Large Ensemble Works

2016

A Sovereign Hawk

symphony orchestra

2016

Duration

c. 3.5 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 28 April 2016
BBC National Orchestra of Wales (cond. Jac Van Steen)
Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre

Program Note

This work for orchestra takes its starting point in the muddy histories surrounding the last king of Wales: Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. By the end of his life, Wales had become an annex of England under the rule of King Edward I (Longshanks), a legacy which has made Llywelyn a controversial figure in Welsh history. Following a fierce rivalry, Llywelyn imprisoned his brother Owain Goch in Castle Dolbadarn for more than twenty years and took control of his lands. A contemporary poet of the time reflected on the way history may have been written if the brothers had united against the English - my composition explores this theme, with every attempt at heroism negated by the imposing walls of the castle prison:

There is a hero in a tower,
In long captivity,
A brave, kingly, sovereign hawk.
A hero whose loss I feel from amongst the living,
A hero who would not allow England to burn his border.

Hywel Foel ap Griffri ap Pywll Wyddel

2015

The Sound Waves Symphony

for community participants

2015

Duration

c. 25 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 8 March 2015
Turner Sims (Southampton)
Students from Wildern School and volunteers from the Hedge End Community

Program Note

Coming Soon

Tags

2014

There Will Be Elephants

for Wind Orchestra

2014

Duration

c. 19 minutes

Performances

Currently Unperformed

Program Note

In his book, Creation Revisited: The Origin of Space, Time and the Universe, Peter Atkins reduces the apparent complexity of all things to a beginning of absolute simplicity. He argues that given just basic ingredients, time, and a suitable climate, all things are possible:

'It is undeniable that [molecules] can emerge into existence if the appropriate atoms are available, for little molecules are just a few atoms stuck together, and atoms stick together. If there are atoms there will in due course be molecules; and if there are molecules on warm, wet platforms, there will in due course be elephants.'

Atkins remarks that energy is at its highest quality when it is at its most simple state and that the nature of the universe is for energy to lose quality through a continuous decline into chaos. This musical work for wind orchestra explores these same ideas through three 'orientations'. In each, the piece resets to a state of simplicity before expanding, evolving, and, inevitably, degrading into chaos. The work also responds to Total Strife Forever, an album of electronic music by East India Youth which I found impossible to separate from Atkins' writings:

'The quality of energy is like a slowly unwinding spring. The quality spontaneously declines and the spring of the universe unwinds. The quality spontaneously degrades, and the spontaneity of the degradation drives the interdependent processes webbed around and within us, as through the interlocked gear wheels of a sophisticated machine. Such is the complexity of the interlocking that here and there chaos may temporarily recede, as when cathedrals are built and symphonies are performed. But these are temporary and local deceits, for deeper in the world the spring inescapably unwinds. Everything is driven by decay. Everything is driven by motiveless, purposeless decay...

There is no need to look for a purpose behind it all: energy has just gone on spreading, and the spreading has happened to generate elephants and enthralling opinions...

The only faith we need is the belief that everything can be understood and, ultimately, that there is nothing to explain.'

Castell Corbett

march for brass band

2014

Duration

c. 3.5 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 15 February 2014
National University Brass Band Championships of Great Britain 2014
Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre
Performed by the Cardiff University Brass Band

Program Note

With this work I have attempted to compose a piece of music in the British band march tradition. The work pays homage to much of the stylistic and formal attributes which are so synonymous with band culture, but tries to find new ways to express and articulate these fundamental components.

Castell Corbett was commissioned by the Cardiff University Brass Band for performance at the National University Brass Band Championships of Great Britain 2014, held at the Butterworth Hall, Warwick.

2013

Put A Tiger In Your Swamp

for symphony orchestra

2013

Duration

c. 6.5 minutes

Performances

Currently unperformed.

Program Note

This work for symphony orchestra is a musical sequel to an earlier piece commissioned by the Cardiff University Big Band: Put A Tiger In Your Tank (2013). Whilst both are completely stand alone works, they do share many musical materials, explored in differing ways. I became fascinated by the concept of sequels in other art forms and stumbled across the perfect stimulus material whilst moving into a new house. Left in the gas meter cupboard by the previous tenants was a DVD documentary entitled Swamp Tigers (dir. Mike Herd, 2005) and irresistibly Put A Tiger In Your Swamp began to take shape.

Whilst I did not conceive the work to programmatically follow the activities of these marshland predators, perhaps some of the more striking images depicted in the documentary have found their way into my music: 'their main requirements are an ample supply of prey and a dense vegetation in which to stalk it... they specialise in killing hoofed mammals, but also the heavy cattle... meerkats will screech out a warning whenever they come near... the tiger moves so silently that even if the prey catches a faint whiff of its scent, it cannot necessarily predict the direction from which an attack will come'.

Put A Tiger In Your Swamp was premiered by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Frank Zielhorst conductor) at the Lighthouse, Poole - February 2015.

Tags

Orchestra

AEON

12-hour continuous work for improvising ensemble

2013

Duration

12 hours

Performances

Premiere: 28 April 2013
CaféJazz, Cardiff
Performed by Oblique3 and friends

Program Note

AEON is a musical endeavour first, a composition second. The piece aims to bring together all things: histories, philosophies, literature, ideals, emotions, but most importantly, people. Written to be performed only once, by Oblique3 and friends, this project should be nothing if not fun.

We work using postcard scores, where an image, an idea, a score, a quote, or almost anything at all can be the springboard for an improvisation. We use all the same core elements as a traditional composition: themes, riffs, chord progressions, modulations and so on. The only difference is that we develop these elements live, rather than on paper. Peter Wiegold once said 'composition and performance are the same thing. I feel sorry for composers, they have to painstakingly write down what improvisers can do spontaneously'.

The word AEON has several meanings, but most pertinent for me was the amount of time between two big bangs; the start of the universe to the end of the universe in a cyclic pattern. As such, the piece tries to offer some sort of brief overview of everything that has ever happened, or will ever happen, through a gallimaufry of styles and ideas.

The piece is divided into twelve sections, each an hour long, and each loosely inspired by one of the twelve Gods of Olympus. They are titled as follows:

'The Beginning'
The Pastoral'
'The Industrial'
'The Blue Planet'
'The Banal'
'The Sage'
'The Woman's Hour'
'The Hunt'
'The Enlightenment'
'The Love Pump'
'The War'
'The End'

AEON was composed by Martin Humphries, Ethan Davies & Oblique3, with additional materials from Ben Atkinson and Daniel Wyn Jones. The first performance was directed by Martin Humphries.

Put A Tiger In Your Tank

for big band

2013

Duration

c. 9 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 30 April 2013
Cardiff University Chamber Concert Series 2012/13
New Hall, Corbett Road
Performed by the Cardiff University Big Band

2nd performance: 21 June 2013
Neuenahrer Brauhaus (Cologne, Germany)
Performed by the Cardiff University Big Band

3rd performance: 23 June 2013
Idstein Jazz Festival 2013 (Germany)
Performed by the Cardiff University Big Band

Program Note

I - Quick Starting
II - Smooth Firing
III - High Quality

To view programme note, click here.

Tags

Big Band

2011

'They Drew First Blood' from Rambo: The Opera

for string orchestra

2011

Duration

c. 3 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 9 December 2011
New Hall, Corbett Road
Performed by the Fires of Cardiff

Program Note

Coming soon.

Tags

Rambo: The Opera

for 13 singers, orchestra, chorus and ballet

2011

Duration

c. 2 hours, 45 minutes

Performances

Premiere: 9 December 2011
New Hall, Corbett Road
Performed by The Fires of Cardiff and The Stallone Singers

Program Note

Coming soon.

Co-composed with David John Roche

Tags

Opera

Pont Hafren

for brass band

2011

Duration

c. 11 minutes

Performances

Premiere: May 2012
New Hall, Corbett Road
Performed by the Cardiff University Brass Band

Program Note

Coming soon.

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