MP 2014: Session 5: Composer’s showcase concert

On the second day of the conference, five composers presented their current works and research in a concert in the Maxwell Davies building. Each piece was markedly unique, highlighting the composers’ own tropes and styles of writing, and the process of composition and, sometimes, performance, was explained to the audience before hearing the pieces.

Charlie Sdraulig’s Between invites the performers (a flautist and a violinist) to explore a repertoire of fragments and subtle variants. There is need for a navigational process (between the performers) to pass from one sound, or instrument, to another, and the performers are required to influence and be influenced by one another. As well as process as a performative element, process as listening, both by performers and audience, is present here, in order to create connections between each apparently isolated sound object. Due to the improvisatory nature of the piece, it is created in the present: instead of the piece being composed via process, the process is being created and performed instantaneously. Furthermore, the gentle dynamics and sporadic sound production accentuates the finite temporality of the piece, and encourages more careful listening by the audience.

Charlie Sdraulig is an independent composer specialising in physicality and perception in human performance. His music is perceived at ‘the threshold of audibility’, which allows for individuality and human expression in performance. His music has been performed internationally by renowned ensembles such as the Mercury Quartet and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Charlie Sdraulig introducing his piece, Between

Following his presentation on his Leiden Translations installation, Alistair Zaldua (Goldsmiths, London) presented a single-screen version of the work. The Leiden papyrus is a series of alchemic recipes found in the 19th Century but dating back to c.3rd Century. Zaldua took an English translation of the text and translated it into three forms: notation (Ancient Greek gylphs), physical communication (BSL) and musical performance (contrabass improvisation). The work is a multi-faceted semiological response to verbal and non-verbal communication resulting, ultimately, in a tripartite musical process via listening and performing.

Alistair Zaldua is a composer of contemporary and experimental music, writing for chamber ensemble and orchestra, solo instrument, live electronics and audio-visual installation. His work has been performed by many renowned musicians and ensembles, such as Ensemble Modern, Ian Pace and Lauren Redhead, and has been performed internationally.


David Bremner presented the third piece, logic ballad #2. The piece is the music-theatre style and is for solo soprano (this performance was by Elizabeth Hilliard). It is made up of short phrases, varying in constructive order. The process behind the production of the piece is the difference between what can happen and what does happen: while it is a composed piece, the performer’s use of the permutations connotes instantaneity, thus creating a dramatic story and journey of the character portrayed.

David Bremner is a contemporary composer whose works have been performed internationally, and commissioned by ensembles including RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

Soprano Elizabeth Hilliard performing Bremner’s logic ballad #2


Adam Strickson (University of Leeds) and Lauren Redhead (Canterbury Christ Church University) presented their work in progress, The Carp Flop – a music-theatre piece for voices and tape based on the life of Holocaust survivor Iby Knell. They explained their method of composition as non-chronological and fragmental, connoting memories in the human mind.

Adam Strickson is a director, poet, script writer and librettist currently completing a PhD at Leeds University. Two of his poetry collections have been published and he has been commissioned by Bolton Octagon Theatre, Priory 900, Leeds Trinity Centre and Ceramic Review. His collaborative work with composers includes the opera written with Lauren Redhead, green angel.

Lauren Redhead is a composer, organist and musicologist specialising in contemporary music and new aesthetics. Her music has been performed internationally and she has received commissions from renowned organisations such as Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Octopus Collective with the Arts Council of England.

They have collaborated since 2009, their first work being A Burlington Tale, a radio play set in Bridlington. Their opera, green angel, premiered in 2011, received support from Arts Council England. Workshopping is integral to their creative process, and further collaborators’ (such as performers Stef Connor (soprano) and Simon Walton (tenor)) interpretation of their work influence the future of the piece.

Singers performing Carp Flop, a work-in-progress devised piece by Redhead and Strickson

– Kelly Butler, Music and/as Process Intern 2014