Nine poems written during the first nine days of ‘lockdown’ in the UK . Three lines in each poem, nine syllables in each line, creating ‘999’ for the state of emergency and constraint. Set to music for two voices and cello. Songs for strange times. Recording to follow.
The first in a new series of works about the wind. It designs the shapes of rocks and trees, and whirls the ice in turf digs. The prevailing wind in the UK is from the Southwest. Climate warming is changing this. When planting a tree you would spread the roots to the Southwest so that it might stand for centuries to come. Which way to spread the roots now?
A Finzi Scholarship project. Inspired by Bill’s solo camping trips looking for mountain hares in Scotland. Timidus is from the Latin binomial for mountain hare. The piece is for violin, cello, piano and clarinet, and is in progress. Bill also wrote a travel account about composing with mountain hares in the Cairngorms.
Over the course of his trips in the Cairngorms Bill became attuned to these elusive animals. He also saw golden eagle and red deer. Timidus is inspired by the tensions between the communities that co-exist in the vast sub-arctic tundra landscape that is the Cairngorms. The second movement explores the power of the wind (listen to the extract above).
While in the Cairngorms area Bill was lucky to meet with Scott Newey – a population ecologist from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen; Andy Howard, photographer and author of The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare; and the writer, Anna Fleming.
The mountain hare, Lepus timidus, is a survivor from the last ice age. It is related to Arctic and Greenland hares. It thrives in the northern belt stretching from Scandinavia to Siberia. There are isolated communities in the Alps, Ireland and Scotland. In the case of Ireland and Scotland, when the ice sheet retreated the mountain hares evolved into two unique species: Lepus timidus hibernicus and Lepus timidus scoticus. All mountain hares are different from the brown hare, Lepus europaeus, which arrived in Ireland and the UK thousands of years later.
This recording features Flora Curzon on modern violin and Bill on piano. It reprises their performance with Helen at the Daniel Corkery Summer School in 2017.
In 2019 Hercules Editions published Helen’s poems as The Singing Glacier, including a conversation between Helen and Bill, some of the musical score, paintings by Emma Stibbon RA, and an essay by the literary geographer, David Cooper.
The Singing Glacier also exists as a schools education project including: word and poetry challenges devised by Helen, two Greenlandic bone games purchased in Kulusuk, musical composition games devised by Bill, and the short film below, created by Richard to inspire children (and adults!) featuring Matt and Helen Spenceley, our amazing guides from Pirhuk – Greenland Mountain Guides.
Short film about the context of The Singing Glacier, featuring Helen and Matt Spenceley of Pirhuk – Greenland Mountain Guides.
Written to raise the profile of the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for The Singing Glacier. For violin, viola and glockenspiel (keyed or normal). There is an additional performance option for this piece. After the second time through it can be repeated many times. Each time, more notes are omitted, at the players’ discretion. This can be partnered by a small ice block (or ice sculpture) placed above a cymbal on a stand, so that the drips fall onto the cymbal surface.
In 2014 Bill walked up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While sitting beside his tent below the summit he watched three pairs of white-necked ravens duelling mid-flight. This included them flying in mirror formation – one upside down under the other – parting, then soaring directly towards each other before clasping talons mid-air. This aerial display in the oxygen-poor air at c. 5800 m left a lasting impression and inspired the poem, Thin Air Living. He set this for SATB choir, solo soprano and solo piano for a commission from King’s School, Worcester.
The Particles series is about the viscosity of air. It sparkles and dances around us, pushing up against everything we see. Particles 1, 2 & 3 exist in two different versions. The first version is for solo violin with different orchestral sections (Particle 1 – double basses; Particle 2 – violas; Particle 3 – second violins). The second version is for violin, cello, piano and clarinet, arranged for Alisios Camerata of Zagreb. There is also an arrangement of Particle 2 for youth orchestra, written for London Music Masters, in which professional tutors play the demanding passages.
A suite of five movements for clarinet, violin, guitar, double bass, harpsichord and timpani. Originally sound-tracks for short films produced by Sands Films. Now available as a comic concert suite. The harpsichord part can be played on piano (preferably upright) and the timpani part on a smaller drum. Parts available on request.
Short film by Nashashibi/Skaer with sound-track by Bill, mezzo-soprano Olivia Ray and Rosalind Nashashibi. Footage of a lambing shed from the Island of Lewis and Harris shot by Lucy Skaer.
Lamb featured in the Nashashibi/Skaer exhibition, Future Sun at S.M.A.K Gallery, Ghent, Belgium, November 2019 to February 2020. It is reproduced here by kind permission of Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer. It can be hired from Lux.
Sound-tracks for five short films produced by Sands Films, featuring Tweedy The Clown. These whimsical commentaries on London life inspired Bill to write five light-hearted scores. Tweedy The Clown is famed for performing with Giffords Circus and Cirque Beserk in the UK, and with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey in the US. He continues the tradition of the great Swiss clown, Grock.