• vocal works
  • open ensemble works
  • solo works
  • specific ensemble works
  • installations

  • vocal works

    Bien au chaud, bien serrés

    This piece was written to be the second in a series of solo pieces using the same ideas which I used for “...and go ahead!...

    for: solo tenor
    duration: variable
    first performance: 14/10/10; EXAUDI, The Forge, London

    Everyone is just waiting.

    I discovered some of my great-aunt's copying out of the popular tunes of her day. She didn't always do things "right". Of course, I find this absolutely charming. So in this piece each participant gets their unique score, which is me redacting some of the elements on those notes transcribed by Thelma.

    If you feel like taking part, please get in touch. I will send you your score! Any type of voice/style is so very welcome...

    for: any number/type of voices
    duration: variable

    Help with Adverbs

    This work was commissioned by COMA and James Weeks in 2016 & published, managed by Peters Edition.

    I see theatre everywhere (even in mundane things like: waiting at the post office and walking passed dog walkers); I find it there too in one of my jobs—that I really enjoy—which is teaching English to non-native speakers. Often as I walk around the classroom (a very surreal experience), I imagine scenarios that I can turn into music. Here, I wanted to translate an IELTS exam—stressful for those who have to take and pass them—into a parallel world, where the examiners communicate using nonsense sounds (think the adults in Peanuts) to the candidates who can speak back in whatever language they feel comfortable.

    for: any number of pairs of voices
    duration: variable
    first performance: 14/4/18; EXAUDI, LSO St Luke’s

    Rain Rain Rainy Rain Rain

    The texts used here are five haikus about the rain written by Jack Kerouac. In the year I wrote this, there was an unprecedented rainfall in York where the river rose at least 20 feet over its average. It was commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble.

    for: countertenor, two tenors, baritone
    duration: 4'12"
    first performance: 8/12/00; the Hilliard Ensemble at Kuoroespoo, Finland

    Situation Of Leaving

    I was influenced by a Mono-Ha exhibition I had seen at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. One piece in particular, called Situation Of Leaving, was made up of a single object that could be walked around and viewed from different perspectives. I wanted to do the same thing with music; thus, each of the movements can be played in any order. Depending on where the conductor decides they will be in the piece, different text will be sung accordingly.

    for: SATB (min 12 voices, max 24 voices)
    duration variable: 5'30/12'30"

    Unloose to the Murmur

    This piece was commissioned by EXAUDI, for Faster than sound, Aldeburgh. I took one small extract from Monteverdi's Orfeo as the basis of the piece. To that, I added a ritualistic structure of alternating a strictly-conducted section (based upon the vocal ornaments present in Orfeo) followed by a freer section which allows for the singer’s interpretations to emerge. With each repetition of the freer sections, one element of improvisation is removed until only a type of underlying cantus firmus remains.

    for: variable voices
    duration: 12’
    first performance: 9/5/09; EXAUDI, Aldeburgh

    Warning: Ages 8 & Up

    This piece was commissioned by Juice, and I used an instruction sheet for a mobile phone gadget as a text. It was a fascinating piece of prose, as it had been translated badly into English from Chinese. In addition to this, members of the audience were instructed to keep their mobile phones on (and audible) at the performance. The singers then improvised upon the ringtone when one of the phones rang.

    for: two sopranos
    duration: 12'
    first performance: 6/5/04; Juice at the Sir Jack Lyons’ Concert Hall, York

    open ensemble works

    Abroad to beg your bacon

    This piece will be broadcast on BBC 3’s Hear and Now.

    for: four instruments that can sustain pitch
    duration: variable
    first performance: 27/10/18; House of Bedlam , LSO St Luke's

    And Then We Are In Clover

    This was a piece commissioned by Queens' College, Cambridge. It was the first time I was given complete freedom in instrumentation and style. The entire work is based (in harmony, pitch, theatrical movement) upon the song from the turn of last century called In The Good Old Summertime. The only constraint put on the commission by the college was that the basis of the work had to be based upon a 17th Century chemistry cabineti owned by the college.

    for: variable music theatre ensemble
    duration: variable
    first performance: 18/3/06; David Barnett, John Billings, Aniella Bodnar, Julius Bruch, Diana Burrell, Chris Clarke, Henry Cook, Matt Edmonds, Chris Fenwick, Christopher Fox, Harry Gibson, Jamie Hall, Dan Jalapour, David Johnson, Helen Macaulay, Claudia Molitor, Cherry Muckle, Joe Philp, Hok-Him Poon, Ellie Smith, Tom Smith, Tom Stace, Mair Thomas, Paul Tognorelli, Mary Vander Steen, Jo Willmott at three different locations at Queens’ College, Cambridge

    * and you know I

    for: recorded keyboard instruments


    This is the music Amber wrote for the back of her business card.

    instrumentation and duration variable

    Feel thinGs wAy aBout, Certainly Don't admirE

    This is my shortlisted spnm piece. It is another way of my looking at open-form scores. The piece can be played reading either way up, and each performer can choose which line to play in what clef.

    for: any 5 instruments or voices using at least 2 different clefs
    duration variable: 5'/12'
    first performance: 17/10/08; 11th London New Wind Festival at Lauderdale House, London

    Feel thinGs wAy aBout, Certainly Don't admire (13/7/15)

    for: any 4 instruments playing in at least two clefs
    duration: 12'
    first performance: 13/7/15; 840 at St James’ Church, London

    floors are flowers—take a few

    The title of this piece came from a Shel Silverstein poem about an abandoned house. Premièred 14/2/05 at the Meeting House, Brighton, by klangsieben.

    for: instrumentation variable
    duration: variable
    first performance: 14/2/05; klangsieben at the Meeting House, Brighton

    Head Space

    I attended a summer school on Movement and Music taught by Sir Harrison Birtwistle (music) and Lea Anderson (choreography). As a composer, I was paired with choreographer Gabrielle McNaughton to create a work which reflected our collaborative interests. We decided immediately on the idea of simultaneous activities chosen (with no forward planning) by the dancers and musicians from a list of options.

    for: three dancers, flute, piano, two violins, two cellos
    duration: 6'
    first performance: 11/8/00; Dartington Summer School Ensemble at Dartington Hall

    I Do Remember One Thing

    This was commissioned by klangsieben for their first performance as an ensemble. Every element of my piece is to do with time; the piano, for instance, is like a madly ticking clock.

    for: variable music theatre ensemble
    duration: 24'
    first performance: 21/5/05; klangsieben at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton

    Is this the correct amount of social distancing?

    Claudia Molitor has started a project for these Covid times. She says that, “when we are all encouraged to socially distance ourselves, we can find new ways of sharing experiences collectively.”

    My piece for the project asks the performer(s) to highlight the space(s) we live in.

    for:a person/people
    duration: variable
    first performed: sometime in August 2020; Eric Fabrizi, somewhere in the UK

    Maisie fidgets about the room

    Long ago I played violin for a production of Caryl Churchill’s play The Skriker, where I was asked to be Yallery Brown, a sprite‐like figure—here wearing a pink jumpsuit & playing fiddle tunes. Because of this, I began to be aware of the amazing structures which unfold in Churchill’s dramas. This work for Apartment House, Maisie Fidgets about the Room, is a response to another of Churchill’s plays.

    for: small ensemble (three instruments should be able to sustain pitch)
    duration: variable
    first performance: 1-9/10/14, Apartment House, Moscow

    postcard piece

    A postcard-size piece!

    for: anything that can sustain pitch
    duration: variable
    first performance: 5/2/19; Experimental Music Workshops, Laurence Crane with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Camden Arts Centre

    We can’t find our piano

    commissioned by Rolf Hind, artistic director, for CoMA in 2014 with funds from PRS for Music Foundation

    for: any instrument or voice in any clef and in any transposition
    duration: 5'30"

    solo works

    "…And Go Ahead! Dare To Be irrational!"

    This piece was commissioned by Michael Hooper. I have used the idea of children's flipbooks (i.e. where there are four pictures, and the child can decide which head goes with which torso, etc.) as a way of introducing a chance element into the music.

    for: solo mandolin
    duration: variable
    first performance: 13/5/09; Michael Hooper at Spring Festival of New Music, University of York

    Glitches 3, 4 & 11. Trouble in paradise?

    The composer Efe Yuksel is championing the melodica by commissioning lots of pieces for this instrument. Just by chance I have one given to me by my grandfather, so they hold a special place in my heart.

    I'm interested in glitch, and so the invitation for Efe has come from various forms.

    for: solo melodica (with/out electronics)
    duration: variable
    first performance: 1/4/22; Efe Yuksel at St Mary at Hill, London

    I lost my heart by the roses

    I’m thinking about recycling, and of bringing the practice of bookwork into my scores. For this piece I’m digging into the musty world of old sheet music, like that which my grandmother had in her piano stool, or my great-aunt notated herself. I like to imagine that she & friends were sitting ‘round a piano, each playing their favorite tunes of the day; then getting their pens and manuscript paper out & meticulously copying out the best bits.

    for: film + one person with various portable, higgledy-piggledy bells
    duration: ~16'
    first performance: 14/9/19; Amber Priestley, SPARC Symposium 2019: Land Music

    If you really loved me, you'd stop playing that piano and listen to me

    I have always loved Schultz’s Schroeder who played Beethoven on his toy piano. This is a piece to celebrate his imagination.

    for: solo pianist (playing one grand piano & up to 10 toy pianos)
    duration: variable
    first performance: 6/7/10; Claudia Molitor, Germany

    It involves beautiful tightropes of logic on which one has to walk

    Kathryn Williams commissioned me to compose a piece for her to perform in one breath. She has found that she has had to face chronic respiratory conditions, which required her to think about her practice. This has resulted in this project, where she has asked many composers to contribute to Coming Up For Air.

    for: solo flute
    duration: variable (but must be done in one breath, but different one breaths may be layered up)
    first performance: 4/12/2018; Kathryn Williams at Cafe Oto, London

    K. 581 (but not quite his way)

    Scott McLaughlin thought my work my elide with his new project The Garden of Forking Paths, Scott McLaughlin wrote music for the clarinet as if it were an ecology, drawing up a map from its sound that encompasses air, wood, and reed. It is, environmentally, an open world instrument, containing over 300,000 possible fingerings, traversable as different paths for different players.

    I decided to take this as an invitation for me to use one of my favourite pieces by Luke Nickel where he suggests that we can reorganise music. I did that, but rather than having Heather play the organised Mozart, I had her play what I had classified as junk. Don't ask me what the criteria was for this!

    for: solo clarinet
    duration: variable
    first performance: 22/11/22; Heather Roche at //hcmf, Huddersfield

    She had lost her fourteen pairs of yellow shoes

    This piece was written to be the third in a series of solo pieces using the same ideas which I used for “...and go ahead!...

    for: solo flute
    duration: variable
    first performance: 27/09/10; mmm…, Tokyo

    Such Nights I Get All The Free Margins

    I was commissioned by spnm to compose a work for Damien Harron. The subject matter is a sensitive individual enduring the tedium of the office. It is my most directly autobiographical piece; I had just finished a boring job working as a civil servant. The title is from a section of prose by Walt Whitman.

    My percussion work, Such Nights I Get all the Free Margins, is being featured as one of the British Music Collection’s 50 Things, a series of short blogs, to be published throughout 2018, that will offer a bold new perspective on the recent history of new music in the UK. The piece is also featured in Heritage Quay’s downloadable Music Resource pack which has been developed to introduce schools and home educated students to the musical collections in the University of Huddersfield’s archives.

    for: percussionist playing office equipment
    duration: 8'15"
    first performance: 27/3/07; Damien Harron at Wapping Power Station, London

    There, I’ve said it, I’ve put my cards on the table.

    I used to sit at the back playing, wishing I was somewhere else. What if I could have been at that other place? What would I have played then?

    I was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta as part of the London Sinfonietta’s Writing the Future scheme and will be premiered alongside a design element created by students from Central St Martins School of Art and Design. I created a five minute work highlighting a hitherto hidden space in and around the Southbank Centre allowing audience members to explore both a physical and musical space.

    for: solo viola
    duration: 5’
    first performance: 8/12/13, London Sinfonietta (Germán Clavijo), London

    To Raise Hell As We Roll Along

    This piece is a complex elaboration of an old popular song entitled "St. James' Infirmary". By the end, the performer begins to slowly sing the tune of the original while playing the variation.

    for: solo viola
    duration: 7'

    specific ensemble works

    And Yet Something Shines, Something Sings in that Silence

    I was influenced by my time playing with the University of York Sekar Petak Gamelan group, and the tune in this piece exhibits this. It is only two pages of music—but as in my other open-form pieces, it can be performed in a variety of ways.

    As a participant of Composer’s Kitchen 2013, I had the unparalleled luxury of working with the Bozzini Quarteti in Montréal for 12 days; during that time, we were able to establish a wonderful collaborative relationship which resulted in their constantly-varied interpretation of the score (e.g., the dress rehearsal atmosphere created a piece that was joyous and light, whereas the outcome for the performance was brooding and dark).

    for: string quartet
    duration: variable
    first performance: 27/4/13; the Bozzini Quartet, Montréal

    But In The End, Back She Comes

    I was commissioned by Gamayun, an Oxford-based ensemble, to write a piece. At the time, I was reading Margaret Atwood's novel The Blind Assassin, and was drawn in by the structure and unravelling of the plot. The title of the piece, taken from a section of the novel, held great significance for me. Premièred 29/5/04 at the Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building, Oxford, by Gamayun.

    for: soprano and piano trio
    duration: 7'15"
    first performance: 29/5/04; Gamayun at the Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building, Oxford

    but walk softly as you do (9/11/13)

    This piece is a reworking of my piece Floors are flowers, take a few, this time rewritten for a specific ensemble: Workers Union Ensemble.

    for: percussion, cor anglais, saxophone, piano, double bass
    duration: variable
    first performance: 9/11/13, Workers Union Ensemble, London

    did not feel very well at skool (31/1/1977)

    While the performers were playing, they were each listening to the last thing they had listened to on individual headphones.

    for: at least 5 keyboards
    duration: variable
    first performance: 10/7/2015; ensemble we’d like to hear, St Mary at Hill, London

    Ev’ry evening, ev’ry day

    Increasingly I feel that my day-to-day life is taken up with my accepting a task and then my trying to reach the goal. I know there will be some sort of reward if I am able to complete it in the given time, but this completion is not a certainty and not straight-forward. The task is often simple: going to the shops, having a passport photo taken, catching a train. Usually there are problems which are thrown at you by others, which somehow have to be overcome. This transforms what would otherwise be a simple mechanical exercise into something of interesting complexity.

    This work was commissioned by nu:nord.

    for: string quartet
    duration: variable
    first performance: 3/9/16, London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists & Mira Benjamin, at Union Chapel London

    If The Sun And Moon Should Doubt, They'd Immediately Go Out

    The text for this piece is by William Blake; the work was to be performed as part of a concert to end a literary conference about Blake.

    for: 5 speaking voices and 1 instrument that can sustain pitch
    duration: 5'
    first performance: 31/7/07; Tom Appleton, Hilary Campbell, Michelle O’Rourke, Chris O’Gorman, Penelope Walcott (voices), Alan Hacker (clarinet) at Bootham School, York

    La, Not Atonal

    I use a palindrome here both structurally and harmonically.

    for: orchestra
    duration: 11'20"

    Little Foxes

    This is a simple, sweet lullaby with text by poet and lyricist Robert Hunter.

    for: soprano, clarinet, marimba, piano, violin, cello
    duration: 5'

    Little Green Men (LGM 1)

    dedicated to Jocelyn Bell

    for: string orchestra
    duration: 6'

    A Note Sits Playing Four Slides

    I derived the harmonic structure for this simple rhythmic piece from a work by Michael Finnissy. It was intended for a concert that would highlight his piece, but unfortunately, that concert did not take place.

    for: vibraphone, violin, cello
    duration variable: 19'35"/11'20/8'15"
    first performance: 8/12/00; New Music Group (University of York) at Sir Jack Lyons’ Concert Hall, York

    The One I Loved Best Awake Or Asleep

    This work is dedicated to the memory of M.I. Priestley. Its title comes from Polly Garter's song in Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood. I had just finished writing the score for the play to be performed by the University of York Drama Society when I wrote this string work.

    for: 12 solo strings
    duration: 7'30"

    The Only See I Saw Was The Sea-Saw Sea

    I was commissioned by Kirklees International Women's Festival to compose a work for brass, to be performed in Huddersfield. This is the second work whose theme I took from my work on Under Milk Wood; the title comes from Captain Cat's song.

    for: brass octet
    duration: 4'15"
    first performance: 10/3/05; Octobrassy at St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield

    The Psychological Thumb

    For this work, I had tiny ball bearings placed into the jugglers' clubs to make a rhythmic sound as they were thrown. The jugglers passed the clubs over the head of the sitting singer, who elaborated (with extended vocal techniques) upon several old Buddhist texts.

    for: singer and three jugglers
    duration: 9'
    first performance: 2/12/99; Emma Coonan (singer), members of the Cambridge Community Circus at The Cambridge Drama Centre, Cambridge

    The rain itself would be superfluous.

    This summer I was invited to participate in nu:nord an artistic cooperation and community-building project between emerging new-music creators from Canada, Scandinavia and the UK.

    We spent 10 days in Oslo, discussing, practising, and performing. This piece was premièred there, and then also performed in London a few days later.

    for: 3 cellos
    duration: variable
    first performance: 14/8/14, Tre Voci Cello Ensemble, Oslo

    The Spider Woman's Magic Formula

    This work was commissioned by spnm. The entire event was titled "Jai Hind", which means "Long Live India". We spent nine months working together with the ensemble to produce new compositions that explored the traditions of the East and the West. I asked the sarangi and cello players to improvise around a written English text, while the other members of the ensemble provided a stable rhythmic foundation.

    for: harp, piano, vibraphone, tabla, sarangi, cello
    duration: 3'
    first performance: 22/5/07; Aruna Narayan (sarangi), Hanif Khan (tabla), and Endymion at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton

    They are symbols which speak

    This piece was a joint commission by spnm and the St Hilda’s Festival Chorus, Whitby. The concert that this piece is programmed for is to commemorate the war. I have taken this idea and interpreted it in three ways: 1) The basic harmonic structure (and even a few of the "tunes") have come from a piece of Elgar's called "For the Fallen". 2) The disjointed nature of my piece is to mirror the disjointed and uncertain nature of war on people's lives. 3) The texts I have used are all entirely to do with Ray Hamley: the part he played in the war, and the story of the circumstances which led the towns of Kleve (Germany) and Whitby to share their unique bond.

    for: choir, orchestra and organ
    first performance: 8/11/08: St Hilda’s Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Whitby

    Twosie Beats Onesie But Nothing Beats Three

    Here, I was playing with the differences and similarities between the three timbres available to me. Harmonic sections alternate with the trio playing with different timbral variations on the same pitch.

    for: clarinet, trumpet, viola
    duration: 7'20"

    Why You Layin' In The Dirt?

    This piece was an exploration of the similarities and differences in timbres between the two instruments, which are sometimes used as a duo and sometimes as two solo instruments.

    for: guitar and viola
    duration: 10'
    first performance: 7/5/02; Evis Sammoutis (guitar), Neil Valentine (viola) at Sir Jack Lyons’ Concert Hall, York


    That I overlooked before

    Filmmaker Luciano Zubillaga has been working with Amber Priestley to create this day-long interactive installation. Priestley has created a space in which the human voice is mediated through tape recorders and manipulated by the visitor, slowly entwining with the sounds of the ambient world. Zubillaga releases the visual reference of the voice by playing with time and space. This installation was commissioned by the Soundwaves Festival.

    for: as many cassette players as possible
    duration: variable
    first showing: 5/08; Soundwaves Festival

    World to escape to, salty seas to float

    For this project with Iris Theatre and The Space Between I took as the starting point a hidden space which I, together with the poet Sarah Kelly, converted into a structure which combined music and words together with words and film. The construction of the building was all-important: every facet of the project was born out of that basic form. We used the walls and eccentricities of the space as our canvas on which we literally hung the visual aspects of the poetics and sound.

    This project was a promenade performance where the space was highlighted and there was an interplay between music made by me as composer, to the visual written word created by the poet and interpreted by the audience (for example, by walking on the written word—thereby creating sound in the space—or by silently reading the words on the walls—thereby creating sound in their heads). Here the audience member also became performer, and therefore could, together with others, control his or her experience of the event. We were interested in examining both what makes a performance space as well as what it is to be the creator/audience member/or performer of a piece of music.

    Ultimately, I am searching for that space where the written word becomes sound by making the connection between them visible.

    for: objects that explore the connection between a poem and the feelings that poem evokes
    duration: variable
    first showing: 22/3/12; Iris Theatre, London