music

gallery of selected works | score and audio provided where available.

 

chamber

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SUN, DRUMS & SOIL (2020)

FOR MARK SIMPSON, HUW WATKINS & ZOË MARTLEW

Sun, drums & soil  is a short work for clarinet trio inspired by Stravinsky's miniature 'Pour Pablo Picasso' (1917).

It won the Alan Bush Composition Prize in April 2020.

The piece takes inspiration from the physicality of the quickly-drafted miniature. Stravinsky has turned what appears to be a blank hotel telegram on its side and written the music directly onto it, with the horizontal dotted lines of the page now vertical, cutting through the music. He also spells 'Picasso' vertically.

Sun, drums & soil uses the idea of changed/warped viewpoints, a concept central to the quickly-emerging Cubism movement in visual art. A short fragment of material is viewed from a great many different angles; the piece is a kaleidoscope constructed from abstracted versions of the same music.

The piece was premiered by Mark Simpson, Huw Watkins & Zoë Martlew in February 2020.

Clarinet (+Bass Clarinet), Piano, Cello

Duration : 8 mins

sun, drums & soil [for Mark Simpson, Huw Watkins, Zoë Martlew]Xan Gill
00:00 / 08:10
 
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DANCE DISTANT (2020)

FOR ALTO SAXOPHONE & ENSEMBLE

dance distant is a short piece for alto saxophone and ensemble arising from contemplations of the work of Franz Kline, specifically the ‘black paintings’ of the 1950s. These are large, powerful gestural abstractions, where Kline’s iterative process of layering black upon white upon black is observable in every work, translating into a tangible sense of structure and authority.

 

The soloist operates on an entirely different plane to the ensemble; that is to say, the two parts are completely disconnected (‘distant’) from one another. While the ensemble twists through an abstract wash of sound, the soloist lays down an expressive, gestural flurry of activity onto the sonic canvas; black upon white.

Alto Saxophone | Alto Flute, Accordion, Vibraphone, Viola

Duration : 7 - 9 mins

 
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AFTERIMAGES (2019)

FOR 8 PLAYERS

Afterimages is a short work for chamber ensemble. 

The title refers to a common optical phenomenon where an image can remain in view for a brief period after the stimulus is removed (for example, after looking at the sun). There are huge contrasts in the form afterimages can take, the most obvious being the results of brief exposure to a bright stimulus versus prolonged exposure to a coloured stimulus.

The piece grew from the idea of treating sound as light; I attempt to ‘sound’ flashes of white and slow burns of colour as pillars of the sonic landscape. The music flickers and fades, leaving traces of itself behind.

Flute (+Alto Flute), Clarinet (+Bass Clarinet), Percussion (suspended cymbal, tom-tom, temple blocks, singing bowl, crotales), Harp, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello

Duration : 8 mins

 
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WORDS, WIDE NIGHT (2019)

FOR SOPRANO & ENSEMBLE

Carol Ann Duffy’s Words, Wide Night (1999) is a love poem that declares its inefficacy. The restless speaker, suspended in her sleepless void, cannot express her isolation properly in words. Duffy is conscious that, when employed to describe a yearning this powerful, language fails. Even proper tenses become irrelevant:

 

… in one of the tenses I singing

an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

 

The piece attempts to capture the world of the poem by establishing a static, nocturnal landscape on the edge of disappearing into the darkness. The soprano quietly negotiates Duffy’s sinuous text, while the dark room turns slowly beneath her.

The piece was written for Anna Mengel (Sop.) & performed in October 2019. For rights reasons, recordings are unavailable.

Flute, Clarinet, Soprano, Piano, Violin, Cello

Duration : 7 mins

Words, Wide NightXan Gill
00:00 / 07:38
 
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COLOUR BEGINNING (2019)

FOR STRING QUARTET

Colour Beginning is a short string quartet written in response to JMW Turner's near-abstract preliminary watercolours of Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland.

These 'colour beginnings' (some displayed in Tate Britain) set the turbulent sky against an area left entirely blank (for the castle), void of detail. The piece was born from a contemplation of these mists of colour set against the stark blank canvas, coupled with my own memories of the unique feel of the area in which I grew up. 

 

Stillness is set against the minute motion of sand and grass, silence against the cries of birds and rustling of the dunes.

2 Violins, Viola, Cello

Duration : 7 mins

Colour Beginning [for string quartet]Xan Gill
00:00 / 07:46
 
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INTO THE SEAM (2019)

FOR THE RIOT ENSEMBLE

into the seam was written for five musicians from The Riot Ensemble, and draws some inspiration from the maqām modal system of North Africa and Central Asia.

The piece drifts between measured and unmeasured music, twisting through dense refrains and dark passages which frequently evaporate into stillness. In these sparser regions delicate jeté figures dance on the surface and, as the music progresses, gradually embed themselves in the core musical material. The work culminates in a new soundworld driven by the changed function of these earlier, merely colouristic, gestures.

Bass Clarinet, Trombone, Acoustic Guitar (amplified), Viola, Cello

Duration : 10 mins

 
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THE TIDAL WATERS SEEM TO FLAME. (2019)

FOR BRASS QUINTET

‘The tidal waters seem to flame’ is the last line of Duncan Forbes’ poem Anno Domini, which describes the area around St Cuthbert’s Cross in Alnmouth, Northumberland.

When the sun sets on the coast here a fiery light flickers and dances over the surface of the sea - the piece attempts to explore this effect by placing dark, silent water beneath burning specks of light.

Written for London Metropolitan Brass

2 Trumpets in Bb, Horn in F, Trombone, Tuba

Duration : 8 mins

Note: The above score is a revised version of the piece, made since the last available recording (below).

The tidal waters seem to flame. [Workshop Recording]Xan Gill
00:00 / 07:46
 
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BJALLA (2016, revised 2018)

FOR CLARINET TRIO

‘bjalla’ (IPA: /ˈpjatla/) is an Icelandic word descended from Old Norse and closest to the English word ‘bell’. ‘bjalla’ can also translate as the verbs ‘to be noisy’, ‘to call’ and ‘to crow’. It was from these multiple dimensions of the Icelandic that this work arose, exploring the harsh and raucous characteristic of bells in addition to their purity and resonance.

Scored for violin, clarinet and piano, bjalla balances rational and irrational qualities. The uneasy relationship between natural and mechanical elements manifests itself structurally in the contrasting spare metered and chaotic unmetered sections of the work, mirroring the dichotomous role of the bell as representing both spiritual purity and harsh metallic cacophony. bjalla deliberately avoids using bells in the work, instead seeking to replicate their timbral qualities using solo strings, wind and piano.

Clarinet, Violin, Piano

Duration : 10 mins

 
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STUDY IN CENTRE & WIDTH (2016)

FOR 2 CELLOS IN A REVERBERANT SPACE

This miniature attempts to explore two intervals (perfect 5th and major 6th) and their juxtapositions using the resonance of the violoncello to emphasise their consonance in a dream-like miniature. When interlocked, these intervals form a third interval, a major second (between the 5th and 6th degrees of the scale).

The piece uses this inherent third interval as its underlying basis – our tonal centre shifts from G to A as the piece progresses (before arriving back at G). The name of the piece refers to this idea of exploring intervallic width as a way of focusing on the ‘centre’ or resonant essence of sound.

2 Cellos

Duration : 2 mins

 
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STUDY IN EDGE & SURFACE (2017)

FOR AMPLIFIED FLUTE & SNARE DRUM

Flute [amplified], Snare Drum

Duration : 2 mins

 

large orchestra

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ONE PURE THOUGHT (2019-)

FOR ORCHESTRA

One Pure Thought is an ongoing orchestral piece that received a 30-minute workshop from Christopher Austin and RAMSO in September 2019. 

The recordings below are excerpts from this workshop.

Full Orchestra

[3.3.3.3; 4.3.3.1; Timp & 3 Perc., Hp., Pno.; 12.10.8.6.4]

Duration : 9 mins

 

film & tv

full screen ⌟

OUR CITY (2018)

SHAUN WOOD / HELENA BAUMGAERTNER / DRUMMER TV

MUSIC BY XAN GILL

Winner: Film Our City 2018

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees' 90-second film competition advertising the energy & culture of the city of Bristol.

The brief was to create 90 seconds of original music to accompany the film, using the influences of local artists and the rich, diverse electronic/dance music history of Bristol.

The piece uses drum & bass, a locally cultivated genre, to showcase the energy and buzz of the city, with multiple samples from current local musicians.

Electronic

Duration : 1.5 mins

 

full screen ⌟

MOBIUS (2017)

MANNIKA MISHRA / OLIVER LUDDY

SOUNDTRACK BY XAN GILL

DepicT! Entry 2017

A troubled young man discovers that he is being stalked by someone terrifyingly familiar.

This electronic soundworld came from the idea of framing the action in silence to unsettle the viewer. Instead of foley footsteps and diegetic sound, a footstep-inspired lurching beat emerges, using a reverse reverb process designed to evoke the film's non-linear timeline. This beat has been developed across multiple film projects.

Electronic

Duration : 1 min

 

full screen ⌟

BBC NEWS IDENT DEMO (2018)

BBC NEWS

MUSIC BY XAN GILL

Demo of imagined new BBC News intro music. Response to online criticisms of current theme: retains serious tone and classic 'news' elements (such as the pips), but subtly integrates new sounds inspired by Hollywood and beats from UK dance culture.

Uses synthesised/placeholder orchestra.

Electronic

Duration : 1 min

 

full screen ⌟

FRAYSTONE MANOR (2016)

HARRY HARRIS / CHESKA REYNON / STUDIOSHORTS

MUSIC BY XAN GILL

The opening credits of horror/satire 20 min film Fraystone Manor, written for StudioShorts 2016.

Full film available below.

2 Violins, 2 Cellos, Piano, Celeste,​ Timpani

Duration : 30 secs

 

full screen ⌟

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, TRAILER (2017)

HARRY PLOWDEN

MUSIC BY XAN GILL, SHAUN WOOD, DAVID CAIN

Video Trailer for DramSoc Bristol's A View From The Bridge (dir. Sam Jones), Winston Theatre 2-4 Feb 2017.

Written as part of my role as Music Producer for the theatre show.

The trailer music is a synthesis of the production's multiple live-cued musical elements. Click below for some examples of music in the live show (written & produced by me).

Electronic

Duration : 30 secs

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
 

HANNIBAL STABS WILL - TV DEMO (2017)

BRIAN FULLER & STEVE LIGHTFOOT / DAVID SLADE / NBC

MUSIC BY XAN GILL

Demo of music-to-picture. 'Mizumono' (S2 E13) from Hannibal.

2 Cellos

Duration : 2m 30s

full screen ⌟

 

theatre

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (2017)

ARTHUR MILLER / dir. SAM JONES

MUSIC BY XAN GILL, SHAUN WOOD, DAVID CAIN

Two of my cues from the live production of DramSoc Bristol's A View From The Bridge (dir. Sam Jones), Winston Theatre 2-4 Feb 2017.

 

All music was conceived in full surround, but tracks have been mixed into stereo here.

Music Production Director: Shaun Wood
Music Producers: Xan Gill & David Cain

Electronic [Stereo Version]

 

electronic

AFTER. (2019)

#ELECTRONIC #ARP #AMBIENT

Electronic

Duration : 5' 20"

 

upcoming commissions

MACHRIE MOOR, TBC (2019-)

FOR PERCUSSION QUARTET

/ ARTS SOCIETY COMMISSION /

Percussion quartet drawing inspiration from the standing stones on Machrie Moor, Isle of Arran, Scotland. Commissioned by the Arts Society for performers from the Royal Academy of Music.

Premiere : TBC 2020/21

 

Percussion [4 Players]

UNTITLED (2019-)

FOR FLUTE, HARP & VIOLA

Piece written for Trio Mallarmé (Karen Jones, Hugh Webb, Paul Silverthorne) to be performed in May.

Premiere : 7th May 2020

 

Flute, Harp, Viola

UNTITLED (2019-)

FOR MIXED ENSEMBLE

Chamber ensemble piece based on Arthur Russell's World of Echo (1986).

Premiere : 23rd April 2020

 

Mixed ensemble

SITE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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