Following pieces such as Game of Attrition and Avian Mirrors, Arlene Sierra’s Nature Symphony is yet another example of her fascination with the natural world. The composer likens her attraction to this subject to the series of artworks produced by visual artists: ‘My mom is a painter, so I grew up going to art exhibitions and seeing group and solo shows. Visual artists are always obsessing about the same material; they tend to have huge series of something like 50 paintings based on the same idea, whereas with modern composers it tends to be all about reinvention, or even abandoning the last thing you did. I like the painters’ idea more. There are a few outliers among my works, but I tend to have different series of interconnected pieces. This is the biggest statement yet, but I’m sure there will be more.’

The Nature Symphony is as much an expression of the composer’s concern at the fragility of nature as a celebration of it, however. ‘It’s partly my interest in process, and putting extra-musical processes in my music; not narratives, stories or personal impressions so much as just a way to make ideas work amongst rhythms and pitches,’ says Sierra. However, her interest is more than just conceptual: ‘I don’t see how anyone living today can fail to realise the urgency of what is going on with the natural world and what we human beings are doing to change things. I have a little boy now, who’s five, and I’m so conscious of how different the environment is from when I was a child. It’s a personal sense of urgency, as opposed to trying to put my walk in the woods into a piece of music.’ She pauses, then adds: ‘It’s funny in a way, because I’m not really an outdoorsy person, and I’ve lived in cities all my life. But I love and think about nature on many different levels.

The seed from which the seed grew came from another of Sierra’s nature pieces, a trio called Butterflies Remember a Mountain. ‘That piece is about butterfly migration; I took very fragmentary, tiny fluttering ideas and put them in a big cyclical, migratory form. Somehow, I still felt there was something about those ideas which was not finished with that piece, so when I got this commission one of the first things I wanted to do was to take some of the fluttering and cyclical ideas and put them in an orchestral context. I was really excited about the possibility of taking a tiny idea and increasing it exponentially.’ The concept for the first movement of the piece was complete when Sierra read about the destination of the butterfly migration, a place in Mexico known as the ‘Mountain of Butterflies’, lending the movement its title.

Titled ‘The Black Place (after O’Keeffe)’, the second movement was inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting of the same name. ‘O’Keeffe painted numerous striking landscapes in New Mexico, and there is this hill formation which is a different colour from the surrounding land, bifurcated by a river; it’s a stark image of a real landscape. That suggested a bifurcated form for me – something looming and menacing but still distant. I started to research this landscape and found out it’s now the site of fracking. That really summed up our predicament for me: there’s this stunning landscape which was meditated on by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and now it’s under a very real threat.’

The third and final movement is called ‘Bee Rebellion’, inspired by how sometimes bees will start to rebel and take apart the hive as a result of changes in hormone and endorphin levels. ‘I found it to be a strongly evocative idea, how to design a structure and make textures grow in an orchestra; with rogue elements that make the music go in a different direction.’

Sierra says she was initially worried about labelling the piece as a symphony. ‘In some ways I was a little worried about using that word. I think a lot of composers are very suspicious of it because it comes with a lot of baggage and sets up expectations. But when I was contemplating the word “symphony” I realised that so few women have been able to put that word on anything they’ve created, so it made me think, “Why not?”

‘The piece is also linked to Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. I thought, Stravinsky wasn’t bound by the classical idea of a symphony; he needed to write a three-movement symphony, and I did as well. The different movements of the Stravinsky come from different aspects of his work, and it’s the same with this piece. The movements are connected, but they each have their own life too.’

Arlene Sierra (BBC Philharmonic, Ludovic Morlot, conductor, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7.30pm)

Upon receiving a commission from Dulwich College, where she is visiting composer, Cecilia McDowall turned to the works of alumnus Raymond Chandler for inspiration. ‘I knew he was an Old Boy, so I looked for anything which linked him to world war one,’ the composer explains. ‘I found out he did actually serve, even if not for very long, and I found an article in which he describes his experience of trench warfare.’

Hope amid the horror: Cecilia McDowall © Andrew McDowall
Hope amid the horror: Cecilia McDowall
© Andrew McDowall

Although permission to use this text was denied, McDowall was able to set a poem written especially by Dr Joseph Spence, Master of Dulwich College, which is based on the Chandler. ‘I think what Dr Spence did was to immerse himself in the idea of trench warfare, and to envision what it must be like to be a soldier, not knowing what’s going on, all associated with the mud and the rats, and really just thinking of how to stay alive. I think he’s done that in a very successful way. The poem is very spare. Dr Spence hasn’t made a “version” of this, but was simply inspired by Chandler’s article and located his poem in that dark place.’

McDowall’s setting is comprised of two contrasting strands, representing ‘hope in the face of the ugliness of war.’ The trebles sing De Profundis, in memoriam in contrast with the stark poetry sung by the other voices below: ‘I felt there should be some suggestion of tranquillity, which of course goes against everything we know and understand of warfare. This line of hope runs all the way through, with only one moment of interruption.’

The part taken by the altos, tenors and basses is ‘much more earthbound and laboured’. McDowall says she thinks of it as representing ‘the soldiers’ progress through [the] battle’, adding: ‘There are moments of intense whispering to draw attention to the ghastliness of their situation.’

Perhaps unusually for a memorial piece, De Profundis does not find resolution. ‘It’s left in the air, because the poem finishes with the soldiers moving on. The last thing one hears is this layer of voices across the top, with the lower voices having faded away beneath. I suppose one could imagine they’re trudging on into the distance towards their next battle.’

Cecilia McDowall De Profundis (Night Raid) UK prem (John Carnelley, organ, Choir of Dulwich College, Richard Mayo, conductor, St John’s Smith Square, London)

As part of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Composers Hub scheme, Daniel Kidane was asked to write a piece with some connection with war. Inspired by the fighting spirit of the Zulu, a Bantu ethnic group from southern Africa, this was the result.

Reflecting on his background: Daniel Kidane © Emile Holba
Reflecting on his background: Daniel Kidane
© Emile Holba

‘I like writing energetic music, and I wasn’t too keen on writing a sombre piece – I didn’t want it to be murky or slow,’ Kidane says. ‘It’s more a battle piece than a reflective one. It’s also to do with my heritage; my father’s from Eritrea, which was a colony of various different countries, and I wanted to encapsulate their struggle. In a way it was a vessel for me to explore my own musical ideas.’

‘I chose to focus on the Boer war, so it’s a battle piece where the music is immediately energetic. The Zulu people went to battle without weapons matching their rivals; they had spears rather than guns. I wanted to almost try to capture that braveness and that spirit.’

Before writing a single note, Kidane undertook research into the Zulu. ‘YouTube has a lot of Zulu tribal dances and songs, so I immersed myself in their soundworld. But I didn’t pick out specific rhythms or anything; I took what I’d learnt and translated it into my own language. I didn’t just want to write a tribal piece. My piece is very spirited and very rhythmic, and there’s a quieter section which gives a nod to the mbira (thumb piano).’

Although it might not be evident from this piece, Kidane says writing fast music used to be a challenge. ‘I enjoy it now; even my slower stuff is quite rhythmically animated. In Zulu, the energy is passed from one group of instruments to the next; it goes on like that throughout the piece.’

It was no mistake that the composer chose as his subject an era where colonialism was rife. ‘I reflect on my own background and stuff that’s close to my heart. I’m not big on rhetoric that alienates people from other cultures, so this is my way of shining a light on bits of history that maybe people don’t want to confront without it being too “in your face”.’

Daniel Kidane Zulu (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Cristian Măcelaru, conductor, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 7.30pm; also 11 November, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 7.30pm)

Jonathan Dove Under Alter’d Skies (James Gilchrist, tenor, Anna Tilbrook, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
Gabriela Ortiz Hominum UK prem (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Carlos Miguel Prieto, conductor, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7.30pm)
Geoff Palmer Unidentified Edges UK prem (Frauke Jürgensen, soprano, Claire Babington, cello, Aberdeen Citadel, 12.45pm)
Alejandro Civilotti Aché (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra musicians, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire musicians, Jonathan Bloxham, conductor, CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 1.30pm)

Betsy Jolas Histoires Vraies UK prem (Håkan Hardenberger, trumpet; Roger Muraro, piano, BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Storgårds, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)
Andy Scott New work (Northern Chamber Orchestra, Stoller Hall, Manchester, 7.30pm)

Joseph Phibbs Clarinet concerto (Mark van de Wiel, clarinet, Philharmonia Orchestra, Edward Gardner, conductor, Anvil, Basingstoke, 7.45pm; also 5 November, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm)
James Lark The Broadside Ballads (Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano, Bromley Boy Singers, Travis Baker, conductor, St Katharine Cree, London, 6pm)
Alexandra Harwood Sinfonia Concertante: The Secret Ball (I Musicanti, Leon Bosch, conductor, St John’s Smith Square, 7.30pm)
Steven Mackey Through Your Fingers UK prem (Alisa Weilerstein, cello, Inon Barnatan, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)

Beat Furrer Concerto for piano and ensemble UK prem (ensemble version) Linea dell’orizzonte London prem (Nicolas Hodges, piano, Philharmonia Orchestra, Clement Power, conductor, Royal Festival Hall, 6pm)
David Ward Arias and Cadenzas (Rohan de Saram, cello, Suren de Saram, percussion, Kausikan Rajeshkumar, piano, The Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, 3pm)

Alasdair Nicolson Shadows on the Wall – Five Hauntings London prem (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ben Gernon, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)
Alasdair Nicolson The Ebb Variations (Christian Wilson, organ, King’s College Chapel, Aberdeen, 1.10pm)
Kate Soper Only the words themselves mean what they say UK prem Ben Smith New work (Ben Smith, piano, Patricia Auchterlonie, soprano, Yoanna Prodanova, cello, Antonia Berg, flute, St George the Martyr, Borough High Street, London, 1pm)
Gregory Emfietzis Gluttony: Live to Drink (Metapraxis Ensemble, IKLECTIK, London, 8pm)

Benedict Mason New work (Pascal Gallois, bassoon, Red Note Ensemble, The Anatomy Rooms, Aberdeen, 7.30pm)

Lewis Murphy Belongings (Rodney Earl Clarke, bass-baritone, Leslie Davis, mezzo-soprano, Nardus Williams, soprano, Glyndebourne Youth Opera, Lee Reynolds, conductor, 3pm)
Ola Gjeilo New work (Fairhaven Singers, Ralph Woodward, Queens’ College Chapel, Cambridge, 7.30pm)
Jools Scott The Cool Web London prem (Edward Grint, baritone, Philharmonia Orchestra, Sonoro, Merton Music Foundation Young Voices, Robin O’Neill, conductor, Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon, 8pm)

Carl Vine New work European prem (Takács Quartet, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
James MacMillan Sicut Cervus (Exultate Singers, St George’s Church, Bristol)

Aled Smith, Shaun Davies, Steve Kilpatrick, Lucy Armstrong New works (Student musicians from RNCM and University of Salford, Digital Performance Lab, University of Salford, 6pm)
Larry Goves New work (BBC Philharmonic, Mark Heron, conductor, The Studios, MediaCityUK, Salford, 7.30pm)

Jingyu Chen New work (RNCM students, Carole Nash Recital Room, RNCM, Manchester, 1.15pm)
Amir Sadeghi Konjani New work (RNCM New Ensemble, Mark Heron, conductor, RNCM Concert Hall, 7pm)
Eyvind Gulbrandsen Water and Air (Shoal, Carole Nash Recital Room, RNCM, Manchester, 7.45pm)

Kevin Malone The Water-Protectors Richard Whalley Refugees Welcome ♥ (Ebonit Saxophone Quartet, Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester, 1.10pm)
John Foulds (arr Adam Gorb) Mantra of Action (new arrangement) (RNCM Wind Orchestra, Mark Heron, conductor, RNCM Concert Hall, Manchester, 9.15pm)

Cassandra Miller Round UK prem John Croft New work (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov, conductor, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 7.30pm)
Gregory Rose Suite pour cordes (Trinity Laban String Ensemble, Nic Pendlebury, conductor, Blackheath Concert Halls, London, 7.30pm)
Nik Bärtsch New work (Nik Bärtsch, piano, Laura Lucas, flute, Joy Farrall, clarinet, Roger Linley, double bass, James Woodrow, guitar, Wigmore Hall, 1pm; also 24 November, St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, 1pm)
Stephanie Haensler Ganz Nah; Im Bregriffe UK prems James Dillon Tanz/haus (Red Note Ensemble, Geoffrey Paterson, conductor, St Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, 6pm)
Kasper Toeplitz Agitation / Stagnation Lou Reed Metal Machine Music UK prems (Ensemble 2e2m, zeitkratzer, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 9pm)
Maja S K Ratkje/Kathy Hinde Aeolian (Andreas Borregaard, accordion, Maja S K Ratkje, music, Red Note Ensemble, Bates Mill Photographic Studio, Huddersfield, 11.30pm)
Philip Cashian Leonora Pictures (Psappha, Nicholas Kok, conductor, St Michael’s, Ancoats, Manchester, 7.30pm)

Linda Catlin Smith
The Underfolding; Nocturnes and Chorales UK prems (Eve Egoyan, piano, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 12pm)
Rolf Wallin, Heine Avdal, Yukiko Shinozaki The Otheroom UK prem (Rolf Wallin, electronics, Eivind Lønning, trumpet, Rolf-Erik Nystrøm, saxophone, Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, trombone, Martin Taxt, tuba, Fabrice Moinet, Johann Loiseau, sound technique, Huddersfield Town Hall, 2pm)
Michaela Grill, Philip Jeck, Karl Lemieux Improvisation (Michaela Grill, computer, Philip Jeck, turntables, Karl Lemieux, projectors, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, 5pm)
Christopher Trapani PolychROME Carola Bauckholt Laufwerk Brian Ferneyhough Umbrations UK prems (Ensemble Modern, Arditti Quartet, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 7.30pm)
Nico Muhly Marnie (English National Opera, Martyn Brabbins, conductor, London Coliseum, 7.30pm; also 26 November, 6.30pm; 28 November, 1 December, 7.30pm; 3 December)
David Braid From Dance to Fugue, Op. 55 (Mikkel Anderson, guitar, Kuno Kjaerbye, violin, Schott’s Music, London, 7pm)
Alan Edward Williams The Arsonists: A Tragi-Comic Opera about Love and Economics (New Adelphi Theatre, University of Salford, 7.30pm)
Kraftwerk Ruckzuck; Spule 4; Strom; Atem; Klingklang; Megaherz UK prems (zeitkratzer, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 10pm)

Linda Catlin Smith 
Gondola; Folkestone UK prems (Quatuor Bozzini, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 12pm)
Wojtek Blecharz
Ahimsa Agata Zubel Madrigals Dai Fujikura Zawazawa UK prems; Sawasawa (Ria Ideta, marimbda, Harry Ross, poet, Polish Radio Choir, Maria Piotrowska-Bogalecka, conductor, Huddersfield Town Hall, 3pm)
Natasha Barrett Sagittarius A* UK prem Ylva Lund Bergner viivii Malin Bang Siku (Karin Hellqvist, violin/electronics, Natasha Barrett, electronics, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, 5pm)
Rolf Hind On what weft are woven the waters (Rolf Hind, piano, Loré Lixenberg, voice, Richard Uttley, piano, George Barton, percussion, Sam Wilson, percussion, Elsa Bradley, percussion, Anne Denholm, harp, Lucy Wakeford, harp, David Alberman, violin/viola, Zoe Martlew, cello, Rob Campion, Isabelle Carré, Nick Cowling, Sophie Ransby, gamelan, Scott Lygate, clarinet, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 8pm)

Dominic Murcott 
Harmonic Canon 1 (Mari Yoshinaga, Garrett Arney, harmonic canon/auxiliary metal percussion, Creative Arts Building Atrium, Huddersfield, 11am)
Raphaël Languillat La Flagellation du Christ (d’après Le Caravage) UK prem (Gilles Grimaître, piano, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 11.40am)
Sarah Nemtsov Journal Gordon Kampe Füchse/Messer UK prems (LUX:NM, Huddersfield Town Hall, 12.20pm)
Włodzimierz Kotoński Study on One Cymbal Stroke (live variation) Paweł Romańczuk Kartacz; Inops Ventilex; 5-4-5; Casio Concerto; Trójwarstwy UK prems (Małe Instrumenty, Huddersfield Art Gallery, 1pm)
Timothy McCormack Heavy Matter Sehyung Kim Sijo_241015 UK prems (Kevin Fairbairn, trombone, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 3.20pm)
Dominic Murcott Harmonic Cannon 2 (Mari Yoshinaga, Garrett Arney, harmonic canon/auxiliary metal percussion, Creative Arts Building Atrium, Huddersfield, 6.30pm)
Lansing McLoskey This Will Not Be Loud and Relentless (Passepartout Duo, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, 7.10pm)
Sukitoa o Namau Nari II UK prem (Bates Mill Photographic Studio, Huddersfield, 11pm)

Brahms arr. Kenneth Woods Piano quartet in A major (English Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor, Cheltenham Town Hall, 7.30pm)
Robert Reid Allan The Palace of Light London prem (Ben Smith, piano, St George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, London, 1pm)
Mary Bellamy beneath an ocean of air Bryn Harrison Piano quintet UK prems (Quatuor Bozzini, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 12pm)
Krzysztof Knittel Norcet II Zbigniew Karkowski Encumbrance UK prems Baskak Delightful Buzz (Thomas Lehn, analogue synthesiser, Gęba Vocal Ensemble, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 5pm)
Christopher Trapani Shotgun Schoegaze Joanna Bailie Last Song from Charleroi Alexander Schubert Wavelet A Societies / Sciences UK prems (Zwerm, Johan Vandermaelen, sound engineer, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 8pm)
Julie Kjær This is where you see me UK prem (Julie Kjær, bass clarinet/flutes/alto sax, Mandhira De Saram, violin, Alice Eldridge cello, John Edwards, double bass, Samuel Stoll, french horn, Mark Sanders, percussion, Bates Mill Photographic Studio, Huddersfield, 10pm)

Tom Harrold New work (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Joseph Swensen, Ayr Town Hall, 7.30pm; also 23 November, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh; 24 November, City Halls, Glasgow)
Hanna Hartman Shadow Box Simon Loeffler B Cathy van Eck Wings Fritz Hauser Schraffur U UK prems Simon Loeffler (We Spoke, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, 4pm)
Hilda Paredes Señales UK prem (Irvine Arditti, violin, London Sinfonietta, Martyn Brabbins, conductor, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 7.30pm)
Pauline Oliveros Bottoms Up 1_RMX Tetsuo Furudate Below The Demarcation Anna Eriksson Three minutes and ten seconds Zbigniew Karkowski Doing By Not Doing Ruta Vitkauskaite Kragraga Lasse Marhaug The Great Silence UK prems (GGR Betong, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 10pm)

Caitlin Woods New work (University of East Anglia Symphony Orchestra, University of East Anglia Choir, St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, 7.30pm)
Steven Daverson Elusive Tangibility II: Firelife UK prem Patricia Alessandrini Tracer la lune d’un doigt (Explore Ensemble, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, 12pm)
Klaus Lang a (tryptichon for organ); d (tryptichon for organ); Tehran dust Polweschsel UNX UK prems Werner Dafeldecker Small Worlds (John Butcher, saxophone, Klaus Lang, organ, Polwechsel, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 7.30pm)
Bogusław Schaeffer Symphony (Thomas Lehn, analogue synthesiser/computer, Bates Mill Photographic Studio, Huddersfield, 9.30pm)
Rhodri Davies Transversal Time (Rhodri Davies, harp, Ryoko Akama, electronics, Sarah Hughes, zither, Catherine Lamb, viola Stine Janvin Motland, vocals, Pia Palme, contrabass recorder, Pat Thomas, piano/electronics, Dafne Vicente Sandoval, bassoon, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 10.30pm)

Mick Barr
TCHMENTREACH Dan Blacksberg / Nick Millevoi Holographic Tubing UK prems Chikako Morishita One Arm 1 Dan Blacksberg/Nick Millevoi Centralia Fragments (Archer Spade, Bates Mill Photographic Studio, Huddersfield, 5pm)
Katherine Young Where the Moss Glows Stephanie Haensler daan und waan UK prems Laurence Osborn Ctrl Nikolet Burzyńska Ombak (The Riot Ensemble, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, conductor, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 7pm)
Bernhard Lang DW24 – Loops for Al Jourgensen Jorge Sanchez-Chiong USED REDUX UK PREMIERE Laura Bowler FFF (Laura Bowler, voice, Michael Krenn, saxophone, Ensemble PHACE, Lars Mlekusch, conductor, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 10pm)

Kit Downes 
Obsidian (Kit Downes, church organ, Tom Challenger, saxophone, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 12pm)
Laura Cannell Feathers Unfurled (Laura Cannell, violin/overbow violin/double recorders, Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 2.30pm)
Pauline Oliveros All Fours for the Drum Bum; Primordial/Life Fritz Hauser RUNDUM UK prems (Fritz Hauser, drums, Anne Bourne, cello, Ross Karre, percussion, ICE, Distractfold, IONE, conductor, Huddersfield Town Hall, 6pm)
Pauline Oliveros The Wheel of Time Enno Poppe Fleisch Ann Cleare the square of yellow light that is your window UK prems Lauren Sarah Hayes Mini Savior Opt. (Nikel, Archer Spade, Lauren Sarah Hayes, hybrid analogue/digital live electronics, The Riot Ensemble, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, conductor, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 10pm)

Magnus Granberg 
How Vain Are All our Frail Delights? Jürg Frey Late Silence (Ensemble Grizzana, St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, 1pm)
Alexander Schubert Supramodal Parser UK prem (Nikel, Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield, 9pm)

Eva-Maria Houben Haikus for four (I, V, VIII, IX) UK prem (Antonia Berg, flute, Patricia Auchterlonie, soprano, Ben Smith, piano, Yoanna Prodanova, cello, St George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, London, 1pm)

Anders Hillborg Violin concerto no. 2 UK prem (Lisa Batiashvili, violin, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)
Joseph Marx An Autumn Symphony UK prem (Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, conductor, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm)
Matthew Olyver New work (Tim Weiss, conductor, Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, 7pm)