Richard Bullen

Richard Bullen photo: Dimitri Djuric

The music of award-winning British composer Richard Bullen explores space, sonority and performance through richly intricate projects that incorporate music, theatre, film and live action. ‘Bullen’s sonorities are striking… there’s a real musical imagination at work’ – Andrew Clements, The Guardian.

Bullen's large-scale works include The House of Asteria, written for mezzo-soprano Lore Lixenberg and eight clarinets, strings and video, which at its premiere occupied the full space of LSO St Luke's, with performers placed across the height of the building. The cantata Elemental Songs and Dances, a commission from Spitalfields Music and the Royal Academy of Music, at its premiere brought together baritone Omar Ebrahim and large instrumental ensemble with 120 children aged 7–9 from Tower Hamlets schools, the children singing, speaking and acting throughout the RAM’s Duke’s Hall. Steradian, for 12 trombones and torch beams in a dark space, will be performed as part of the 2018 International Trombone Festival in Iowa.

In chamber repertoire, Garden of Forking Paths sees three clarinettists move through and explore the performance space; it has been performed at venues throughout the UK and internationally. Dividuels, for two singers and two violins, one pair onstage and the other off, responds specifically to the resonance of Handel House, and was commissioned by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian. Theatre of Resonance, for pianist Christina McMaster, is a duo with video for piano and digital double. In Hanamichi, commissioned by Anna Hashimoto and first performed in Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall, the live solo clarinet combines with speakers placed around the building that play back sounds made from blowing through each part of the instrument.

Bullen carries through this interest in resonance and theatre into high-profile commissions from leading choirs and ensembles, with recent works including the carol The Oxen, commissioned by Choir and Organ Magazine for the St Paul's Cathedral Choir; a commission from Psappha for solo French horn; a chamber trumpet concerto for the London Symphony Orchestra; and Night Circus for the London Sinfonietta. He also works regularly with amateur and children's ensembles, with recent commissions from the New London Children’s Choir, Finchley Symphony Orchestra, and Midlands Fretted Orchestra (Adopt-a-Composer, Making Music).

Bullen studied with Scott Wilson and Vic Hoyland at Birmingham University, and made his breakthrough while still a student with Walpurgis Night, premiered by BCMG and Ryan Wigglesworth. He went on to study with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at Dartington International Summer School, with David Sawer at the Royal Academy of Music on his PhD ‘Towards a Resonant Theatre’, and as a member of LSO Soundhub. He is a visiting lecturer in composition at the junior departments of Trinity Laban and the Royal College of Music. His awards include a 2011 BASCA British Composer Award.

©Rachel Beaumont

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Richard Bullen
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