Monthly Archive: January 2011

New Carnegie commission

Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Please come to Carnegie's Weill Hall on 7th Feb for the premiere of my new piece Steampunk by Ensemble ACJW. Also on the program is Janacek's delightful Mladi and the Beethoven Septet.

Ticket info here

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The next David Bruce

Posted on Monday, January 24, 2011

Christian Herzog has given The Eye of Night a most spectacular review over at; he's also posted on under the heading 'David Bruce: The Next Osvaldo Golijov?' which, predictably, has led to my first public roasting on their forums.

The photo caption on the latter page jokingly refers to 'Sir David Bruce' - now aside from being a very fine Pinot and Petite Sirah grower, and, I've no doubt, an excellent used car salesman from Illinois; and as well as being an American diplomat whose obituary my parents ghoulishly kept as a cutting, bookmarking the relevant entry in the household encyclopaedia; and of course, as well as being David Bruce, King of Scots, the son of Robert the Bruce; aside from all them, Sir David Bruce was actually the renowned microbiologist who first identified the cause of Brucellosis or sleeping sickness which affects cows, goats and homo sapiens. All in all quite a prestigious collection of namesakes. I guess at least I don't have a common name like this guy.

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San Diego Élan

Posted on Friday, January 21, 2011

I got to dip my toes in the (very cold) Pacific ocean for the first time a few days ago, after going to San Diego to attend the premiere of my new piece The Eye of Night played by the Myriad Trio as part of the Art of Elan series (they will be giving a repeat performance at UCSD in February).

I was given a very warm welcome by my generous host Gordon Brodfuehrer, (who had helped commission the piece); and saw performances by LA Phil/Dudamel on Saturday, and of Lang Lang with the San Diego Symphony on Sunday.

Below is the first movement of the piece, which was indeed performed with élan by the Myriad Trio, the rest of the piece is available to listen to here

The Eye of Night - Movement 1 performed by the Myriad Trio

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Forthcoming premieres

Posted on Sunday, January 9, 2011

Next week I'll be taking my first trip to the west coast of America for the premiere of my flute/harp/viola trio The Eye of Night by the Myriad Trio, as part of the Art of Elan series at San Diego Museum of Art.

Then at the start of Feb, the group I've had some of the most moving and memorable performances of my career - ACJW will perform my new piece for mixed octet - Steampunk.

The two pieces could hardly be more different. The Eye of Night is mostly delicate and tender. Steampunk on the other hand is a fair old riot of colour. Both are fascinating and distinctive combinations to write for (Steampunk is for a pungent octet of oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and one of each strings). In both cases I found the combination dictated the piece almost from the outset.

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Pointless absurdity, the true mark of civilisation

Posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2011

There are many reasons to write a piece of music. One reason that is too often overlooked in the world of contemporary music is to honour innocence, absurdity, pure unbridled child-like enthusiasm. We play music after all.

Christopher Rush tells a story in his book 'To Travel Hopefully' about the journalist Bernard Levin who, after witnessing scenes of terrible hopelessness and cruelty in the old Soviet Union flew directly to Copenhagen. At lunch the next day he ordered an 'ice cream surprise' which came with mini sparklers and a little flag which ran up the flagpole to proudly flutter at the top. This caused Levin to break down in tears as weeks of nervous exhaustion caught up with him, and he realised that "what he had been missing most in the Soviet Union was just such pointless absurdity, the true mark of civilisation".

This suddenly struck me as one of the driving forces behind my desire to set Philip Pullman's story The Firework Maker's Daughter which goes into development workshops with The Opera Group/ Royal Opera House later in Feb. At the end of Pullman's story, several of the characters finally discover their calling and form a travelling entertainment troup they call 'The Melody Boys'. The conceit we're planning is that the performance we see of will be the story of The Firework Maker's Daughter, as told by The Melody Boys, with the chaotic and wayward Rambashi as Master of Ceremonies. Of course ironing out the details of how exactly we do that will be a long and important journey, but I'm determined apart from anything else, that we will have fun at the workshops!

To quote Pullman himself on the story:

"I think that fairy tales, for this is a fairy tale, are ways of telling us true things without labouring the point. They begin in delight, and they end in wisdom. But if you start with what you think is wisdom, you'll seldom end up with delight - it doesn't work that way round. You have to begin with fun."

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