Sparks & Waves (1998)
This was commissioned by Moyle District Council in Northern Ireland to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of a series of
Marconi transmission experiments that took place over the summer of 1898 between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.
I began the compositional process with a local project where I worked alongside students from two primary schools,
assisting them in the composition of their own music based on their research of the historical transmission, including a
trip to the island to retrace the steps taken earlier by the radio pioneers. As well as working as facilitator,
I also contributed as composer, extending some of the students' ideas and weaving in my own writing for local professional
musicians to create a joint final piece which we performed a couple of times at the end of the project.
After the schools' project I then began work proper on writing the commissioned work, building on what I had learnt from my
first visit. This piece was written for a quartet made up of Northern Irish musicians with parts as well for those
students who wanted to take part. This composition was performed on the anniversary of the historic transmissions.
Global Village (1999)
In 1999 I was asked to be composer-in-residence as part of Lisburn’s 1999 Festival of Arts and Culture. For four
weeks I worked with four of the Borough’s primary and secondary schools on a series of compositions that took their inspiration
from various field recordings of African and Indian music that I had gathered. Through a series of listenings, the
students became aware of some of the characteristics contained in the different musics, and these were then used as a basis for
their own compositions - the idea not being to pastiche the styles but simply to use them as a starting point for the creation
of their own original pieces.
Also part of the residency was a collaboration with the Dance Collective of Northern Ireland. In this instance I worked
with choreographer Richard Knight to produce a performance piece that entwined different cultures from within the music and
dance worlds. Using electronically treated recordings from a recent trip to Zimbabwe, I fused these with my writing for jazz
quartet to produce an atmospheric backdrop for the live dance piece. This composition was later included on the
'Carving Up Time' CD and released on the Slam label.
Mossley Mill (2000)
This was a commission to compose a series of pieces celebrating the life of a Flax Mill in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.
As with other projects, I began by visiting the area before starting to plan the composition. Whilst there,
I worked with students from two local primary schools on their own piece of music inspired by the mill. The
students were already familiar with a lot of the history as well as knowing people who used to work there, and so were immediately
full of ideas and were able to work quickly. They created their composition over a period of four days, integrating their ideas
with those of other adult musicians, giving direction where necessary. The piece was then performed a number of times
and features as the final track on the CD.
My composed commission makes up the remainder of the CD and takes the form of a four-part suite. This writing
fuses together some of the children's sounds and ideas from the earlier project together other mill recordings made during my
visit. Also in these pieces are the voices of John, Lizzie and Teeny - three people who used to work at Mossley when it
was in its prime. I had the pleasure of interviewing them during my visit to Newtownabbey, really just to find out a little
more about the mill; however, the quality of their voices and what they had to say was so inspiring, they found their way into the
music as well. The final compositions then, use the various mill recordings as a sort of percussion sound track, samples of the
students’ music, and snippets of the interviews together with my own writing. This collection of compositions was
later included on the 'Magic Stones' CD released on the
Celtic Connection (2001)
The music on this CD came about as the result of a community arts project that took place in the Borough of Ballymoney as part of its
Celtic Connection Festival. From October 1999 through to May 2000, I worked as artistic director on a programme of
events involving a wide range of the local community and involving practitioners from the worlds of dance, music, storytelling and the
visual arts culminating in a performance for the festival's grand finale.
Together with artists Anthea McWilliams and Jill Burns (dance), Willie Drennan (storytelling) and Ken Parker (visual arts)
we all worked on a series of residencies with various sections of the local community in preparation for the event. Each
artist lead their own residency encouraging people to explore local themes and devise material for the end of festival
performance. The result was an evening of music, storytelling and dance that took place in the town's main performance
venue, transformed by the work of both the visual artists and designer Janet Hackney who had been working on a stunning backdrop
for the occasion.
Entitled 'Celtic Connection', the performance brought the audience back to the time when the first visitors came to the island of
Ireland. The story was told of a land, naturally wild, but in harmony with itself: a place already full of its own rhythms
and music, not played by people, but inherent in the landscape. In the narrative, when the first visitors arrive
they are in awe of what they see and hear and make their way along the rivers and streams into the forests to settle and build their homes.
There, they hear the ancient rhythms: in the trees, in the rivers and rebounding from the sky. They pursue the rhythms
and try to catch them so as to understand them but the wind always appears to keep them at a distance. Through the music and
dance, the performance piece relayed how these ancient beings sought to become one with this beautiful land and its inspiring
Also part of the evening's programme were a number of special guests from Counties Antrim and Cork, including the Bantry Musicians with
dancer Kathryn Fplanger, the Dalriada School of Irish Dance, the Dalriada Traditional Music Group, the Loughgiel Dancers, the
Monkstown Mossley Pipe Band, Pat Speight and the Vow Accordion Band. Between them they presented a varied programme of more
traditional music and dance, and two of these performances are also included on the CD.
Carving Up Time (2001)
The music on this CD is written for jazz quartet with the addition of electronics and other sound recordings. Based around
the line-up of trombone, saxophone, double bass and drums, the music is the result of two recording sessions that I thought went well
together when put side by side.
The first was recorded in an old farmhouse outside Breda, in the Netherlands, in November 1997 and features Frank van der Kooij (sax),
Henk de Laat (double bass) and Oscar Schultz (percussion). Frank and I had been threatening to do something together for a
long time and eventually we took the plunge. It was decided that I would write the music and he would sort out the recording
venue, musicians, sound engineer and accommodation. It seemed like a good deal to me!
The last composition (which actually makes up the final five tracks) was composed and recorded in response to a commission from the
Lisburn 1999 Festival of Arts and Culture, in Northern Ireland. For this, as I was given the festival theme of
‘Global Village’, I decided to make use of some field recordings I had made on a previous trip to Zimbabwe, and combine them with
my writing for the instruments. Since the first recording session, I had been waiting for an opportunity to come up with
some music to complement the original Dutch recordings, and so wrote the commission for the same instrumentation.
Reviews of this CD can be read on the American
All About Jazz website where it gets a "Recommended", and also care of the Dutch
Het Parool which gives it four star status.
Sonic Mapping (2002)
The result of a residency with Artwise Youth Arts Centre, in Ramsgate, Kent. The compositions take their inspiration
from the Ramsgate coastline and are made up entirely from the key sounds that make each featured location unique. For
those who don't know the town, five short films have been included to give an extra dimension to the appreciation of the music.
All of the tracks were created using computer music programs which are free for anyone to access on the internet. Of all
the programs tried as part of the project, there were four definite favourites, and versions of these programs are also
included on the CD together with the initial sounds.
Europhonix was the launch project for Creative Partnerships Kent. Over a period of seven weeks I worked alongside
students from three secondary schools on the creation and recording of a series of atmospheric compositions to be played to an invited
audience as they travelled between Calais and Folkestone on the Eurotunnel train. The students worked for one day a week on
various listening and sound mapping exercises and created a series of musical compositions that became the material for the travelling
installation and for the content of this CD.
Magic Stones (2006)
Released on the
'Motile' label. The
album comprises a series of compositions, all of which have in common an interest in a sense of place or time and
either take their inspiration from, or make use of, sounds from the surrounding environment. The title track was the
winning work in this year's British Composer Awards in their New Media category.
The title of the CD comes from a listening game designed for young visitors to a Nature Reserve in Northern Ireland who would be
invited to take a 'magic stone', grasp it, and with their eyes closed see what they could hear. In the moment of stillness
offered to them by the game, sounds that would usually be ignored would seep into the consciousness of the listeners, and as a result
the players would become aware of not only the detail of those sounds surrounding them but also the wonder of them. In like
manner, the music featured on this CD has been written to (re)connect the listener to the sonic landscape and to inspire new
appreciations of its musicality and the stories within it.
A case in point is the composition "Disappear" (recently featured on BBC Radio 4) which utilises what I refer to as 'endangered sounds - those sounds that might
not be around in, say, twenty years time (for example, matches striking, wind-up alarm clocks, typewriters, etc.) The piece,
written in response to feedback from an advertising poster campaign that had as its headline "WANTED! Endangered Sounds", brings our
attention to the transient nature of our soundscape and thereby encourages new interpretations of what we can hear and the way we
live. This composition was also the winning work at the British Composer Awards in their New Media category in 2005.