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Everything is not under control

This week I'm going to be present at a premiere of my work where, unusually for me, a significant part of the work was actually not written down. The song cycle Comeclose and Sleepnow was composed for Gian Slater and the Monash Art Ensemble, and of course room needed to be left for the improvising skills of this ensemble.

Otherwise I'm very close to finishing an opera: the double bar line has been drawn after 1,300 bars. This is not a very common occurrence in a composer's life, and therefore feels like a bit of an achievement. Commissions are now banked up to 2020, and my book is about to be published in the UK.

Read more about all of this below. See also my website for more details about individual works, and other information.


Love Songs from Liverpool

This Friday evening in Melbourne is the first outing of Comeclose and Sleepnow, my new song cycle for the wonderfully talented Gian Slater with Paul Grabowsky's Monash Art Ensemble. As a teenager I was much taken with the poems of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten in The Mersey Sound (Penguin Modern Poets No 10). When Paul asked me to write something for the Monash Art Ensemble, I returned to their work and found a nice sequence of six love lyrics - three happy, three not-so-happy - mostly from their later work, though Roger McGough's poem from the original volume gives my piece its title.

Comeclose and Sleepnow shares the honours on Friday with new works by Charles MacInnes, Thomas Reiner and Paul Grabowsky himself, who'll be directing the proceedings and playing the piano. Here's a bit more about my songs (Inside Story magazine).

> Comeclose and Sleepnow at 8pm, Friday 13 October at the Monash Music Auditorium as part of the free Sound Series.

Image: The Mersey Sound anthology in its original paperback edition with Alan Spain's cover design

A Japanese garden and a Chinese concubine

These aren't my only songs being sung this month. Soprano Jane Sheldon, who has recorded my cycle Learning to Howl, sings two spin-offs from it in the Blue Mountains and Sydney. Because the whole cycle lasts nearly 40 minutes, and requires rather a lot of percussion, a harp and a clarinettist who also plays saxophone, I made independent versions of three parts of the work. The Birthday of My Life (words by Christina Rossetti) is performed quite often, but the other two parts, A Walk to the Japanese Garden (words by Ian Munro) and Three Songs for the Lady Pan (words by Wang Wei), are seldom heard. Jane performs the former with Bree van Reyk (vibes) and the latter with Lamorna Nightingale (alto flute).

> 7 pm on Friday 13 October at Creative Space 99, Darlinghurst, Sydney.

> The sheet music for all three songs is available from the AMC, see: The Birthday of My Life for high voice and harp; A Walk to the Japanese Garden for high voice and vibraphone (or harp); Three Songs for the Lady Pan for soprano and soprano saxophone. See also: the music for the whole song cycle.

> Jane's ABC Classics recording of this music is available from iTunes and Spotify.



Wollongong's chamber orchestra Steel City Strings will give the first performance of my miniature Sleep in their October concerts. This piece began as a setting, for the three high voices of the Song Company, of David McCooey's poem of that name (you can hear the work on SoundCloud ). I rewrote it for string orchestra at the request of Toccata Classics' Martin Anderson in memory of his partner, Yodit Tekle, and it was recorded for his label by Hungary's Kodaly Philharmonic Orchestra under Paul Mann. But it's not been played in public, until now.

> 2pm, Sunday 22 October, Kiama Pavilion and 7:30pm on Saturday 28 October, Wollongong Art Gallery


The Memory of Music in the UK + reviews

The new book (The Memory of Music, Black Inc. 2017) has been doing nicely (you can read some reviews here) and I've been enjoying the feedback. Many people seem to have read it rather quickly - often in two or three sittings - and they've been sharing their own memories of music with me. I hadn't expected this, but perhaps, given the subject, I should have. I've found it quite touching. 

The book will be published in the UK this November.

> Reviews of The Memory of Music

> Purchase info - hardback and ebook (Black Inc.)

Coming up in 2018

A big chunk of 2017 has been spent composing a new opera for Gondwana Voices, commissioned by Kim Williams. Peter Pan won't be seen until 2020, but I don't think it's breaking any embargoes to say that among my offerings for 2018 are a vocal work for soprano and percussion to words by Anne Carson, a new string quartet (No 6), and some sea shanties for brass quintet.


Recent articles & programs
- 'Heroes' on The Music Show

We started a new series this year on The Music Show, inviting Australian musicians to speak about the art of someone they greatly admire in their own field, and it's provoked quite a flurry of responses - more than I can ever remember. There've been nine episodes to date including soprano Jane Edwards on Joan Sutherland, cellist Simon Cobcroft on Jacqueline du Pré, singer-songwriter Kate Fagan on Joni Mitchell and rapper L-FRESH the Lion on Tupac Shakur. You can listen to the complete series here, and there'll be more next year. Suggestions are welcome.

In addition to my own new work for the Monash Art Ensemble and Gian Slater (for details see above) and relinguishing control as a composer, recent Inside Story articles cover topics such as courage in composing, rock music as a body of work and the role memory - and nostalgia - can play in listening.

> A full list of recent articles on my website.

Background information and further news are available at www.andrewford.net.au. You can also follow me on Twitter for semi-regular updates.