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I am still an avid collector of CDs; I do listen to lots of music online but when I hear something I really like I will generally try to track down a hard copy to keep on my shelves. So naturally I am delighted that two of my pieces have recently been issued on CD - but downloads and streaming are also available!
Both recordings have emerged from collaborative projects with performers, and both follow on from several successful live performances of the pieces before they went into the studio, but that is really where the similarity ends. Gentle - which has been recorded by PercusSing - is a collection of three short songs for soprano and marimba, setting words by the Persian mystic poet known as Rumi. The songs were composed at a very dark moment (when one of my students had been subjected to a horrific attack) which forced me temporarily to set aside the bigger piece I was working on and spend some time on these short songs in order to bring a little light back into my life.
PercusSing - Ana Beard Fernandez and Zöe Scheuregger - were students together at the University of York. Ana had taken part in the first performance of Apocalypse so knew something of my music and when I heard the duet’s brilliant debut concert at the NCEM I immediately offered to write something for them- hoping that since duos for soprano and marimba are in fairly short supply they wouldn’t refuse! It is a wonderful combination in which the dark tone of Zöe’s marimba is a perfect complement for Ana’s bright, clear voice. At the first performance of Gentle during a lunchtime concert in July 2015 I was absolutely thrilled by the intensity of their delivery (and very pleasantly surprised by the audience’s unusually effusive reaction). Further performances followed and I invited Ana and Zöe to work with student composers at York St John University; they told me that day that they had recorded Gentle for their new CD.
The second new CD could not be more different! My friend and composer colleague David Power is a huge fan of David Bowie, particularly the Berlin trilogy – and he had previously made some Bowie arrangements for the Delta Sax Quartet. Meanwhile I had written Swan for the Lunar Sax Quartet but the Deltas also picked it up and when leader Chris Caldwell described it as ‘the closest thing to rock and roll’ the idea of combining our original works with arrangements of Bowie and Eno (who had worked with Bowie on the Berlin albums) along with pieces from Eno’s Obscure record label (Nyman, Bryars, Glass…) that completed the concept. I contributed arrangements of Eno’s Music for Airports and Bowie’s Subterraneans, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do! The album has been meticulously produced to bring out the best of each track and create a slightly surreal journey from Bowie to Lancaster but I do think it works, and we know that it is taking my music to places it would not otherwise have reached. The feedback has been tremendous and we’ve already had radio plays on the BBC and RTE, and as far away as USA and Australia. I must add that the artwork for the album is wonderful, and all credit must go to Frazer Marr for his arresting design. And that’s another reason why I love CDs!
Two Worlds and Bowie, Berlin and Beyond are both available on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon, but if you want hard copies you can find them here: