Patrick Ellis


Interview with Maryana Golovchenko of Gaudeamus

Gaudeamus / Maryana Golovchenko

"Patrick Ellis - he’s a composer from the United Kingdom, I would say he’s created his own kind of minimalism using electronics and instruments combined. I think the jurors admired his very refined sound world. The selected piece is called, ‘Objects and Portrait Projections'" Joanna Bailie, 2023 in the Gaudeamus Award 2024 nominees, as introduced by the jury video.

Joanna Bailie

De Link Tilburg Artist Residency Interview with Patrick Ellis & the Tantrum Saxophone Quartet

De Link Tilburg

Interview from De Link Tilburg with Dauphine Van der Velpen of the Tantrum Saxophone Quartet and Merijn Bisschops about the 2022 De Link & Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Tilburg.

María Dominguez – Chris Cerrone, Steve Reich & Pierre Jodlowski / Tantrum Saxophone Quartet – Patrick Ellis (Concert Review)

(Translated from Dutch, read original here)

De Link, Tilburg, May 3, 2022

Together with the Academy of Music and Performing Art (AMPA) in Tilburg, De Link also organizes residencies for composers and performing musicians. Last year the English composer Patrick Ellis was supposed to be a guest, but of course that never happened. Yesterday, however, the world premiere of his 'Fractured Motion' by the Tantrum Saxophone Quartet took place . Before the intermission, pianist María Dominguez gave a recital with three pieces by composers whose style matched Ellis very well: Christopher Cerrone , Steve Reich and Pierre Jodlowski .

What does an almost deserted subway station sound like in the middle of the night? According to Cerrone, this produces hushed, fanning out notes. We hear that in 'Hoyt-Schermerhorn', also the name of a subway station in Brooklyn, New York. Then a weak melody unfolds that invites you to melancholy musings. Until the train arrives, the high note that is constantly struck and electronically amplified, makes that clear. Now go inside. We know Reich, Dominguez plays 'Piano Counterpoint', an arrangement of 'Six Pianos'. Four parts are played through the loudspeakers, two are played live. Always funny to hear an entire ensemble while you only see one musician. We get carried away by Reich's hallucinatory patterns. And how strongly percussive that music sounds, even though we are talking about purely pianos here. Jodlowski also works for 'Série blanche' with a pre-recorded part, a very even, very rhythmic one. The live part initially joins in very modestly, later on it becomes more and more powerful and dominant. But the most special thing is that those two parties are increasingly chafing with each other, getting in each other's way.

Ellis wrote his piece in close consultation with the musicians of the Tantrum Saxophone Quartet, something we see more and more often among contemporary composers. It led to a particularly ingenious and compelling piece. It all seems very simple what Ellis does, but appearances can be deceiving here too. The musicians sit in cross shape and we are in four blocks behind it. And behind that are four screens on which video images are projected, black and white images where it is not always entirely clear what they are about. Beautiful images, evoking nostalgia, but in all honesty I do not fully see the added value. The music consists of two tracks. The first sounds fairly constant and consists of electronics and digitally recorded percussion, it most resembles a constantly running machine. The second track comes from the four saxophonists and has some of the surf. The sounds come and go and each wave sounds rhythmic, except at the end, when we hear the abstraction. That goes on for minutes and could have gone on for much longer. You're just not getting into a trance. In the last phrase the dynamics change, the music here I rather associate with clouds moving past, a phrase that is again far too short.

Patrick Ellis' Holistic Approach

Max Majorana / De Link

Read Interview on De Link's Website (Translated from Dutch)

Because travel was hardly possible last year, Patrick Ellis' residency was postponed by a year. The young English composer, who has caused a furore in Birmingham and The Hague with well-considered pieces, has not been idle in the meantime – and is now reaping the benefits. Max Majorana spoke to him earlier this month about his plans in the Cenacle. 'The question of how a listener experiences a piece of music physically is more interesting to me than ever.'

Max Majorana: Hey Patrick, thanks for taking the time. I'd like to learn a bit more about your upcoming residency at De Link, but would like to start this section, as usual, by asking if you can introduce yourself through an early musical memory.

Patrick Ellis: I remember my younger brother and I used to have a tape recorder, red and gray, and one tape that we played countless times. There was all kinds of stuff from the 80s on it, Madonna and UB40 anyway.

MM: Did you only listen to that at home?

PE: Yes, actually we do, although we sometimes dragged the thing around the house to make the most of its portability. Very luxurious.

MM: That luxurious feeling seems to have diminished now that technology advances means that almost everything fits in your pocket. I can even look at you right now as we are hundreds of miles apart. Because you've moved back to Oxford, haven't you?

PE: Near Oxford, indeed. I actually live again near the region where I was born, the county of Surrey. As a little boy I also spent two years in Singapore and went to study at the conservatory in Birmingham. In Birmingham I eventually took the path to the Netherlands.

MM: How come?

PE: Many of my teachers in England studied in The Hague twenty years ago, so the conversation often turned to what was going on in Dutch music. I became more and more curious about that and as far as I know there are warm ties between the two institutions to this day. In particular, Maya Verlaak and Luke Deane inspired me to cross the Channel and engage in cultural exchange.

MM: How long have you actually lived in The Hague?

PE: From the summer of 2017 to mid-2019 I have been back there since, but the last time was for a rehearsal that would no longer be followed; by the time the concert was to take place, the first lockdown had begun.

MM: The Rewire festival recently took place there again.

PE: There was no sign of that so characteristic panic from March 2020. I saw Meredith Monk perform there, but unfortunately I've never been to Rewire myself. What I do like about the Netherlands is that the music culture shows such great diversity and is spread over different places. In England it is different; not that all festivals and concert series take place in London, but when it comes down to it: most of them do.

MM: Well, that's relative, of course. In the time it takes you to travel from the north to the south of London, you have already arrived in Tilburg by train from The Hague. Do you actually have a connection with the city in which De Link is located?

PE: Well, not really yet, although at the beginning of 2019 the piece Unfolding Chamber Piece of mine was performed by Kluster5. I now hope to change that quickly by coming to work in the city for at least a week soon. I then stay with the friendly people of SEA Foundation and work in the Cenakel during the day. In the meantime I also got to know Nicoline (Soeter, former artistic director De Link, MM) and Remy (Alexander, artist-in-residence 2020, MM) a bit better.

MM: Your residency at De Link was supposed to take place in 2021, but was forced to postpone. What is the most important insight you have gained as a composer during the pandemic?

PE: I soon realised that live music would only be played online for the time being. As a counterbalance, I started thinking more thoroughly about how to optimise the live experience for both players and spectators. The performative aspect has become much more important to me than before. Incidentally, I also believe that sitting still and reflecting on the pandemic has made me more productive as a composer.

MM: Your work has become multidisciplinary?

PE: Yes something like that. There is a little more dramaturgy involved. When I was back in a hall after a long, concert-less period, I noticed that I was hyper-alert to everything that happened on stage, but also around me. For me personally, it therefore felt like the right time to start integrating projections into the performances of my work, and experimenting with alternative arrangements. I first did that when I was working on 'Objects & Portrait Projections', a piece for the Dutch ensemble XTRO, for three percussionists. It's like a new dimension was unlocked for me. I also want to achieve that with the public. The question of how a listener physically experiences a piece of music is now more interesting to me than before.

MM: And that also involves the necessary dramaturgy. In that sense, your residency at De Link comes at the right time. You will soon receive the keys to the Cenacle to take in the space for a week. Certainly, my working method was not that well developed last year; I suppose I would have gotten less out of it then.


MM: Do you actually have a favourite musical line-up for which you write? Your latest work will be performed by the saxophone quartet Tantrum.

PE: Percussion, saxophone, or large orchestras; that doesn't really matter to me. When the preparatory collaboration with musicians is pleasant, it pushes the end result to greater heights.

MM: For example, what was the attraction for you to write a piece for found objects, such as plastic bottles?

PE: That is just such an example of mutual influence. Personally, from a conceptual point of view, I find it very exciting to release musical parameters on objects that are outside such a context, in order to give them a new purpose. And then the guys from XTRO came up with those empty PET bottles and the lighting plan. Quite photogenic too, if I may say so.

MM: I've seen another video of yours, Around the Clocks, a kind of marathon piece performed in the open air of Dublin as part of the Biosphere Festival. That had nothing to do with the ambient producer under the same alias, but all the more with climate change. Would you actually label yourself as a politically engaged artist?

PE: I could certainly do that, but isn't every artist? In a sense, Louis Andriessen also made political choices by writing for a certain occupation. I am careful not to burden my audience with explicit political opinions. I don't believe that's an artist's job – although there is no doubt always some of my personal conviction seeping into my work.

MM: May I compliment you on your politically correct answer?

PE: Haha! Well, of course climate change as a theme is a hot political issue, but that's not something I came up with myself. I would say that precisely when it comes to something as ubiquitous and complex as climate change, the question should not so much be what your point of view as an artist or spectator is, but whether it can still be influenced at all.

MM: For the residency you work together with the Tantrum Saxophone Quartet, which was founded in Tilburg. Have you composed for reed players before?

PE: Yes, but that was a while ago, about seven years ago, when I was still a student. I have written for ensembles that also include saxophonists, such as Orkest de Ereprijs and Kluster5. When Merijn (artistic director De Link, MM) proposed to link me to Tantrum, I thought it would be nice to give it another try. On the one hand I like to write for various line-ups, but a quartet with similar instruments is quite a challenge in a different way.

MM: Is the piece finished yet? Are you just going to see how you can add it to the specific location of the Cenacle?

PE: I usually don't start from an overarching idea, but gradually combine several perspectives while trying out. So no, the piece is definitely not finished yet, it won't get its solid form and structure until May 3rd.

MM: Because that has to do with the image material to be used, the acoustics of the room, et cetera?

PE: Indeed, for me the aesthetics of the video screens and the texture of the quartet are also important factors. Now that I work in a way that is no longer purely musical, I try to make it really holistic. I've studied De Link's YouTube channel in preparation and I've also talked about it a bit with Remy, but it's still an adventure to get everything right.

MM: A little sneak peek of the veil, because I've already had a look at the technical rider: the sound speakers will soon be in the middle of the room, the projections will be set up behind the four musicians, and the working title is Fractured Motion. But what kind of footage are you going to use?

PE: Provided: everything can still change. But the idea now is to use forgotten, royalty-free images that I've dug up online in old archives. All black and white, many overlaps, a nice representation of the mundane life of the 50s and 60s of the last century, at least in my opinion. Ultimately, I leave the narrative to the individual spectator.

MM: Is composing soundtracks for film an ambition of yours? Your fellow townsman Jonny Greenwood has grown up with it in recent years, and I also hear some cinematic qualities in your music.

PE: Currently I prefer to write music for concert performances. But never say never; If the right filmmaker approaches me at the right time, I'll certainly consider it. For now, however, I prefer to keep the reins in my own hands. Or it should be the other way around; I first deliver music, after which a film-maker gets to work with it. That would be a fun experiment.In any case, I wish you the best of luck during your week at the Cenacle and look forward to the performance.

MM: What is the first thing you will do after you set foot on the Dutch shore?

PE: You may not believe it, but I really like the Earl Grey from Albert Heijn much better than what I can get in my homeland. I will definitely take some back with me afterwards.

Laura Sinnerton - Inner Voices Review

The Wire - Issue 451, September 2021

Laura Sinnerton - Inner Voices Review

The viola is conventionally an instrument that thrives in company and doesn’t crave the limelight. But, faced with current social restraints, lrish musician Sinnerton responded by inviting six composers to write solos for her instrument. Here she performs those commissions, rising to the assorted technical and interpretive challenges they pose. Sinnerton’s resourcefulness and clarity of articulation shine through, whether multitracked on Jimena Maldonado’s Where There Was Wood Is Now Water, flexing to catch the graceful choreography of Carlijn Metselaar’s Lift, or accompanying her own spoken delivery of Emily Abdy’s monologue Ruminant. With further pieces contributed by Sarah Lianne Lewis, Anselm McDonnell and Patrick Ellis, this is a welcome gathering of emergent compositional voices, as well as a showcase for a reticent solo instrument.

From The Wire - Issue 451, September 2021

Interview between Laura Sinnerton and Birmingham Record Company on 'Inner Voices'


Read the interview in full:

BRC: Thinking of the album as a listener yourself, what stands out for you in the pieces you recorded?

LS: So many things! With Patrick [Combinations, Phrases, track 9] it was his courage to just take these simple cells and just let them be. It’s so sparse but yet there’s this undercurrent of movement, and I think that’s really brave especially for a younger composer. There can often be the temptation to throw the kitchen sink at something, but Patrick is just like ‘no, I’m not going to do that’, and it’s wonderful. His piece is quite hypnotic...


BRC: Is there anything that you experienced in the music of these composers that perhaps you haven’t encountered before in the work of more established names in the field?

LS: With Sarah in particular there’s this idea of metamorphosis. Her piece Weathering [track 7] is about an object that you find on the shore that has been one thing in the past but that’s been weathered away into something else. I wonder if this idea of change is a preoccupation in the younger generation in society in general, this idea of us living through a period of flux. This is also something that comes across in Patrick’s Combinations, Phrases [track 9] too, because although the building blocks of it look quite simple there’s a slow progression and development over time with it.

Prxludes - Patrick Ellis

Prxludes / Zygmund De Somogyi

Read Interview in full with links and media here:

Patrick Ellis (b. 1994, London) is a composer currently based in the UK. His works have been performed across the UK and continental Europe, as well as Malaysia, Australia, and the USA. Patrick studied at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Royal Conservatoire of The Hague; his work has won the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Composition Prize and the Philip Bates Trust Audience Prize, and his pieces have been performed by ensembles such as Orkest de Ereprijs, the New European Ensemble, and the Residentie Orkest. Patrick also writes shoegaze and dream pop-inspired guitar music under the alias Vallé. Patrick spoke to PRXLUDES about his background and education in the UK and The Netherlands, his compositional process, and his records as Vallé.

Zyggy/PRXLUDES: Hi Patrick! Tell me a bit about your background; how did you first get involved with composing?

Patrick Ellis: I started learning the trumpet at the age of 9, and then a bit later was playing in the secondary school jazz and wind bands. Being surrounded by an encouraging department and likeminded peers, I began considering venturing into music more seriously in some capacity in my early teens.

My first real involvement in composition began when I was around 15 years old. At the time, I had recently bought myself a Yamaha keyboard, and was beginning my studies for Grade 5 Theory and GCSE Music. As part of the latter, you had to write two compositions as part of the curriculum anyway. When we were at the stage of making some “practice” compositions, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and was encouraged further by positive feedback from my teacher, as well as peers in and outside of the music class.

At school, there was a choice between two softwares: Sibelius or Cubase. I preferred the latter at the time, as my method for writing involved drawing in the pitches on the piano roll and then adjusting the length of each of them to determine their note value – it was a very digital way of doing things.

Was there anything particular that made you want to pursue composition?

When I finished secondary school and began my A-level studies at Alton College, I realised that my practice routine and abilities as a performing musician were not to the same level as some of my peers. In turn, I began to prefer writing my own music much more, over performing works be other people.

The music department at Alton College was really good, and the two teachers — Martin Read and Pande Shahov — were also composers. There had been generally a strong cohort of other student composers in the department. Prior to my studies, Laura Jurd, Hannah Dilkes and Richard Hames — who is now part of Ensemble x.y — were all music students, each who now have some involvement in contemporary music. During my time there (2011-13), there were several other students who were already pursuing and/or interested in composition: Lucy Hale, Alexander Ling, William KZ Hearne, Jess Holland and Dan Cippico — the latter whom is now based in Birmingham.

Having supportive tutors and a strong community made up of other composers really encouraged me to pursue composition further, and having an ad-hoc music group called the Composers Ensemble, which was made up of composers and a few instrumentalists who had been persuaded, it was very much a case of “writing for what there was”.

That’s still an incredibly fortunate experience. I’ve come across some of those names before — it’s a really small world.

Definitely, it’s all intrinsically interconnected — you attend a concert, festival, course, scheme or a networking event, and you’re bound to meet someone who shares a mutual connection.

I remember you said in an interview with Emily Abdy that people tend to find their way into composition/contemporary music through one of three avenues — rock music, film music, and experimenting with your classical instrument?

Yeah, that’s right. Funnily enough, when I was doing some interviews for my master’s research, one of the composers/interviewees, Laurie Tompkins, mentioned that his own interest and involvement in contemporary music stemmed from his fascination with left-field intros, outros and interludes that can sometimes be heard on various albums by even some of the more ‘mainstream’ rock bands.

This was also the way that I got into contemporary music, things Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, and the second half of John Frusciante’s first solo record — ‘Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt’ — became the gateway to appreciating the avant-garde and experimental music.

How would you say your style evolved when you first arrived in Birmingham? Was there anything in particular you absorbed from your time there?

In my first year, I primarily studied with Ed Bennett. Perhaps my most important lesson that I learnt from him was to really focus on my ideas; to be more consistent and coherent, to really narrow things down just a few fundamental things. Prior to my studies in Birmingham, a lot of my music had so many unrelated gestures stuffed in single movement pieces. At first, it was rather daunting to limit my ideas, but it has since become a core trait to my own music.

Going in to my second and third year, I began to pair down my music – writing sparser textures with a lot of sustained notes, somewhat akin to Morton Feldman and the Wandelweiser composers Michael Pisaro and Jürg Frey, but admittedly with a much more naïve execution. Seán Clancy, my main tutor at the time, had been taking found data, objects and materials from non-musical sources and translating/repurposing them into musical parameters for his own concert music (e.g. Forty-Five Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football). I found this approach really intriguing and began to experiment with these ideas in my own work, finding new ways to create different structures and materials.

For the final year of my bachelors’ degree, I switched my composition tutor to Andrew Hamilton, who from the get-go encouraged me to loosen up the way that I wrote music. Over the course of the year, his teaching helped me to put more work into the musical material and its surrounding parameters, as well as making me more aware of how to pace material – i.e. when to repeat, alter/develop or move on to another gesture. Maybe to some that might seem rather fundamental, but at the time I felt that my music had been bogged down by a lot of systems that the listener could not really perceive without a score and a lengthy, tangential explanation.

I took on the attitude that I wasn’t going to be super strict about my ideas; using it as a means to develop something. Rather than “the system is the piece”, the system is creating something which then I may or may not feel free to change and adjust. It became more of a balance between the abstract and the process, using the two together. Basically, I became less picky about things with Andrew. That was really important.

I guess it’s the development from “process music” towards “process-informed music”, in a sense — allowing yourself to take artistic agency rather than relying on pure methodology?

Exactly! From my fourth year in Birmingham, I began to tell myself “I don’t have to have my music completely chained to the system or the process”.

How did that develop when you started studying in The Hague?

During my studies in The Hague, my writing became increasingly more about using the material as objects and the medium/occasion/ensemble to influence the piece, rather than imposing a removed idea on it. In general, I took the shackles off, but if I did use a process, then I would try to relate it to musical-based parameters; the instrumentation, the duration, the pitches, etc. It stopped being, “I’m going to use the date of birth of the performer to decide the number of notes in this piece”, and instead became “What are the ranges of this instrument? Can I build and develop a progressive underpinning from this?”.

In my experience, the more you learn about the forces you work with, the less you need to rely on processes.

There are still many fantastic composers who use processes as an integral part of their work – Tom Johnson, for example – but they are still informed by the context and medium that they are working with. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s [a] maturity thing, but you do begin to realise or learn from issues that were in previous pieces.

What were the similarities and differences that you found between Birmingham and The Hague — at least in terms of new music?

At the time, both of the Composition Departments had really strong communities, with many inspiring student composers.

During the early years of my studies at Birmingham, there was Maya Verlaak, Luke Deane, Andy Ingamells, Ryan Probert, Richard Stenton, Paul Zaba, and Fang Fang who were in the more senior years of the department at the time and actively involved in putting on events and encouraging the younger students to get involved.

In my year for undergraduate there were only two other composers (Robert Crehan and Wilson Leywantono). We were a tight knit group and over the four years we sort of grew together as composers and individuals. Comparing this to The Hague, my year group was full of eight composers who each had different compositional backgrounds. Some had studied their bachelors in The Hague before, but the majority hadn’t – there was someone from Brazil, someone from Ireland… everyone was coming from different angles and we each had different research projects. I think each of us respected each others’ work, but the influence on each other was much more passive.

Was that reflected in the general new music culture of The Hague, in relation to what’s happening in Birmingham?

From my own experience in The Hague, even first year bachelors’ instrumental and voice students had an appreciation for performing contemporary music. There were a lot more students from around the continent, compared to Birmingham, where the majority of the students were from the UK. Perhaps music education in a lot of mainland Europe has more of an infrastructure to teach younger students about contemporary and experimental music, but it could also be because it was The Hague.

Martijn Padding once said at a talk he did when he visited Birmingham, that in a lot of composition departments at conservatoires or university are like mini-cults in the corner of the building, while in The Hague, contemporary music and composition are integral parts to the whole institution. It’s interesting [to look at] the cultural differences. The infrastructure in The Netherlands supports contemporary music a lot more, there are so many ensembles. Comparing the UK and The Netherlands, there is a difference in how they perceive “the arts”, or value [in] the arts.

I’ve noticed there’s some degrees of melodic and harmonic fragmentation in your work; is that a conscious decision you take in your writing process?

Yes, and I think that largely came from elements of popular music. When I was younger, a lot of the classical and modernist music that I was listening to at the time, had slow and subtle development, which then I didn’t appreciate or resonate with.

The fragmentation in my music also comes from an obsession with details; I’ll write some initial material, and then make various permutations of it… I’ll take a fine thing and expand it [in a certain way]. That was very much the thinking of ‘Unfolding Chamber Piece’ – working stage by stage, block by block, getting each element right to how I thought it should be at the time. I think that’s a good example of [my] fragmentation.

Does your approach to fragmentation tend to change with the forces you’re writing for?

There’s pieces like ‘Ruin’ for large ensemble and ‘Components’ for orchestra that are generally a bit more flowing with the material. Both do have elements of fragmentation, but I changed my method slightly for those pieces. ‘Unfolding Chamber Piece’ was much more [to do with] event by event material and interlocking parts, with all of the instruments working as a unit and changing their material together.

My orchestral piece, ‘Components’, had a different method. It was about making a lateral foundation, and then building more flowing gestures and textures over the top of it. For the project, I was assigned a large array of instruments that was based off of [Sofia] Gubaidulina’s ‘Offertorium’, which included five percussionists, two harps and a celeste, alongside large brass, string and woodwind sections. The former selection were used mostly as the lateral foundation for the piece, while the rest of the orchestra acted as an overlay.

The foundation of the piece consisted of combinations of two progressions – each were five chords – and I used every permutation of those twice. There was also cyclical time signature progression [as well]. Part A would be [written] on the time signature I wrote it as, but Part B would be bumped to the bar before. They matched up every so often, but for the majority of the progression they were playing against each other. That was the foundation, and over the top [I was] occasionally pairing the strings, the brass and the winds with the underpinning, but deviating from it be transforming those into short gestures that resembled swells and quick ascending/descending passages. Sometimes, the percussion or core would leap out of the flowing and free parts, and vice versa. That piece was less [to do with] prominent fragmentation, but it’s still definitely there.

It’s more subtle, but it doesn’t mean it’s not paramount.

Yeah. I think ‘Unfolding Chamber Piece’ was very much [overt] in terms of its fragmentation, but ‘Components’ and ‘Ruin’ were much more of a hybrid between the prominent fragmentation and the use of a more systemised underpinning, with the former being the flowing textures over the top of the foundation.

The piece ‘Shrouded: Together and Against’ — which I composed for Psappha Ensemble’s Composing for… scheme last year — was taking that idea of that foundation, but building a slowly changing, cyclical [motif], and used that to [show] the way the material develops and changes. For example, you would have four [or] five bars of material, [which] would repeat, but for each repetition the first bar of the previous cell would be omitted and a new bar would replace it at the end— this recurred over the course of the whole piece.

Something that really stood out to me about ‘Shrouded: Together and Against’ was that I ended up hyperfocusing on the subtle change of material, since you’ve stripped everything back and you’re just using one register. Was that part of your intentions with the piece?

Yes, it was, although I think in a lot of my music I focus on a select number of parameters. As you said, when you have more focused parameters, then it is easier to perceive changes in the material, which ‘Shrouded’ was done by using cyclical structures and slowly shifting repetitive material.

The use of the lower register actually came from an earlier solo piano piece that I wrote for Fumiko Miyachi that was part of a project during my final year in Birmingham. It too used the lower register exclusively, but it instead focused on two contrasting materials that were juxtaposed and developed throughout the piece for around fifteen minutes.

I’d be interested to know if you’re inspired by fragmentation from non-musical sources? The piece you wrote for Orkest de Ereprijs comes to mind…

With ‘Ruin’ [for Orkest de Ereprijs], I was inspired by two different non-musical sources. The first of which came about during a lesson with Martijn Padding where he mentioned that the sketch material I had written had a melancholic quality to it and reminded him of a ruin. I took this idea further by ‘disintegrating’ elements of the musical material (i.e. detuning the bass guitar string after it had been struck).

The second non-musical source came from an elegy titled, ‘The Ruin’, which is an 8th or 9th century text that depicts a ruined city in England (disputed to be Bath). Being written prior to the great vowel shift and [the] Norman invasion, the poem was written in Old English (Anglo-Saxon English).

Even the language itself contributes to the fragmentation — old English is so different to the language as it stands today.

Definitely! I liked the idea of using a language that is the ancestor to our own, but is no longer commonly spoken. Rather strangely the surviving manuscript of the elegy was partially burnt in a fire several centuries ago, so even the text itself has been fragmented.

However, I wouldn’t say that ‘Ruin’ is a work that is solely about fragmentation, but inevitably that will be perceived due the nature of the material and the choice of text. I myself have always seen the piece as an exploration with different timbres through the disintegration of material, and the relationship between the foundation in the electric piano and vibraphone, with the short gestures and swells in the rest of the ensemble.

I remember you wrote a piece for a festival in Dublin? Tell me about the approach you’ve taken with ‘Around the Clocks’; it’s quite different to some of your other recent works.

A friend of mine from my studies in The Hague — Robert Coleman — is the artistic advisor for Kirkos, a contemporary music ensemble based in Dublin, Ireland. Last September, they put on a festival named Biosphere, that showcased different artistic responses to climate change and the negative effects of global warming. Robert had approached me a few months prior to the performances, and intrigued by the idea behind the festival, I sent over a proposal.

Each piece that took place for Biosphere had to adhere to a set rules: outdoors, have no printed scores, and relate to climate change in some way. I had this idea of having the ensemble travelling around the city and performing in front of different public clocks over the space of 24 hours.

To relate it to global warming, I took the average global temperature from the past 24 years, tying each year to a clock [in Dublin]. For each movement/clock, the average temperature [of each corresponding year] determined the number of seconds subtracted from five minutes — so over time, the movements in general get shorter, with the record year for the highest global temperature being the shortest movement, and the year with the lowest being the longest in the piece.

As there we were prohibited from having printed scores, I opted for one chord and gave a suggested starting orchestration. The idea was that the musicians would deviate from the starting orchestration as the temperature increases and when the length of each movement got shorter. Aesthetically, it was quite a drone-based piece. It was something that I wouldn’t do regularly, but it came about from the brief and the limitations that were set out for me.

Why do you think you ended up taking that particular approach with the piece?

When I write more process-driven or conceptual pieces, I tend to have preference for working with data, stats, numbers, and/or found structures, rather than [looking at] a performance art, stage, or theatrical realisation of the idea. Apart from the performers — and the person filming —people didn’t really perceive [the full picture]. Passers-by would have most likely only caught one of the movements, and they would have never bumped into another one. So only the musicians were the only ones who were perceiving the piece during the performance. It was only when I received the footage and edited it all together that you could see the piece as a whole.

The performances for each movement took place over the course of the week. Most of which was fitted around the musician’s schedules for the other performances in the festival, but it did include a night vigil that took place between 10pm and 6am the next morning. Afterwards, Andy Ingamells and Seán Clancy were performing their piece ‘This Is About’ on the beach, and they had mentioned that the ensemble was all tired because of my piece. It’s kind of crazy that they were performing during the early hours, but they were so dedicated and really made the piece come alive.

It’s almost allegorical for the way people perceive climate change — not seeing the bigger picture, but only one element.

I’ve never thought about it in that way, but that’s a very good point.

So, whilst you’ve had all of this more concert-focused composition work, I’ve heard you’ve had a shoegaze project named Vallé on the go as well?

Yeah, that’s right! Vallé began when I was 18, after I had bought an audio interface to use for home recording purposes. In the spring of 2013, I uploaded a few standalone tracks, before releasing my first four track EP that summer. Back then, it wasn’t really a “shoegaze” project, as I wasn’t really listening to that kind of music at the time. Then and now, I have always considered Vallé as a “side project” that exists outside of my concert music.

How did your records under Vallé develop moving forward? Did you intend to keep it as your own “thing”, or were you looking to collaborate as part of the project?

After three EPs and a two track release between mid-2013 and mid-2014, I took a break from Vallé for about a year and a half. I don’t really remember why I had a hiatus, but inevitably, when I did finally decide to go back to it, some of my approaches, influences and ideas about Vallé had changed.

In 2016, I put out three releases: An album titled ‘Album’, an EP called ‘Ep’, and a single named ‘Single’. Compared to the earlier Vallé material, there was a lot more reverb and other effects featured on these releases. I wouldn’t say it was heavier, but the production was certainly fuller. At that point in time, I was a bit more public about the project — previously I would just release them, but not make any posts about it on my personal social media accounts. Going into the following year (2017), I was looking for new ways to approach Vallé and one of the avenues that I hadn’t really explored was collaborating with other people. Up to that point I only saw Vallé as a project that I would do everything for – the writing, recording, releasing, etc. – everything apart from the cover art on several of the releases. The first foray into collaboration and working with others was on a track named, ‘Dc’, which Dan Cippico played the bass guitar on. Later that year I released the fifth Vallé EP, ‘Castle and Woodland’, which featured several collaborative tracks – working with Sam Leith Taylor, Peter Bell, and Dan Cippico.

When I moved to The Hague towards the end of that summer, I took another hiatus, largely because it was a new environment. I didn’t have my own place to live until mid-October, despite arriving in The Netherlands at the end of August. I was fortunate to know enough people to sofa-surf for the first seven weeks. But as you can imagine, I did not get much composing done in the first part of the term, and subsequently I spent the rest of the first term feeling a bit disillusioned.

After arriving back in The Hague after the Christmas break, I was looking for ways to get out of my writing block and so I decided to return to Vallé by recording a track a month over the course of the year, resulting in the album, ‘Twenty Eighteen’. I had initially planned for the album to not be a collaborative effort, but a friend of mine — Shannon [Latoyah Simon] — asked me if she could play guitar on one of the tracks, so I said “yeah, of course”. To make things more consistent, I then approached Dan Cippico, Peter Bell, Sam Leith Taylor, and Luke Deane to also collaborate on a few tracks with me.

I noticed you released ‘Twenty Eighteen’ gradually over the year rather than in full; would you say it was a conscious decision to challenge traditional album cycles?

I wouldn’t say that it was to challenge the way albums are usually released. It was more from the standpoint of doing things slightly differently; rather than shoving 10-12 tracks out in the open at once, why not write and release one each month? Admittedly some of the ideas were drafted several weeks prior to their release date, but for the most part they came together within the month they are named after. To date, ‘Twenty Eighteen’ has been my largest Vallé project.

Do you have any more collaborations as Vallé lined up?

Peter Bell and I had been talking about integrating him into Vallé as a full-time member, but I quickly learnt after a few attempts that I wanted to still have creative control over the recorded output. So instead, the two of us agreed to set up a new breakaway project that focuses on live performances instead of recordings. It hasn’t fully taken off yet, but we did a performance at the Ideas of Noise Festival last February with composer and vocalist Georgia Denham. We were billed as Vallé at the time, but we now refer to this project as Open Union, which is going to be an electric guitar duo that performs works by other composers and ourselves.

Do you see Open Union as maybe a way to bridge these two facets of your work — your concert works and your records as Vallé?

Definitely! At the moment, Peter and I are still working out where exactly Open Union will sit between these facets, but we do know that we want to be working closely with ourselves and other composers that we approach to make new work. Neither of us are proficient guitarists, so we shall be focusing more on exploring timbre and open forms through effects pedals, programmed patches, improvisation and interpretation.

Interview with Benjamin Teague, September 2020

The Quire, Issue 2 — November 2020

My name is Patrick Ellis and I am a composer. I was born in London and grew up in Surrey. I then studied and lived in both Birmingham and The Hague in The Netherlands. I am currently based in Oxfordshire, but will soon be returning to Birmingham.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

Generally, my music falls under two strands. The first is mostly notated instrumental music that can be performed in both concert/recital halls and alternative venues. The music itself is often characterised by focused material in the form of repetitive gestures, that either deviates away from itself or is juxtaposed with other materials. Increasingly, over the past three or four years, I have taken an interest in integrating more timbral and gestural detail into my instrumental writing.

The second strand of music is largely based around an online only ‘bedroom studio’ project named Vallé. I began it back in 2013 as a means to fill a void that had been left when one of my teenage rock bands split up. However, it has since grown into an extensive project, having released two albums and several eps. Typically, it’s instrumental and heavily guitar driven that utilises ambient, dream pop and shoegaze aesthetics.

For a long time, I viewed the two as completely separate entities, writing my Vallé music in secret during my spare time when I was living in student halls whilst I was studying for a degree in composition. However, I have gradually begun to notice that both strands of music have infiltrated each other, and after suggestions from some friends, I plan to begin a new ‘branch-off project’ of Vallé with friend and fellow composer Peter Bell, that will function in a live capacity, using characteristics from ambient, noise, drone, shoegaze and experimental music – we did a pilot show back in February with composer/singer Georgia Denham and enjoyed the process of working together to create new material – an experience I have not often had since playing in bands as a teenager.

What is your creative process like?

My creative process varies from piece to piece and largely depends on which medium I am working with. In most cases, I begin sketching ideas for the piece based around information related to medium. For example, if it’s a piece for a solo instrument, I research its associations, techniques and repertoire. Then, I take what I have learnt and then make sketches of structures or material that is either central to the final piece or as a means to develop something from it.

On occasions, I do start from a more conceptual starting point, but for that I usually take non-musical elements and try to translate them or integrate them into gestures and/or formal structures.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I have heard a lot of positive things from other composers about the pianist Zubin Kanga and the Irish based Crash Ensemble, so I would be curious to see what it would be like working with either of them. However, I think that it is more important to work and collaborate with people who are enthusiastic about your own work and creating music as a whole, so I would say that I would most like to work and collaborate with other musicians and composers who enjoy performing and creating new music.

Where did you study?

Between 2013 and 2017, I studied my bachelors at Birmingham Conservatoire, and then moved to The Netherlands for my masters at The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, graduating in June last year.

During my time in Birmingham, I was mostly experimenting with different practices and disciplines to see which elements were right for me. The scene at the time was quite a tight-knit community, so it was a fantastic time for a young composer to be exposed to all kinds of work. Towards the end of my studies there, I began to make choices for which contexts that I wanted my music to fit in with, and started to focus on things that adhered to it.

When I was over in The Hague, it was mostly about building on from where I had left of in Birmingham, but refining and pushing it further. Once again, the department and the local scene had a great community, however rather than growing together with the other composers in my year group, we had all come from disparate perspectives, giving a different feel to my studies in Birmingham.

Do you have any post lockdown engagements?

I don’t really have anything concrete planned at the moment, but once things are safer, I hope to meet up with and spend time with friends that I haven’t seen for a long time. It would also be great to work in person with other musicians again.

How do you feel the internet has impacted the music business?

The internet has impacted the music business in many ways. For a start, it has completely changed the way recorded music is distributed by the record companies and consumed by the public. This has brought upon both a set of positive and negative changes for artists. I won’t go into every aspect, but for the case of each – it has made eclectic music more accessible and easier to distribute. On the other hand, however, it removed a lot of artist’s potential earnings from record releases. This change in the classical world has arguably not had as big of an impact as artists working in popular music, but it has still had a negative effect.

I will confess though that had music not been as accessible as it has been for the past ten to twenty years or so, then I may not have decided to be a composer or have pursued music for as long as I have.

What is your favourite piece/composer to perform?

I don’t really have a favourite piece or composer to perform per se, rather a favourite type of music to perform. For the past few years, I have enjoy playing electric guitar the most, and although I’m not a technically proficient performer, I love the opportunity to create sounds through the instrument, amp, effects pedals and any accessory to alter the sound of the instrument.

During my studies in Birmingham, I was an active member of the department’s Creative Ensemble which devised and performed pieces that were openly notated by members of the group. I do enjoy performing music that allows for flexibility and interpretation over more prescriptive notation– the opposite to my preferences when I compose.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

It’s perhaps not the best piece of advice, but it has certainly been one of the most valuable – being a composer, is something for the long haul, it is not something that happens in a quick flash.

What would you change about the industry?

There are many things that I would change about the industry, but for the purpose of the interview, I will only mention a few things:

I think any stigma towards artists and musicians who have jobs outside of the arts should stop, it should be about the work you create, not whether or not your job is in the arts.

More diversity in concert programmes, events and opportunities should be encouraged, I have seen some organisations making changes to be more inclusive, which is encouraging to see.

Have more opportunities for composers over the age of 30, that doesn’t mean removing opportunities for young people, but helping more composers who either started writing later on or are developing their practice would benefit from the same support as under 30 year olds.

Revaluate the streaming model and pay artists more per play.

What’s next for you?

I am currently in the process of writing a new piece for the Netherlands based percussion trio, Xtro. It’s going to be collaborative and will feature electronics, projections and some non-musical elements. In October, a piece that I composed for solo viola earlier this year will be recorded as part of an upcoming release for Birmingham Record Company.

What advice do you have for young composers?

Don’t burn yourself out unnecessarily, sometimes we can’t afford not to (for example when you have a lot of deadlines), but when you can, take time for breaks and rest. Always try to evaluate the work you are making and see if it is how you want it to be. Music and art in general is a very broad discipline and there are many avenues and ways to go about it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Commit to and dedicate yourself to the things that are important to you.

A Miniature Article on Miniature Pieces

The Quire, Issue 1 — August 2020

A short article I wrote in July 2020 for the first issue of The Quire Journal that was released in August 2020. My entry is about several miniature works that I composed between 2016 and 2019

Read the Full Article Here from Page 94

Patrick Ellis’ Breath, Patterns, Bends repeats and embellishes quick tonal patterns to a crescendo climax.

Roger Heaton, TEMPO

Interview with Alfian Emir

Alfian Emir Adytia

Interview in June 2019 with Alfian Emir Adytia about 'Three Mostly Bowed Strings' (2019) and the collaboration process between composer and performer.

Interview with Beppie Schalken of Orkest de Ereprijs about 'Ruin' (2019)

Orkest de Ereprijs

A short interview with Beppie Schalken, the trombonist of the Orkest de Ereprijs about 'Ruin' (2019) which was composed for the 25th Edition of the Orkest de Ereprijs Young Composers' Meeting in Apeldoorn.

Composition Community with Patrick Ellis

Emily Abdy

Composer Patrick Ellis is a Royal Birmingham Conservatoire composition department graduate and current postgraduate student at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. As someone who studied alongside him, his affinity for interesting conversation surrounding his craft and his experiences studying composition both here and abroad meant I wanted to produce some content from an interview with him, almost regardless of what musical area it may fall into. It turns out, his interest was in exploring the idea of community within the composition department. The result was a comparison of our paths to finding our composition community, what this did for our compositional practice and how it affected the quality of our conservatoire experience in general.

I learned his early dabbles in composition sparked from his frustration at having to play the music in his trumpet lessons the way he was told it should be. He would subtly deviate from the written notes on the page, such as from a B natural to a B-flat, to the annoyance of his teacher: ‘What are you doing? You can’t do that.’ The ironic thing is he could and he did. Throughout our conversation, the same theme of, for want of a better phrase, ‘creative repression’ kept recurring. He didn’t speak fondly of pastiche composition and the restrictions that GCSE and A level music place on what should be an explorative activity. I also remember this feeling well, but also felt a sense of guilt at this inclination, as many people don’t get the opportunity to study music at school at all.

Luck of the draw?

I found it unusual that Patrick said he knew he wanted to study composition going into sixth form. He does believe he was fortunate, as he studied his A levels alongside a small group of composers who even had their own ensemble, allowing him to explore open scores at a stage where I wouldn’t have even known they existed. I was surprised at the sheer existence of them, but the composers that he felt gave him his first sense of ‘community’ were still few. They included a friend the year above him in sixth form and, later, another now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Dan Cippico, who he would continue to work with during his further studies. They weren’t the only two from our department to have previously known each other, which raised the question as to whether your likeliness to go on to study at a conservatoire is largely defined by the environment you develop in.

The overall vibe of his early community heavily contrasted with mine which consisted of the open mic organisers, participators and audiences. I was lucky in another way, as I had supportive family and elders who encouraged my singing and songwriting and were more than happy for me to pursue a creative route once I had finished compulsory education. However, the secondary school prided itself on its reputation for producing a stage musical of significant quality each year, so the focus was very much on performance arts opposed to anyone working constructively in music behind the scenes.

We were all in a band…

Then he said the fateful words: ‘I was in a band’. (Weren’t we all?). That’s where we had a little more in common than I first expected. Patrick said he’s recognised three common routes when it comes to student finding their way into composition.

A- Learning a classical instrument then beginning to write on it

B- Being into film music then realising you can take that into the concert hall

C- Rock music…

Both Patrick and I seem to be combinations of A and C, he on the violin and I on the trumpet. 70s rock instrumentals and the influence of improvisatory groups on these artists seemed to be the main factors. Although probably not as adventurous as most contemporary instrumental groups, I recognised nu-metal band Slipknot as an introduction to less commercial musical characteristics for me, despite them actually being a highly successful commercial band in the metal scene. Less common time signatures, rhythms, structures, instrumentation and a fusion of musical genres being some of them. We realised it isn’t merely coincidental though. Patrick talked of the influence on Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett from seeing free improvisation group AMM live in London in the 1960s.

The department community experience

For me, conservatoires and composition had never been a definite, my current institution being the only one I applied for alongside a host of universities well regarded for their music courses. For Patrick, composition had become a goal a lot earlier but he claimed his ‘epiphany’ came when his grades at the end of his first year of sixth form were lower than expected and the Russell group universities with academically based courses seemed to no longer be the correct fit for him. We both agreed that the main thing that swayed us towards Birmingham was how comfortable we felt when visiting and at our application interviews. It was the first time I felt I had met people who were genuinely interested in me as a composer and as a person. They pulled out my hastily produced album of acoustic songs that I had thrown into every portfolio submission on a whim and said they wanted more of it, wanted to know what it was and why it was in there. They didn’t try to streamline me to their vision and I appreciated that.

Not that there had been much disagreement up to this point, but Patrick and I really do see eye to eye when it came to discussing how it felt to be part of the composition department community: more ‘us’ than ‘I’; more equal ground than students and teacher; more creative freedom than strict guidelines to tick certain criteria. It isn’t difficult to understand why when practically everyone knows each other, compared to friends I know studying English at university, a much busier course which means there are several different classes that never interact. Our weekly seminar and LAB sessions are a time each week when everyone is in the same room. We organise events amongst ourselves including regular platforms, festivals and one off concerts which seem to more often showcase ‘us’ as a department rather than celebrating individuals to the point where it becomes unhealthily competitive.

I always feel as though we support one another, rather than trying to bring each other down. This is something I feel is very important for creative individuals in a climate where we can often ‘die of exposure’ rather than get any significant or financial recognition for the time and effort that goes into our work. The nature of our course, having to write ‘x’ amount of minutes per year, also means that tutor-organised projects won’t fill your portfolio – we have to take initiative and find our own. So we are a comfortable unit but encouraged to be individuals within it.

Finding your musical feet

I was surprised to hear that Patrick had a similar experience of a delayed integration into our department community. During my time studying with him, he always seemed to be a very active member of the department, involved in most department events. He said he was very shy and quiet to begin with and didn’t feel fully part of the department community until his second year, before I had even enrolled. Being a fresher is a daunting experience in general, especially for introverts or those who are struggling with the sudden independence that university life brings.

We agreed conservatoire life is slightly friendlier to those who find nights out daunting, as we seem to have more contact hours which increases work load, longer days and the pressure to perform (such as a 9am bassoon lesson). It definitely won’t discourage people from partying but certainly makes them more understanding of how draining full time study can be. For me, it was personal circumstances and issues I had to face and grow from before I could feel like I was truly part of the community. You have to throw yourself in and get involved to get anything back from it, but the rewards do come thick and fast.

Emerging from the echo chamber

Growing with a similar group of people over the course of four years at a time when you’re discovering who you are as person and where you want to be is very much a bonding experience. This is what Patrick marked out as the main factor he found to be different studying his masters in the Netherlands compared to his undergraduate degree was that you have further room to experiment but more of an idea of your identity already, so you don’t grow with your colleagues so much. He described The Hague’s approach as still a community but more professional in its nature. He wouldn’t go to another student’s house one evening with a crate of beer to play one another’s pieces and jam for hours like he did over here. He told me freelance composition and his fourth year which was spent applying for an increased number of external callouts felt a very different experience.

As someone who was once scared to death of change, I am still habitually anxious when I think about where I will be after I finish my degree, but the breaking out of this musical echo chamber we’ve created does muster a kind of excitement. This is a chamber I feel our tutors are very much aware of when they invite composers from other institutions and backgrounds to talk to us and encourage us to go to external events, but it seems almost inevitable. As we are a department of mostly undergraduates at what could be viewed as a vulnerable age, finding your feet, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Crucial components

Although we had a slightly different experience of arriving in our composition communities, Patrick and I both agree that it was crucial to our development as composers. Having people around you who can give you advice and criticism to help you develop, appreciate the work you are putting in and validate that what you’re doing is worthwhile in a time when art is often viewed as less valuable can be crucial in keeping you going. I certainly wouldn’t have had the courage to write essay long blog posts and put videos of myself out into the public when I first arrived here, but I’m hoping that just shows the positive changes that can occur when you’re fortunate enough to have had this supportive community experience.

So his composition Components kicked off the Festival edition dedicated to Sofia Goebaidoelina. His piece preceded her brilliant and brilliantly played violin concerto (Antje Weithaas) Offertorium and the 5th Symphony by Dmitri Sjostakovitsj. Good company for this talented young man.

Conductor Otto Tausk appeared on stage and Components was played for a sellout crowd. Very much an highly energetic piece. And that from start to finish. As the name states a composition of several parts homogeneously moulded together. As Patrick formulated it:”Although some motives appear more frequently than others they are peacefully side by side in a fixed framework.” Not a polite but a real meaningful applause was Patrick’s share. With an encore of the applause as he crossed the hall again after having descended from stage with the conductor through the stage door.

Hans Eeuwes

The new work Components by young Brit Patrick Ellis stands as a counterpoint to the music of these two Russian heavyweights. As the title suggests, the composition consists of separate motifs that together form a ‘homogeneous, fluid piece’.

Jacqueline Oskamp

Riding on the waves of recent compositional successes, Cresswell has also been busy expanding his portfolio as a performer. He has recently started commissioning new works for electric guitar and electronics. He is currently in the studio recording the first of these works, Detunes, Drones, written by UK composer, Patrick Ellis. Stay tuned as this new series of commissions begin to unfold!

Black Tea Music

Very much in style of the The Hague School. Meaning: Being highly energetic.

Hans Eeuwes

Music helps people escape – An interview with Patrick Ellis

Andy Roberts

Composer Patrick Ellis is all over No Frontiers like a cheap suit. By that we mean he has a number of pieces being performed across the festival and are in no way making slights on the sophistication of his compositions, or indeed his dress sense.

Hello Patrick, please tell us a little about your pieces for No Frontiers and what is involved to make the performances happen.

So I have a few things in this year’s No Frontiers Festival.

On the first day I have two premieres: Wnd Qntt which is to be played by the Lumos Quintet at 3pm in the 6/8 Kafé and Unbranded Ensemble Piece which will be performed 315 Ensemble at 8pm. As with explaining these two pieces, I don’t really want to give much away, so to find out – come along!

Then on the 31st at the Parkside Building, the Composition Department’s Creative Ensemble will perform a set of works composed by the ensemble members, this includes my Riaan’s Trilogy, which is a set of three open score pieces (Riaan’s Rag, Riaan’s Rant and Riaan’s Return) that I composed in 2014, 2015 and 2016, which is dedicated to Riaan Vosloo, the director of the ensemble. The Trilogy features the ensemble singing, electronic manipulations of ‘rants’ and a section with a bass groove.

On the final day of No Frontiers (the 1st of April), I am a part of the Vivid Trip event at Vivid Projects, in Digbeth which features performances and installations by Roché van Tiddens, (Richard Stenton), Oliver Mack, Kolbitr (Robin Morton), Susannah Self, Andy Ingamells, Peter Bell & Cam Athanasiades, Wilson Leywantono, Dan Cippico and myself. My installation is a new presentation of field recording piece that recorded edited in 2013 titled, The Streets of Birmingham. It was one of the first pieces that I composed when I was a first year, so it’s fitting to have this featured as the last piece of my last Frontiers Festival as an undergraduate.

With regard to what makes the performances happen it’s the people who have curated the events and the festival. So a huge shout out to Tom Earl, Chris Cresswell, Riaan Volsoo, Cam Athanasiades, Peter Bell, Wilson Leywantono, Dan Cippico and the Frontiers team for organising these projects! Without them there would really be no Frontiers.

This year’s festival’s theme is ‘breaking down barriers with music’ — How do you think music helps to break down barriers?

Some people think that music is universal, so perhaps that is how it breaks down barriers. However, I don’t think all of it is, so the music that is ‘not universal’ either helps people escape or bring to light universal themes.

Who do you admire artistically and in what ways do you think their work has broken barriers?

I could talk about this for years and really bore people, but I particularly like the sparse sounds of Laurence Crane, Jürg Frey and Michael Pisaro. I admire how they stick to a minimal means of material and work with it inside out. It’s a cliche phrase, but sometimes you’ve got to work within limitations, I think that way one is more imaginative.

Moving towards the ‘popular’ music realm, I have admired Bob Dylan for a long time, particularly his output from the 1960s, which evolved at a fast and organic rate despite disapproval from fans (for example, the constant boos and shouts that he was Judas during his 1966 concerts). If he had stuck to his political folk music, then more artists signed to a label would perhaps not be brave and just follow what the record label executives believe would sell more.

Also the Kinsella brothers (Tim and Mike), who were and are part of many Chicago based bands/monikers from the mid-1990s to the present day. These range from the acoustic sing-songwriter project, Owen (Mike Kinsella) to the erratic sounds Joan of Arc (a band fronted by Tim Kinsella). I admire the fact that the two of them have produced such a large discography that is very diverse and have continued even when the critics dislike something (for example, Pitchfork once rated a Joan of Arc album 1.9/10). If you stick to one thing, you might be building barriers around yourself and others.

Finally, I admire my friends, colleagues and tutors who are/were part of the Conservatoire Composition department and the Birmingham New Music scene (particularly the Post Paradise concert series), there are too many names to mention here, but there are pieces that I have heard and seen, which have really challenged what I perceive as music.

As a composer in 2017, do you feel a responsibility or particular impetus to represent or interpret current social or political issues?

I have felt a guilt and a responsibility, however up to this point, I have not composed something that overtly represents or interprets any current social or political issues.

A particular highlight for me was hearing our [Birmingham Conservatoire’s] Thallein Ensemble conducted by Richard Baker perform a new piece by Michael Oesterle California, which was beautifully conceived, crafted and full of joy. The same concert contained fantastic new pieces by two of our students Peter Bell, and Patrick Ellis.

Seán Clancy

Ellis’ piece (another world première) was brilliant. A series of sentences and punctuation that gradually turned in on itself until the punctuation became the content and the sentences the punctuation.

Sam James, Birmingham Review

Then it’s Patrick Ellis, with an unnamed piece that throws out immediate confidence and challenges. I don’t know precisely why, but I’m quickly hooked: the marimbas enter into a cat and mouse struggle with the smaller string section, whilst the flute runs across the fractured ice surface. And although it feels a little lost at points, like a fish struggling to chew through its own cheek I find an acute pleasure in the freedom of it all. With silence as its final member the ensemble sound like they're having fun too. I know I am.

Ed King, Birmingham Review

A number of people compose, but fewer are composers. Patrick Ellis is a composer, and a gifted one.

Howard Skempton

Patrick’s music eschews development and superfluous material in favour of discipline, clarity and above all, beauty. In short… it is what it is.

Sean Clancy

4 Years — 10 Minutes in 400 words

Jake Lovell

Composer Patrick Ellis is all over No Frontiers like a cheap suit. By that we mean he has a number of pieces being performed across the festival and are in no way making slights on the sophistication of his compositions, or indeed his dress sense.

Four years in education can seem like a lifetime for some. For others it feels like it’s over before it even began! But what almost everyone can agree on is how different they are come the end of it.

Think back to when you were at college – what clothes did you wear? What music did you listen to? What were your big, philosophical questions?

Now go back to secondary school – I bet that third question hardly applies. And I can almost guarantee that you are embarrassed by the first two!

In his event called, 4 Years – 10 Minutes, Patrick Ellis has had the bold and “unique” idea to bring together the last four years of his composing career, which features some of his electronic and recorded music from the present day, back to 2011, when he was only 16 years old and had just finished his GCSE’s.

Patrick will allow one person at a time for the 10 minute performance in Studio 2 a Birmingham Conservatoire. This unique idea, combined with “atmospheric” lighting, will create an installation with a very personal feel, which Patrick believes “is important because a lot of things have happened in the past 4 years”. Now in his second year studying a BMus in Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, Patrick is currently under the guidance of Séan Clancy, Ed Bennett and Andy Portas.

For a year or so now, Patrick has been interested in hosting an installation that showcases the music of one individual, and this opportunity appeared last year when Rosie Clements, director of the Frontiers Festival asked whether he wished to be involved in this year’s event listings. He jumped at the chance to be involved in what he sees as an “important platform” to demonstrate what he has been working on recently, but he also sees it as an opportunity to hear what his colleagues have been working on, and hopefully introduce himself and others to new musical ideas.

“Being part of a Festival like Frontiers is incredibly important for the Contemporary Music Scene as it shows to people how diverse and how much talent there is emerging/existing” – Patrick Ellis

4 Years – 10 Minutes takes place on 24 March from 3pm in Studio 2 at Birmingham Conservatoire and is free of charge. You can find out more about Patrick and his work on his SoundCloud.

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