Sky above the clouds written for CoMA

At the end of last year CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) commissioned me to write a work that could be played by several of their groups in their 2024 festival. CoMA is an interesting organisation made up of different ensembles across the country. CoMA establish environments for amateur, emerging and acclaimed music-makers of all backgrounds and abilities to build musical communities and new repertoires. All the ensembles are different, from a group with 2 melodicas, a trumpet and singer to others with lots of strings, brass, woodwind, electric guitars and percussion. There is really many unique and interesting combinations. All of this was very exciting but also challenge regarding how do I write the same piece that is meaningful and effective in the hands of any CoMA group that wants to explore it.

It was certainly an interesting compositional challenge writing for an open-instrumentation group and also trying to still create room for nuance in approach and orchestration. In a sense alot of the decisions regarding aspects of orchestration and timbral exploration, pacing of the work as well have to be given over and trusted upon the conductor. This is a scary and simultaneously liberating aspect of writing for CoMA. During writing and revising the piece I visited a number of CoMA ensembles who were instrumental in helping get the work to a place that was practical and worked with CoMA ensembles everywhere, including CoMA Manchester, CoMA London and CoMA East Midlands. In the end the piece was a mixture of approaches from precise notation, to aleatoric and graphic score aspects.

The piece explores different senses of movement, colour, and textures of an imagined sky. It is particularly inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s painting of the same name after I saw this work in Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keefe museum in the summer of 2023. I travelled alot in 2023 and it struck me how the sky is a constant, wherever I am. The sky is always present but wonderfully different from day to day, or even minute to minute(!) and from place to place.

Hope you enjoy listening to the work in this recording of London CoMA’s premiere performance.

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