The graduate show for final year BA Music composers has seen them responding to the change of circumstances by making pieces that can be experienced remotely, or which they have realised with the resources available to them at home. Listen to what our graduating composers have been making and explore some of the other work made during the year at the composition website.
Some New Music for the Home - Review
Some New Music for the Home is an online archive of the compositional activity of nine third-year music students from Bath Spa University. Although the project was expected to culminate in a series of performances at Burdall’s Yard, the musical works that are presented here are illustrative of a resilience and resourcefulness that each composer has utilised in response to a renegotiation with their creative practices. The result is a diverse collection of works which often intersect imaginatively with themes of isolation, confusion, identity, movement, and loss.
Rufus Baker-Morris’ Affected presents one such meditation on life in lockdown. Baker-Morris recognises the recently resurfaced reflections on our species’ relationship to the natural world, and pairs these themes with a semi-improvisational approach which suitably nods to surrealism and the unconscious. This culminates in an intimate musical exploration incorporating rich seaside soundscapes, delicate solo piano, and aching ambience.
Alice Brookes’ Embers and Submerge are similarly introspective. Embers is a soaring and sighing solo for a recorded female voice that is simultaneously vulnerable and cautionary. The performance is evocative and affective, and concludes with a retreating motif that juxtaposes a series of fragile harmonics that dance around the audience’s listening space. Meanwhile, Submerge offers a poignant and ethereal narrative that utilises an impressive vocal range and shares parallels with the immaculate work of Meredith Monk.
Josh Decordova’s Lost Creatures is a dynamic, bristling work which makes use of synthesisers, glitches, conventional instruments, and celestial found-sounds captured by the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. A carnivalesque motif ties together a thoroughly-modern mosaic which straddles and struggles against the boundaries between the materials of its own making.
Lana Gullick’s Bifröst also explores liminality in a work inspired by Norse mythology that channels both the supernatural and the human into a shimmering stream of electronic and acoustic sounds. The available electronic backing track is pensive and immersive, and offers an appropriate canvas for instrumental material.
Charlotte Martin’s Fractured Scenes is an exploration into the memories of people with dementia. Spoken-word recollections which are initially recognisable and accessible eventually become distorted, disfigured, and ultimately unavailable, while a searching musical backdrop provides a suitable accompaniment. The piece ambitiously deals with a delicate subject matter with complete sincerity, in a way that is refreshingly humanistic and empathetic, yet wholly unpatronising.
It appears as though Patrick Powell’s Becoming also retains a sociological slant - a complex musical work which is accompanied by images of sublime natural beauty and pained portraits of civilisation. The music begins with an oscillating motif which nods towards the cyclical nature of the work, and introduces a subsequent section made up of fragmentary gestures from an austere electronic piano. The final third of the piece recapitulates the opening material, now reconceived in relation to the troubled middle section.
Mason Ratcliffe-Jones’ Alternating Currents is a three-piece suite of micro-musical-theatre documenting the life of the luckless Nikola Tesla - an accomplished inventor and innovator who became embroiled in an often-absurd rivalry with the ruthless Thomas Edison. Archive films are accompanied by a lively, genre-defying score and an entertaining mixture of poignantly performed narrative supplemented by the occasional textual interlude.
Conor Ritchie-Dunham’s Untitled explores the emotional chronology of loss. Major and minor tonalities and cyclical melodies communicate fluctuations between grief and recovery which ultimately prove irreconcilable, while the use of haunting vocal samples ground the work firmly in the human and the personal, and offer a sincerity to this enjoyable musical meditation on the emotional.
Reuben Taylor’s The House in the Forest is a piece of programmatic music that illustrates a journey through a forest towards a mysterious house. The work is suitably cinematic (complete with Foley-esque footsteps), making musical use of foreboding string swells and obstinate ostinato. The piece is well-crafted, with material developed efficiently and effectively, and offers a satisfyingly-ambiguous conclusion to events.