Venancio Mbande talking with the trees (1993/94)
a concerto for quartertone marimba (and various wooden instruments)
and fifteen instruments

flt (picc/alto), ob (cor angl), Bb clt (A clt), bass clt, tpt, tbn, harp, cimbalom,
1 MIDI kbd (2 TX802s / 2 TX16Ws) 1 perc vln, 2 vla, vlc, c-bass

Duration: 18 minutes
Commissioned by Robert Van Sice and l'Itinéraire
First performance: May 1994, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Robert Van Sice/l'Itinéraire/Wood

programme note

Two men meet, each presuming the other to be from a distant planet

a concerto for percussionist and twenty-four instruments

flt (picc/alto), ob (cor angl), Bb clt 1 (Eb clt), Bb clt 2, bass clt (Bb clt 3), sop sax (bar sax), bsn, hn, tpt, tenor tbn, bass tbn, tba,
2 MIDI kbds, vibraphone, hp,
3 vln, 2 vla, 2 vlc, 1 c-bass

Duration: 22 minutes

Commissioned by the BBC
for the 1995 Promenade Concerts

First performance: September 1995,
Royal Albert Hall, London

Steven Schick/Critical Band/Wood

James Wood's brilliantly conceived second percussion concerto, premiered at the Proms... Wood is at his best exploring and expanding the range of the percussion's sonority, surrounding his performer, the American, Steven Schick, with a battery of newly invented instruments - 11 specially devised drums, cowbells tuned in quartertones and an extraordinary object called a microxyl. It was mesmerising to watch Schick play this formidable array but what was perhaps most fascinating was the body language Wood forced on his performer. In order to play the microxyl in the elegiacally beautiful central section Schick appeared to slump over the box. In the opening allegro, he attacked the instruments like a warrior. In the final section Schick had to dance between the drums. It was an extraordinary performance. About Wood as a conductor I have few doubts and the clarity he draws from his own ensemble, Critical Band, in both his own music and in Messiaen's is astounding. This is some of the finest contemporary music playing I have heard for some time.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 13.9.95

This is an astonishing score, holding attention from first thwack to last. Steven Schick brushed and stroked with flamboyant elegance. Critical Band was conducted by the composer.

Barry Millington, The Times, 13.9.95

programme note

The Parliament of Angels (1995)
a concerto for eighteen musicians

picc(panpipes), ob, Eb clt 1(Bb and bass), Bb clt 2 (bass), sop sax (bar sax),
tpt, tbn, tba, 2 perc, accordion,
MIDI kbd (TX802 / EMUe64), hp, cimbalom, mandolin, guitar, vlc, c-bass

Duration: 20 minutes
Composed as a result of the 1993 Gemini Fellowship
First performance: March 1996, Ars Musica Festival, Brussels
Ictus/George-Elie Octors

programme note

photos of the Bayeux Frescoes of musician angels

Audio Excerpt available

Journey of the Magi (2000)
for large ensemble

flt (picc/bass/conch), ob (oboe d'amore/conch),
Eb clt 1 (Bb clt/bass), Bb clt 2 (bass), bsn (contra/conch),
hn, tpt, tbn (conch),
7 percussion,
2 vln, vla, vlc, bass

Duration: 18 minutes

Co-Commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture (Commande de l'Etat), MUSICA Festival, and Les Percussions de Strasbourg for Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and Les Percussions de Strasbourg

First performance: 4 October 2000
Palais des Fêtes, Strasbourg

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne/Percussions de Strasbourg/Lorraine Vaillancourt

programme note

De telarum mechanicae (2007)
(On the mechanics of weaving)

for fifteen instruments

flt, ob, clt/bass, bsn, tpt
mandolin, guitar, harp, piano, vibraphone
2 vln, vla, vlc, bass

Duration: 15 minutes

Commissioned by Insomnio (Director, Ulrich Poehl),

First performance: 18 November 2007
Huddersfield Festival

Insomnio/Ulrich Poehl

Audio Excerpt available


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Programme notes [pdf]