Q&A: Emily Howard On City Life Concert

Posted on March 13, 2013

Ahead of the world premiere of Emily Howard’s new piece, Carillon, on 23rd March, Emily took time out to tell us more about how she came to use the Town Hall bells in the piece:

Emily Howard (credit Sam Fairbrother)

I understand this is your first venture into electronics. What was the attraction and why this project?

For a while I have been using ideas derived from electronics to shape acoustic music, and with this project, it felt very natural to extend this method of working to involve electronics within the musical outcome, particularly as a way of incorporating the sounds of the Manchester Town Hall Bells.

How early on was the idea to use recordings of the Town Hall bells?

Right from the beginning! It is what attracted me to the project in the first place. One of the first things I did was attend a bell-ringing session at Manchester Town Hall and I owe thanks to Jeff Brannan and Andrew Mayes for organising this. Experiencing the bell-ringing live and up close was hugely influential for the piece.

Can you explain a bit more about the title, Carillon?

The title Carillon connects with my ongoing interest in machinery and computation. The piece can be thought of as a giant autonomous chiming system in which the acoustic ensemble and the electronics follow similar instructions but in very different ways, making it a game between humans and machines.

What has it been like to work with Sam and Janek?

I have learnt so much from both Sam and Janek – their thoughts have strongly influenced Carillon. It has been exciting to have the opportunity to work so closely with other composers (usually we are solitary creatures!) and especially such expert composers working in very different ways. I hope that people might explore their work further. Sam Salem works in the field of acousmatic composition and there are many examples of his work available on his website www.osamahsalem.co.uk and more information about sound artist and composer Janek Schaefer can be found on his website www.audioh.com.

What’s next for you and do you think more electronics will follow?

Currently I’m working on a new (acoustic!) orchestral piece for the BBC Philharmonic. I’m keen to experience the WP of Carillon first before I answer any questions about more electronics. Really looking forward to it!