James Williamson is the latest composer to be featured in the Journal. James’ composition, The Fifth Element, has also been published in the New Oboe Collection in partnership with Composer’s Edition. Below, James introduces the music.
The Fifth Element
Instrumentation: Solo Oboe
First Performance: Written for and premiered by David Benfield from Souza Winds as part of York Late Music concert series on 1 September 2012.
The Fifth Element conveys my current compositional thinking of creating music through minimal means and forming compositional writing processes that embody the action of ‘less is more’. The piece is built around simple foundations – a repetition of a short six bar phrase, which is transposed around a cycle of fifths, keeping the same rhythm each time. The phrase ends with a raucous quasi-cadential multiphonic, that leads to the next fifth of the cycle. Grace notes are added, as well as timbral-flutters and breathy key rattles to add a further layer of texture and colour. Additionally, an optional piano part (subject to availability) acts as a resonator for the oboe and space, rather than an accompaniment. The oboist is to play directly into the piano (with pedal down) to tease out and resonate the accented grace notes (cycling the fifths), thus creating another underlying layer of colour. The piece ends how it started with the opening few bars suggesting an infinite amount of times the cycle can be repeated.
About James Williamson
James Williamson (b.1984) studied composition at the University of Huddersfield with Patrick Standford. James studied privately for a year with Bryn Harrison before heading to the Royal Academy of Music to study a Masters (with a contribution grant from the Lawrence Atwell’s Charity) with Philip Cashian. Whilst at RAM, James also had the opportunity to received lessons from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Simon Bainbridge, Bent Sørenson and Hans Abrahamsen, amongst others.
James has written and collaborated with ensembles and performers including the London Sinfonietta, Lunar Saxophone Quartet, Delta Saxophone Quartet, Manson Ensemble, National Theatre, CoMA London, Aurora Orchestra, Galliard Ensemble, Ensemble Firebird, Croatian Philharmonic Orchestra, University of Pula Symphonic Orchestra, Österreichischen Symphoniker, Quatour Diotima, Barry Webb (trombone), Franko Bozac (accordion) and was commissioned Modicum Momentum for percussionist Sarah Mason for the inaugural Kammer Klang series, 2008. James was also shortlisted for the Young Composers Workshop at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2006 for his solo harp piece 10 Pages, performed by Rhodri Davies. Music for Six received its premiere at Canterbury Sounds New 2007 followed by a performance workshop at a Park Lane Group Composers’ Platform.
He was commended for his Aurora Orchestra commission Chamber Concerto for the RAM Eric Coate’s Composition Prize. James also won the inaugural Lunar Saxophone Quartet New Music Award in December 2007 with his piece In Memoriam. This piece was recorded for the LSQ’s album ‘Flux’ released February 2011 by Signum Classics. This was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction. Franko Bozac and the Österreichischen Symphoniker recently performed James’ accordion concerto The Hole of Horcum in their 2014 “International Series” season, in Linz. The concerto was subsequently broadcast on Radio 3 Belgrade, Serbia.
Recent works include String Quartet No.1, Erratic that was workshopped by Quatuor Diotima and new piece Fault-Klang for Bass Clarinet, written for Dov Goldberg as part of Psappha Ensemble’s ‘writing of clarinet scheme’. This scheme culminated in a day of filming on Good Friday 2016 and the finished film is available to view on Psappha’s YouTube Channel.
James is currently working towards a PhD in Composition with Martin Suckling at the University of York, with thanks to receiving the Terry Holmes Composition Scholarship from 2013 to the present.
James lives in York with his wife Jodie and their cat Wendy.
To find out more about James and his compositions, please visit: