The Squid's Ear Magazine

Leith, Oliver: Me Hollywood (Another Timbre)

Five chamber works written by composer UK Oliver Leith, the debut CD release from the creative music group Explore Ensemble including a piece they commissioned--Me Hollywood--, the compositions spanning four years of work and reflecting a sort of portrait of the composer as he experiments with unusual arrangements, sampling sounds, and new instruments.

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Oliver Leith-composer

Taylor MacLennan-flutes

Alex Roberts-clarinet

Siwan Rhys-piano

Sarah Park-piano

David Lopez Ibanez-violin

Oscar Holch-viola

Deni Teo-cello

Richard Baker-conductor

William Foster-trombone

Sam Becker-double bass

Katie Smith-trumpet

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Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at175
Squidco Product Code: 30468

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 20201
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at the Church Of the Holy Innocents, in London, England, UK, by Simon Reynell.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Oliver Leith talks to Ben Gaunt about 'Me Hollywood'

Your first release for Another Timbre, good day good day bad day bad day, was a single, sizeable piece of music. However, this new release contains multiple different compositions. Are the pieces linked? Or is this more of a composer portrait, designed to highlight different aspects of your musical personality?

Although I'm very fond of them, the pieces are not linked at all really, they span four years and I have just spotted that annoyingly there isn't a piece for every year - that's probably not important - it does make me wonder what I was doing in 2017 though. I have racked my brain for some link - I'm not old or focused enough to have any musical 'periods' so I can't say that and I couldn't say that they were written in the same place. They come from the same pool of instruments but every piece a different combination. So no, no link. Perhaps it'll be clearer to others. The coherence that makes me happy is Simon's recording and the groups playing - that's enough for me and also how I listen to music, scattered.

The disc, I guess, is a portrait in some way, but a portrait done by people who could draw me without looking probably. The band have been part of my musical (and eating) life for a very long time - we worked together so long ago that they were called explorensemble and I included the Christophe as my middle name - all aspirational. There is something more interesting in that though, we have in some way grown up together and it feels like a healthy time in our relationship to put some of the past in the can. It has been joyful to hear them play older pieces and own their commission, Me Hollywood. My music is in their fingers - I had trust that these relatively disparate objects could sit side by side like tat and ephemera on a shelf.

Do you have a 'process' as a composer; a method of working? Has your approach changed during the four years?

I don't really have a process, there is an order which is very chaotic until > it isn't. My studio reflects the mess I make whilst working, although in some inverse way; as the piece emerges the studio looks more and more like a bin - when I finish the piece (I tend to work on one at a time) I tidy my studio and hide all the various scraps and literal rubbish - just like I do with a final score.

I experiment by throwing notes around, recording voice notes, sampling sounds, touching new instruments - I do this until I feel something. Then, If I can listen to it for ages, I know it is right for me - I used to edit down my favourite moments of recordings of others' stuff and do the same thing -I'd loop them and if it was for me I wouldn't ever get bored. This 'something' feeling is all I want - I know that if I play around enough I will get it. Maybe that is a process.

I'd love to know more about the titles of your pieces. Why 664, for example?

Usually my titles are images or scenarios that form in my head of what the moment of feeling 'something' looks like. Grinding bust turning I think is quite obvious. Blurry Wake song, the same, blurry - wake - song, happy sad happy sad. Me Hollywood, I imagine a sort of patron who thinks his life should be a film so he's paid someone to score his life - a willing Truman. (As a footnote below I'll place what I originally sent to the ensemble as a programme note).

664 Love songs guaranteed to cure heartache is an exception - it's made up of all the lyrics of all the number one hits until I was born (I had to stop somewhere) and from that I made these non-cynical but generic little songs that are projected and synchronised to the 'lines' that the instruments play, so yo sort of sing song in your head. there is a video somewhere on the internet of it.

Balloon I thought of hitting balloons with a baseball bat, no matter how hard you hit them they drift off unscathed, smiling back at you - untouchable. Speaking of that piece, I was chuffed to have my old teacher (and now mentor and friend) Richard Baker conduct on Balloon - he has rescued me quite a few times but this was a heroic surgery of a previously decapitated premiere of the piece. I nearly cried a little in the recording, I am so grateful for his and Explore Ensemble's work. It is lovely to work with imaginative and skilled musicians and to be reminded of what I and plenty of others cannot do.


Me Hollywood sees a hired ensemble soundtrack their patron's evening. He is hoping, or, knows even, that the music will elevate each banal gesture. Films will eventually be made about him, so he's just making it happen now, his life is filmic, it just needs a score, he drinks, he sings, he plays the piano, he cares for his guinea pigs. All eyes on him as he presumes they have been forever anyway.

I've seen a few of your scores, and I really like the way you communicate with your musicians (detailed, but informal). This 'something' feeling; is this what you want the performers to feel too, and are your scores a way of communicating that? Is it important the audience understands the 'something', or is it more private/personal?

The 'something' definitely doesn't have universal resonance - friends and relatives confirm that in their hesitations after gigs. This is a blatant theory - and is probably wrong - but I often think with excellent pop music that the musicians have / possess that more universal 'something' - which is amazing. I think of some quote from Chris Rock that I'll garble about comedians and how freaked out you would be if you went to your child's playground and hundreds of children were just listening to them talk. I love that image but I'm glad we don't all enjoy the same things

It's hard to find a way to convey that (my) 'something' in a score. I write down my honest thoughts at certain moments in piece in my own voice - which is, as you say, informal - I am informal. I note moments where I've smiled or nodded along like a cow in case it is useful. It is important to me that these markings are in the score but they are not instructions.

Just for reference - because I'd forgotten to give one, someone else's 'something' is (last time I'm writing it sorry) at 3 mins 27 seconds of Pray (oh doctor Jesus) by Miles Davis/Gil Evans - this lion roar feels like you've just driven off a cliff but you're just floating off. You need to listen to the bit before for it to work but as I said - it won't be the same for everyone."

You talked about your relationship with Explore Ensemble. What was the recording session like? Did the pieces change in any way during the recording process?

They are a hit team - they know my music - they play it brilliantly, they would nod like cows if I asked and do it well. It was disconcertingly smooth and joyful few days. Pieces they hadn't played before were aced. The only disruptions were sirens and motorbikes (both welcome to exist on the record in my eyes but - it won't be the same for everyone). When I haven't been working with them in the past, I've been eating with them - we ate great Korean food for lunch (yoshi sushi king street w2). Thanks Ben, we should go if you're in town at some point."

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!

Artist Biographies

"Oliver Leith is a London based composer making acoustic music, electronic music and video. His work focuses on text, image, video, theatre, pathos and the everyday.

Commissions have been given by groups such as London Sinfonietta, Festival Aix-en-Provence, the London Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Festival, Heidelberg festival, Musicon, Homo Novus/Valmiera theatre and St John Smith's Square.

Collaborators and performers have included Apartment House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ives Ensemble, Exaudi, 12 Ensemble, Plus Minus, Mimitabu, Philharmonia Orchestra, An Assembly, Trio Catch, GBSR Duo, Loré Lixenberg, Explore Ensemble, Matthew Herbert and John Harle.

Performances have taken place at the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Royal Opera House, Aldeburgh, Huddersfield (HCMF), LSO St Luke's, St Martin-in-the-fields, Horniman Museum, The Forge, CNSDMP (Paris), RCM, GSMD, Milton Court, Howard Assembly Room, The Place, Handel House, Mexican Embassy (UK and Tokyo), Liszt academy (Budapest), Maison du Canada (Paris), Howard Assembly and Leeds Lieder. Visual art collaborations are exhibited at The Museum of Western Australia and recorded music is played on BBC Radio 3 and NTS radio.

Oliver was the recipient of a British Composer Award in 2016 and of a Royal Philharmonic Composition prize in 2014."

-Oliver Leith Website (

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"Taylor MacLennan: Flute

Taylor has been the flute player of Explore Ensemble since its foundation in 2012. Originally from Scotland, Taylor moved to London in 2010 to study at the Royal College of Music where he received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees as well as an Artist Diploma in 2017. During his time there, he won the RCM Flute Prize and had the opportunities to work with conductors including Bernard Haitink, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Sir Roger Norrington. Taylor took up further study with Patrick Gallois at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena where he was awarded the Diploma of Merit.

Taylor was a member of Southbank Sinfonia in 2018 and has since worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, English National Opera and the Oxford Philharmonic, as well as guest principal flute with Scottish Ballet. Taylor has appeared at festivals including the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham and Encuentro de Música Santander.

Taylor enjoys tennis, being a home barista and all things culinary."

-Explore Ensemble (

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"Alex Roberts: Clarinet

Alex has played clarinets and various other instruments with Explore Ensemble since 2014. As a freelance orchestral musician, he has played regularly with the Philharmonia and Welsh National Opera. After graduating from the Queensland Conservatorium, Alex completed post-graduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and has since taken part in masterclasses with Francois Benda and Yehuda Gilad.

Passionate about social justice, Alex is the assistant musical director for Liberty Choir, a charity which creates choirs in prisons with the people inside them and volunteers from local communities.

Alex has hiked in the Carpathians, Pyrenees and the Pennines and, perhaps not surprisingly for an Australian, looks forward to brewing the perfect cup of coffee every morning."

-Explore Ensemble (

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"Welsh pianist Siwan Rhys enjoys a varied career of solo, chamber, and ensemble playing, with a strong focus on contemporary music and collaboration with composers.

She has played at prestigious British venues such as the Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, St David's Hall, Symphony Hall, and abroad at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Le Tambour Rennes, and Shanghai Symphony Hall amongst others. She has also appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival, BBC Proms, Principal Sound, Occupy the Pianos, Lille Piano(s) Festival, and has recorded many times for television, radio, and labels such as NMC, all that dust, and Prima Facie. Her recent recording of Stockhausen's KONTAKTE (with percussionist George Barton) was released in October 2019 on the all that dust label.

Recent concert engagements include performances of Charles Ives' 'Concord Sonata' in France as part of the Oeuvres Monstres series, Nono's ...sofferte onde serene... at the Principal Sound festival, Feldman's For Philip Guston and Why Patterns?, Stockhausen's KONTAKTE, and appearances at Occupy the Pianos and Lille Piano(s) Festival playing music by Vivier and Eastman.

Also a regular ensemble and orchestral pianist, Siwan has worked with the London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Colin Currie Group, Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Mahogany Opera Group, Music Theatre Wales, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with conductors Oliver Knussen, François-Xavier Roth, and George Benjamin among others.

Siwan works regularly with mezzo-soprano Lucy Goddard, and is a member of GBSR piano-percussion duo with whom she was a 2017-18 St John's Smith Square Young Artist.

She is an honorary member of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards and an Entente Cordiale alumna. She teaches at the London Contemporary School of Piano."

-Siwan Rhys Website (

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"Edinburgh born South Korean, Sarah Park began her musical studies at St Mary's Music School in Scotland. She had a number of successes from an early age performing her concerto debut in 2008 at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. In the same year, she was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of the Pianothon. During her time at St Mary's, she won numerous prizes and awards around the country, as well as collaborating with leading conductor Garry Walker on many occasions.

Sarah continued her studies at the Royal College of Music and has given performances at Steinway Hall, Purcell Room and the Royal Festival Hall. Her performances have also taken her further afield to Italy, Germany, Spain and South Korea. Sarah has enjoyed participating in many masterclasses by renowned artists such as Jacques Rouvier, Lilya Zilberstein, Yonty Solomon, Idil Biret and Peter Donohoe.

Sarah has recently received her Master of Performance degree with Distinction from the Royal College of Music under the tuition of Norma Fisher and Danny Driver. Throughout her studies, she was generously supported with a Donald Deward Arts Award and the Kendall-Taylor Award."

-Sarah Park Website (

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"David López Ibañez: Violin

David has played violin with Explore Ensemble since 2016. He is a member of the Hill Quartet and has played with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Haydn Philharmonie and Spira Mirabilis. He has performed around the UK and internationally, in venues like Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Vienna Musikverein, Koernel Hall Toronto, and Tokyo Metropolitan Hall, among others.

He studied at the Royal College of Music in London with Professors Detlef Hahn, Radu Blidar and Lucy Russell, and currently studies with Lorenza Borrani at Scuola di Musica di Fiesole in Italy.

In his spare time he enjoys running, cycling, reading and painting."

-Explore Ensemble (

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Oscar Holch: Oscar is a 23 year old career violist who got a first at the Academy and now holds a Guildhall scholarship, where he is principal viola in the Guildhall SO and baroque orchestra. He has participated in many masterclasses, and his quartet recently won the Edinburgh Apprentice Competition."

-Cherubim Music Trust (

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"Deni Teo: Cello

Deni has been a member of Explore Ensemble since 2013. She completed her Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees at the Royal College of Music, studying with Melissa Phelps. She currently enjoys a varied career in orchestral, contemporary and film session playing. Deni is a member of Sinfonia Cymru and was a member of Southbank Sinfonia in 2019. She regularly performs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and recently started a trial with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Deni has been invited to play with Cardiff based new music group Uproar Ensemble since 2020 and also performed with the Max Richter Ensemble, giving the premiere of his piece 'Voices'.

Baking is Deni's other major passion and you'll find her posting photos and videos of her creations on Instagram @denibakes."

-Explore Ensemble (

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"Richard Baker is a leading figure in the world of contemporary music: composer, conductor, teacher, mentor and artistic adviser.

As a conductor, Baker works regularly with the leading composers and ensembles of our day. He has strong relationships with the London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Crash Ensemble and BIT20 Ensemble. He has conducted at many contemporary music festivals including hcmf// in Huddersfield and Ultraschall in Berlin, and is a regular collaborator for the BBC's Total Immersion days, where he has directed portrait concerts of Stockhausen, George Crumb, James MacMillan, Jonathan Harvey, Oliver Knussen and Julian Anderson. In September 2017 he conducted one of four specially curated concerts at Milton Court, Barbican, to celebrate the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle as Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In spring 2019 he conducted Crash Ensemble in Fausto Romitelli's Professor Bad Trip at New Music Dublin, and made his debut with Glasgow New Music Expedition.

His acclaimed stewardship of Gerald Barry's opera The Intelligence Park in Dublin in 2011 consolidated his reputation as a conductor of contemporary opera, in which capacity he is in frequent demand. In autumn 2012 he led English Touring Opera's admired production of Peter Maxwell Davies's The Lighthouse and in spring 2013 returned to Gerald Barry for the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe's double bill of Handel's The Triumph of Time and Truth and Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, with Opernglas writing of the latter that 'Richard Baker led the Badische Staatskapelle with breathtaking virtuosity through this intricate, challenging score'. He is a frequent presence at the Linbury Theatre (Royal Opera House), where he has premiered new work for the stage by Francisco Coll, Elspeth Brooke and Matt Rogers, also leading tours to Aldeburgh and Opera North ('Richard Baker's wonderfully assured conducting ...' - Guy Dammann, Times Literary Supplement). He returned to Aldeburgh in 2018 with the premiere of Emily Howard's opera To See the Invisible.

May 2017 saw Baker's debut with Music Theatre Wales in their highly praised production of Guto Puw's new Welsh-language opera, Y Tŵr. Philip Venables's 4.48 Psychosis (after the play by Sarah Kane), which premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith in May 2016 under Baker's musical direction, was shortlisted at both the Southbank Sky Arts Awards and the Olivier Awards; Baker conducted its French premiere with the Opéra National du Rhin in September 2019, as part of Strasbourg's Musica Festival. In 2020 he conducts performances of Tippett's The Knot Garden for English Touring Opera.

Baker studied composition in the Netherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and first drew attention with Los Rábanos (1998), a trio recorded and widely performed by the Composers Ensemble, and the remarkable Learning to Fly (1999), a basset clarinet concerto premiered by the London Sinfonietta and Timothy Lines.

The position of New Music Fellow at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (2001-3) inaugurated an important additional strand of work as a concert curator and programme adviser. These and the immediately subsequent years yielded chamber music, a brace of short choral pieces and a number of songs and song cycles - notably Slow passage, low prospect (2004), a collaboration with the poet Lavinia Greenlaw commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival, and Written on a train (2006), for the mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn and a small ensemble led by Christian Tetzlaff.

Hommagesquisse, typically characterful and inventive, was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group to mark Pierre Boulez's visit to that city in 2008. The Tyranny of Fun (2013), a second BCMG commission, was glowingly reviewed - 'how assured Baker's ensemble writing is, and how vividly it fleshes out its structural frame' (Andrew Clements, The Guardian) - and won Baker a nomination for Chamber-Scale Composition in the 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. In 2010 Baker was the subject of a composer portrait in the Philharmonia's Music of Today series, and the same year he wrote Gaming, a substantial chamber work for cello, marimba and piano, to a commission from the New York-based trio Real Quiet. Chamber music was again the focus during 2016 and 2017: Hwyl fawr ffrindiau for mixed sextet (again premiered by BCMG), Kerdantata for piano trio (for the Fidelio Trio) and two solo pieces, Risveglio for harp and Cofadail for piano. A further piano trio is underway, for the ATOS Trio and Wigmore Hall, and Baker is currently working on an orchestral commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra's 2019/20 season.

Born in the West Midlands, Richard Baker was a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral and an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. He is a Research Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama."

-Richard Baker Website (

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Sam Becker: Bass, Cello & Double Bass

"[...] I began playing cello at the age of 6 and picked up the double bass 10 years later and I have been playing bass professionally for the last 5 years. I studied a Bmus in music performance at the Royal Academy of Music and graduated in 2018 with a first-class honours degree.

I have worked with many of the UK's leading orchestras including the Halle, the John Wilson Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic. I enjoy a varied career including orchestral and chamber playing as well as various session work and touring. I have recorded for and performed with such artists as: Bryan Ferry, Jess Gillam, Miloš Karadaglić and Alexis Taylor.

I perform, record and write regularly with my band SUN SILVA. We all met whilst studying at The Royal Academy of Music and have been featured in the FIFA 19 soundtrack, supported Kawala and opened for Jungle at their 2nd album launch in London in 2019."

-MusicTeacher (

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Track Listing:

1 Me Hollywood 15:45

2 Grinding bust turning 5:31

3 movement 1 2:34

4 movement 2 4:09

5 movement 3 7:08

6 Blurry wake song 4:59

7 movement 1 4:07

8 movement 2 4:36

9 movement 3 5:00

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Large Ensembles
New in Compositional Music

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L'Apres-Midi d'un Bot
(zOaR Records)
A collection of original songs recorded in NY & Paris from vocalist Hélène Breschand, also performing on acoustic and electric harp, in a duo with Elliott Sharp, who creates grooves and instrumental environments on guitar, analog synth, bass, toy piano and drum programming; unusually structured and richly detailed, from idiosyncratic to sensuous.
Nitsch, Hermann
Das Orgien Mysterien Theater - Musik des 6 Tage Spiels 2022 [2 CDs]
(Trost Records)
Recorded in Schloss Prinzendorf shortly after the passing of composer and artist Hermann Nitsch, this realization of his six-day play festival of the Orgien Mysterien Theater, an aesthetic ritual of the glorification of existence, merging art, photography and color together, the music an essential element derived from the interplay of sound and colour through harmony or dissonance.
Democ, Adrian
(Another Timbre)
Neha, the Slovakian word for tenderness, is expressed by composer Adrián Demoč in this lovely and gentle work performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; and "Popínavá hudba", written for the international symphony orchestra for new music, Ostrava New Orchestra, referencing the growth of climbing plants through an alluring melodic line that shifts and spreads in direction.

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