Music for Non-Musicians

Music for Non-Musicians are mixed discipline works incorporating techniques to create sounds or rhythms as a bi-product of the action that cause them, such as a queue of gymnasts doing their run-jump-crashmat-landing drill. The activities themselves aren’t necessarily about sound and can be produced by anyone from within this discipline. These parts are a source of formulated randomness.

Shakespeare and Hedgeshear

A composition in which non-musical elements are devised to bring a visual quality to the work next to the sound they make.

Premiere performance in Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany

Two prepared table tennis games are generating stochastic percussive rhythms and squeaks, its white table tennis balls filling the floor, bouncing around in unique sound worlds which change over time, scene after scene.

Alongside the prepared table tennis, clipping of metal shears are being introduced: initially to sound like upbeat cymbal accents. Yet, as the wordless story progresses into a fierce battle scene, the shears are transformed to sound like sword fight. 

Shakespeare und Heckenschere (2007)

for two table tennis games, three people trimming hedges, analogue electronics and excerpts by Shakespeare

A commission by DEGEM, Deutsche Gesellshaft für  Elektroakustische Musik, for their concert series MONO@Gasometer.

concert video of premiere concert, produced by Frank Niehusmann and Johannes Gramm

These concerts were based around the extremely long reverberation of a repurposed gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany.

The setting in the spectacular gasometer space added a dramatic and surrealistic touch to the production.

Shakespeare and Hedgeshear (2014)

for two table tennis games, three people trimming hedges, DAW and excerpts by Shakespeare

In 2014, British new music charity Sound And Music selected this work to represent the UK at the ISCM World New Music Days in Poland.

Shakespeare and Hedgeshear, ISCM World New Music Days 2014 in Theatr Lalek, Wroclaw, Poland. Photo by Natalia Franklin Pierce

To match the work’s unique sound requirements to the festival’s concert venue in Theatr Lalek, I developed a dedicated Shakespeare and Hedgeshear 2014 edition, setting the sound processing in a digital environment in DAW.

Order Shakespeare And Hedgeshear mixed discipline score at Donemus / email

Killing Time, MATA festival NYC

This composition fuses two of my categories, field instruments and music for non-musicians

Killing Time

for ensemble and field instruments on prepared knitting needles, was commissioned for the 2013 edition of the MATA festival in New York.

Killing Time première in Roulette, Brooklyn

This work exchanges the musique concrète sounds performed by extra-musical activities of Shakespeare and Hedgeshear, see above, for timed, yet silent, percussive triggering of the virtual field instruments by knitting patterns.

Unlike an instrument where the length of string determines pitch, in Killing Time the length of string determines time between stitches and therefore the timing of the music.

string causing duration rather than pitch

The purpose of devising this technique was to perform my local soundscape, Pwll Deri, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, live on stage in Brooklyn.

I wanted the New York audience to hear the mercurial nature of this majestic scenery, a vivid painting, including wildlife calls from seals, coastal birds and their colonies, various strengths of wind and many shapes of water and under water. The sound I wanted the audience to experience the most, though, was the sound of its silence.

Killing Time features performing knitters whose knitting action generates a timeless soundscape more lively and evocative than a field recording ever could.


This is the trailer of a full-length ‘making of’ documentary showing the work’s developments with my local community in Pembrokeshire, UK, and of the production in New York.

Five performing knitters in Pwll Deri, Pembrokeshire, Wales
NY Phil WWI programme note

Knitting in concert venues has been the centre of attention before.

As found in a New York Philharmonic program booklet dating from 1915
Image published with permission

According to this 1915, WWI, New York Philharmonic programme note, knitting was ‘interfering with the artistic enjoyment‘ of a concert.

Performing knitters in the landscape in which the field instrument sounds are located, Pwll Deri, Pembrokeshire, Wales


Vogue Knitting Live! booked ‘Killing Time’ for ensemble and field instruments on prepared knitting needles to be performed on their catwalk in 2016.

Performing knitters Lysa Chen, Luba Naumova and Mark Schuyler at the Vogue Gala, photo by Natalie Viray-Fung

More performances of Killing Time

This work has been performed in St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, during the Gwanwyn Festival in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, for Voluntary Arts in the Norwegian Church, also in Cardiff, and at the Sheffield Doc Fringe Fest.

Norwegian Church Cardiff

The patterns made by needles are triggering natural sound textures “…as delicate and lovely as a piece of fine Irish lace.” (Bernie Krause)

Order Killing Time mixed discipline score at Donemus / email

Cultural Olympiad

During the London Olympic Games in 2012, the Cultural Olympiad was a nation-wide arts programme of events. It focused on Olympic festivities in remote communities.

After working with the concrete sound of table tennis games being played on stage in Shakespeare and Hedgeshear, see above, this Étude was a next piece involving concrete sounds generated by sport exercises in a more choreographed approach.

setting up the concert, which due to the presence of children was not allowed to be documented
Étude for Athlète, Viola and Soprano (2012)

for four gymnasts, a team of kung-fu artists, viola, soprano and sound processing

A work performed by two musicians and 27 members of various sports communities and of all ages, performed in my local leisure centre in Fishguard.

The performers were instructed starting and stopping series of exercises as the concert progressed, while the viola player and soprano singer were following the score. The performed exercises were chosen for their rhythmical or textural qualities.

Rain paints a Ricochet picture (2012)

for five basket ball players performing dribbling exercises and sound processing

The big weather of my, at the time, recently adopted home in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was a new experience in my life. Never before had I heard so much variety in wind and rain. Below is a description of rain by the late John Hull which inspired me to this work.

I processed live the prepared musique concrète sounds of five basket ball players who were instructed to continuously dribble their balls. Each dribbling sound represented a single drop of rain was sculpted into an ever-changing soundscape, as colourful as Hull’s description and at times as monumental as the big weather I witnessed myself.

“…and I would become aware of the rain. I would press my nose hard against the window, each tiny panel of glass gave a different sound. Then it was as if my consciousness gradually spread out: I realised I could hear the rain hitting the wall. It was different from where it hit the windowpanes. Where it hit the window it reverberated with little echoes. Where it hit the wall it was dull. But then I realised I could hear the water running down the wall. And now I became aware of a distant rushing sound – a spout from the corner of the house and the water was gushing down it. Beyond that, something else… yes.. the rain was falling upon a large bush, I could detect it. And what was between the bush and the spout? Yes… there was a different sound where the rain was hitting the lawn, from where it was hitting the path. The rain had turned the light on…” – John Hull illustrating his experiences of being visually impaired, taken from his lecture in Dartington, 2001

Commission Étude sports exercises production – email

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