This piece is in seven short movements. The ensemble of fifteen musicians is divided into two symmetrical groups, with a double bass in the centre. The arrangement of the musicians in the space informs the way the music is designed. Clear and direct patterns of sound are made to move across the ensemble-space, variously heard in canon, in parallel motion, overlapping or closely interwoven. Near-replica harmonies and melodic shapes are voiced alongside one another, exchanged between the instruments, or heard unfolding together at different speeds and in different registers. The piece is replete with tilted reflections and echoes, as if the music is mirrored back on itself.
While writing this piece I held in my mind an indelible memory of a late afternoon spent looking out at the Baltic Sea. On that cold and radiantly clear day the incredible stillness of the water’s surface made a near-perfect mirror of the sea, with the horizon as a sharply drawn line dividing subtly divergent colours.
Edmund Finnis’ Sound Investment commission Parallel Colour was premiered Saturday 6 February 2016 at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham, conducted by Richard Baker.
Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with financial assistance from the following individuals through BCMG’s Sound Investment Scheme: Robert Adediran, Catherine and Derrick Archer, Paul and Jean Bacon, Samantha Bird, Paul Bond, John and Wendy Buckby, Alan S Carr, Christopher Carrier, David and Angela Carver, Simon Collings, Alan B Cook, Anne Fletcher, Elizabeth Hurr and Stephen Burrowes, Colin and Belinda Matthews, Frank and June North, Rosalyn and Philip Phillips, David Sawer, Michael B Squires, Stephen Saltaire, Gwendolyn Tietze and David Lewis, Dr Hannah Vlcek, Harry and Doreen Wright, Richard and Carolyn Sugden.
Edmund Finnis (b.1984) is a London-based composer. He writes music for concert halls, film, dance-floors, installation and choreography.
Amongst his varied output, he has composed for the London Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra (Helsinki), New College Choir Oxford, viola-player Paul Silverthorne, Isafold Chamber Orchestra (Reykjavik), and players of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Finnis is Composer-in-Association with the London Contemporary Orchestra and is one of English National Opera’s inaugural House Composers. He has received commissions from the London Sinfonietta, Spitalfields Festival, London Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Aldeburgh Festival, the Mercury Quartet, and the British Film Institute (to co-compose with Max de Wardener and Elysian Quartet an original score for the 1929 Eisenstein film, The General Line). In March 2012 he conducted the premiere of his string septet, Relative Colour, at Carnegie Zankel Hall in New York. His quartet Unfolds (2011) has been performed across Europe, at Tanglewood Festival, and in Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 MusicNOW series.
Finnis’ previous teachers have included Julian Anderson, Paul Newland and Rozalie Hirs, and he has taken part in courses and schemes led or mentored by George Benjamin, Kaija Saariaho, Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews, John Harbison, Simon Holt and others. He worked as an amanuensis for the late Jonathan Harvey, and recently completed his AHRC-funded doctorate at Guildhall School of Music on the subject of distortion in acoustic instrumental music.
Collaboration has been an important aspect of Finnis’ work: he has made music for several films and installations by the Danish artist Anne Harild, for choreographers including Canadian Paul-Andre Fortier, and he co-writes and records music for the Oxford-based dance music outfit TEED, whose first full length album, Trouble, was released to critical acclaim by Polydor in June 2012.
He was awarded first prize in the 2011 International Composer Pyramid, and in November 2012 he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists. He is Composer-in-Residence at the 2013 Chelsea Music Festival in New York.
Listen to Edmund Finnis’ Frame/Refrain (2011), for chamber orchestra premiered at Snape Maltings concert hall: