— Richard Craig

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Clearly, the world has changed drastically in the past six months, if/when/how performances can come back is still a question mark. I decided to not make work during lockdown period, or try to stay visible in the deluge of materials now online (all power to those for making something during these months). Instead I have been thinking more about writing, composing, and how to make and release my own recordings in the months ahead. And, I have started a new teaching studio for composers, flute players/performers.

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In February and March there was a volley of concerts and a recording session with the Riot Ensemble, performing repertoire by Liza Lim, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, Brian Ferneyhough and Gerard Grisey (Kings Place London, and a live-stream concert in Liverpool University). Alongside all of this, I also managed to fit in a solo concert (the Scottish Arts Club Edinburgh), performing a range of repertoire and a premiere from the composer Iain Matheson.

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By early March, I had heard about the Scottish Awards for New Music, and that I was nominated in the category of New Music Performer of the Year (2019). This year the awards, which cover several categories and genres, garnered over 200 nominations, and an online version of the ceremony is planned on the 14th of April. The awards are recognised as a vital part of the new music calendar in Scotland, and I am very happy to have been nominated, and wish my colleagues in all categories the very best (in lieu of meeting them face-to-face).

To round off the Spring period, I revisited Wales to play improvised music with the brilliant Angharad and Rhodri Davies in a concert organised by the collective Listen to the Voice of Fire, Aberystwyth. The concert represents some of the fantastic work that Sound and Music are sponsoring through their composer-curator series. My ties to performing in Wales continue with UPROAR, Wales’s premiere new music group. Unfortunately our tour was curbed by the recent restrictions on public gatherings, but the group will be championing works by Murail, Romitelli and Saariaho, alongside Welsh composers Andy Lewis, Sarah Lianne-Lewis and Bethan Morgan-Williams in the UK and abroad later in 2020/21.

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My research also progressed in the first months of 2020. I successfully defended my PhD (Middlesex University, supervisor Jonathan Impett), and so this brings a conclusion to my six-year project involving case studies, performances of new music and my own compositions. The thesis will soon be available online, and already a chapter is intended for publication as part of the Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation Research Cluster in an edited collection by Leuven University Press.

 

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Photo from Richard Craig

(rehearsal – Photo S.Saviet).

The end of 2019 has been a productive period for me with the brilliant Riot Ensemble, and concerts of my own music too. As a guest musician, I performed with the Riot in the Dutch festival November Music (featuring works by Rebecca Saunders and Laurence Osborn), and also in HCMF, giving the UK premiere of Ann Cleare‘s work for me: Eyam IV (Pluto’s Farthest Moons) scored for solo contrabass flute and ensemble. The concert, alongside other works by Cleare, was a portrait event, set in the epic surroundings of Huddersfield’s Town Hall (see above). Alongside the HCMF concert and November Music, I stepped in to play with the Riot ensemble again in Liverpool, and more performances with them will happen in March, July and September 2020, playing Ferneyhough, Grisey and Muttendorf (in Liverpool, London and Tel Aviv).

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(Hortulus Animae in Bangor. Photo A. Cooke).

My own compositions had two performances this Winter: one in the opening of an experimental music series in North Wales called SCRATCH, and the other in York, with the Experimental Performance Platform, AMOK. On both occasions I played Hortulus Animae which is my ongoing composition for flute/s and fixed media (2015 – ).

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Finally, this year has had an important CD release (John Croft’s Seirenes), and another is on the horizon. With the Riot Ensemble, I contributed to the final recordings of Patricia Alessandrini‘s portrait disc, which will be released sometime in 2020 on the Huddersfield Contemporary Records label.

 

 

 

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Looking to the Autumn and Winter brings new projects, a CD release, and a chance to highlight other events that have slipped through the net. Writing (as in texts) has taken up a lot of my time in the past months, notwithstanding my PhD submission. Last year, I composed a text for Örat Idétidskrift för experimentell, kritisk och komplex musik. The text ‘Lost: a Pathology’ is featured in the third edition of Örat on the subject of Förlorad Musik (Lost Music), alongside other bekantar from my time in Stockholm, such as Lisa Streich and Krister Lindwall.

 

 

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More of my writing will appear in a forthcoming journal collated by the Orpheus institute’s Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation Research Cluster, destined for publication in an edited collection by Leuven University Press.

Changes in location are afoot too this Autumn – I will be in based in Scotland for the coming months, while fitting in performances of my own work Hortulus Animae in the Summit series in Manchester and Berlin (Unerhörte Musik). Hortulus Animae is an ongoing composition/art project that encapsulates my time in North Wales, and is a reflection upon the many geological and prehistoric artefacts in the area – the following are extracts from the cycle, recorded by Chiaro Audio.

 

Other concerts include an appearance at HCMF as the soloist in Ann Cleare‘s Eyam VI Pluto’s Farthest Moons with the brilliant Riot Ensemble. Shortly after HCMF, I will play in the Riot’s Amsterdam concert too – the November Music Festival (works by Rebecca Saunders and Laurence Osborn).

Although soon to be based in Glasgow, I have been developing plans for performances in Cymru for some time now, and working with the Dukes of Scuba, we have planned a new experimental music night in Bangor, Wales. More information about that to follow.

Last but not least, John Croft’s monograph disc is now available on FHR, which features several works for flute in various chamber music settings. It is now on general release.

 

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The release of John Croft’s portrait disc Seirenes is in September this year on FHR. My collaboration with John Croft has produced several works for various flutes in various chamber settings, and I am very pleased to have had the chance to record them here. Also, to have worked alongside fantastic musicians such as Alice Purton, Emma Richards, Diego Castro Magaš, Séverine Ballon and Marij van Gorkom in the process.

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This May I was composing/improvising on flutes alongside the composer Guto Puw, and working with dancers Lisa Spaull and Angharad Jones pictured above. (Photo credit Cordelia Molloy). It was the premiere of a Kate Lawrence – Vertical Dance and Pontio production: Yn y Golau – In-visible light, supported by Arts Council Wales.

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The picture above, is from my performance in Thessaloniki, Greece, in collaboration with the Centre for New Music at the Aristotle University. Supported by ERASMUS, my exchange was a masterclass for flute players and composers, and a concert featuring a new programme Mythologies: works by Billone, Williams, Croft, Murray and my own Blodeuwedd. Shortly before this, I was premiering new work by Andy Lewis, Tristan Rhys Williams and my own work in the Bangor Music Festival.

Upcoming collaborations include working with Vertical Dance for their Yn y Golau project, and another performance of Andy Lewis’s Earthline in April, both in Pontio, Bangor.

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This year closes with a visit to Argentina to one of the most intensive and interesting new music events I have performed in, established by the composer José Manuel Serrano. I was invited to the Distat Terra Festival and Academy, to give solo performances, teach and a guest performance with the Quasars Ensemble, performing Ivan Buffa’s Tvorivý duch for two flutes and ensemble.

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My solo appearances included works by Torá, Stewart, Barrett, Lucier, a premiere by John Croft and sharing a concert in the Chacra Experimental with the fantastic string quartet Quartetto Maurice, in which I played Salvatore Sciarrino’s solo work All’aure in una lontananza (outdoors, by moonlight!). I had the chance to hear other fantastic ensembles from Argentina including the guitar quartet Nuntempe, and the festival’s resident ensemble Ensemble Antiquanova. 

Upcoming: in early 2019, I will be continuing to work with Philip Thomas and Damien Harron in a performance of Feldman’s Crippled Symmetry in London, and an ERASMUS+ visit to Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece, to teach and perform (the concert to include Pierluigi Billone’s Staglio). 

Recordings in 2019: John Croft‘s portrait disc is on the horizon and awaiting release, as is Kristian Ireland‘s luminous and Ann Cleare‘s Eyam iii. The latter will be my debut release on my own label.

 

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This Summer has been dedicated to preparing the final stages of my PhD submission, recording, and developing new repertoire for the coming year. There looks to be a new disc in the making too – it has taken some time to bring Kristian Ireland‘s luminous to the point of recording, similarly Ann Cleare‘s eyam iii for solo bass flute, both written for me in 2013. Working with my longtime collaborators, CHIARO, I hope to have the disc, which is dedicated soley to these two works, released as a limited press next year.

This coming Winter I will be continuing to work with Philip Thomas and Damien Harron, performing Crippled Symmetry in York and London, and making an appearance with Explore Ensemble, and EXAUDI, giving the UK premiere of Sciarrino’s Carnaval at HCMF. In early 2019 I will be giving a concert in the Bangor Music Festival, performing new works by Andy Lewis and Tristan Rhys-Williams at Bangor University.

Other new pieces in my repertoire this year include Ligeia by John Croft, an arrangement of Orphée-Le bestiaire cycle for instrumentalist-reciter by Núria Giménez Comas, and Ajax by Max Murray, alongside Pierluigi Billone‘s epic Staglio for solo bass flute, which is based on an ancient Greek text.

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As we go into a new year, I’ve taken the opportunity to gather some responses to VALE, my new disc, released in July 2017. During the process of making VALE, the disc took shape thematically as an answer to, or the antithesis of, INWARD, my first disc released some years ago now on the same label: VALE attempts to go back to working with the instrument in an unadorned way. The purpose being to find the instrument’s core again after living with a repertoire in which the identity of the flute had become more concerned with  an eagerness to ‘make new sounds’. The repertoire on the disc is then a distillation of practice in terms of the sonority of the instrument/s and the musical focus of the playing and repertoire. Perhaps the most perceptive account of what I tried to achieve in terms of my performances and the choices I made came from the Gramophone magazine. Further reviews can be found here REVIEWS. There is also a very articulate review in TEMPO magazine, which I will write about on another occasion.

Forget new complexity: some of the music on flautist Richard Craig’s second Métier disc might simply be called post-everything. When there’s no tonality, no atonality, no melody and few pitches, what exactly is left? Quite a lot, as it happens – and therein lies the interest. Such technically complex, ‘post-everything’ music paradoxically brings us back to a primal, at times ecstatic state of Fauvist force.

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At the end of 2017 Ensemble Grizzana came together again to perform and record at HCMF. Again, another very perceptive round of reviews (Spectator and the Financial Times) came from this concert, no less a new disc ‘Early to Late’ with Another Timbre featuring new works by Jürg Frey and Magnus Granberg. The CD will be released this February.

 

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