Margaret Lucy Wilkins/ SAMPLES FROM RECENT Vienna Modern Masters-CDs

Margaret Lucy Wilkins'works explore spatial element and music theatre, displaying a strong dramatic, gestural and visual approach to sound. Sonic architecture is a feature of her musical aesthetic.

Born in England in 1939, Margaret Lucy Wilkins' musical career embraces composing, lecturing and performing. She has conducted 20th century music, and has performed on a variety of mediaeval instruments with the Scottish Early Music Consort, with whom she played in many concerts and broadcasts. Between 1976 and 2003, she was Principal Lecturer in Music at the University of Huddersfield, UK, where she was Head of Composition.

Margaret Lucy Wilkins has been composing since the age of twelve, when she won a Junior Exhibition to attend Trinity College of Music, London. Later, she read Music at Nottingham University, UK, where she gained the B.Mus. (Hons.) and A.Mus.D.

There have been many commissions and broadcasts of her works. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Scottish Arts Council Award for Composers (1970), Hinrichsen Foundation Award for Composers (1979) and Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for Composers (1981-82). Prizes include The New Cantata Orchestra of London Competition for Young British Composers (1970), the Cappiani Prize for Women Composers (1971) and the Miriam Gideon International Prize (2000).

Performances of her music have been given in most European countries, the USA and Canada. Festival performances include Edinburgh International (Scotland), Durham International (UK), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), Middelburg (The Netherlands), ISCM World Music Days (Poland and Slovenia), Musica Nova: Sofia (Bulgaria), Donne in Musica (Italy) and the International New Music Week, Bucharest (Romania).

Margaret Lucy Wilkins' compositions range from orchestral music, through chamber music and works for soloists, to electroacoustic music. Notable amongst her orchestral Works are Hymn to Creation (1973), Music of the Spheres (BBC commission, 1976), Relevations of the Seven Angels (1988, a 50-minute work for over 100 performers divided into eight groups, designed for performance in a large cathedral space) Symphony (1989), Musica Angelorum (Goldberg commission, 1991) and Rituelle for 27 brass, wind and percussion players (2000).

Chamber music works include Struwwelpeter (1973), Burnt Sienna: Etude for String Trio (1974), Ave Maria (New Music Group of Scotland commission, 1975), Aspects of Night John Turner commission, 1981), Gitanjali (William Byrd Singers commission, 1981), Reve, Réveil, Revelation, Reverberations (1988), Trompettes de Mort (Philip Mead commission, 2002).

Amongst Margaret Lucy Wilkins' electroacoustic works are Stringsing and L'Attente (commissioned by choreographer, Julie Wilson, 1992, 1994) and Discover Oakwell (a long-running sound installation commissioned by Oakwell Hall, 1995, with funds from Kirklees Metropolitan Council and the European Commission). In 1999, this project won a Sandford Award for Heritage Education. In 1990, she composed RIVAL, a 90-minute multi-media work for c.75 musicians, actors, dancers and electroacoustic music, which was performed at the 1992 ISCM 'World Music Days' in Poland.

As an advocate of new music, Margaret Lucy Wilkins has directed many performances including works by Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern, Hanna Kulenty, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Nyman, Joan Tower, Jennifer Fowler, Rebecca Saunders, Mihaela Vosganian, Luminita Spinu and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

In the service of composers, Margaret Lucy Wilkins has been elected to the Executive Committee of the Composers' Guild of.Great Britain, the Council of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the Honour Committee of Donne in Musica (Italy) and Board of Directors for the International Alliance of Women composers (headquarters in USA).

Free Spirit, a portrait CD of music by Margaret Lucy Wilkins, was released in 2003.

The Music

This major work, composed in 1988, has had to wait long for its first performance, which was given in Romania in 2000 by the Orchestra Simfonica Timisoara, conducted by Barrie Webb.

The work is intended for performance in a cathedral, or other large space, and calls for the forces of a symphony orchestra, choir (divided into two groups of low voices only and high voices only), solo soprano and string quartet.

The starting point for the work is taken from The Book of Revelations. In the Bible, the Seven Angels of The Book of Revelations represent plagues and pestilence heralding the demise of the World. However, in this work, this pessimistic foreboding has been replaced by other metaphysical states characteristic of the human experience. The result is an imaginary spiritual and aural journey by the Seven Angels to Seven Stations:

Alpha: The Beginning
Station 1: The Firmament (Universality)
Station 2: Seraphim (Love) low voices
Station 3: The Stars (Visions)
Station 4: Earth Mother (Security) solo soprano
Station 5: The Lamb of God (Compassion)
Station 6: Gargoyles (Wickedness)
Station 7: Cherubim (Innocence) high voices
Omega: Eternity

The mystical number 7 has correspondences with the Seven Stations of the Cross (as in mediaeval Christian theology) or with the fourteen Stations of the Cross, in that, in this work, each Station has a dual role.

The Seven Stations are represented by groups of instrumentalists and singers placed at various locations within the space. The Seven Angels, represented by four trumpets and three trombones, are mobile and move from one Station to the next. The audience, seated in the middle, has the experience of hearing the music gradually travel from the starting point (the West Door) via various side chapels, etc. to the Altar area. Sometimes the music comes from one point, at others from several positions, and towards the end (Omega), the audience is completely surrounded by singing and playing. It is an idea transferred from the experience of electroacoustic music (though this work is entirely acoustic) in that sound emanating from speakers ranged around the performance area is translated into groups of musicians seated at various locations. From the more distant past, it's a development of the chori spezzati of the 16th century Italian church composers.

In terms of conception, forces involved, duration and spatial deployment, this work is on a large scale. It is intended as a 'public' piece. This factor, as well as the particular acoustic quality associated with cathedrals, has determined the musical language. It is accessible, yet adventurous, and has a spacious harmonic foundation. The harmonic fields have been carefully chosen and the pitch centres for each station form an almost symmetrical series.

Similarly, a temporal series has been employed which ensures that the work gradually accelerates, over a period of c. 50 minutes, in a symmetrical fashion, to twice the initial speed. Within these controls it was possible to compose intuitively, using the subject of each Station to suggest the particular emotive material.

Two other factors are important throughout, namely the use of the number 7 and the idea of bells. The number 7 is employed at the micro- and macro-rhythmic levels, echoing the function of the large, medium and small arches which underpin the structure of medieval cathedrals. The idea of bells, obviously associated with cathedrals, is used both rhythmically in the collision and divergence of several temporal strands, and harmonically in the clashing of two or more pitch centres.