Auguries for orchestra

I wrote “Auguries” for the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of their Leverhulme Young Composers’ Scheme 2012/13. It was premiered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

While writing the piece, I found myself obsessing over an eight-note melody that I couldn’t get out of, or move on from, in any way except to repeat it, again and again. In the end, my inspiration for how to proceed came from William Blake’s poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’, and its opening lines “To see the world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower”. Rather than moving away from my initial idea, I saw it as the seed which contained all the musical material that I needed for the rest of the piece. As the melody repeats, it accrues extra layers surrounding it, growing in complexity until it is lost in the layers of melody that surround it.


Airs untwine

Airs untwine is a piano piece (or a set of piano pieces) I wrote last December as a Christmas present for my Granny. It’s based on a couple of very simple premises – a sequence of slow chords, and various iterations of a three-note broken chord. In each successive movement, the music deviates or ‘untwines’ from the original a little more.

I set myself a couple of challenges with this set of pieces – firstly, to write something that would be playable by an amateur pianist, at least for the first couple of movements! And secondly, to write something that stuck closely to a single idea yet was constantly re-assessing it. The music moves slowly, but (I hope!) just enough to keep interest and make you want to find out what happens next.


Here’s a recording of the piece played by my good friend Jason Anderson, at a recent gig with Sudden Junction. Enjoy!

Hidden Steps

Hidden Steps was written in March 2012 for a mixed octet of players from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and premiered at the Guildhall School as part of the Brett Dean Total Immersion Day.

When planning this piece, I got a simple progression of two three-note chords stuck in my head that I just didn’t seem to be able to break away from. While I began by sketching other ideas, I was continually drawn back to these two chords until eventually I gave in and decided to make the whole piece about different ways or combining and expressing the relationship between them. The initial bustling texture passes pitches around the ensemble before longer, more extended lines begin to emerge. These fast-moving figurations and slower chorales are played off against each other, with various instruments taking solos, before the texture thins out to solo piccolo. The two chords move downwards in a sequence before the music briefly and finally breaks out of this material into a kind of irregular and frantic dance.

Many thanks to all the fantastic musicians – you were brilliant and a pleasure to work with!

Making noise and talking

Making noise and talking was the result of a month-long collaboration between the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the London School of Contemporary Dance. It was performed at The Place Theatre on 30-31 March 2011.

Choreographer: Anne Marie Kristensen
with creative input from the dancer
Composer: Peter Yarde Martin
with creative input from the musician
Dancer: Michael Kitchin
Double bass: Laura Murphy
Text: Peter Yarde Martin

Firing Canons

This is a string quartet piece I wrote last year. It’s all based on a simple eight-note motif that spirals out chromatically from a central note, like this:

The central idea of the piece is the 7/8 ‘riff’ section which appears twice; at the end it sort of disintegrates, breaking down into smaller gestures which flit across the ensemble. I had this image of gears grinding against each other, cogs slipping suddenly then halting again.

Recorded in Pembroke Chapel, 23 April 2009 by Fra Rustumji, Rebecca Minio-Paluello, Peter Mallinson and Peter Matthews.

Voices, Crackles

This piece for violin, cello, piano and pre-recorded electronics has gone through various iterations to reach it’s present form. I wanted to explore ‘pastness’ in old records and wireless recordings, not only the other-ness of accents and conversations which sound almost like another world, but the way in which radio hiss and record crackle modify and mask the voices.

The electronics part is a montage of samples taken from recordings from the British Library sound archive (, including language-teaching records, speeches, folksong recordings on wax cylinders, interviews and poetry readings. The instruments, meanwhile, echo sections of melodies almost like recollecting long-forgotten tunes, and at other times mimic record crackle or sounds of radios tuning, further masking and modulating the sounds of the electronics.

Thanks to Rachel Evans (violin) and Yingxin Jiang (cello) for their wonderful playing. 🙂

Three lines from Comus

A piece for chamber orchestra – the titles come from the poem ‘Comus’ by John Milton and if you look hard enough you can probably find links from the titles to the music contained therein.

This was all rehearsed and recorded in a two-hour session in Pembroke antechapel – massive thanks to all the players for getting to grips with it all so quickly, you were all brilliant!

1. “In a light fantastic round”

2. “He call’d it Hæmony”

3. “Higher than the spheary clime”

Desk Cantus

This came about as a result of playing around with sounds from stuff on my desk – a pasta bowl (somewhat pesto-y) and fork, an anglepoise desk lamp, a trumpet mute, some keys, my phone. I was experimenting with using very short samples to make glitch-y microbeats and looping them to make longer notes. It all goes a bit crazy halfway through and then goes back to the glitchtastic beginning.