First, the big news: after 15 years working at the University of Huddersfield, I have accepted a new role as Professor für Komposition at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover. I first moved to the UK in October 2007, and alongside an amazing team of colleagues we built the contemporary music & composition programme at Huddersfield and the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) into one of the leading programmes for new music in the world. But after 15 years — and, it has to be said, after several years of brutal staffing and funding cuts at the university focused squarely on the arts and humanities, and in the midst of an utter decimation of the arts and humanities in British higher education in general, not to mention the accumulation of the pressures of massive underfunding of education, transportation, infrastructure, the health service, and most frontline social services over 10+ years of ‘austerity’ politics, all compounded by the utter self-immolation of Brexit — it was time for a new adventure.
Peyee and I moved to Berlin almost exactly a year ago — right around the time that I interviewed for the job in Hannover in late December 2021 — mostly as a way to facilitate her work as a singer (much of which has been based in Germany for nearly a decade now) and my expanding work as a conductor (most of which was centered around the German-speaking world). It was simply a lucky twist that a job opened up within commuting distance from our new home.
The process for the appointment was quite long, and the formal offer wasn’t made until late August, so there had to be a bit of flexibility for the transition between my new job and my old one. We were able to arrange a slow crossfade between the two roles — I started teaching in Hannover part-time in October, and slowly wound down my Huddersfield responsibilities over the autumn term, officially resigning in mid-November. The full role in Hannover will begin formally in the new year.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new job, and I particularly enjoy being back in a Musikhochschule/Conservatory environment. I love arriving to the building in the morning and hearing Liszt etudes and Brahms concerti streaming down from the practice rooms — after many years away from that world, it feels like a return home. I’m enjoying getting to know the composition students and some of my colleagues (on a very, very large staff—there are more piano professors at Hannover than there were music professors at Huddersfield), and I particularly enjoy the view of the southern tip of Stadtwald Eilenriede from the windows of my teaching room. In addition to my composition teaching responsibilities, I’ll serve as Director of Incontri, the Hochschule’s institute for new music. I’m excited to bring some of the lessons learned through my time as Director of CeReNeM, and I’m looking forward to expanding the activities and partnerships of Incontri over the coming years. It is an institution with an excellent history for composition and new music (Helmut Lachenmann, Nigel Osborne, Johannes Schöllhorn, Rebecca Saunders, Oliver Schneller, José María Sánchez-Verdú, Ming Tsao, etc.) and I’m very pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to that lineage.
But this is also a good opportunity to state publicly how grateful I am to the University of Huddersfield, an institution to which I dedicated a third of my 46 years. I have said on many occasions that it was one of the few institutions in the world that would’ve hired me because of what I do as a composer, rather than in spite of what I do as a composer, particularly back in 2007. The institution provided an immensely supportive environment for well over a decade, and there was an incomparable willingness from the university and from the music department to help support and develop my career, both through the generous financial support of various projects that I suspect would’ve been impossible at most other universities in the world, and personally through new opportunities as a teacher and leader. I am most thankful for the wonderful colleagues who made Huddersfield such a delightful place to work. We were quite a close-knit group, and I suspect most of us will remain friends long into the future.
New CD Release
The other big news is that, after three years of Covid-related delays, my new CD, A Way of Making Ghosts, was released by Kairos in December. The title tracks — a pair of quartets based on the self-portraits of the painter Gerhard Richter — are the most recent works (from 2019 & 2020), but the pieces here span 20 years, stretching back to my String Quartet from 2002 and the a/grammatical study for three (quasi-)independent players from 2003, and the recordings were made from 2009 – 2022, so this disc provides what I hope is an interesting picture of the evolution of my work as a composer. (I suspect some of the most recent works might provide some surprises.)
It includes performances by ELISION (conducted by me and by Manuel Nawri), Ensemble Musikfabrik (conducted by me), the JACK Quartet, and line upon line percussion. The beautifully written liner notes by my old friend Evan Johnson are available for download from the Kairos website, and the discs are available for sale or streaming in all the normal places.
I’m thrilled to finally have this disc out in the world, and again I have to say here how grateful I am to the University of Huddersfield and CeReNeM for making this disc possible. Literally every track on the disc was enabled through various grants and projects from Huddersfield, principally through the University Research Fund, and several of the tracks were recorded in Huddersfield with gear from the excellent HISS studios. As going-away presents go, this one was pretty extraordinary.
Ensemble Musikfabrik, “Adventure #9,” in partnership with the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. World premieres of works by Mats Thiersch, Carlos Lopes, Simone Cardini, Adrian Laugsch, and Lucia Kilger. Rehearsals 29 Nov – 2 Dec, 13–15 Dec. Concert: HfMT Köln, 16 December 2022.
ELISION Ensemble. Elizabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Australia. Premiere of my Piano Concerto (Alex Waite, soloist), and the Australian premiere of Liza Lim’s Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (Harry Ward, solo violin). 20 April 2023.
Self-Portrait, 1964. Line Upon Line 2023 Composer Festival. Crashbox, Austin, Texas. 6 January 2023.
ELISION Ensemble. Joshua Hyde, saxophone. The wreck of former boundaries (saxophone solo). Sydney, Australia, 14 April 2023.
Piano Concerto. ELISION; Alex Waite, piano; Aaron Cassidy, cond. Elizabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Australia. 20 April 2023.
I, for example, … Klangbrücken 2023. Richard Jakoby Saal, Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, Germany. 21 April 2023.
Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Peter Neville. Australian premiere of A republic of spaces. ANAM, Melbourne, 28 April 2023.
Guest Lectures & Teaching
Line Upon Line 2023 Composer Festival. Austin, Texas, 6–13 January 2023.
Other events will be added as details are confirmed.