Ghost Sign (after Siskind) premiered by London Symphony Orchestra
31st May 2023
Today my new orchestral work, Ghost Sign (after Siskind) was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra – under the baton of François-Xavier Roth – alongside wonderful new works by friends and colleagues, Lara Agar, Rob Crehan, Litha Efthymiou, Robin Haigh, and Rafael Marino Arcaro.
You can read more about Ghost Sign (after Siskind) below in Tim Rutherford-Johnson's thoughtful programme note, and see the score here on ISSUU:
A‘ghost sign’ is an early 20th-century advert found on the side of a building, usually hand painted, now faded and referring to a product that may no longer exist (brands of tea, cigarettes, household soap). There is one such sign, for Red Hackle Whisky, on the side of the brick-built offices at 37 Otago Street in Glasgow. During lockdown, Hillier would pass it on his daily walks and in 2021 made it the subject of a chamber work for the Red Note Ensemble. ‘Revisiting this image with routine, almost ritual, I became fascinated by its complexity and changeability’, he said then, ‘Its disparate elements enhanced, recoloured, embroidered by the light, affected by the time of day and year’.
Ghost Sign (after Siskind) is a further revisiting, examining again the ideas and sounds that were first developed in his piece 37 Otago Street. Its subtitle points to the American photographer Aaron Siskind (1903–91), whose images of urban surfaces invented a kind of abstract expressionist photography of graffiti, peeling paint and worn brickwork. Similarly, in Hillier’s composition, sounds are distorted, blurred and dissolved. Like Siskind’s images, they are encountered in close-up but are no clearer for that. And as with the advert for Red Hackle Whisky, something legible is occasionally glimpsed behind the worn and damaged surface – yet it is something obsolete and tinged with nostalgia.
Tim Rutherford-Johnson (2023)
Photo credit: Kevin Leighton (2023)
37 Otago Street on BBC Radio 3
7th March 2022
A nice surprise to hear that 37 Otago Street was featured on BBC Radio 3's New Music Show earlier this month. Fantastic playing from Red Note Ensemble, expertly conducted and brought to life by William Cole.
1hr 42 mins in—have a listen! https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00147hq
Plastica II premiered by Explore Ensemble
12th February 2022
Tonight my new work, Plastica II (commissioned by Explore Ensemble) will be performed at the Royal College of Music, alongside music by Saunders, Tenney, Miller, Finnissy, Cole and Illean:
An extension of Plastica (2020), Plastica II is scored for sextet (Ensemble Ensemble), electronics, and a spatial ensemble distributed around the auditorium (tonight performed by RCM musicians).
It's a real privilege for this work to be included as part of Explore's 10th anniversary celebrations—and a nice coincidence that the piece will receive its premiere nearly two years to the day after its partner work's initial performance in February 2020!
London Symphony Orchestra Panufnik Composer
9th February 2022
I'm hugely excited to announce that I've been selected as a Panufnik composer for 22/23. Very much looking forward to creating a new work for the LSO, to be premiered in May 2023, alongside pieces by the wonderful Lara Agar, Robert Crehan, Litha Efthymiou, Robin Haigh and Rafael Marino Arcaro.
37 Otago Street at sound Festival
22nd October 2021
Red Note Ensemble, conducted by William Cole, will tonight perform my new work, '37 Otago Street' at sound festival, Aberdeen (https://www.rednoteensemble.com/event/red-note-at-soundfestival-2021/)
The sextet – for Alto Flute, Bass Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass – takes its inspiration from a 'ghost sign' located in the West End of Glasgow. In the programme notes to the composition, I write:
Cracked and fissured, reds, whites and earth-like colours dispersed across the frame. Letters, even complete words, hand-painted in the 1920s, just discernible: now faded – still fading – into apparitions. The ‘ghost sign’ at 37 Otago Street became a familiar sight on my daily lockdown walk through Glasgow. Revisiting this image with routine, almost ritual, I became fascinated by its complexity and changeability: its disparate elements enhanced, recoloured, embroidered by the light, affected by the time of day and year. When captured on camera, zoomed in and examined – a method famously employed on the streets of Chicago by ‘abstract expressionist photographer’ Aaron Siskind in the 1950s – the sign betrays an intricate and heavily textured inner world. Inspired by my daily encounters with the street mural, 37 Otago Street offers several perspectives on what becomes a familiar, even nostalgic, timbral palette. Glimpses of ghostly lettering and flecks of crimson-hued paint emerge in the fragile ensemble textures and concrete sonorities of the auxiliary instruments. Shifting from foreground to background, fractured musical images are interwoven and drawn into focus as we pass them by.
Hyphae Premiered at the Royal Musical Association Annual Conference 2021
15th September 2021
Hyphae – for organ and electronics – will today be given its premiere by Andrew Forbes at the Royal Musical Association Annual Conference 2021 at Newcastle University. Myself and Andrew will be presenting upon the 18' piece – written during an extensive period of collaboration over lockdown – during an afternoon workshop, before the work is premiered at an evening concert in King's Hall.
You can catch (or catch up with, at a later date) the live stream at the link, here: youtu.be/Ykrbzf3k778
Plastica wins Scottish Award for New Music
7th July 2021
I'm very pleased to announce that Plastica – commissioned by Explore Ensemble in 2020, and premiered at City, University of London last February – has received the Dorico Award for Small Scale Work (sponsored Steinberg Media) at the 2021 Scottish New Music Awards! A massive thanks to all at Explore for brining the work to life last year!
28th May 2020
I'm currently sketching ideas for a new work for organ and electronics, in collaboration with Andrew Forbes (Director of Music at St Mungo's Cathedral, Glasgow).
Andrew and I will be getting to work – sampling the mighty Willis / Harrison & Harrison instrument, and collaborating on initial materials – as soon as social distancing allows!
Dhātu wins Scottish Award for New Music
14th April 2020
I'm thrilled to say that Dhātu (my large-scale spatial work, commissioned by Glasgow Experimental Music Series and Glasgow Cathedral Festival) was today announced winner of the Electroacoustic / Sound Artwork category at the annual Scottish Awards for New Music.
A video excerpt of the work – performed beautifully last September by Joe Richards, Jonathan Chapman (Percussion) and Harim Oh, Alexandra Dinwiddie and Filipa Portela (Voice) can be found here:
Plastica featured on BBC Radio 3 New Music Show
21st March 2020
Plastica – commissioned and premiered by Explore Ensemble – was tonight featured on BBC Radio 3's New Music Show, alongside works by Rebecca Saunders, Andrew Paine and Javier A. Garavaglia.
The recording was captured live during performance at City University Concert Series, on 25th February 2019.