My music

  As a conclusive demonstration that I have no shame whatever, this is a page devoted to samples of my own music recorded in MIDI and formatted in MIDI and mp3.

The project of improving these MIDI transcriptions is ongoing. If somewhat slow. One problem with MIDI is that there is literally no way of telling how your sample will sound on someone else's card.

I have discovered that on most cards, the Voice Oohs or Synth Voice will be completely dominated by the piano accompaniment, even if you whack up the volume as high as you can. So in the first of these improved samples, I have substituted the bass voice with the trombone, which means that it will be heard on most people's systems. In The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb, the soprano part is taken by the oboe.

I have also discovered that piano pedalling tends to sound different on different soundcards. A good card will treat the sustain as it happens in real life, i.e. with a natural decay. Other cards will switch a sound on when they receive a sustain command and leave it switched on until they are told to switch it off again. This can cause interesting effects! The pedalling on these pieces should sound fairly subtle, and if it doesn't - I can do nothing but apologise.

Now that we have broadband and faster download speeds, it has become practicable to produce these samples in mp3 format. This has the dual advantage that you can have live performance (Gabriel) and in the MIDI samples can hear them the way they were intended to sound. So I have been busy converting the samples on this page. I have now done the Apollinaire Songs, the oboe piece, the rondo, Gabriel and the Flying Bomb excerpts; please keep coming back.

As far as the music goes, I am an amateur composer, but have written some fairly large-scale and ambitious works, most of which have been performed. Although my musical tastes veer towards the atonal, most of my music is, for some reason, written in a very conservative (not to use the word outdated!) style.


Christmas Medley (12m 19s)
Christmas Medley for Recorder Quartet

This was a piece written for the Berkshire Recorder Consort. The section towards the end in the key of Db caused some consternation among members of the consort prior to the first public performance (which they performed perfectly), but the recorder is, after all, a chromatic instrument.

Piece for Oboe and Piano (1m 45s)

Piece for Oboe and Piano

This is a very early piece, and is the last of a set of three. The other two aren't worth including here, but this one has a wistful tune which I still like. So here it is!

An Inscription (2m 28s)
The Skirt (5m 27s)
The Circus People (1m 51s)

Three Apollinaire Songs

An early set of three songs for bass and piano.

The Inscription obviously comes from a tomb. The protagonist is in a stateof serenity, all-knowing, content to die.
The Skirt is a fantasy upon the skirt of his mistress. It has masochistic and fetishistic overtones. He sees her skirt as a bell and, presumably lying in her bed, has a disturbing vision of her hanging skirts as hanging men.
The Circus People is a description of a circus parade, seen first at a distance, then in middle distance and finally in close-up.

Rondo in D (3m 18s)
Rondo in D

This was originally written for four recorders, but set for brass instruments it has the feel of an extended fanfare.
The Rondo hovers between the major and minor; there are four main themes, one for each of the episodes, and one which appears at various points, at first in the bass on the first repetition of the first theme.
In the final appearance of the main theme, one of the sections has all four themes playing simultaneously.
The Rondo has been performed a few times locally.

Gabriel, Fram Heven-King (12m 08s)
Gabriel, Fram Heven-King

This is a transformation of a medieval carol - a contemporary English version of Angelus ad Virginem. The piece uses the English version of the tune which is modified considerably from the more familiar Latin version to accommodate the Middle English words.
It is set for soprano, clarinet and piano, and begins with the unaltered medieval tune harmonised in its contemporary style. During the course of the piece the clarinet explores the extreme high register, sometimes to interesting effect during performance!
This piece was performed at a recital in South Hill Park, mainly devoted to the music of Richard Walthew. The performers were Daniela Kahan, soprano, John Walthew (the composer's grandson) on clarinet and me on piano.
This is a rather rough performance, but it was the only recording to be made, during the course of the rehearsals.
The piece is sung in Middle English.

2. One Man Shall Shear My Wethers (2m 02s)
3. A Sprig of Thyme (3m 14s)
4. Jig - The Blooming Meadows (3m 14s)
Folk-Music Suite

The Folk-Music Suite is in five movements for soprano and recorder quartet.
One Man Shall Shear My Wethers is one of the purely instrumental ones, and I have given it an orchestral arrangement. It is in the same kind of form as One Man Went To Mow, although the tune is completely different. Every time the tune comes round it is lengthened, and in this version it comes round five times.
A Sprig of Thyme is a sad song about the loss of virtue and time, and the words play on the 'thyme/time' pronunciation so that sometimes it is not clear which one is meant ('Thyme, it is the prettiest thing, and thyme/time it will grow on, and time, it'll bring all things to an end').
The Jig is associated with one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, when a semi-professional recorder group with which I played entered a music competition, and selected this piece to play. We turned up on the day, and discovered that the only other group in the competition was a school recorder group. There was much audible muttering among the mums and dads in attendance about the unfairness of adults competing against children. We played the Jig and we won against these children, who were clearly very upset and disappointed. One of us had to go and collect the trophy, and none of us wanted to - the whole event took place in a kind of glassy horror. All in all it was one of those moments which make you squirm years after the event.
The suite has been performed publicly a couple of times in its entirety by two different local groups, and individual movements have also been separately performed locally.

The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb

The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb
is a setting of Mervyn Peake's one-hundred-and-twenty-five stanza ballad, which describes a conversation between a sailor and a new-born baby in the middle of an air-raid on London. The setting lasts an hour, is very difficult and taxing for the performers,and has received only one public performance, at South Hill Park in Bracknell.
The setting is for soprano, bass-baritone, narrator and piano. Any apparently inspirational lacunae in these extracts might be due to the fact that of necessity the narrator's part is missing.

We'd be far better off ... (3.00)

The sailor carries the baby through the wreckage of the air raid, and reflects that they would be safer on the ocean, or where the soldiers are fighting, than here in London where glass is flying and houses are falling.
But although his wound is throbbing, the sailor feels an uprush of an almost hysterical joy as he carries the baby through the burning streets. It suddenly drains away when he contemplates the scene before him:-
See! See! Ha! Ha! How the dazzling streets
Are empty from end to end
With only a cat with a splinter through its heart
And an arm where the railings bend.

Shall I worship you now?(5.47)

In the sanctuary of the church the sailor contemplates the baby, rejoicing in it, but conscious that it will 'never be washed or dressed'.
The baby opens its eyes and looks at the sailor, and then begins to speak,telling him that it has lived many lives and has seen many things. 'There's nothing outside of the womb of Eve that you wouldn't have known inside.' The baby wishes to sing with the sailor 'as we sang in the early days.'
For sailor, there's nothing that is not true
If it's true to your heart and mine
From a unicorn to a flying bomb,
From a wound to a glass of wine.

The song of the baby and the sailor (3.30)

The baby leaps from the sailor's arms and hovers in the air; the sailor joyfully raises his voice and sings with the baby, a song of all their yesterdays. In this setting, the song is mainly wordless.

I am frightened, little fish (2.33)

At the conclusion of their song his joy suddenly evaporates, and he feels fear, which grows into a state of terror.
The baby returns to the sailor's side, and tells him that his fear is understandable when he can see 'nothing left but a gaping skull on the spine of the wounded world'. But the baby tries to console the sailor, telling him that at least the two of them are well, and that anyway death is nothing to fear, it is 'so mean and small'.
It snatches away the burning breath
And it snatches at the useless clay,
But what can it do to halt the square-rigged soul
As it steers away?

My body is what has laughed for me (1.11)

The flying bomb is on its way, the baby having lured it to this spot so that they might die together. The baby has been telling the sailor that his immortal soul can only be tested in death. But to the terrified sailor all this talk of imponderable souls is irrelevant. "Where are the tears of my spirit, child?" he asks. "and how are its cheekbones dried?"
The sailor can understand his own body, much more than a soul he knows nothing about.

A hundred thousand fire-green crows (5.07)

This extract is from the last section of the poem. The flying bomb is about to fall. The baby in a state of ecstasy sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. The sailor's mood changes from extreme terror to one of joy - just before the point at which this extract begins he sings: "Now God be praised, the ships of Hell are in the bay!"
The sailor's vision is of the sea. He can now accept his own death, and he welcomes it with joy.
How glorious it is to sway
Upon the waves of war!

At the end, the baby tells the sailor to listen to 'the silence of the cross, that we've been waiting for'. The engine of the flying bomb cuts out, and it begins to fall towards them.

Back to
the Home Page
the Music Page