on my travels maybe with pictures but more than likely just with text. Away for a month and heading round Europe clockwise form Paris to Barcelona. It should be fun, really looking forward to it.

As for last weekend and this week I have been frantic. It was my 21st birthday last thursday and then friday afternoon I flew to York to CNMC (creating new music communities) to have Beyond the Tone played. Though the players only had a few hours rehearsing they did a very good job of it, hopefully get a recording of the concert up soon or at least when I get back. The whole day was a mix of open rehearsals, open ear sessions, networking, composers surgiories and two concerts all of which were really interesting and useful. Though I only managed to get to the tail end of one of the open ear sessions. The event was in York uni and was part of the ICC and organised mainly by Peter Moran and James Whittle.

Once I got home from that I had to organising moving flats and getting packed for inter railing! Oh yea, also decided to scrap what I had written of the opera and start again. Got about 2mins written and going to try and do some more while I’m away with many hours spent on trains.

Anyway thats all interesting to mention. Check back regularly over the next month for updates on my travels.

For once a blog that isn’t on a friday night!
I feel its time for an update since it has been ages since the last one. Not too much has happened recently, went to Download music festival for a week and it was damn good.
As for compositional stuff. I started writing the opera after a few weeks of finding the 120 déçi-tâlas Messiaen wrote about and then trying to find translations. The translation side was almost impossible so I did my own which I’m thinking of posting on my site. Finally got that sorted and have about a minute of it written, so about 1/10th the way through. It is definitly a learning curve as I have never written for voice. Trying to think of a words rhythm and combine it inside the music is a little challanging simply because I’ve never done it before.
Also started on a piece for Alto Sax, Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello for the November Queen’s Composer’s Concert. Managed to write about 1min 30 in a day just sitting out in the garden. Really pleased with it so far. Definitly getting the nack for minds ear, though hearing it on sibelius helps and gives even more ideas to develope.
Finally heading to York on friday (the day after my 21st birthday :S) to hear Beyond the Tone being played at CNMC (creating new music comunities). Should be a fun weekend.


The last few weeks have been a little hectic, too hectic to post here. Mainly because of finishing off my septet The Space Within but its done and handed in. Would love to hear it played properly but don’t know if I’ll be able to organise it with the players I know. Its the first piece I’ve composed almost completely without a piano or Sibelius (only used either for a few chords) so hearing it on Sibelius and it almost being exactly how I imagined was amazing. The only problems were tempo markings but that isn’t that big a deal. But knowing my inner ear is developing is definitely a good thing to know. Also got my electro-acoustic piece handed in Machinist’s Visual Fallacy. This is my first piece to use c-sounds, takes a bit of getting used to but a really good tool to know. Will probably use some of the techniques in my acoustic pieces. In fact some electro-acoustic techniques inspired parts of The Space Within.

With The Space Within handed in I can now start properly on the opera. Met my librettist, James Johnson, on Wednesday to talk about some of the ideas I’ve got and how they fit with his libretto. Still haven’t written any music yet but I think the ideas will work, just got more research to do into them before I can write. It will be three singers Soprano, Mezzo and Alto though I cant find an Alto! (Anyone know a good one who would like to sing in an opera?).

As for the dates of the performance its provisionally 5th 6th and 7th of November. This is provisional but it seems a decent amount of time to get things finished, organised, advertised and rehearsed. The lineup of composers has been expanded to five: Me (Matthew Whiteside), Omar Zatriqi, Eduard Zatriqi, Conor Mitchell and the new addition Gareth Williams.

There should be a website up soon for SPARK with everyone’s details on it but here is a quick break done. Omar, Eduard and myself are all composers who are studying at Queen’s Belfast. Omar and Eduard are heading into a masters in composition I’m heading into my 3rd year, Conor Mitchell is a London based musical theater and opera writer and Gareth Williams is an Armagh born composer. As for the librettists James Johnson is a Queen’s graduate who has written a play for Tinderbox and Michael Shannon is currently studying for a masters in writing in Queen’s. Its an interesting mix of students and professionals, hopefully a good mix!

Onto other stuff. The next Queen’s Composer’s Concert will be on the 25th of November in the Harty room. I’ve managed to organise a group of players for a yet to be writting piece of mine. Sometimes I dont know which is harder getting the players or writing the music either way I’m half way there. Think I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog but I’m heading over to York to hear Beyond the Tone being played at Creating New Music Communities. I’ve somehow managed to become the Northern Ireland contact for the event and I’ve promised a larger piece for next years event.

Finally a slightly sour note. A few months ago I entered SPNM’s call for scores with my Quartet No. 1. Got word back this week that I didn’t make it into the short list. Ach well theres always next year.

Friday Again

This does really seem to be a weekly blog. This week hasn’t involved anything too exciting. Just working and going to concerts. Went to seven concerts this week, six of them part of Sonorities Festival at Queen’s and one of those being five hours long! Not all of them good though, POW ensemble was a little weird but the rest (CMC Composers’ Platform, Bird on a Wire, Trio Scordatura and Move) were really good. Possibly going to write something for Bird on a Wire when I get a chance.
The next Queen’s Composer’s Concert has confirmed a date, Wed 25th November. There are so many people interested I’ve started organising another one for the 24th of March 2010, or around then anyway. Ages away but why not be organised?
Finally got my electro-acoustic piece finished and called it “Machinist’s Visual Fallacy”. More details on that will be up soon once its handed in and marked. Just have to do an analysis of Ricardo Climent’s Silent Era now and thats electro-acoustic comp finished for this year.
Like I said nothing too exciting this week going to start getting stuck into other compositions next week I think.
Until next Friday (probably).