Starting Point or Halfway House

As a composer, I have frequently been attracted to working with unusual instruments/instrumental groups and my initial premise for the portfolio of works for the doctorate was to create music for unrepresented instruments.

The compositions completed so far include: “Summer Storm” for percussion quartet and sound recording (first performed in Derby Cathedral and subsequently in Barnsley), “Circumference” for tenor saxophone and piano (consciously written without any extended techniques) that explores experiences of gospel, jazz, Latin and popular music styles and “Split-screen Sinfonietta” composed for an ensemble of half Chinese and half Western instrumentation that creates an unusual sound palette.  The most substantial of the works so far is “Confer To Bass”, a four movement concerto for bass guitar, string orchestra and percussion. The work is dedicated to three bass players I have had the pleasure to work, travel, eat and drink with over the years: Dave Lynane, Pete Glennon and Fred Thelonious Baker.  During my portfolio creation period I have also arranged a number of collections “West Side Story” for Percussion Unlimited and a selection of Beatles songs for the Barnsley Youth Choir.

The unusual instrumental combinations of the above works are a challenge in the craft of orchestration but compositionally I have approached the musical material in my usual way: melodic and rhythmic concepts first, harmonic and textural developments later.  The starting point for “Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas” is that it will feature drums as the main instrument.  This is not the only work I have composed with drum kit as the featured soloist, “12 Drum Blues” was composed for Dave Tyas to perform when he won a BBC Jazz prize.

The sounds that will accompany the drums have yet to be decided, I have recorded some ideas that can be previewed at  The first concepts will be titled as “Idea 1” “Idea 2” etc. and the subsequent trials and experiments will be titled “Treatment 1” “Treatment 2” etc.  These will show the raw materials and prototype components that I hope to develop and refine during the compositional process. The examples below are the first ideas.  “Idea 1” arrived as I was driving, (had to stop the car and get out a voice recorder to sing into) and “Idea 2” came to me as I was setting up the drums for the recording session.








More developments from the “Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas” blog next week.


About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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