Meet Next Wave Composers - Paul McGuire
16 October 2014

Paul McGuirePaul McGuire

It has been a privilege to take part in Sound and Music and NMC's Next Wave. This generous programme afforded each of the composers the opportunity to write a new work for members of the London Sinfonietta and leading soloists, have it recorded and released by NMC, and then premiered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2014. It was also a great chance to get to know the eleven other composers involved on a personal and professional level.
My mentor for this project was the acclaimed Dutch composer, Richard Rijnvos, and I chose to write for Oren Marshall (tuba), Sarah Nicolls (inside-out piano), Loré Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano), as well as the percussionist and the string players of the London Sinfonietta, with Garry Walker conducting. As a composer, I am interested in the grain of sound, and, in particular, sounds that are compositionally underused and considered incidental. I re-imagine the way in which performers of my music should approach their instruments, beyond a use of extended techniques, in order to hone in on sounds that are often unrecognisable from their sources. This scheme presented an ideal opportunity to apply these ideas to a larger and more instrumentally-varied chamber group than what I usually write for.
As with the majority of my pieces, I began by locating budget versions of almost all of the instruments used in the piece, and then spent weeks messing around and inventing new techniques and modifying old ones until I had assembled what I felt was a coherent portfolio of interesting sounds. I recorded and even filmed some of the individual techniques as I went along, just in case I forgot how to produce any of them – colourful adjectives can only describe so much. I then categorised these recordings and layered them in various ways using my DAW (Logic 9). I ended up with demos of eight or nine individual textures (some of which can be heard in the audio clip below).

Note that all of the sounds heard in the above clip were performed by myself. The performers involved in this project played no part in this recording.
As useful as it is to record multi-tracked audio demos of any piece before it’s played, you can never be fully prepared for how the sounds work when played live in a room together, and so the early stage workshop with the musicians in April allowed me to properly audition each of these textures. Although I found that some of the textures, when played live, sounded quite close to their demo recording counterparts, one texture in particular which I was quite confident would work (the first texture heard in the above recording), didn’t quite come together. This had nothing to do with the performers’ ability, it’s just that certain left-of-centre sounds can only be produced on one particular instrument, due to any number of unforeseen unique attributes the instrument might possess. At the same time, some lower frequency textures that I almost skipped over because I thought they probably wouldn’t work, really surprised me in how effective they were. This workshop was recorded in full, and I was then able to compose Panels in my DAW using a combination of these live recordings, some home-recorded demos and recordings made in an afternoon session with Sarah Nicolls and her incredible inside-out piano.
Having met and heard the musicians play my music in the workshop, and having essentially composed the piece from their performances, I was fairly prepared when it came to the recording session in August. I had an mp3 player with the final demo of the piece on stand-by for referencing certain performance aspects that notation and text can only partly describe, though there was little need for this in the end. Thankfully the recording went well. I'm proud of the end result and I'm excited to hear it in concert alongside the other composers' pieces at the hcmf// showcase.
Listen to an extract from Paul's Panels

Interview with Paul

Paul's Top 10 Tracks

Explore Paul's Music Map

Panels is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.


1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick

Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker

Download the album here.

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