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At St. Anne’s Church in Lewes, there is an anchorite hole.


Could I live the life of an anchorite, or a hermit? Not a chance. Too quiet, too slow, too lonely.

What does silence mean to me? On the one hand, in a noisy world, it’s a precious commodity. On the other hand, it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I’m sifting through all the bad stuff in my life, and I’m terrified.

This is what the piece will be about.

No, it’s to be a choral piece. So something about collective silence.

On the radio a Libyan refugee is talking about the experience of crossing the Mediterranean on a boat. He describes it as ‘a great journey made in silence’. (Oddly enough, I’ve come across this phrase before, in a Michael Ondaatje novel.)

So that’s it. The collective experience of being in transit, fearful, in limbo.

The music arises out of silence, dissolves into silence. It’s simple, monumental, epic.

A piece about silence, made in sound.



We have come from far away

A great journey made in silence


Listen to the silence

It is a hyena it is a jackal

It is a lost child it is a mother searching

It is an oasis it is an embrace it is a prayer

It is a storm cloud a distant guillotine a slow guillotine

It is a dung beetle it is a virus

It is a dark room it is a blinding light

No-one can walk in its sight



We have come from far away

A great journey made in silence




For The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments

Commissioned by Clare Salaman


Ah, the tromba marina. An instrument, named after the Virgin Mary, invented so that women, who were discouraged (forbidden?) from playing wind instruments, could play an instrument that sounded like a trumpet, well, almost like a trumpet, an extraordinary other-world sound where the dislocation between what you hear and what you see makes your brain jump. An instrument which immediately became associated with Death, and the Dance of Death. It’s difficult to imagine the Grim Reaper playing the tromba marina. He (surely always a he?) wouldn’t have a hand free to grab you.


October 2021. We are in the midst of a vicious C-pandemic. The Grim Reaper has been working overtime. Four wonderful women I know, all involved in early music, are coping with a different kind of C-attack, coping brilliantly, courageously, defiantly. So I’ve written a little piece that is a Dance of Life, a Dance of Defiance, intending that the beautiful strange natural harmonic palette and honky fire-fighting sound of the tromba marina express the fact that in times of trouble people are capable of extraordinary acts of strength.


The piece is dedicated, with love, to Deborah Roberts, Sianed Jones, Belinda Sykes and Clare Salaman.


Belinda, Sianed and Clare have since died, profound losses to the world of early music, and to the world in general.


Erthe toc of Erthe

The song is on Joglaresa’s wonderful 2021 CD Boogie Knights.


Watch here



Score here


Erthe toc of erthe, erthe wyth woh

Erthe other erthe to the erthe droh.

Erthe leyde erthe in erthene throh.

Tho heuede erthe of erthe erthe ynoh.


Earth took of earth, earth with woe;

Earth another earth to the earth drew;     

Earth laid earth in earthen trough;

Then had earth of earth earth enough.


The earth: where we live - and where we are buried.



Lyrics Peter Levi

Performed by Netherlands Radio Choir

Score TTBB from Boosey and Hawkes

Score SSATB in Scores


This mountain standing in the sun.

Out of the light into the heat

out of the heat into the wind

out of the wind into the sun.

Out of the rock into the snow

out of the shadow of the rock

onto the rock below the peak,

off the rock into shadow.

Freedom cannot be ended.

Out of the snow onto the grass

out of the grass onto the face

out of the grass onto the snow.

Freedom cannot be ended.

Out of the cold into the light

out of the heat into the snow

out of the snow onto the grass

and off the grass into the trees

among the trees in the shadow

out of the trees onto the rock.

This mountain standing in the sun.


Peter Levi


Ready to Drop

created with John del Nero and Sebastian Frost

with help from Mike Furness

Produced by Artichoke


Listen here


On Brighton’s promenade, a short distance to the east of the i360, there is a basketball court. When doing a recce last year on a very busy warm day we could not believe how many people were on it. They seemed to be playing several games with different teams simultaneously and also smaller games between father and son at the same time.  The sound of the ball going through the basket, hitting the basket and bouncing off, the sound of footsteps running, chasing , stopping, filled us with excitement.  The energy, competition, concentration, communication, joy and play was poetry in sound.


Next to the basketball court, on the beach, is a dinghy standing area. The sound of halyards and rigging moved by the wind is very evocative.  It captures the adventure of sailing, sound of the sea, the hull cutting through the water.  On this particular day there was no wind to excite this movement. How sad that we are missing this wonderful sound, we thought.  Let’s create, let’s add to it.




We put up a grid of small speakers in this area. In the late evening or early morning when the court is empty, we start to play back the basketball sounds, filling the air as if the ghosts of that day were still playing. We add the sounds of the halyards and rigging. We extend the range of the sounds: on the one hand human sounds - conversations, arguments, announcements, on the other hand natural sounds – sounds of the sea that range from the gentle to the apocalyptic. We look for relationships between these two sets of sounds. This becomes more abstracted; it becomes music, music that envelopes the listeners, disorientates them, makes them (we hope) look at the landscape again.


'Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming the clouds methought would open and show riches ready to drop on me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.'


The sequence lasts for about 45 minutes, repeats, repeats, dies away, leaving only the natural soundscape.

Reay to Drop

The Arc of the Sky

A film by Sal Pitman, Nathan Clarke, Jonathan Baker and Sian Croose

Performed by Lisa Cassidy, Sianed Jones, Sian Croose, Jeremy Avis, Jonathan Baker and the Voice Project


A film inspired by the landscape around (and above) the Cathedral of the Marshes, Blytheburgh Church, in Suffolk.


My contribution is a series of very short songs about skylarks, inspired by illegal (or at least frowned-upon) visits to the South Downs during lockdown.


Watch here


Skylark sings all day

But all day not long enough


A haiku written by the 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, master of the style. Concise, beautiful, thought-provoking. I was interested to discover that the poem is often recited at funerals. I have set it twice, once in an exuberant explosion of choral sound, and once in a delicate meditation for small ensemble. There are I’m sure a thousand other ways.

The Arc of the Sky


Music for Bruce Munro’s Light Towers installation

Performed by Sarah Gabriel, Sianed Jones, Rebecca Askew, Sian Croose, Melanie Pappenheim, Hazel Holder, Manickam Yogeswaran, Jeremy Avis, Ben McKee, Jonathan Williams and Jonathan Baker

Recorded and mixed by Claire Windsor and OG


Bruce Munro has based his Light Towers installation on a theory of the scientist Lyall Watson that there is an Earth Pulse, a pulse in the earth’s upper atmosphere, which occurs 69 times per day, one pulse every 21 minutes approximately. That’s a very slow pulse of course, not at all musical - but sped up, it becomes a pulse you can detect, and sped up even more, it becomes a note you can hear. I’ve based the music on a pulse which is 1024 times as fast as the Earth Pulse – that’s about 50 beats per minute - and on a note that’s 65,536 times as fast – that’s about A flat below the bass clef. The entire piece of music is determined by Lyall Watson.....


The music has a very simple structure. It describes the sun rising, shining, setting. The lyrics I’ve written were inspired by two amazing poems, one written in the middle of the 14th century BC, Akhnaten’s Hymn to the Sun, and one written in 1964, Philip Larkin’s Solar. These lyrics are in English, but then there also lyrics in an invented language – the language of sunshine – which comes from translating the words ‘sun shine’ into many different languages. As the sun moves, it sheds its light on different parts of the world, and the language moves too.


The music lasts for one Earth Pulse, and then it cycles round. But I realized that anyone who spent a long time in the installation (which is very easy to do) would begin to find the music predictable, so every time the music cycles I have made variations. Many of these variations are based on improvisations made by the singers in response to the music I wrote. These variations are often influenced by music from different parts of the world, so the overall effect of the music is very panoramic.


Because of the pandemic, it was not possible to record the music with all the singers in one room. They recorded their parts at home, singing to a backing track. This is a method which is commonplace for recording pop music, but it’s a weird and unusual way of making choral music (pioneered I think by the American composer Eric Whitacre). I really enjoyed the feeling of receiving all these sounds from far away places, and assembling them into a piece. Rather like an automobile production line, but much more fun.

The Distance Between Us

A film by Sal Pitman, Nathan Clarke, Jonathan Baker, Sian Croose

Music by Jonathan Baker, Sian Croose and OG

Performed by Lisa Cassidy, Sianed Jones, Sian Croose, Jeremy Avis, Jonathan Baker and the Voice Project


Watch here


A choral diary of lockdown.

One of the last performances by the extraordinary Sianed Jones, an astonishingly generous and gifted and unique talent. She will be much missed.


here here

there there

me me

you you

here and here

there and there

me and you

here in my room

there in your room

we will talk together

we will dance


in my room

in your room

distance between us

Out Of My Head

Performed by the Baroque Collective

Conducted by John Hancorn


Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head: perfect pop song? disposable ditty with a simplistic tune and moronic lyrics? 


I have always had a weak spot for it.


Out Of My Head is a (very!) extended version of / remix of / fantasy on the song, sounding sometimes like an ancient Lithuanian folk song, sometimes like a piece by Purcell, sometimes like a Cuban pachanga dance, sometimes like a medieval Mass, sometimes even, occasionally, like a turn-of-the-millennium pop song. 


It is an exploration of obsession, of memory, nostalgia and longing, of our relationships with our past selves, of the passing of time. The piece exists in a dreamlike state, shape-shifting and making unpredictable turns.


Watch here

Out of my head
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