UK Premiere of Howard’s Calculus of the Nervous System
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / cond. Andris Nelsons 21.08.12, BBC Proms 2012
‘The second item of the first half was the UK première of Emily Howard's Calculus of the Nervous System. This evocative work really tested the orchestra's dynamic range, particularly their pianissimos, and the CBSO showed themselves to be more than a match for its considerable technical and emotional challenges. The strings sustained endless chords that were so quiet you started to question if they were there at all, while clarinettist Nicholas Carpenter crescendoed out of the nothingness, with notes that seemed to have no beginning and no end. This was a piece that really made you listen, and drew you in, and its 15 minutes seemed to pass in an instant. Whether intentionally or not, the quietness also focused attention onto the noises of the typically restless Proms audience, with moments that were so quietly enrapturing that none of the audience's vast number dared so much as breathe.’
Matthew Lynch, www.bachtrack.com, 24.8.12
‘All stops and starts, sometimes on the edge of audibility, sometimes crashingly loud, with wispy ideas pursued from section to section of the orchestra, it conveyed a vague sense of urgency, and indeed no forward movement. Taking my cue from the gagaku-style dissonances, I found myself imagining a Zen rock garden in Japan, which the music fitted very pleasantly.’
Michael Church, The Independent, 22.8.12
‘Calculus ... forms the final part of a triptych inspired by the work of Ada Lovelace (1815-52), a daughter of Byron and a noted mathematician. One of Lovelace's aims was the creation of a mathematical model that demonstrated how the brain gives rise to thoughts, and Howard, in response, scrutinises the nature of memory as tone clusters and percussive throbs shift in and out of focus.’
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 22.8.12
‘At first, the orchestra seemed reluctant to break the silence, sound emerging hesitantly from muted percussion and strings. Tempo remained slowish throughout and, despite sudden violent outbursts, the music was often at the threshold of audibility. At length this might become wearing but the tension was maintained through 12 minutes of focused intensity before the music tumbled back into silence. Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra seemed as fully inside Howard’s world as they were inside Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony...’
Nick Kimberley, London Evening Standard, 22.8.12
'On Monday night I was present at a Q&A session at which Emily Howard explained something of the background to her piece, Calculus of the Nervous System, with its various inspirations in Ada Lovelace, Geoffrey Hill's poetry, exponential functions and neural networks. Her intention was to create an image of how the brain holds and jumbles up memories. But listening to the performance of Calculus of the Nervous System I began to wonder whether knowing a composer's inspiration actually helps us understand the piece. Certainly, the motivic figures in the music which represent the individual memories were too difficult to ascertain and follow, without study and a score. What was left was a piece which was profoundly atmospheric, where something always seemed about to happen.
It started and ended in near silence, except that the real impression was that the music continued for ever. There was no development and no resolution, the music just was; which was rather gripping. Howard's writing was often sparse and spare, with individual notes placed very carefully. The overall impression was not of melody or motivic figure, but of texture. Howard's intention had evidently been to create the jumbled up feeling that memories have in the brain, but in fact randomness generates its own sort of uniformity. For her intellectual concept to come over aurally, I think she would have needed to work from a more structured, tonal starting point and allow that to fracture, to give listeners some baselines. But if you forgot about her intentions and simply listened, the result was a fascinating and tantalising piece; one which was superbly rendered by Nelsons and the CBSO.'
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill Blog, 22.8.12
Zátopek! / New Music 20x12
15 June, The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, UK
15 July, The Southbank Centre, London, UK
Second Movement / Liverpool Philharmonic / Clark Rundell
"A tremendous opera"
The Review Show, BBC 2, July 2012
"Emily Howard’s short opera is, like its subject, almost insanely ambitious"
The Guardian, June 2012
"Zátopek! by @EHowardComposer is one of our top #Olympic pieces!"
@classicfm, July 2012
Go for gold! The best Olympic music
Review of 'Race Against Time'
'London 2012: Opera recalls Olympic hero Emil Zátopek'
BBC News Entertainment and Arts
'Composer Emily Howard looks forward to the première of her Olympic inspired work Zátopek!'
Liverpool Echo Feature
Howard’s Ada sketches at the Royal Opera House's EXPOSURE
16-18 February, Linbury Studio Theatre,
ROH, Covent Garden, London, UK
The Future of Opera is in Your Hands…
"Written by Emily Howard, who has been commissioned to produce a piece for the Cultural Olympiad and who I featured in my column as a young artist to look out for in 2012 in MUSO Magazine; Ada Sketches II is a short dramatic vocal work to be sung by distinguished mezzo Lore Lixenberg imagining that the Analytical Engine (a forerunner of computer programming) might compose music. The composer studied Mathematics and Computation at Oxford University and often draws on physics as her inspiration."
Paul Guest, The Huffington Post, 16.2.12
"...Hervorgehoben werden muss Emily Howards Ada Sketches II (nach einem Libretto von Laura Tunbridge), eine Vorstudie zu einer Oper über die Pionierin der Mathematik Ada Lovelace. Sowohl ihr Stück hatte die meiste Substanz als auch die Aufführung, der die goßartige Loré Lixenberg als Ada Lovelace ihren Stempel aufdrückte."
"One must highlight Emily Howard's Ada Sketches II (Libretto Laura Tunbridge), a preliminary study of an opera about the pioneering mathematician Ada Lovelace. Her piece had the most substance as did the performance on which the brilliant Loré Lixenberg put her mark." (translation by Andrea Rauter)
Fragments of the Future
ROH2’s informal annual presentation of contemporary opera
"Amongst the highlights this year are Icarus by composer Michael Zev Gordan and librettist Stephen Plaice; Emily Howard’s Ada sketches II; and Tom Randle’s The Sculptor’…Ada sketches II draws on the sciences and imagines how the Analytical Engine (a forerunner of computer programming) might compose music."
Opera and Music Theatre Forum, February 2012
Howard's Ada sketches at SOUNDINGS, Kings Place
05.12.11, SOUNDINGS, Kings Place, London, UK
"Howard's Ada sketches ... one of a number of very fine pieces ... pictures Ada Lovelace dreaming that her (and Babbage's) analytical engine – an early computer – produced notes instead of numbers. Typical of Howard in its minute theatricality, it is a gentle affair, with sparse, dreamy textures for flute and clarinet and a vocal line, sung by Loré Lixenberg, that moves from speech to song and prose to verse (and back again). The percussion part, devised by Adam Clifford, deploys flower pots and a torn cymbal to intriguing effect."
Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 07.12.11
World Premiere of Howard's Calculus of the Nervous System
Wien Modern 2011 Festival Commission
ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna / cond. James MacMillan
20.11.11, Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria
"...Calculus presented an absorbing mix of stealth, suggestion and surprise – its tremulous opening punctuated by silences like a sequence of abortive starts, and its final measures sounding like a sequence of abortive endings, but engineered (which I think if the right word here) with winning confidence and craft. I was impressed."
Michael White, The Telegraph, 22.11.11
"Ein Werk, das man wegen seiner unglaublichen Einprägsamkeit beim zweiten Mal Hören sicher sofort wieder erkennen wird."
"A work which because of its incredible memorability will be instantly recognizable on a second hearing."
Michaela Preiner (translation by Andrea Rauter)
Howard's Solar at Wien Modern Festival 2011
ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna / cond. James MacMillan
20.11.2011, Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria
"… Solar was the second performance of a piece by Emily Howard in the course of the festival. The relationship to Magnetite was clearly audible: both Solar and Magnetite ware inspired by the idea of sound as magnetic fields. Emily Howard proves her hand for theatrical moments and a cleverly devised arc of suspense. The audience received the work enthusiastically…"
www.terz.cc, November 2011
Howard’s Sky and Water recorded on John McCabe:FAREWELL RECITAL
John McCabe (piano)
Toccata Classics [TOCC 0139]
"Her Sky and Water was inspired by an M.C. Escher drawing in which birds morph into fishes. It tumbles with a starry, sometimes dissonant profusion of glinting and glimmering writing... It ends in an enigmatically twinkling glow. It is very impressive in the hands of the dedicatee, John McCabe."
Rob Barnett, www.musicweb-international.com, November 2011
"Emily Howard (a Liverpudlian like McCabe) is perhaps these days not so much up and coming, as arrived: her Sky and Water…cerebral, sparser, linear, the realization in pianistic terms of an idea of ascent and descent."
Piers Burton-Page, International Record Review, November 2011
"Howard's Sky and Water (2005), its title owing to M. C. Escher's wood etching – fish and birds appropriating one another – opens with an arresting gesture ... and flourishes both contrapuntally and dramatically."
Colin Anderson, www.classicalsource.com, October 2011