Kelston Roundhill Symphony

kelstonKelston Records have commissioned me to compose a symphony for Kelston Roundhill. This is a beautiful location outside Bath, pictured above. Full details can be seen on the Kelston Roundhill website.

Kelston Records have a mission to produce “ecology and environment themed music”. They publish “live gig recordings of highly gifted and original musicians for people who are moved by themes of community, place, landscape and the environment.” Their first CD was ‘Three Cane Whale‘ recorded live at The Old Barn.

The Old Barn is a fabulous small venue, about half way up the side of the hill. There’s a nice picture here. The interior is T-shaped and has stone walls and timbered rafters.

Here is the outline of the proposed Symphony as it currently stands. This will doubtless evolve further over time, but the basic framework will remain the same. It will be an electroacoustic Symphony, but with some live elements, including: clarinet, voice, early instruments and live coding. It will also involve quite a lot of collaborative work with musicians, composers, programmers and all the contributors to the final Movement.

Kelston Round Hill Symphony

Andrew Hugill

The aim is to create a musical work that maps Kelston Round Hill in four ways: as a physical object; its history; its spirit; its people and buildings. The composition will be a four movement Symphony, as follows:

Movement 1: Kelston Round Hill as a physical object

This soundscape composition will use location recordings, specially composed materials and instrumental responses. These last will feature clarinettist Roger Heaton (Professor of Music at Bath Spa University). The performance will use a forest of loudspeakers to reproduce the spatial aspects of the hill. Gusts of ‘wind’ will blow across the auditorium, carrying musical materials as they do so. The aim is to reflect the circularity of the panorama, so the overall theme of this movement will be circularity.

Movement 2: The history of Kelston Round Hill

This will build an evocative audio history of the hill, using early instruments such as bone flute and hurdy-gurdy played by Matthew Spring (BSU). Three poems by Jon Hamp will evoke the past of the Roundhill, first in neolithic times, then during the renaissance, and finally present-day. These words will be sung by Sara Stowe. Musically, the gradual formation and elaboration of a drone and a modal melody will be the main component. The final poem will also be accompanied by a live coding element, performed on Thor Magnusson’s ‘Threnoscope‘.

Movement 3: The spirit of Kelston Round Hill

This will be a contemplative movement concentrating on awareness and widening horizons of the individual. As well as evoking the act of contemplation, it will provide a soundtrack for individual meditation, by drawing people into an intimate world of whispered sounds and very quiet sonic events. The Old Barn will be recorded on a hot day, creaking and cracking as its timbers move. These small sounds will also trigger small musical events.

Movement 4: People and buildings of Kelston Round Hill

This is a collaborative composition. Over a period of time, people will be invited to contribute material, either via the web or in person at the barn. The material may be spoken, sung or recorded. Orchestral instrumentalists will also be invited to take part, working to a score provided by Hugill. Once the contributory phase is over, Hugill will develop the material in conjunction with all those who wish to be involved in the composition. This will be done through an online studio. It is expected that the result will be busy, lively, and packed with personal meanings that will surprise and delight audiences.

Composer’s Blog: the first post

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I am starting a blog to document my work as a composer. This will complement my official website.

The blog will describe my compositional processes, from ‘high-level’ conceptual and inspirational insights, through to ‘low-level’ technical descriptions and accounts of creative decision-making.

It will initially give an account of the developing Kelston Roundhill Symphony and various other current musical projects.

I work with all kinds of musical media, from traditional instruments to digital sound, so the blog reflects this diversity. I hope it will be of general interest to a wide range of people.