19 November 2014

House Music, eyemusic – my last commission

As my two-year residency at Handel House draws to a close I look forward to the première of my final commission for soprano and harpsichord – 'House Music'.

It works with the Renaissance principle of Augenmusik – where art was often used to illuminate notated music – and develops it so the relationship is thoroughly structural.

The song is structured by windows cut through the paper, which are assembled to follow the facade of Handel House, in Brook Street, London. Players are to perform what they see on the page before them, including the material revealed beneath by the windows. 

The libretto marks the progress of a career, or life, across four movements – beginning as an outsider looking in to the establishment; then claiming the safer space within; and finally settling upstairs to sleep, and dream of legacy.

I've been so drawn to the concept of eye music, my entire concert series has centred around the theme of 'seeing sound', featuring leading lights in music and film such as Jessica Hynes, Oren Marshall, Sarah Angliss, Crewdson, and Calum Gourlay.

I thought you might find it interesting to see the work-in-progress of my composition, as eyemusic is not necessarily a typical structure... 

I began by cutting the structure into plain manuscript paper, and writing by hand, so I was always aware of my perimeters. This is the first messy sketch.

I could always rely on feline aid and instruction. Each time, she knew which piece of paper was required next, and promptly sat on it.

She even helped me type the music into Sibelius – though her writing for soprano voice was rather ambitious.

I printed the first draft for rehearsal with Ziazan and Tessa at Handel House. 

I cut the windows with a craft knife, and bound the A4 pages with tape. 

I had some edits to make in the score, both creative, and to do with alignment, so I made more drafts for the performers, who kindly gave their feedback, and allowed me to listen to rehearsals.

Then it was time to set it up for printing and cutting with machines (and my mum).

I re-drew the windows with a more 'Georgian shape'. 

I've been numbering and dating these copies, so they are available to buy as souvenirs after the concerts.

Needless to say, this commission took much effort, and discipline, from everyone involved – for which I am so grateful. I've enjoyed creating a strict framework for myself to use, and in doing so making myself accountable for every musical decision, every note.

If you'd like to hear it, I'm afraid the première has been sold-out for weeks, but it will be filmed, so I'll share the footage on www.cevanne.com as soon as I can.

I'm honoured that Ziazan & Tessa Marchington have programmed 'The Fat Lady Has Sung' around my composition. Audiences are looking forward to a time-travelling trip through Bel Canto opera, from pre-Handel to just last month. As it's my last party, everyone's encouraged to dress in their interpretation of 'retro-futurist' fashion, to complement the themes of the concert, and indeed 'House Music' itself.

What will I wear? Why, something Crewdson, Jodie Cartman and I 'threw together' especially for the eyemusic concert with Sarah Angliss : the Sonic Bonnet.

(in fact, much like with House Music, this wearable tech is also a project which required a lot of effort and innovation to pioneer a new technique, but I'll save that for another blog, when I announce my next residency in 2015...)

Sonic Bonnet photo credit Joel Garthwaite, Bright Ivy
Ziazan photo credit Phoenix (in the concert poster)

1 October 2014

Edwin Hillier - newly appointed Composer-in-Residence Apprentice at Handel House Museum

I’m absolutely thrilled to be starting this month as Composer-in-Residence Apprentice at Handel House Museum, and really excited about all the projects I’m going to be involved with and leading over the next year.

My role kicked off in earnest this week, with a meeting with the newly established Handel House Talent artists - it was great to discuss projects with them for the coming months, and I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of time for us to collaborate and exchange creative ideas during our respective residencies. So watch this space…! (You can read more about these fabulous people here - http://www.handelhouse.org/about-us/handel-house-talent )

As this is my very first blog, I thought I’d share a little about myself, and the kind of music I’ve been writing recently. I’m a London-based composer, and have just completed my Masters at the Royal College of Music (where this month I’ve started doctoral studies alongside my work at Handel House). In terms of the pieces I’ve been composing, the last few years have been quite varied, including a fully-staged chamber opera, (http://boulezian.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/hogarths-stages-five-short-operas-royal.html) numerous smaller-scale chamber and vocal pieces, a work recorded by the London Sinfonietta, soon to be released online by NMC (http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/next-wave/edwin-hillier - keep your eyes peeled for an impending shameless plug!), as well as an upcoming performance by Lore Lixenberg at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

I’m now greatly looking forward to getting started on a few new pieces, some of which are to be performed at Handel House  (the first being a premiere with the awesome BLOCK4 recorder quartet [http://www.block4.co.uk/] who play for us on 1st January).

The next few weeks see me busily working away at Handel House, in the role’s other main activity - leading creative workshops with school children (of a variety of ages!) on the music of Handel. I’m loving planning these at the moment, trying to make the compositional process tangible and immediate for them, and introducing them to some of the stunning music which was written in this building.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of these experiences with you soon!


28 May 2014

Life after a commission

Many composers will tell you that it's good to get a commission, but even better to get a repeat performance. It's inspiring that Handel's Messiah was such a sell-out in Dublin, it had to be repeated in London. Handel did write flops though, and was smart enough to recycle the best bits of them when hurriedly writing the Messiah!
The reason I'm going on about 2nd performances is that 'Dividuels', a piece by Richard Bullen which I was proud to première in Handel House, got another outing at the Cello Factory, in London's Waterloo, with Ellie Fagg, Tom Norris of the LSO, Gregor Riddell, and a Handel-diva appearance from my sister Ziazan (pictured, haughtily).

The piece was made for players to perform simultaneously in different rooms within Handel House, so I was impressed to see how well it adapted to different, and equally beautiful, architecture.

I won't say too much about the piece, as I've filmed an interview with Richard, which I'll post soon, so he can tell you himself.

We also shared the space with the art of Maya Ramsay, who transplants the wall surfaces from derelict and dangerous buildings.

There was an eerie, skin-thin piece of Bletchley Park hanging behind us, so I decided to give 'From The Unseen World' a 2nd performance – a piece I wrote based on a postcard sent by Alan Turing (pictured below).
I performed it at Handel House last year, and this time Gregor Riddell and I overlaid a simple harmonic pattern, which I hope Turing would have appreciated. It was certainly a moving experience for me, as a great admirer of his work, and courage.

I've got to get back to preparing for a concert in Handel's music room tomorrow with Liam Byrne (viol da gamba), and putting the finishing touches on my final CiR concert series this November!

Speak soon...

28 January 2014

24 January 2014

Thank you

Hello everyone
Now we've stepped into the new year, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to my concert season last year. 
I'll avoid an Oscar-type blub, but I'm touched that there are still such different ways that art is created, by so many.

Please accept this cat as a token of thanks, and know that I had a lot of help from my mum (who had help from her mum).

It's rare when museums not only conserve artefacts, but celebrate innovative live art - so thank you to the volunteers, sponsors and staff.

I collaborated with many artists for the first time, and was lucky to be introduced to them by either the LSO, Resonance FM, or Serious Take Five (with the exception of my sister, who was introduced to me by the NHS).

Lastly but not ghastly, the thing which filled me with hope and happiness during the series was the truly diverse audiences, and the inspiring world-premières by some of the best composers I know.

If you found this post too sickly sweet, stick with my blog anyway, I get more bitter as the year wears on ;)

Meanwhile, my gratitude to :

Sarah Bardwell 
Richard Bullen
Manu Delago
Satoko Doi Luck
Ellie Fagg
Antonia Grant 
Nina Horrocks-Hopayian
Hugh Jones
Fiona Livingstone
Elo Masing
Chris Montague
Tom Norris
Martel Ollerenshaw 
Charlotte Pyke
Gregor Riddell
Ella Roberts
Rob Sczymanek 
Trudi Stevens
Lydia White
Kate Whitlock
Martin Wyatt
Raymond Yiu
Mum & Dad

23 October 2013

The Art of the Duel ft. Cevanne and Chris Montague

Here is a radio interview we broadcast on Resonance FM the other day which features a preview of our performance on Thursday 24 October

4 August 2013

'The Art of The Duel' October gigs

For two Thursdays and two Sundays in October, Handel House will be filled with DUELLING. I'm sure Jimi and George would approve. I've got us a MEGA-line-up... 


produced with Handel House MuseumLSO SOUNDHUB & TRUDI STEVENS

Booking Information Tickets: £9, £5 students Booking line: 020 7399 1953

Thursday 17 October, 6.30-7.30pm

Ellie and Tom are astounding violinists who perform across the world with the LSO, Puertas Quartet and Living Room London. They are also husband and wife. With a programme exploring the balance and infinity of ground bass, a duet may become a duel. I'll be there with voice and harp to mediate and agitate.

LSO Soundhub composer feature : Richard Bullen
Thursday 17 October 
He is a master of making use of performance space to heighten perception of sound, structure and the drama inherent in the musical material. He is writing a piece especially for us in the spacial acoustics of Handel House.

Sunday 20 October, 2-4pm
Hugh ‘Crewdson’ Jones is a prolific inventor and who performs with Matthew Herbert. He has created an electronic concertina inspired by the subtlety of acoustic folk instruments. The ‘Concertronica’ will sample and manipulate my harp to create modern British folk songs. The duel of electronics and acoustics will be so entangled, you will not know where one ends and the other begins. His exquisite inventions will be exhibited on the same day, with an interactive demo from the maestro himself.

LSO Soundhub composer feature : Robert Szymanek
Sunday 20 October
He's a composer, singer, songwriter and producer with a thirst for the eclectic. He's creating something especially for this event, and at present it's TOP SECRET!

Thursday 24 October, 6.30-7.30pm
Chris (of Troyka) is a virtuosic guitarist described by Jazzwise as ‘one of the most imaginatively skilled young axesmiths on the London scene’. In this concert, he will battle blues, Baroque and memories and emotions will be captured in ‘Pandora’s music box’ (which I'm making). 

Sunday 27 October, 2-4pm
 What if Eve were a codebreaker, who resurfaces throughout time, with different names, different faces? A duel of storytellers in music, eager to claim their version of Eve as the best: Björk’s percussionist Manu Delago versus Red Priest’s harpsichordist David Wright; Cellist Gregor Riddell against Bel Canto singer Nina Horrocks-Hopayian. Accounts of Persephone, Pandora, and even Alan Turing may become ammunition. For the first time, this duel pits one of the newest instruments, the hang (and its leading virtuoso) against Handel’s weapon of choice. Whose tale will triumph? The Eve of Battle is a world-première commissioned by Handel House.

LSO Soundhub composer feature : Raymond Yiu
Sunday 27 October
It's such an honour that this award-winning composer it writing especially for my collaborative oratorio. He'll create a cello piece for Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess, to form one of the Eve tales in our battle.

Booking Information Tickets: £9, £5 students | Booking Line: 020 7399 1953