Tom Armstrong

Dr Tom Armstrong


Senior Lecturer in Music, Music BMus Admissions Officer
BA (Hons) Music, DPhil in Composition (University of York)

Academic and research departments

Department of Music and Media.

Biography

University roles and responsibilities

  • Music BMus Admissions Officer

    Research

    Research interests

    My teaching

    My publications

    Publications

    T Armstrong, J Jackson, P Wood (2005)New Beauties
    T Armstrong (2002)Divertissements

    First performance by (rout) at Ocean, Hackney as part of the BMIC's Cutting Edge series. Further performance at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.October 2002

    T Armstrong (2015)Diversions 3

    Diversions 3 may be performed by solo electric guitar, two or more electric guitars, electric guitar with any other instruments or electric guitar with electronics. It is open in structure with each page representing a self-contained structural unit. Selections of any number of pages may be made although these should consecutive when more than one is chosen. The notated material can be improvised upon at the performers' discretion.

    T Armstrong (2006)Breath Over Strings

    First performance 11 August 2006, Ripatransone, Italy as part of the 2006 Festival di Londra. Subsequent performances by Richard Hand and Jennifer Stinton at the Wigmore Hall (September 2007) and Jennifer Stinton and Stewart French at the 2013 Guildford International Music Festival.

    Two compositions by Tom Armstrong included in "Songs Now. British Songs of the 21st Century". Opened Spaces comprises two brief songs to texts by the Merseyside-based playwright Jim Morris. Whilst the titles of both texts (London Song, Song of Inishmaan) indicate specific places, Jim takes these as starting points for elliptical yet highly evocative writings that could chime with any number of locations and their communities. It is this sense of ambiguity and openness in the writing that the collective title comes above is meant to suggest. Musically both songs contain suggestions of “snapshots” of verse structures clothed in a rich and, I hope, colourful harmonic language. Some Geographical information: Inishmaan is an island off the coast of County Donegal in the Irish Republic. In the same song, the word “sisal” refers to a strong piece of string and a “curragh” is a small, light boat with a tarred underside. Paul Carey Jones (baritone) and Ian Ryan (piano)

    This talk will consider the solo piano piece, Morning Music, from composer and performer perspectives. Morning Music is a memorial to the late Richard Hand, a fine guitarist and friend of both the composer and the work’s dedicatee, Nicola Meecham. The work is constructed from a pitch gamut that maps a cipher derived from Richard’s name onto the open strings of the guitar that, in turn, integrates four types of material; the construction of this pitch resource and the derivation of ideas therefrom will be discussed. In addition to this presentation of the work’s pre-compositional material the talk will illuminate the problem solving and decision making process underpinning the compositional process itself with recourse to the composer’s journal entries; in this way it is hoped that the ‘day to day’ aspects of compositional creativity will be usefully brought to the surface. Drawing on an interview conducted with Nicola Meecham the focus will be broadened to include Nicola’s interpretation of the score and the extent to which it is affected by the less determinate notational strategy adopted. This is important because one of the concerns of my recent compositional practice has been to acknowledge the creative nature of interpretation and to conceptualise it as an extension of the act of composition. In pursuit of this my recent scores have utilised varying degrees of indeterminacy in an attempt to liberate and expand the interpretative choices available to the performer. Such a strategy has affected change not only in notation but in the musical ideas themselves and this will be demonstrated through several scores that post-date Morning Music. The talk will include a performance of Morning Music and, it is hoped, the world premiere of a new work that builds on compositional and conceptual aspects of its predecessor.

    Week of public performances at Lilian Baylis Theatre, London. October 2007

    T Armstrong (2012)Morning Music

    A composition for solo piano. The piece is a companion work to my earlier Capriccio and implements some of the notational practices emerging after discussion with Capriccio's dedicatee Emilie Capulet

    T Armstrong (2008)Response: Music, image and the sublime, In: Textual Practice22(1)pp. 71-83 Routledge, Taylor & Francis

    This paper locates James' suggestion that the personal feelings produced by the sublime might serve to reinforce a safe conservatism wherein the individual is freed from reflecting on the ideological implications of his or her own emotions in the field of musicology. Using Bourdieu, Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968) and Stephen Speilberg's E. T. (1982), Armstrong shows how film music guarantees the safety of the educated, bourgeois listener by rescuing him or her from the fear of atonal, dissonant music by ensuing melodic harmonies and slowed rhythms. It is music's linguistic silence, the paper shows, that renders its ideological aspect more powerful however, highlighting the social context of music's production, distribution and reception.

    “To leave, to escape, is to trace a line. …The line of flight is a deterritorialization. … But to flee is not to renounce action: nothing is more active than flight. It is the opposite of the imaginary. It is also to put to flight - not necessarily others, but to put something to flight, to put a system to flight as one bursts a tube.” (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari). A multimedia concert that has been developed in a workshop from 12 to 16 September at the Ivy Arts Centre, University of Surrey, features lines of flight from the music of Rameau alighting on Armstrong’s compositional assemblage JPR, the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and current situations of migration, movement, departure, and deterritorialisation.

    JPR, a homage to Jean-Philippe Rameau, has two points of origin: a series of workshops with Trio Aporia exploring improvisatory ways of working and a concert given by the trio in the summer of 2015 which provided my first contact with Rameau's Pièces de clavecin en concerts, music I immediately loved. Bridging the gap between these two starting points was what drove the creative process; I decided to use Rameau's music as source material and devise a means of doing so that preserved the sense of spontaneity I had enjoyed in my explorations with the trio. The result is a kind of 'mash up' in which movements from different suites in Rameau's collection are superimposed. The coordination between players is loose and, indeed, became looser as the piece developed; the players never follow a common pulse, producing a kind of anti-chamber music in which each performer remains within the self-contained confines of their own part. The notes heard are Rameau's own and occur in the tempo, rhythmic values and phrase lengths he specifies. But each player's part is heavily filtered producing silences or 'voids' in the original music. These spaces produce 'lumpy', uneven textures with unpredictable ruptures in their continuities. The clogged and static music that results is not intended as distortion or parody but, rather, an affectionate appropriation of Rameau's miniature masterpieces.

    The music of Distant Beauties is based entirely on the Pas de Six from the prologue to Tchaikovsky’s and Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. The original orchestral score is reduced to just two single line instruments - flute and viola. The aim has not been to create an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s music but to treat it as raw material from which a new piece may be fashioned. Tchaikovsky’s score is treated as a medium to be carved into and re-shaped, many notes are excised bringing into relief new melodies, revealing previously concealed music, or presenting streamlined, leaner versions of the originals. No attempt is made to compensate for the missing orchestral instruments with virtuosic flute and viola writing, instead the emphasis is on a direct and unadorned presentation in which sparsity and, occasionally, silence come to the fore.

    T Armstrong (2006)Akin for violin and piano

    First performance by Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea at the National Portrait Gallery, Jul 2008 and again at the University of Newcastle in November 2009.

    Since 2009 my compositional practice has been shaped by a heightened awareness of the creative agency of the performer, evident chiefly through my adoption of indeterminate notation. The consequences of this decision have affected the expressive, technical and aesthetic aspects of my music leading to a much closer relationship with the experimental tradition than I could have conceived five years ago. This talk will take stock of these changes and reflect on them through recent scholarship in composition and performance creativity. It’s focus will be on Albumleaves (2013) for trumpet and string quartet, a large scale, open form work that constituted a ‘testing ground’ for experimental approaches new to me at the time. Trumpeter Simon Desbruslais will co-present, offering a performer’s perspective from which to interrogate the notions of performer creativity and freedom that informed the composition of Albumleaves. In common with all practice based research there has been an emergent quality to the knowledge Simon and I have acquired during our collaboration; we will not, therefore, seek to provide hard and fast conclusions but to produce insights into a practice sustained by an ongoing dialogue between the acts of composition and performance.

    T Armstrong (2002)Adagio

    First performance by Subdivo at Pheonix Arts Centre

    T Armstrong, E Capulet (2009)Collaboration and Tradition

    It is not uncommon to find the collaborative process associated with innovation, whether by the participants themselves (Fitch 2007: 93) or the funding bodies supporting them (Haydn and Windsor 2007: 30-31). This paper investigates collaboration within a more traditional musical context and addresses two main questions in so doing: to what extent did composer and performer collaborate and can collaboration play a role within traditional compositional practice? By viewing the composer-performer dialogue during the creation of Capriccio (for solo piano) in the light of various modes of collaboration it will be shown that such a process did indeed take place but was confined to the conception and rehearsal of the piece: subsequent performances, it will be argued, should be regarded as further stages in the collaboration, thus interrogating the concept of the fixed work. The affect of the collaboration on the composer’s aesthetic and the performer’s interpretation will be shown to have been of value and difficult to achieve without such an approach. It will be argued that effective collaboration is of great benefit when composing for performers and/or audiences without specialist experience of contemporary music.

    Although heavily critiqued in scholarly literature for at least the last thirty years, and despite a growing interest in practice and research into collaborative approaches to composition, the (Western art music) notion of a hierarchical distinction between the creative composer and the interpretative performer can still exert a powerful influence on contemporary practice. This paper traces such an influence at work in the creative process behind the composition of Capriccio (2008) for solo piano and the development of strategies in subsequent works by the composer that resist certain aspects of an otherwise traditional aesthetic. Written by the composer, the paper employs a methodology of reflective practice drawing on sketch material, journal entries and records of conversations with the work’s dedicatee, Emilie Capulet. Writings on collaboration, creative process and composer/performer relationships, in particular by John-Steiner, Pritchett and Frisk and Österjö, underpin the author’s observations and conclusions. Collaboration is a central theme of the paper: mutual appropriation (John-Steiner’s description of the way collaboration enlarges human capabilities through a process of sharing and exchange) provided the initial springboard for important changes in compositional practice and these have had as their goal a loosening of the composer’s autonomous approach to authorship. Notation emerges as the second major theme: Capulet’s interpretation of the composer’s notation was the locus of their initial discussions and the subsequent changes to the composer’s practice have mostly been focussed in this area. Notation is arguably the strongest anchor to tradition in the composer’s output to date and its modification in later works can, it will be argued, have far-reaching aesthetic implications. The paper attempts to show how innovation can reconstitute and revivify a traditional creative practice, in particular through opening a space for collaboration. This is a more subtle approach than advocated by some creativity theorists but, nevertheless, a valuable one. With compositional practice as its focus, drawing on theories of collaboration, investigating the role of the performer and the status of the score, this paper includes elements of two of the three symposium themes.

    T Armstrong (2001)Tall Ship Tales

    First performance by the City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra at the Central Theatre, Chatham second performance by the North and West Hertfordshire Youth Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Repeat performance by the CRSO in 2005 as part of Trafalgar celebrations. second performance by the North and West Hertfordshire Youth Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Repeat performance by the CRSO in 2005 as part of Trafalgar celebrations.

    T Armstrong (2008)Response: Music, image and the sublime (Susan James), In: Textual Practice: an international journal of radical literary studies22(1)pp. 71-?

    This paper locates James' suggestion that the personal feelings produced by the sublime might serve to reinforce a safe conservatism wherein the individual is freed from reflecting on the ideological implications of his or her own emotions in the field of musicology. Using Bourdieu, Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968) and Stephen Speilberg's E. T. (1982), Armstrong shows how film music guarantees the safety of the educated, bourgeois listener by rescuing him or her from the fear of atonal, dissonant music by ensuing melodic harmonies and slowed rhythms. It is music's linguistic silence, the paper shows, that renders its ideological aspect more powerful however, highlighting the social context of music's production, distribution and reception.

    DM Frohlich, T Armstrong, J Calic, H Yuan, T Knights, S Desbrulais (2015)Com-Note: Designing a composer's notebook for collaborative music composition, In: Proceedings of DRHA2014pp. 41-48

    Although numerous digital tools exist to support the capture and editing of music, less attention has been paid to supporting the creative process of music composition. In this paper we report the design of a new tool in this area, targeted specifically at collaborative composition between a composer and one or more performers. The tool is an open source ‘composer’s notebook’ app called Com-Note, which supports the creation and exchange of multimedia narratives on an Android smart phone. Requirements for the design of Com-Note were derived in a case study of the collaborative composition process, as assisted by a digital storytelling app called Com-Phone developed on another project. This involved the creation and performance of a new work for trumpet and string quartet entitled Albumleaves.

    T Armstrong, S Diamond (2017)The Cathedral on the Marshes

    A community-based piece for chorus and concert band based on the life and work of Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

    T Armstrong (2017)Divertissements

    For piano trio, a substantial revision of the version for electric guitar and harpsichord, premiered by Jane Chapman and Dave Arrowsmith in 2002

    T Armstrong, B Minamore (2012)Do the Right Thing

    An operatic scene for soprano and tenor

    T Armstrong, B Minamore (2017)Do the Right Thing

    An operatic scene for soprano and tenor

    T Armstrong (2017)Into the Garden

    Into the Garden consists of a set of five pieces for period instrument quartet- recorder, violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. Overt reference is made to Baroque compositional formulae and musical genres and the music is strongly tonal/modal as befits the capabilities of period instruments. It would be incorrect, however, to label this piece a pastiche- harmonically, despite the constant presence of a tonal centre, there are dissonances that no baroque composer would have countenanced. The five pieces are entitled: Prelude, Toccatina, Chorale, Canon and Concertino. The piece was written for the celebrated British flautist Martin Feinstein and also taken up with great success by Bridget Cunningham's group, Emerald.

    A joint paper exploring the creative process behind a page from Albumleaves for trumpet and string quartet in light of Collins (2005) synthesis model of compositional creativity. The paper also touched on aspects of the sketching process in electronic music.

    Thomas Armstrong (2018)An experimental turn: A composer's perspective on a changing practice, In: Music and Sonic Art: Practices and Theories Cambridge Scholars Press

    Performance notes: a performance of Damascene Redux involves a large amount of collective improvisation based on a single melodic line. The piece has 12 sections. A performance may begin at any section but must then proceed in rehearsal mark order. Section L can loop back to A and onwards if desired. A performance can comprise between 3 and 12 sections and can be of any duration. The guidelines for improvisation in the piece are as follows: Lead player (shown next to each rehearsal mark): vary and extend the notated material using any techniques available Other players: provide a musical response to the leader- accompanying, counterpointing, harmonising, copying, shadowing, etc. Your response can include silence. Dynamics are free. Each part contains the same material but adjusted to range and appropriately transposed. Damascene Redux received its world premiere by the Delta Saxophone Quartet on 21st March, 2014, PATS Studio 1, University of Surrey

    T Armstrong (2015)The act of musical composition, In: MUSIC EDUCATION RESEARCH17(2)pp. 248-250 ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD
    T Armstrong, J Rai (2017)Moto

    This was the second performance of this composition for harpsichord and fixed media electronics. The piece was collaboratively composed my Tom Armstrong and Jeevan Rai.

    T Armstrong (2017)Moto Perpetuo

    This canon was written for Jane Chapman's Consort 21 class at the Royal College of Music. It was designed to expand performer creativity by leaving the time interval of the canon to experimentation.

    This paper reflects critically on the creation of Albumleaves (2013) for trumpet and string quartet from its conceptual and aesthetic origins through the process of composition to rehearsal. Its aims are to examine certain experimental techniques in Albumleaves and illuminate the piece as a dialogue (Benson, 2003) between composer and performer, one facilitated by the score and evidenced through rehearsal documentation. Albumleaves marks a pronounced turn towards a more experimental approach to composition drawing freely on innovations pioneered by Cage and his circle from the 1950s and embracing the concept of the open work (Eco, 1989). This has resulted in a wide variety of indeterminate notational strategies and a marked turn towards abstraction, avoiding temporal structures articulated via aural ‘signposts’ (Nyman, 1999) and, instead, attempting a freer play of sonic materials. The catalyst for this shift was a desire to move away from the well known hierarchical model of musical creativity, one that tends to split composer and performer roles along creative and re-creative lines (Goehr 1992, Wishart 2002), towards a more collaborative composer-performer relationship. By using a less determinate notation the intention was to widen, and investigate, the gap between score and performance, concurrently broadening the notion of interpretation and, consequently, the area over which performers can exercise creativity. This includes form, textural density, and figurative detail, in addition to traditional areas such as tempo, articulation and dynamic shading. Having identified and illustrated points of contact with the experimental tradition the paper will then examine their limits. The analysis of audio-visual rehearsal documentation will interrogate the efficacy of terms such as ‘collaboration’, ‘dialogue’, ‘creativity’, ‘freedom’ and so on to describe how the score functions with respect to interpretation and the experimentalism of Albumleaves will be contextualised with respect to recent manifestations of the tradition, for example the music of the Wandelweise collective.

    Arachne is a devised theatre piece involving voices, harpsichord and electronics. The piece is, as yet, incomplete and exists in one iteration. Although musical material related to this project has been extant since 2011, the theatrical development springs from three days of work at the Barbican in February this year. The nature and scope of the project has also evolved: the piece was originally conceived for voices alone (in a theatrical setting) and as a fairly close parallel to Ovid’s story of the transformation of the weaver, Arachne, from human to spider at the hand of Athena, goddess of crafts. In tandem with the proliferation of the resources, the content has proliferated into a number of threads that loosely weave around the myth: harpsichord as Athena; from craft and making to production line labour (the sweatshop?); competition; rebellion (of the individual against the collective); weaving itself as determining how elements of the structure relate; the relationship between human and non-human. Two interrelated points of investigation have motivated the work thus far: collaboration and the role of the score. Arachne is not a ‘pure’ devised work; work in the studio has usually begun with the interpretation of notated pages each of which articulates a pre-written text. However, as the composer of these pages, I have always sought to build in a degree of openness both in the notation itself and in how it may be interpreted. My aim is to instigate a ‘playful‘ approach that allows the performers to contribute as co-authors and to make decisions that may affect the identity of the pre-existing material in substantive ways, taking it in directions unforeseen by me and opening up new meanings and contexts in the process. Claire MacDonald, writing in relation to contemporary dramaturgy, describes such an attitude towards a text (score in my case) as exploratory, a refusal to “proceed from text as a known set of procedures” (MacDonald, 2010). The ideal collaborative model for Arachne is distributed creativity in which all participants have equal responsibility in the creation of the final product (Sawyer and De Zutter, 2009). There are constraints in operation in the piece, the aforementioned scores, the text, but these are open to scrutiny and debate by the entire team and have already been significantly modified as a result. Conceptually and dramaturgically work has proceeded largely collectively; consequently Arachne has evolved, and continues to evolve, in a productively tensile relationship with its original concept. The research I have undertaken by means of Arachne has, so far, involved critical reflection on my own practice as a composer, a process of defamiliarisation achieved by drawing on an experimental tradition that, hitherto (i.e. for the last fifteen years), has had little connection with technical procedures or aesthetic qualities in my music. As the project unfolds, though, new areas for research emerge; two of the most interesting of these are approaches to text setting (both Melanie and Rebecca have developed a subtly distinct practice in this regard which Arachne only intermittently draws on so far) and the challenge of convincingly combining instruments with live electronics, particularly in collaboration between composers working in separate mediums.

    This practice-led paper will examine two aspects of the creative process in composition. Firstly, the problem-solving aspect [Craft 2000] in which creativity is a process of forming rather than a search for novelty. The paper will explain some of the key decisions made during the composition of Morning Music (heard in the Saturday evening concert) as the composer negotiated the choices available within the pre-compositional material of the piece. Morning Music marks a nascent attempt by the composer to interrogate assumptions that underpin mainstream Western art music practice, prevalent amongst which is a well known hierarchical model of musical creativity that splits composer and performer roles into, essentially, creative and re-creative [Goehr 1992, Wishart 2002]. Through adjustments to notational practice Morning Music begins to try to redress this split by raising the performer’s consciousness of their interpretative decisions, ‘waking them up’ as Cardew would put it. [Cardew 1961] The second aspect of creativity to be discussed, therefore, is a collective rather than an individual one [Burnard 2012, Hargreaves et al. 2012]. The discussion is widened to include examples of my work from 2009 to the present day illustrating ways in which my notational practice has changed to harness the performer’s interpretative agency and to try to foster a more equal and collaborative composer/performer relationship through the medium of the score. Notation will be considered here, not as a passive ‘recording’ medium, but as an important engine of the creative process for composers and performers.

    T Armstrong, D Frohlich, J Calic (2013)Com-Note the Composer's Notebook

    The composition of music is a complex, creative and collaborative act. This is currently done with a range of tools including the editing of musical notation, the playing, recording and playback of musical phrases, and their verbal discussion. In this project we will bring these activities together in a single 'composer's notebook' app called Com-Note for a smart phone. This will be based on the trial and extension of an existing multimedia narrative app called Com-Phone, during the creation of a new work for trumpet and string quartet.

    The background to this paper is the collaborative creation of a music theatre work, Arachne. The collaborators’ own backgrounds are diverse, encompassing work in devised theatre, contemporary choral music, baroque performance practice, notated acoustic and laptop-based electronic composition. Initial musical material was sketched in 2011-12 but the bulk of Arachne has been developed using a devising process in which all participants have contributed to the narrative, theatrical, musical and dramaturgical evolution of the work. The diverse mix of participants and their working method are clearly suited to the study of distributed creativity (Sawyer and DeZutter, 2009) but what makes Arachne particularly distinctive is the presence of pre-existing collaborative teams within the main group; these form sub-groups each with a track record of successful collaborations. Arachne is a practice-led research project from which three research questions have emerged: how does such a diverse, interdisciplinary team (two composers, three performers, one director) collaborate in the notoriously difficult and contingent process of devising new music theatre; do participants’ working practices change as a result of such collaboration and, if so, in what ways; are the participants’ differing backgrounds and past collaborations a spur or hindrance to creativity? In addressing these questions the paper will aim to evaluate the success of the collaborative strategies employed, uncover group members’ understandings of their roles and track this particular instance of the creative process peculiar to the act of marrying music and theatre. The paper will be presented by a performer and a composer-researcher from within the project team; its content will draw on audiovisual documentation (rehearsal footage, recordings of discussions between the collaborators, performance excerpts), live performance examples and data from a focus group interview with the participants that was conducted after the first live iteration of Arachne. The paper will trace the evolution of selected elements by examining their successive iterations through the collaborative process, identifying sources of obstruction, generators of momentum and points of failure and success. Key areas of focus include notational strategies, the role of improvisation and the notion of ‘play’. The content will reveal the degree to which compositional, performative and improvisational creativities have been imbricated through the key collaborative dynamics of mutuality and complementarity. (John-Steiner, 2000) The significance of this paper lies in the field under investigation. Arachne is part of a lineage of theatre and music theatre practice that encompasses the work of artists as various as the Wooster Group, Robert Lepage, Heiner Goebbels and Orlando Gough. Two members of the performing team (the singers Melanie Pappenheim and Rebecca Askew) and the director, Emma Bernard, work within this tradition. Whilst this repertoire has received attention in the performance and theatre studies literature, it is underrepresented in musicological writing; given that such work models a very different relationship between composers/writers and performers it is time that its creative practices were brought to the attention of the musical academic community, which is what this paper sets out to do.

    Recent scholarship on musical creativity in its many guises [Clarke et at. 2005; Burnard 2012; Hargreaves et al. 2012] has contributed to a less individual, composer-centred model that acknowledges the social, collective basis of much music-making and the latent collaboration therein. Albumleaves seeks to bring new insights to this knowledge, in particular how musicians respond to a broader notion of interpretation and increased creative responsibility. A secondary insight is to provide a personal reflection on the creative process; it is still more common for composers to write about completed pieces than the process of composition itself. The process of inquiry involves the composition of a new work, Albumleaves, and the documentation of rehearsals. The score contains a significant degree of indeterminacy and the formal structure of the piece is open. Interpretative decisions must be made at many different levels: dynamic choice, textural density, timbral quality, formal continuity and so on. Documentation will be produced using Com-phone, an Android app enabling on-the-fly creation of slideshows. Participants compile their own documentation, sharing it via a dedicated YouTube channel. By showing how radically the musicians experiment with the creative possibilities implied by the notation, the research should reveal the extent to which greater indeterminacy and openness can contribute to a collaborative composer/performer relationship. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of Com-phone as a research tool. Dissemination will be via conference papers (Huddersfield, Kings College London, Goldsmiths) and a recording on Signum Classics; the premiere will take place in October.

    This paper reflects critically on changes to the author’s notational practice brought about by dialogue with performers, in particular the pianist Emilie Capulet and the harpsichordist Jane Chapman. Notation in several compositions is examined from the perspective of both composer and performer supported by rehearsal recordings and extracts from the author’s journal. The changes identified embrace aspects of indeterminacy and show how ‘traditional’ and experimental compositional practices may combine fruitfully, acknowledging the permeability inherent in all Western notation [Butt 2002] and harnessing it creatively. The above research is discussed in light of work on creativity in composition, notation and performance, for example [Burnard 2012; Frisk and Östersjö 2006] and the term ‘dialogue’ is opened out to encompass the expanded sense of self characteristic of collaborative creativity [John-Steiner 2000; Sawyer 2007]. Viewed in these theoretical contexts the notational practices described may be seen as the author’s attempt to address the composer/performer split that still characterises much contemporary musical practice [Wishart 2002].

    T Armstrong (2003)Damascene Portrait

    First performance at the National Portrait Gallery, London by the Trillium brass quartet. Numerous performances at music societies all over the UK. June 2003.

    THOMAS ARMSTRONG, (2020)Collaboration and the Practitioner-Research: a Composer's Perspective, In: Artistic Research in Performance through Collaborationpp. 139-164 Springer International Publishing

    This volume explores the issue of collaboration which is an issue at the centre of Performance Arts Research. It is explored here through the different practices of in music, dance, drama, fine art, installation art, digital media or other performance arts. Collaborative processes are seen to develop as it occurs between academic researchers in the creative arts and professional practitioners in commercial organisations in the creative arts industries (and beyond), or as it focuses attention and understanding on the tacit/implicit dimensions of working across different media.

    THOMAS ARMSTRONG, (2020)Collaboration and the Practitioner-Researcher: A Composer’s Perspective, In: Artistic Research in Performance through Collaborationpp. 139-164 Palgrave Macmillan

    This chapter examines my collaboration with trumpeter Simon Desbruslais on a new piece for trumpet and string quartet situated within the worlds of artistic practice and academic research. The methodology used is a broadly qualitative one with a range of data from rehearsal recordings to retrospective accounts underpinning an interpretation of why the collaboration unfolded as it did. My interpretation revolves around the theme of tension existing in the artistic domain (between determinacy and indeterminacy) and between the artistic and academic research domains in attitudes to research questions and methods. I show how the collaboration was affected by such tensions and the differing degrees to which it was able to resolve them. I conclude with a discussion of the need for productive tension and the role of collaboration in maintaining the integrity of the practitioner-researcher role and realising its potential in both areas.

    In this paper I discuss two collections of pieces that illustrate my commitment to practices of re-working. These pieces join a well established tradition of such practices in composition ranging across art and popular musics (from Kurtag to Dylan) and across artistic disciplines (for example the ‘rep and rev’ techniques of playwright Suzan Lori Parks, the choreographic recreations of William Forsythe and the cinematic re-make). The two collections I propose to discuss (originating in the pieces Divertissements and Dance Maze) are united by their relatively distant historical origins (roughly 18 and 27 years ago) but differentiated by method - whilst the re-working of Divertissements was relatively ‘self-contained’, the latest version of Dance Maze was re-worked by establishing a relationship with music by another composer (Tom Johnson in this case). My paper will focus less on the how and more on the why of re-working. I will posit re-working as a fruitful creative strategy, perhaps particularly amendable to the chart/matrix-based procedures of post-serial composition as musicology on Boulez (Salem 2014) and Maxwell Davies (McGregor 2010) attests. I will also discuss re-working as a means to buttress the sense of self in relation to the world around us and the waxing and waning of confidence, taking my cue from choreographer Jonathan Burrows’ (2015) claim that any repetition of our own history is an attempt to make sense of the past at the same time as stabilising the future - an ultimately unattainable goal. My method may be described as ‘automusicological’; through the careful scrutiny of my compositional documentation I aim to contribute a convincing case study of a composer’s engagement with their own past.

    For the last decade I have been endeavouring to compose into my pieces a less hierarchical composer/performer relationship. This originated through interaction with a particular performer and was bolstered through acquaintance with the work of CMPCP, for example Leech-Wilkinson’s (2012) exhortation to acknowledge performers’ agency in the distribution of meaning making along the composer-performer-listener/analyst chain. This has involved embracing collaboration in both rehearsal and performance which in turn has involved a questioning of authorship in my music - where it begins and ends. Such considerations have wrought changes in both aesthetic and technique, most particularly through my adoption of indeterminacy in relation to both notation and form. Following Gresser (2010), I view indeterminacy as a means of broadening the range of interpretative possibilities for the performer and engaging them as a co-creator.

    (2020)One into Three: Context, Method and Motivation in Revising and Reworking Dance Maze for Solo Piano, In: Journal of the Royal Musical Association Cambridge University Press

    My aims in this paper are twofold. My central concern is to present an autoethnographic insight into my roughly decade-long transition from practitioner to practitioner-researcher within the context of my employment in a research intensive UK University. I also intend to provide a glimpse of one way in which composition may be harnessed for autoethnographic study. My academic training (DPhil in Composition 1990-4) and career (2001 - date) span a period in which the status of composition as research (at least in the UK) has changed markedly from a position of equivalence to one in which composers are expected to engage in a more overt research process by establishing lines of inquiry designed to arrive at new insights (Nelson 2013). I will establish a career timeline on which to hinge my account, drawing out epiphanies (Ellis, Adams and Bochner 2011) and other key moments in coming to terms with this research model. These will include some brief examples from my work on revision as a compositional tool, a project that has unfolded across the period under discussion. I will suggest that revision may function as a musical mode of autoethnography, particularly when it involves the radical re-working of material from much earlier in a composer’s career. In the process of presenting this account I will briefly mention methods I have used to track my compositional practice over a lengthy period of time and the changes that have been wrought on it as a result of the documentary imperative. My main conclusion will be to show how the culture of academic research in the UK can both impede and impel artistic practice. I will also show how my embrace of revision has been part of a move away from a particular compositional production model still noticeable in mainstream classical music.

    T Armstrong, J Jackson, N Jenkyn-Jones, Deveril (2003)Spin

    A collaborative work with composer Tom Armstrong, choreographers Jennifer Jackson and Noni Jenkyn-Jones, and video artist Deveril. Funded by The Arts Council of England and first performed at the Guildford Interational Musci Festival. Collaborative project involving Indian and western musicians and dancers.

    T Armstrong (2004)Bounce

    First performance at Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk by the Wymondham Youth Orchestra and the Pulham Village Orchestra. Repeated at the University of Herforshire, Hatfield. Part of "Breakout", a residency created and funded by Making Music.July 2004

    T Armstrong (2005)An Opening Line

    First performance at the National Portait Gallery, London by the Trillium brass quartet. Commissioned by Trillium with funds provided by the Britten-Pears Foundation. April 2005

    T Armstrong (2004)Film Music and the Sublime
    T Armstrong (2005)Four Instances

    First performance by Gemini as part of University of Surrey concerts series, PATS studio 1. February 2005

    T Armstrong (2005)Subterrania

    First performance by the New Music Players as part of Bromsgove's Mixing Music series. Repeated by Black Hair at the York Late Music Festival. March 2005. Subsequently performed by the Dr K Sextet at the Forge, London (2012) and recorded by them in September of that year.

    Consort Music is a set of six pieces assembled between 2015 and 2017. Each piece is a re-working of a movement from Into the Garden, a quartet for period instruments written for the Martin Feinstein Ensemble in 2009. These re-workings involve simplification of the original pieces by the removal of subsidiary parts and a concentration on the presentation of a single musical idea. The most radical re-working is of the third movement in which the orignal texture is dismembered to form two separate pieces - the recorder and violin canon becomes Moto Perpetuo whilst the viola da gamba line forms the material of Monody. The finale, Concertino, is closest to the original, retaining its recognisable tutti/solo contrasts. The pared down materials of Consort Music form the basis for various types of controlled improvisation; in Prelude, for example, performers assemble their own patterns by omitting notes from the written arpeggios whilst in Chorale (which can be played simultaneously with Moto Perpetuo) they choose their own independent tempi, using the pauses that end each phrase as gathering points. Consort Music exists in various versions - an open scored format for four or more players (the form in which the piece was originally requested by Jane Chapman for her Consort 21 class at the Royal College of Music) and two piano trios with flute and viola, oboe and vibraphone respectively. The titles of the six pieces are: Prelude, Toccatina, Chorale, Moto Perpetuo (which can be performed simultaneously with Chorale), Monody and Concertino.

    Tom Armstrong (2018)Re-voicing Rameau: Borrowing practices in Tom Armstrong’ JPR, In: Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900

    JPR is created entirely from a collage of borrowed materials; all the pitches are Rameau’s and occur in exactly the same metrical positions and within the same formal designs as in the source pieces. Whilst the kind of dialogic double voicing often attributed to the use of borrowed materials occurs in JPR (Ap Siôn, 2014) the author’s intervention starts and remains within Rameau’s material (via an informal filtering process) so the kind of authorial juxtapositions often found in musical borrowing are absent. In a similar way to Kagel’s ‘compass rose’ pieces (Heile, 2004) authorship here resides mainly in the combination of pre-existing elements; in JPR movements from different suites are superimposed according to loosely coordinated time structures, but the pre-existing elements are latent in Rameau’s originals without the synthetic quality of Kagel's. The paper will attempt to locate JPR in the lineage of musical borrowing practices and expose its unique features. The performance will uncover connections between the source material and Armstrong’s work allowing the audience members to make informed contributions to the discussion. The performers’ contributions will provide the missing link in the production-reception chain and help to open up the discussion, for example their memories (mental and embodied) of the originals inform their experience of JPR significantly.

    T Armstrong, S Diamond (2011)The Cathedral on the Marshes

    This output is a portfolio comprising a score and recording of the community choral work, The Cathedral on the Marshes, together with documentation (in various media) relating to various aspects of the creative process including revisions made to the version used for the first two performances. The research investigates the degree of personal stylistic authenticity possible when creating a musical work entirely for community performance and reception; how a sense of ownership of the piece by the performers may be achieved and the nature of a close creative collaboration (with partners working simultaneously in close proximity). The key elements of the process of inquiry have comprised meetings and working sessions with the librettist, workshops with members of the choir (the materials from which were incorporated into the piece), the composition of an initial version of the work followed by its revision and focus groups with the musicians at the conclusion of the process. All sessions involving two or more participants have been recorded. The insights gained from the research reveal the degree of revision necessary to retain some stylistic authenticity whilst accommodating playing standards, repertoire knowledge, experience and understanding as well as the social function of amateur community ensembles. Close collaboration revealed the typical focus on process rather than aesthetic product and the need to prolong this stage of the process; once composer and librettist broke regular contact and ‘reverted to type’ the aesthetic product moved centre-stage- possibly causing the problematic proliferation of text in the first movement. The final insight concerns the levels of advocacy and leadership necessary for collaboration between composer and performers to occur and hence a stronger sense of performer ownership; the types of conflict Haydn and Windsor describe between the “written quality of compositions and the processes involved in bringing out… [their] sounding quality…” were clearly in evidence. [Haydn and Windsor 2007: 31] This commission was funded by the following organisations: The RVW Trust, the Britten Pears Foundation, PRSF for Music, Arts Council England and the London Borough of Bexley.

    The genre of trumpet and string quartet is in its early stages. While the combination is opportunistic, given the extensive availability of trumpet and string quartets, it nonetheless presents a difficult acoustic environment. This practice-led paper presents a particular compositional response to these challenges, which has given rise to a variety of indeterminate notations and, in turn, considerable formal flexibility. As well as being guided by the acoustic peculiarities of trumpet with string quartet, the notational strategy adopted is part of an ongoing attempt by the composer to explore a more collaborative composer-performer relationship. By using a less determinate notation the intention is to widen, and investigate, the gap between score and performance, concurrently broadening the notion of interpretation and, consequently, the area over which performers can exercise creativity. This includes form, textural density, and figurative detail, in addition to traditional areas such as tempo, articulation and dynamic shading. The reified ‘work’ has now given way to the more contingent ‘piece’, a co-created space inhabited and transformed by the performers. [Benson 2003] The notations used in Albumleaves draw freely on innovations pioneered by Cage and his circle from the 1950s. While the performers involved in this paper play a considerable amount of new music, the lack of notational specificity and the formal openness of this particular work represent new challenges. Albumleaves is therefore a means of conducting research into how performers respond to the increased indeterminacy, hence increased responsibility, engendered by such an approach. The research has been documented via the Com-phone application developed by the University of Surrey’s Digital World Research Centre, which allows ‘on-the-fly’ creation of image-based narratives. The results of this research inform the development of the composer’s notation, suggesting ways in which it can appeal to non-specialist performers amenable to more collaborative working methods.

    As a non-performing composer who writes primarily for acoustic instruments and voices I use staff notation as the principle means of forming my musical ideas and presenting them to musicians. Much of my work, therefore, conforms to a model of compositional practice that tends to place composition and performance in a hierarchical relationship leading to a dichotomy that is at best unusual (within the long tradition of Western classical music) and at worst damaging to the acceptance of new music by both performers and audiences. Since 2009 I have been gradually adopting the less determinate notational practices found in experimental music in order to move towards a practice that places greater value on dialogue and collaboration between composer and performer(s). This change in my practice and conceptualisation of composition has raised many oft-posed music philosophical questions: the nature of, and the relationship between, composition and performance; the identity of a musical work; the creative function of notation; the point at which a work is complete. This paper does not aim to be comprehensive but, rather, to offer glimpses of an individual’s practice-led responses to such basic questions; in so-doing it underscores their importance in the continuous process of renewal that should characterise any tradition of music-making.

    T Armstrong (2007)Catching the Sun

    A one-act, one woman show. Duration 40 minutes.

    T Armstrong (2010)Out of the Sun

    Suite for guitar based on the one-woman show Catching the Sun

    Tom Armstrong’s Diversions 3 (2015) is the latest stage in a process of revision dating back to 2009 when Divertissements (2002), scored for electric guitar and harpsichord, was revised for piano trio. Each piece has been documented with increasing care and yet the connections between the medium of the electric guitar and the musical ideas and materials remain obscure. This lacuna matters because the decision to turn an electric guitar and harpsichord piece into a piano trio was, in part, motivated by a sense that the latter was better suited to the musical content of Divertissements. In returning to the original instrumentation at Sergio Sorrentino’s request Tom has had to address the problem of the electric guitar’s relation to the music of Divertissements but, once more, the existing documentation proves inadequate to understand this, concentrating on the performer but not their instrument. Tom Armstrong and Sergio Sorrentino will bring their perspectives as composer and performer to bear on the story of Diversions 3, showing how the medium of the electric guitar threads its way through the genesis of the piece. Tom will reconstruct the process of revision that led away from and back to the electric guitar using extracts from his journals and memory data, whilst Sergio will demonstrate how he has responded to the openness of notation in Diversions 3 through the medium of his instrument. In doing so they will show how both perspectives are essential for a full understanding of the products of the compositional process.

    T Armstrong (2007)Opened Spaces

    Two songs for baritone and piano to texts by Jim Morris. Subsequently recorded by Paul Carey Jones and Ian Ryan.

    T Armstrong (2009)Dancing in the Moonlight

    These two pieces are aimed at a wider audience, one not necessarily well versed in the language of contemporary music. I adopt here a tonal language that draws overtly on pre-existing styles- Turkish folk/popular music and jazz. The first piece is based around a rhythmic pattern, the Aqsaaq, commonly found in much Middle Eastern folk music and marries this with unambiguously Turkish melodic material. The second piece, a homage to the late South African jazz pianist Bheki Mseleku, uses a pre-existing jazz 'head' as a template from which new melodic material is formed. Both pieces bring to bare processes of construction found in my more specialised music but applied here to more vernacular material.

    T Armstrong (2008)Capriccio

    This solo piano piece is a short but significant work in my output because it marks the beginning of my interest in the relationship between composers and performers. To be more accurate this interest arose about a year after I completed the piece during a conversation with the work's dedicatee, Emilie Capoulet. Many of the works I have composed subsequently, such as Morning Music, Albumleaves and Arachne, have attempted to redress what, in my work, was an overly hierarchical relationship between me and the performer(s). There are many strategies one might adopt to remedy this but the one I have pursued has involved leaving considerable amounts of information out of the notation in order to try to make it more open. This has led me increasingly down a more indeterminate path embracing experimentalism and has resulted in a fairly radical change in my aesthetic.

    T Armstrong (2008)Akin

    Akin is an ‘imitation’ of the track Fracture from the 1974 album Starless and Bible Black by King Crimson. The track is a long instrumental with an unusual (for rock music at least) opening derived from whole tone harmony; the group build an irresistible momentum as the music progresses, managing to combine harmonic and timbral innovation with a sense of abandon that only a genuine rock group can produce. My version of the piece compresses the duration to seven minutes whilst maintaining the exact proportions of the original. Moreover the musical character of each section mirrors the original track. The only place where the King Crimson ‘template’ is ignored is the ending in which the violin breaks into a frenzied cadenza that spins out of control. Akin was composed in 2008 for Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea who gave the first performance at the National Portrait Gallery, London.