Shadow Variations at Surrey

February 2020: delighted that Samantha Muir is giving the UK premiere of Shadow Variations at the University of Surrey.

Shadow Variations for ukulele(s) was commissioned by Sam and received its world premiere in Australia in August 2019. It is an ensemble piece but very flexible in format; Sam is taking advantage of this and playing it as a solo interspersed with movements from her own piece, Theme and Variations on the Dowie Dens of Yarrow, upon which my music is based. There will be some re-arrangement necessary involving collapsing two parts into one – I look forward to hearing how this turns out!

100 Second Song

January 2020: I am working on a short song for soprano Anna Snow and pianist Kate Ledger.

The song (as yet untitled) is part of the ‘100 Second Song Project’ devised by composer David Power. It premieres at York Late Music on 4th April 2020. I draw on materials from Chopin’s Berceuse and Robert Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways, in particular the final section that is a recreation of the last months in the life of the English poet, Edward Thomas. Both singer and pianist are presented with the music in grid form (10 x 10 with each cell a second long), allowing it to be realised in multiple directions.

Research time awarded

December 2019: myself and my colleague Chris Wiley have been awarded a Research Fellowship from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey.

December 2019: myself and my colleague Chris Wiley have been awarded a Research Fellowship from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey. This buys us out of a considerable amount of teaching and administration from February to June during which time we will be developing a grant bid to support our research in musical creative partnerships. Among other things the money will enable us to work with the ensemble Counterpoise with whom we will be curating a concert programme to disseminate the results of our research.

Manchester Bound

December 2019: I am off to the Royal Northern College of Music this month to talk about musical ruination.

December 2019: I am off to the Royal Northern College of Music this month to talk about musical ruination as part of the 19-20 Research Forum. I will be talking about my pieces JPR, Distant Beauties and Tänze as well as taking part in a performance of the latter with RNCM piano students and staff member Gavin Wayte. I will be reflecting on the three pieces’ relationship with the past and offering some thoughts on the aesthetic potency of the musical ruin. If you happen to be in the area on 4th December the talk is in the Forman Lecture Theatre, Royal Northern College of Music, starting at 4.15.

‘Divertissements’ in Amsterdam

My electric guitar and harpsichord duo receives its European premiere as part of the 2020 Prix Annelie de Man.

Jane Chapman is joined by guitarist Sam Cave (tbc) at Amsterdam’s Orgelpark on April 1st 2020 as part of a series of concerts associated with the Prix Annelie de Man harpsichord competition celebrating 20th century and contemporary music for the instrument. I’ve been asked to edit the piece down to 10 minutes and am currently thinking about how to turn this challenge to interesting creative ends.

Australian Premiere

Shadow Variations (2019) for ukulele ensemble was premiered this August at Vala Beach Ukulele Camp, NSW.

Shadow Variations was composed in August 2019 and premiered the same month in New South Wales, Australia. It was written at the request of the renowned ukulele exponent, Samantha Muir, and takes as it starting point Sam’s own composition, Theme and Variations on the Dowie Dens of Yarrow. Sam is planning to include the piece in the Benslow Music Ukulele Ensemble weekend in the U.K. this October.

Latest Project

I am currently (summer/autumn 2019) working on a piece for solo cello for the New York based cellist, Madeleine Shapiro.

Provisionally entitled Paths the new piece is based on the last months of poet Edward Thomas’ life as fictionalised by Robert Macfarlane in his book The Old Ways. It is a collaborative project in which cellist Madeleine Shapiro and I are working on how the many gramophone tracks inserted into Macfarlane’s account may be laid out as an open score. We will also be working on creating an electronic element against which the solo piece will be performed.

CD Reviews

The reviews are in! Dance Maze has been praised in Gramophone and on Planet Hugill.

Reviewing Dance Maze in the February 2019 edition of Gramophone Guy Rickards focussed on the radical re-workings of material between pieces, describing it as “fascinating to hear the trilogue of one [Divertissements] recast as a multifaceted dialogue [Diversions 3].” Robert Hugill writing on Planet Hugill summarised the disc as “a striking exploration of Armstrong’s fascination with the working out and revising of material, and an unusual demonstration of compositional process in the making.”

Featured Composer

I am a featured composer in the April 2019 series of Borough New Music with a concert of three pieces performed by Jane Chapman, James Woodrow and Jeevan Rai.

I am a featured composer in the April 2019 series of Borough New Music with a concert of three pieces performed by Jane Chapman, James Woodrow and Jeevan Rai. It features another revision (of the original version of Divertissements for electric guitar and harpsichord) and a performance of Moto (for harpsichord and electronics) composed in collaboration with Jeevan Rai.