R  Programme note by Emily Howard

R (2021 ) is a short work for solo percussion being developed in collaboration with BCMG percussionist Julian Warburton. The work pursues my long-held interest in exploring geometrical concepts, exponential growth and decay, through sound. I am grateful to Julian for the many zoom discussions we have had over the past months, and particularly regarding the choice of potential percussion instruments for R.

 I have developed a framework for the exploration of a number of different metallic sounds chosen by Julian and tonight you are hearing an important stage in our development process - the first opportunity for live exploration. Because of lockdown, I have not been able to meet up in person with Julian and we have discovered that it is impossible for me to gain a true sense of the intricate sound of the instruments working together via zoom.

Emily Howard, 2021


Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with financial assistance from supporters of BCMG at Home and Penny Collier as Commissioner.

Music & Maths Festival Programme


Emily Howard

Emily Howard's distinctive music is notable for its granular use of instrumental colour, powerful wordsetting and inventive connections with mathematical shapes and processes. Antisphere – the latest addition to Howard's ongoing series of orchestral geometries – was commissioned by the Barbican for Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, and opened the 2019-20 season. The 2019 premiere of a new setting of mathematician Ada Lovelace’s text But then, what are these numbers? also took place at the Barbican, as part of 'Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine', curated by Howard (b. 1979). That same year, The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo, for orchestra, chorus and soloists with a text by Michael Symmons Roberts, received its first performance at the Manchester International Festival – the Times praised The Anvil for its 'instrumental panache'.

Howard's previous works include the 2016 BBC Proms commission Torus – described by the Times as 'visionary' and by the Guardian as 'one of this year’s finest new works' – and chamber operas To See The Invisible (2018), commissioned by Aldeburgh Festival, and Zátopek!, commissioned as part of New Music 20x12 for the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad. Howard is the subject of NMC's composer portrait recording Magnetite, named after the 2007 work that was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to mark Liverpool's year as a European City of Culture.

The links between maths and music are the focus of PRiSM, RNCM's newly opened research centre, which Howard co-founded with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. Howard is Director of PRiSM and Professor of Composition at the RNCM. She has received two British Composer Awards and recognition from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Her works are published by Edition Peters.


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