Composition vlog – new venture!

I’ve been blogging (intermittently) for several years now about my creative process, and this week I’m launching a new approach which I’m thinking may be more useful/successful/helpful/interesting (or not) for being a little less formal. I’ve started a composition vlog to talk more specifically about my process when composing – and to look more closely at things like the sorts of things that get in the way of the composing (often while simultaneously enabling it), what sort of time periods are really involved in the gestation of a piece, what sort of things influence the development of my ideas.

So not so much a “how to compose” vlog, but rather “what does a composer do?” one that will look more at the frustrations, failures, excitements, setbacks, breakthroughs and conceptual dead-ends that are part and parcel of the composer’s life. The sort of stuff that doesn’t really get discussed except with other composers.

So this is episode 1, which as you’d expect is largely an introduction to the project and what I’m working on now. A starting-point. I’m aiming to create new ones every 2-3 weeks (every week being likely to drive everyone, including me, insane and ensure little actual composing gets done; once a month probably being too long a time-span so that I’ll lose track of the ideas which have been tested and discarded in the interim).

I’d love to hear any constructive feedback you have on this project, so please leave a comment or thumbs-up(/down) on YouTube and subscribe to the channel if you’re interested in seeing how this progresses.

RPM Challenge 2015 is on!

Back in 2012, I signed up for my first RPM Challenge, subverting the format slightly to compose 10 new works (which turned out to be 9 new works plus 1 new arrangement due to unexpected concussion) for 10 different performers who then all recorded their pieces for the album Lucky Dip.

That was a fantastic experience for me – incredible experimentation, great to work with a range of different performers from all over the world, and to hear all those pieces played at the end of it! Words cannot describe.

That was the year I started my Masters degree, which didn’t allow time for such internet hijinks, but now I’ve graduated, I’m raring to go and have signed up for RPM Challenge 2015!

This time, though, I’m taking a different approach. I’ve been doing some short courses at Morley College lately in Field Recording and Sound Art, and I have a lovely fancy new digital recorder that I need to get to know well before my next Crossing Dartmoor recording trip, not to mention a couple of mics I’ve not experimented much with, so my RPM Challenge album this year is going to be all about field recording.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to structure it – I want to practice recording, but I also want to go wherever my ideas take me – so maybe all the sounds will be from one location, or maybe not; maybe I’ll produce an album that is all straight field recording, or maybe I’ll work in some musique concrète or mess about with voice or other instruments as well; maybe maybe.

For now though, I’m committing. I’ve got a few ideas for recording starting points and I’ll see where that takes me!

As usual with these sorts of projects, although blogging isn’t a requirement of RPM, I plan to blog my progress and thoughts more-or-less daily over at One Creative Thing. Come and join me?

Breadcrumbs video and a new project

I’m delighted to say that the video of Breadcrumbs at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival is now online. It’s missing a couple of bits at the beginning, but gives a pretty good idea of how the performance turned out. Many thanks to Tête à Tête for arranging for it to be recorded.

Performers: Charlotte Richardson, soprano, and Clemmie Curd, cor anglais. Directed by Omar Shahryar. Recorded at Kings Place, Saturday 9 August 2014.

This month I’m working on a new orchestral piece for the Angel Orchestra, an amateur group in North London, which will be performed in December, attending lots of final recitals (including a couple which include my pieces), and with the start of September, I’ve embarked upon my fourth Creative Pact.

Creative Pact is an online group project where people choose a creative project and commit to working on it a little every day for a month, and documenting their progress online. For my Pact this year, I’ve decided to finish composing Manifesto, an experimental piece exploring my current compositional interests using Max/MSP. As this project requires daily blogging, I am doing this offsite so as not to overwhelm readers here! You can follow the updates for the project here.

Breadcrumbs success at Tête à Tête

I am delighted to be able to report an excellent reception of Breadcrumbs, my dramatic monologue for unaccompanied soprano (with cor anglais introduction) at this year’s Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival at Kings Place on 10 and 11 August.

Performed by Charlotte Richardson, soprano, and Clemmie Curd, cor anglais, the piece was directed by Omar Shahryar and was performed in the lower foyer space of Kings Place. In spite of some acoustic challenges, it received a very positive response from audiences, who declared it to be “amusing, engaging and original” in feedback, and a review by composer Robert Hugill on his website Planet Hugill described it as a “rather striking dramatic take on the familiar tale”.

Tête à Tête are currently editing a video of the performance, which will be added to this site when ready. In the meantime, we have some excellent photographs of the production by Festival photographer Claire Shovelton. Click on the thumbnails to view the full image.

You can view the full set of production photos at Tête à Tête’s Flickr account.

All-Rowley programme for September recital

Colour and Shadows: Music by Caitlin Rowley

Colour and Shadows: A recital of music by Caitlin Rowley

2.30pm Friday 13 September 2013
Blackheath Halls, Blackheath

Colour and Shadows is my final recital for my Master of Music degree, to be held at Blackheath Halls. As with many Trinity Laban end-of-year assessment recitals, it’s open to the public – and free!

The programme features a number of works that I’ve blogged about here or talked about on Twitter over the past year, including:

The recital lasts for about 40 minutes and features fantastic Trinity Laban performers in all the pieces. You don’t need to book – just turn up for 2.30. Or maybe come earlier: there are other recitals on throughout the day too, for my fellow composers Michael Thomas Andrews, Barry O’Halpin and Gio Janiashvili, so it’s worth coming earlier or staying later if you’re making the trip – it’s going to be a very varied day!

I’d love to see you there – and of course, if I haven’t met you before, do come up and say hello!

I’ll be posting more information about the works on the programme and the performance itself here on the website over the next few weeks – or join the Facebook event to get the latest details.


New UK performances

A fairly last-minute announcement, I know, but there will be two performances of my music coming up this week in or near London.

First up, on Thursday 27 June, I will be performing my solo flute piece Gasp in its first public performance at the Big Red Bus in Deptford. I’ll also be singing in the One Day Scratch Choir which will perform a selection of new pieces written for CoMA Voices, along with other performances organised by the Bastard Assignments collective. Find out more on Facebook (Gasp is a late inclusion so isn’t listed, but it’s going to happen 🙂 )

Next week, on Monday 1 July, my ensemble work Still River Air, which was based on the photographs of Ansel Adams, is receiving its second performance by the Trinity Laban Contemporary Music Group, at the Harwich Festival of the Arts. The performance will take place at 7.30pm at the Harwich Electric Palace Cinema in Essex. All five of the pieces shortlisted for the Runswick Prize will be performed at this event, so if you missed the night at the National Maritime Museum, this is your chance to hear them all! Find out more on the Harwich Electric Palace Cinema website.


Still River Air in Runswick Prize final

I am delighted to announce that my ensemble piece based on the photographs of Ansel Adams, Still River Air, has been selected as one of five finalists for the Daryl Runswick Composition Prize and will be performed by Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Music Group, conducted by Gregory Rose, at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow evening, Thursday 14 March, at 8pm.

The performance will take place within the Maritime Museum’s exhibition of Adams’ photographs and the audience will be free to wander round the exhibition while the concert is happening.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance have produced a video of each of the finalists talking about their work. This is mine:

My fellow finalists are:

  • Sidhant Kapoor: Om Shanti
  • Josh Spear: Mater/Matrix
  • Will Handysides: Advection
  • Edward Henderson: Night on Bear Mountain

You can view videos of Sidhant, Josh and Edward on the Trinity Laban YouTube channel.

They’re all really great pieces and very different from one another – I feel honoured to be in such company! – so if you’re free on Thursday night, you should come along. £7 gets you into the performance and the exhibition. Full details are on the National Maritime Museum website’s page for the From Landscape to Soundscape event.

Experimental music premiere on Friday

This Friday sees another premiere! Trinity Laban’s composition department holds a series of student-run concerts of experimental music each year – we write the music, organise the performers, plan and market the event ourselves – and mine is this Friday, 25 January 2013 at 7pm It’s free and open to the public, so come along and hear some interesting sounds!

Rude Health: unsensible

Full details are available on the Facebook event page.  My piece (which I’m finishing writing today!) is for four improvising pianists and tape and explores improvisation, both through experimenting with my own improvised sounds in the tape part, and comparing the interpretation of a graphic score in the context of that tape part four times by four different performers. The concert will also include experimental music by my fellow Trinity composers Max De Lucia, Hannah Dilkes, Effy Efthymiou, Litha Efthymiou, Theo Jackson and Declan Kolokowski. Hope to see you there!

Lines of Sight at the ICA, Thursday

I’m pleased to announce that my first performance for 2013 is happening this week! This is the first performance of something I’ve written for my Masters, so I’m pretty excited about it. It’s on Thursday 17 January at the Institute of Contemporary Art on The Mall, London and starts at 6.30.

The evening is part of ICA’s Touring Talks for their Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument exhibition, which is showing maquettes of sculptures made for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The pieces being performed have all been written in response to the exhibition and its consideration of the space and history of Trafalgar Square and are all by Trinity Laban students.

Many of the pieces in this performance are quite experimental, in content or approach to the space, and my piece, Lines of Sight, falls into this category. It’s a graphic score work for three string instruments (violin, viola and cello for this performance but could be any string instruments) which responds to the creation of Trafalgar Square as a mechanism for social control.

The area we now know as Trafalgar Square was once a rather seedy residential area, and the Victorians were keen to clean it up. So they built Trafalgar Square, not merely as a space for grand monuments, but by the placing of those large fountains and grand staircases, they broke up the space with the specific intent to make it difficult for large crowds to gather.

Lines of Sight is designed so that – like the Victorian ideal for Trafalgar Square – the only “perfect” version is one where there is no audience. The players are situated on the same level as the (standing, moving) audience and communicate using visual cues. Additionally, the design of the exhibition means that players 2 and 3 cannot see each other at all, so they are entirely reliant on being able to see player 1 for the piece to proceed with precision.

As the space becomes more crowded or people move around, and the lines of sight become obscured by the audience, the players must use their ears to try to work out where they are in the score and to move to the next section. The aim for a precise execution of the piece as a group effort is thwarted by the obstacles raised by the audience and by the design of the space.

Quite simply, it is designed to fall apart.

The performance is free and runs for about 2 hours from 6.30pm at ICA – you can come and go as you wish throughout the event, and there’s a cafe if you’re overwhelmed with the awesome 🙂 My piece is on quite early, but there’s loads of interesting pieces being performed throughout the event, so do come even if you can’t get there for 6.30.

I look forward to seeing you there!

An Advent Project

As it seems I have quite a bit to do* this month, I’ve decided to treat the month as a project, along the lines of Creative Pact or RPM Challenge and blog my progress daily, for an assortment of reasons.

If you’re interested in watching this unfold, the posts will be over at my creativity blog One Creative Thing so they don’t clutter things up too much here. See the current Advent Project posts at

Any cheers of encouragement are most welcome in the comments 🙂

*understatement of the year