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Mark Bowden wins British Composer Award 2016

Posted on 07/12/2016
Mark Bowden

Image courtesy of Mark Allan

Mark Bowden, Reader in Composition in the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, has won a British Composer Award for his work Five Memos.

Dr Bowden, who is a composer of chamber, orchestral, and vocal music, won the Solo or Duo Category at the British Composer Awards 2016 on 6 December 2016.

"It was a real honour to receive a British Composer Award for Five Memos. Of my recent pieces it is one that is very special to me," said Dr Bowden. 

Remarkably, this was not the only nomination for Royal Holloway; Sorana Santos, who is studying for a PhD in the Department of Music, was also recognised for her recent composition, Our Lady of Stars Book of Hours, with a nomination in the Contemporary Jazz Composition category.

The event, hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Sarah Walker and Andrew McGregor, awarded prizes in 13 different categories. The awards recognise the creative talent of composers and sound artists, with the aim of bringing their music to a wider audience. They highlight the best compositions that premiered in the UK across genres including jazz, choral, sonic art, orchestral and more.

Five Memos

Commissioned by London Music Masters, Five Memos, is a pieces composed for violin and piano. Five Memos is inspired by the writing of the Italian author and journalist, Italo Calvino (1923-1985). Calvino was due to deliver the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton lecture series at Harvard for 1985-6, but he died in September 1985 before they were completed. The incomplete scripts were subsequently published in 1988 as Six Memos for the Next Millennium, of which only five were fully drafted.

“I took Six Memos for the Next Millennium as a starting point to create a five-movement work for violin and piano. My ambition was to create musical responses to the artistic virtues Calvino held up as being of particular importance for writers, and artists, of the future," Dr Bowden explains.

"These essays have had a profound effect on much of my writing and teaching for a very long time and so it seemed right to create a piece that explicitly and directly deals with the ideas in the book. I hope that through sharing my professional creative practice in the classroom I can pass on some of Calvino's hopes and aspirations to the brilliant composers of the future that we have studying with us here right now at Royal Holloway," he continued.

The work premiered at in May 2015 at the Newbury Spring Festival. Festival Director Mark Eynon described it as being "vibrant, virtuosic, challenging in the best way, but also accessible and hugely enjoyable. The audience response was overwhelmingly positive, and it was a privilege to host the premiere of an important new work which I hope will receive several more performances.”

Listen in

BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting a programme about this year's awards on Hear and Nowat 10pm on Saturday 10 December.

About the awards

The British Composer Awards are presented by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and sponsored by PRS for Music. The awards took place at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London with a speech given by British composer and broadcaster Gerard McBurney, who presented each of the main category winners with their awards.

Crispin Hunt, the Chairman of BASCA, said: "New music is thriving in Britain today. The inspirational works and inspirational diversity of the composers and sound artists celebrated here at the British Composer Awards, shine a light upon the very best aspects of 21st century British culture. By challenging and enriching our lives through their creativity, tonight's award winners distil the sound of a more positive and inclusive future."

Composition at Royal Holloway

Royal Holloway’s Department of Music is in the top three UK music departments for research quality and student satisfaction (REF 2014 and NSS 2016) and ranked in the top four for teaching quality (Times Good University Guide 2017).  The department’s strength in composition extends to undergraduate and postgraduate students who work directly with notable composers including Mark Bowden.  For more information on Music at Royal Holloway, visit the department's webpages


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