'Liber Musika' is an ongoing project of compositions for improvising ensemble. Inspired by the work of AACM radicals Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith and Roscoe Mitchell, and the symbolic practices of ritual magic, this music is an experiment in space and tone, melody and abstraction, rhythm and invention. Designed to be performed by any combinations of instruments, the pieces are structured as collections of material to be inhabited and restructured by the performers, fully giving them free reign to explore and deconstruct the notes on the page in whatever manner the moment dictates.
The first ideas for 'Liber Musika' came whilst studying the music of Anthony Braxton with the incredible pianist Alexander Hawkins, a frequent Braxton collaborator. Over a few days in early 2019 we worked through several Braxton compositions and I was astounded by how much space there was in this seemingly dense music for utter invention on the part of the performer. I knew I wanted to explore these ideas myself. That summer I was selected to take part in The Sage Gateshead's 'Summer Studios' development programme, where I spent a solid week locking myself in a tiny room underneath the concert hall and driving myself round the bend trying to get inside this music.
"fascinating and thought provoking"
- Bebop Spoken Here
Several months later I assembled a 'chamber' ensemble to debut the project at the excellent Newcastle Festival Of Jazz And Improvised Music; a drummer-less band of strings, clarinet, double bass and vibraphone. The musicians really grasped the challenge of this music and conjured up new combinations and visions of strange, intense beauty that I hadn't even been able to predict whilst writing.
'Liber Musika' continues to grow steadily, as I compose and conceive of new material to feed into the process. In 2020 I was invited to contribute a filmed recording to EFG London Jazz Festival, as part of their Take Five showcase presented with Serious. This time the ensemble swapped out strings and vibes for eletric guitar and accordion/harmonium, and a very different reading of the same material emerged. The possibilities of this music are still revealing themselves to me, through every angle. It's a mysterious beast that I don't fully comprehend, but the pleasure of the doing is its own enormous reward.