May 14th, 2024

“Don’t delete anything!” – Simon Ballard, Mute Song Publishing


I never sit and make music specifically for people – the music just appears. Then, once the pieces have been decided, and the sequencing of tracks begins, a period of reflective listening enables ideas, images, and people to appear. It is a search for how to embody/reflect/encapsulate the spirit of something, and /or someone in the title/dedication of the music itself. I also have a penchant for the French language, and words that are unusual or seldom used.


1. this is not for you

This track is a fragment (originally entitled fragment). It used to be much longer, but a large section of improvisational driftwood was cut out, leaving only the most focused material – a vignette, if you like. Its main thematic statement is something I had written down in my notebook, and miraculously, played it (almost) note for note: 



2. desinance iv.1 (for tommi grönlund)

An alternate take from an album of the same name, released on Sähkö Recordings in (2021). The pieces, dedicated to Franck Vigroux, were all recorded as raw material for a project Franck and I were working on. Its default harmonic character is achieved by widening my hands to the limit of their span, and simply seeing what sort of sonorities emerge.


Sähkö Recordings label founder Tommi Grönlund was keen to release much of the material in its complete form. This is an ‘alternate take’ of the fourth variation from that album, and is affectionately dedicated to Tommi, on account of his faith in the music at a time when I struggled to have any at all.

3. to francesca

A first take of another sketchbook idea – this time, a series of impulsive chords, notated with the intention of organising them at a later date (there was some attempt to order / attach a rhythmic value to them initially, as seen in the photograph below). My problem has always been that I do not possess the patience nor the will to settle the aforementioned, and so here they emerge as a spontaneous, notated embodiment of my indecision and lack of sustained effort to complete anything:


To my oldest friend, Rev. Francesca Allison.

4. the mirror and its fragments 

An inverse approach to my usual piano-then-colour-in-with-the-cello approach. By recording the cello parts first, their function assumes a kind of malleable bedrock on which to place a number of atonal piano sonorities, whilst gradually and reluctantly encircling a harmonic resolution of sorts. 


The title is of course taken from Part the First – Which Treats of The Mirror and its Fragments – taken from The Snow Queen, by Hans Andersen. No writer has ever encapsulated the malady of human depression so concisely.

5. only when it is (in memoriam bill kinghorn)

The take itself was amongst a handful of pieces I made for a TV documentary about the French painter and illustrator James Tissot. Despite the commission brief (whose instructions were to recreate the mood captured on an earlier album Isotach), it transpired that the commissioners didn’t want anything of the sort, and this particular improvisation was found lurking in a folder containing almost an hour of rejected piano pieces.


William Kinghorn was a composer, pianist, and educator – and anyone who attended Leeds College of Music throughout the 70s-00s will have been inspired by this brilliant man’s tireless musical exploration and enigmatic teaching. Bill’s style was sage-like and elliptical – there were no easy answers, but encouraged a steady application of thought and uneasy work towards results that would provide nourishment for a lifetime of music-making. “…But only when it is!” – is one of many memorable aphorisms by him.

6. eclipsis

An opportunity arose to upgrade from my beloved Yamaha C3 to a Bösendorfer Imperial (made possible by the incredible generosity of Besbrode Pianos), and after it was installed, I had no idea how to play it… The two instruments were worlds apart, and so I set about making some pieces that didn’t do very much at all (some of these have now been absorbed into a forthcoming duo album with Keeley Forsyth), with this and other pieces from the same period being almost studies in challenging the importance, or rather, the habitual impulse towards melodicism for its own sake.

7. dissemble (for brian irvine)

Taken from Simon Ballard’s “Don’t delete anything!” session, dissemble is a fair illustration of how/why/when I choose to add cellos to an improvised piano piece. In this case, there were a few edits – small ‘corners’ that I felt didn’t really work, and so cut them out. to francesca, and Somewhere I have Never Travelled (from moogmemory), were both heavily reliant on this method as an arbitrary/intuitive way to build ‘compositional’ structure. 

So, once a cut is made, it’s usually left as it is, however, there are instances where the join creates an unnatural shift in some way – so, in dissemble, the first entry of the cellos is to mask, or disguise an inadequacy that was particularly audible (to me, at least). Later on however, they are literally added to highlight a musical departure from the main character – to shine a spotlight on a climax point – and so literally traced the cello parts on to certain notes within the piano part(s):


Composer, conductor, and bandleader Brian Irvine has been a part of my life and musical universe for many years, and is both a link back to my familial roots in Ireland, and is also mentor to two of my oldest and most cherished musical colleagues – Dave Kane and Steve Davis. Brian’s loving and generous personality is a joy to orbit.

8. precipice

INTERNATIONAL ART ENGLISH VERSION: Precipice is dancing with irregularity, and a kind of study in the push and pull of things attempting to escape the confines of togetherness – towards collapse. 

PLAIN ENGLISH VERSION: Because of my hugely flawed piano technique, I found myself battling with an unintended, rhythmic irregularity (between the right and left hands), but just went along with it. Starting over is to be avoided at any cost.


Précis started out as a simple, pizzicato cello figure, and was going to leave it at that, but decided to track a melodic line over it in a single take straight after. It was windy outside. This melodic part is far from perfect (technically and sonically), but there seemed to be something there – so left it undisturbed. Striving to refine and perfect can often destroy some meaningful qualities that arise only through imperfection. Losing to the whim of polish, and to the conventions of technical excellence is, arguably, to hear a story untold (and the total and utter failure to perceive the truth in what is already there).

9. dedicated to you, because you were listening (in memoriam keith tippett)

This was one of a number of solo pieces I recorded (there were perhaps four in total) for no particular reason.

Title & Dedication

Keith Tippett‘s musicality and pianism were unmatched, and, after his untimely death a few years ago, wanted to gift this to him as a thank you note. I felt that Keith was (and is still) the only pianist who has ever acknowledged my musicality and validity as a piano player, and went out of his way to encourage me in what I was doing since our first meeting in my early twenties. Keith’s music is ultimate truth – the real thing. I can only continue, and to hope to aspire to the same qualities in my own music. For those of you familiar with Keith Tippett’s musical output, the title of this piece will be well understood.