Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tim Parkinson: Eight Questions for Edges

The University of Huddersfield’s Edges Ensemble, directed by Philip Thomas, will perform composer Tim Parkinson’s opera time with people at this year’s City Summer Sounds festival. Tim interviewed five members from Edges in the lead-up to the performance.



How would you define yourself?

A mature student who is constantly surprised by what he is achieving and as a person who tries to define himself on a daily basis. It is sometimes hard.

I’m primarily a composer… of acoustic and electronic music. Normally it involves dots and lines, at least at some point. I don’t think I’m good enough to write text scores, for example. Even the most abstract text scores have a real precision to them… you can hide a lot of ambiguity of meaning behind a wall of notes.

An emotional music composition student, who always likes to try new things.

As a fun-loving kinda guy who likes to listen to jazz music and take long walks in the countryside on bank holiday weekends.

I am a performer & new music instigator, and more recently a researcher as well. I play new and experimental music on the violin and think a lot about tuning systems. 


How does being a member of Edges relate to your life?

It started by opening my eyes to a new world of so many possibilities and hasn’t stopped. The wonderful, generous, Philip Thomas being a conduit to this new world that constantly informs they way in which I think about my work as a composer, musician, artist… I now cannot imagine a world without it!

I haven’t been a consistent member for a long time, but I’m always coming back for this or that thing. When I rehearsed with Edges often, it was a bit of a relaxing thing to do on a Friday. I wasn’t there for anyone else but me, so I left when experimental music started to take over all my headspace. I had been writing some music and essays for a module on Experimental music that year, and I just kind of overdosed on it.

I always found performing in general a bit of a chore and quite a lonely experience regardless of how many people were on stage; Edges doesn’t feel like that. It feels like a community of freely associated individuals who just happen to have found their way onto a stage and are going to do these very considered actions for the next hour or so.

How does it relate to my life? I realise I haven’t really answered the question. 

Finally I have a chance to perform, which I really enjoy playing experimental pieces!

Edges is the T’ai Chi of my life. It’s a mental, emotional and occasionally physical workout I do roughly once a week. It requires deep concentration and effort, even though at times it can look pretty easy to an outsider. Just swap chi energy for wandelweiser vibes and you’re about there.

It’s one of the bands I’m in. 


Where are you now as you write this? Describe what is in front of you. And what time is it?

I am in the Coffee Kabin, Huddersfield with the woman I love. This place has been the venue for so many wonderful musical performances this year it will forever be connected to really wonderful coffee and The Bacon Jam Collective of which I am a member. There is a brown leatherette sofa, some tables and a blackboard with a list of ‘AMAZING BURGERS’ on it. There is a big table right in front of me with some film studies papers on it which my partner is marking and a mobile phone a glass of lemonade and a pot of sugar. It is 16.20 on Friday afternoon and I should be in the studio. Ha! I am reminded of the author Nicholson Baker as I describe the room…

I’m at home, it’s 20 to 2 in the afternoon. Directly in front of me is a painting my dad made in the 1970s. It has a 60s feel to it. Very bright colours, and psychedelic patterns. He didn’t like it, so he gave it to me. I’m short sighted, so I can’t see it properly unless I get up close. If I get really close, I can see whole other worlds in a few inches. Maybe he doesn’t like it because he can see it all at once. It’s mysterious to me because I can’t connect the dots. I would try looking again with my glasses on, but that might spoil it. 

At home on the sofa, flatmate is playing FIFA just next to me at 21:45.

I’m at home in Huddersfield, opposite the beautiful surroundings of Greenhead Park, but my room faces the other way so I can’t see it. Instead I’m looking on to a slightly unorganised desk and through a window that overlooks our neighbours garden. Occasionally I see them doing weird exercise videos or having a barbecue or hanging out their underwear. It’s Thursday 21st May at 10:27.

I’m on the train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston, returning home from Huddersfield. It’s a gross Virgin train, very loud in the quiet coach. My laptop is in front of me, and behind that (on the seat opposite) a heavy (and unwieldy) winter duck down duvet, which I’ve had to cart back from Huddersfield on foot, stuffed in a giant lime green M&S bag. It’s 8:15pm.


What were you doing exactly one year ago?

Almost to the day I was putting the finishing touches to my Masters Thesis… coming to the end of a frenetic but rewarding year.

Last year I was an assistant tutor at a sixth form college in Manchester, teaching A-level music and music technology. It ended up being a bit of a drag. I hardly wrote anything and I didn’t perform much.

I did get to see some of the most important people in my life much more frequently, though, as they live in Manchester. I lived in a semi in Withington, a town I’ve always had a strong connection with. It was nice to find myself in the place where the most vivid memories of my childhood are set. It hasn’t changed a lot.

I had to prepare my performance exam but I was planning my trip to Italy. 

I’m going to cheat here but almost exactly one year ago – Eurovision night 2014 – I was in a cramped house in London waiting so long for my housemates to get ready for a night out that I managed to watch the entirety of Eurovision on TV. We then went out, and I was lucky enough to meet a beautiful woman that night I would continue to see for a few months afterwards until I left back for Huddersfield. So obviously it sticks in the mind.

I was in Oslo, performing a recital of solo violin music for nyMusikks Komponistgruppe (the composers’ society of nyMusikk Norway).


What is Time With People all about? What is your view from the inside out?

It is about the person within, the person with whom we rarely engage. It is about happiness and melancholy. It is about being a social animal and about being alone in the world. This is probably a common state for us all. It is a statement on the modern malaise that effects us all. It is about connections, both to our inner selves and to our past incarnations. It talks of a big picture in terms of the microcosmic – or as my dictionary puts it humankind regarded as the epitome of the universe. 

As an insider it is about spending time with people who have become friends and friends who I have got to know a little better. It is also about chaos and melancholy, about searching and finding, it talks to the child within; this child is still very apparent and it sometimes gets me into trouble. Something about this work sticks to your insides and will not let go!

If you made a series of short film clips, filming normal people going about their lives… and then you took an eraser to it until all that was left were these bits of debris, fragments, dents, and impressions. These small details or traces of details, completely detached from their context – the things we don’t normally even notice.

Well I think it’s the real world – natural human movement in time and space, everyday life. No extra musical concern. Especially in movement 4 & 5 I really enjoy and I can feel myself in the reality, staying alone in this chaotic world. Also, I can just being myself, unlike other conventional performance. 

I think it’s funny for a starter. But the kind of funny where it’s because it reminds you of something or someone or sometime that you don’t want to remember, and it’s a bit awkward so you start to laugh. I think Time With People is also about reclaiming music (especially classical music, and opera, and contemporary music) for everyone. You don’t particularly have to know or understand what you are doing or watching to enjoy it, and you could possibly even ruin it by trying to read too much into it. Some bits are very hard, but there aren’t really any barriers that would stop someone with no musical background participating or enjoying the piece. I don’t know, that’s just what I think. I’ve heard people say things like ‘Time With People is what music will be like after the near-extinction of the human race’ and I kind of agree, but at the same time I don’t really care. It’s just fun to be a part of.

Dancers practice an exercise called ‘witnessing’  — one dancer holds a posture while another ‘witnesses’ their form by fitting his or her own body into the negative space left by the posture. The first dancer then departs, leaving only the new posture created by the act of ‘witnessing’. Through viewing this new posture, both dancers gain better understanding of their forms.

From inside, Time With People is something like this. We witness the objects (sounds, people & circumstances) of performance. The audience witnesses us. And we also witness them.


Are you just making it up as you go along?

Yes, of course. Being a teenager, being a partner, being a parent, being an older person – who told us anything about how to contend with all of this. I have always done this until I made the decision to leave work and come to university. Probably the first thing I have ever done, consciously. It was a good thing indeed! It seems to me it goes like this, you make some stuff up then you find out that it was a good thing or a bad thing, if it is bad then you make something else up and just keep going.  

If anyone got that impression, it would be a bad performance or they weren’t paying attention. Even a decision not to overthink is still a decision, and to come to that decision it has to be have been discussed or thought through. Even if I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn’t; It would be unfaithful to Tim’s intentions… and I don’t think that’s a very ethical approach to the performance of any music somebody has composed.

Yes most of it.

Time With People? No! It’s all composed! We’re just following the composer’s strict instructions! Philip Thomas told me that if we deviate even the slightest bit from the score we would be struck off from the ensemble! I’m kidding of course, there are freedoms in the piece and there are choices we have to determine ourselves. But a lot of the chorus parts have to be exactly right to fit in with the rest of the group and sound good. I wouldn’t say I was making it up as I went along. A lot of the choices we make we have to make in rehearsals and then stick to, mainly for practical reasons (what weird sounds am I going to bring with me? what clutter do I have lying around the house?) and then the piece becomes quite set by the time of the performance.

No. I like to be deliberate when performing. 


What is your next performance after this?

I hope to perform at Soni[K]ab next year. Distant plans to perform with my noise duo, Tout Croche, in Montreal. But nothing fixed.

I haven’t decided yet. James Wood and I have designs on collaborating for a new record. I’ve seen him do free improvisation a number of times now, and I found it very inspiring. 

I don’t have any plans after this. 

A string quartet concert with the London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists at Union Chapel, 31 May, 3pm. 


Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

I would like the question I have proposed for my PhD to be a little more rigorous! On the 1st of June I have to hand something in that will define what I will be doing for the next few years. By saying it out loud hopefully it may help in some way! But I doubt it! 

I just want to thank Tim for creating such a wonderful piece of music and Philip for inviting me to help realise it. It’s nice to have something to be doing now that all my degree work is in. I don’t like to sit still for too long. I have a tendency toward hedonism when I’m bored, and that’s fine, but not for too long.

Thanks for the opportunity 🙂 

‘The performer behaves in a situation partly determined by the composer, partly by himself, partly by ambient conditions. There is an elegant consistency which allows each of these elements to manifest its own nature, without imbalance, without imposition. Ambient sound penetrates the intended, is “included” in the music. It is relevant to the situation in which the music arises/relevant to the music, which is ever situational.’ — George Brecht, cited in Word Events: Perspectives on Verbal Notation (John Lely & James Saunders, 2011)



Stephen Harvey

John Aulich

Dorothy Lee


Mira Benjamin



City Hosts School Outreach Day, featuring an iPad Orchestra Premiere


The iPad orchestra, featuring three primary schools from across the UK, performed to a large audience in the Performance Space

On the 19th of May City hosted an outreach event involving children from three different primary schools from across the country. As well as participating in workshops on film music and gamelan, they performed an original piece of music on iPads and watched a performance by members of the City University Experimental Ensemble.

The Two Rivers project was originally developed by Ben Sellers of Transformance Music, an iPad music education organisation based in London, and Matthew Hogg of Chiltern Primary School in Hull, to bring three schools together to collaborate to create new music with contemporary technology. The children wrote Garageband compositions based on their experiences of the place in which they live and on their respective rivers, the Humber and the Thames. They also learned to perform songs by other artists, from Madness to Beethoven, using various apps. Throughout this development process the three schools updated each other, communicating using their instruments to send video postcards and rehearsal footage. This allowed them to get to know both their partner schools, and the specificity and multiplicity of behaviour that these technologies afford.

The final piece performed in City University’s concert space is composed of sections and fragments of these children’s own compositions and the pieces they had learned to perform during their instrumental development—a postmodern collage of their recent education in music. With focus which one would not expect at such a young age (age 10-13), and the charms and quirks which one does, the amount of effort put into this piece by both children and adults shone through. Moreover, the idiosyncrasies present in the children’s original compositions had not been ironed out by the project leaders—only weaved into a cohesive structure and modified for the ensemble—still exhibiting the excitement and innocence of a child at play. The range of compositional styles and approaches which could be heard within the melting pot of the work too, showed the range of musics and techniques which these children have been exposed to by the project leaders. Not only does this dialog between theory and practice aid the children’s understanding of music, but it introduces them to the critical perspective one must take toward music in later study.

The collaboration between Transformance Music and City University not only gave this project a platform and an opportunity for a performance, but contributed to the continuing development of these children’s education. Dr. Diana Salazar (Lecturer in Music) is a regular contributor to Widening Participation and Outreach events at City, and was keen to provide the children with knowledge about the opportunities for further study that an education in music affords. Performing in an acoustically-treated concert hall, eating in the student canteen, and rehearsing in an ensemble room amongst a variety of Western and non-Western instruments—these all help to give an insight into what university music departments are, and what university students do—an insight which many students have to wait until the first open day they attend at the end of their A-Levels to receive.


During the day Gamelan expert Andy Channing delivered Javanese Gamelan workshops to two classes of pupils from Sandringham Primary School


A performance by both myself and Phd researcher in informatics, Daniel Wölffe, on handmade electronic instruments built in a workshop conducted by the composer John Richards, showed these children the potential and diversity of music technology. The reception for these interactive, skin-conductive instruments and our performance on them was astounding, when the aesthetic of the sounds they produce could easily be seen as noise, and noise-music is often associated with very niche musical communities and styles. The workings of the core circuitry in this piece is extended twice over—into an arrangement of nails on the instrument itself, and then to connections between mine and Daniel’s hands—making the abstracted and seemingly complex working of electronics tangible and gestural. Showing these students that the technologies used to create music are not restricted to the use of the newest and most expensive hardware and software, reinforces the idea of the artist and musician as a creator, rather than a consumer.

Collaborations such as this, between community-based projects and academic institutions, are significant in that they nurture the relationship between the academy and the society which surrounds it, and break down ideas about ivory-tower academics which are still rife outside of scholarly circles. Moreover, this partnership showed both primary school children and their teachers the various trajectories which one can progress down for a future in both music and music technology, and that these are many and not limited to their previous conceptions of what the academic study of music concerns. Events such as these are important for reaching out to the next generation of students, and showing them that a future in music is worth pursuing and that higher education is a valid and valuable avenue down which to pursue it.

Sam Kendall, current MA (Music) student


Alex de Lacey featured in Songlines magazine

ProfilepicAlexdeLaceyThis month’s issue of Songlines magazine (#108) featured one of our Masters student’s guide to the world’s best festivals. Following a successful internship for Songlines in 2013, Alex de Lacey has been regularly contributing reviews and columns to the publication, but this is his first full feature to be published. It builds upon our strong relationship with the highly regarded world music magazine, with many of our students completing internships with them as part of our Professional Placement programmes offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

You can purchase the new issue from participating retailers or direct from the Songlines website:

China and Hong Kong Recruitment Visit

In April Dr Diana Salazar, Lecturer in Music, Admissions Tutor and INTO Link Tutor, travelled to China and Hong Kong to deliver a number of presentations about the Music Department at City University London. She travelled to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Hong Kong where her schedule of activities included speaking at ‘Visit London Roadshow’ events, talking to Higher Education agencies, liaising with INTO regional representatives, visiting School counsellors and prospective students, and delivering interactive workshops. All of the presentations and meetings focused on City’s BMus undergraduate degree and City’s new International Foundation Programme in Music, which is run in partnership with INTO. Highlights of the visit included a performance workshop and presentation with Huafu School students and regional music teachers in Guangzhou (pictured), and the Visit London Roadshow events that brought together education agents and advisors from various regions (Guangzhou event, pictured)

Huafu School, Guangzhou

Dr Diana Salazar at Huafu School, Guangzhou

Huafu school 1_Guangzhou

Dr Diana Salazar (centre) with students, staff and invited regional music teachers at Huafu School, Guangzhou

Experience London_Guangzhou

Dr Diana Salazar with educational agent and advisor attendees at the Visit London Roadshow event, Guangzhou