Ensemble / Vocal

For flute, clarinet, cello, guitar, and accordion

In collaboration with spoken word artist Pitcho Womba Konga

Commissioned by Glow Collective

World Premiere:
4 August 2024,
MA Festival Bruges

Further performances:
14-15 September 2024,
Festival Wilde Westen, Kortrijk
29 November 2024,
Ars Musica Festival, Brussels

Ciaccona and Other Debauched Dances

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Danse Macabre for piano left-hand, clarinet and string trio (2023) 11’

Commissioned by the Wittgenstein Project, supported by Fonds Podium Kunsten Nederland

World premiere: Antonii Baryshevski (piano), Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijers (clarinet), Prisma Strijktrio – Janeke van Prooijen (violin), Elisabeth Smalt (viola), Michiel Weidner (cello), Stadsgehoorzaal, Leiden, Netherlands, 27 January 2024

This piano quintet follows a long musical tradition of compositions inspired by the Danse Macabre, a theme prevalent in 15th-century art, skeletons are depicted dancing alongside characters from every societal rank, an allegory of death’s universality.

The idea of a Danse Macabre as a theme fitting for a left-handed-piano-quintet came to me accidentally: one unremarkable night, having slept on my right arm until it went numb, moving it produced a strange sense that it was not my arm—a kind of “phantom limb” experience (or perhaps the reverse). The metaphor of the “phantom” seemed to me to tie together many disparate ideas related the story of the left-handed-pianist: invisibility, disability, extreme virtuosity, the “forgotten” hand, and ultimately a sort of memento mori.

The piece’s structure follows the common medieval depiction as shown in the image above (John of Kastav, Holy Trinity Church in Hrastovlje, Slovenia). Here Death, manifested as skeletons, dances with earthly characters one by one. In this piece, Death is represented by bells (an homage to Henri Cazalis’s poem, that in turn inspired the most popular of all Danses Macabres by Saint-Saëns) followed by a somewhat grotesque attempt to dance. In between each manifestation of this, there are six tableaux of living beings: the princess, the beggar, the patriot, the very busy, the dreamer, and the child. While we can very well imagine these six as medieval characters, we also know them well as contemporary stereotypes. The final tableau, a waltz, sees materials from each of the characters dancing all together, on a thin line between joy and denial, between beauty and banality.

Dance of Death

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Karmic Songs for voice, theremin, and piano quartet (2023) 20’

Commissioned by Camerata Variabile

World premiere: Musikschule Konservatorium, Zürich, Switzerland, 18 April 2023

Piano Trio No. 2: Songs without Words (2022) 18’

Commissioned by the Brundibár Arts Festival

UK premiere: Newcastle, UK,  29 January 2023

EU premiere Brussels, Belgium, 19 March 2023

"In a letter to Marc André Souchay in 1842, Felix Mendelssohn wrote: “To me, what music expresses that I love are thoughts not too imprecise to be put into words, but rather too precise”. And it is in this sentiment that his Songs without Words leaves room for the precision of musical meanings to come through. While bearing Mendelssohn’s title, my Piano Trio No. 2 takes a more literal approach. The three movements are “worded utterances”, all in the context of my home country of Thailand, but with their words removed, replaced, and sublimated in various ways.

  1. Prayer Lost in Smoke took its inspiration from a meditation retreat I participated in Thailand in 2022. At that retreat there were so many fascinating sounds—the highlight of these was when nine forest monks chanted one of the longest Buddhist texts, the Paritta. I have incorporated this chanting into this piece, together with the soundscapes of northern Thailand, the foggy hills, the smoky scent from forest fires, sounds of insects, mobile phones, gongs, and folk-singing. While this more ascetic branch of Buddhism forbids “music making”, their words become music as they fade in and out of intelligibility.
  2. Forbidden Words derives its materials from sound recordings of utterances of actual “forbidden words”. Thai is a tonal language, and its words have pitch contours attached to them. So while these words are “censored” inside the music, the tones, and perhaps some meanings, are preserved.
  3. Old Love Song reimagines a late 19th Century Thai court song about forbidden love Lao Duang Duean. This is one of the most popular traditional songs, and was a favourite of my beloved aunt-guardian who was central to my own upbringing in England, and who passed away in 2022. Heard through the pale of history, fragments of the original song weave in and out of recognisability throughout the movement.

Lanna Prayer for violin and piano (2022) 4’

World premiere: Jenna Sherry (violin), Prach Boondiskulchok (piano), Siam Society, Bangkok, Thailand, 14 December 2022

LannaPrayer

Chopin Fantasy for piano six hands (2022) 6’

For the celebration of Ruth Nye's 90th Birthday

World premiere: Pupils of Ruth Nye, Yehudi Menuhin Hall, Cobham, UK, 13 December 2022

Diabelli Filters for two fortepianos (2021) 10’

World premiere: Tom Beghin (fortepiano), Prach Boondiskulchok (fortepiano), Orpheus Institute, Gent, Belgium, December 2021

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Ligatures for string trio (2021) 14’

Commissioned by the Nicholas Berwin Charitable Trust for International Musicians Seminar 2021

World premiere: Miclen LaiPang (violin), Carla Maria Rodrigues (viola), Sally Pendlebury (cello), IMS Prussia Cove, UK, 18 September 2021

‘Ligatures' are graphical symbols used c. 9th-15th centuries to notate groups of notes. This set of short pieces explores different gestures, and the idea of connectedness in general.

The first movement, Portrait, is a tribute to a musician and an important teacher of mine, Rita Wagner. It is a portrait of her energy, humour, and kindness. The second movement, Landscape, was written in Cornwall, and partly depicted by its open skies, old churches, and rhythms of nature. The third, Grao, is a paraphrase of a Thai traditional court piece found in “Khon” theatre, with a distorted Viennese lullaby inserted. The final movement, Chorale, begins with a distant memory of a melody that fades in and out of consciousness, and ends in a prayer.

Piano Quartet (2021) 18’

Co-Commissioned by Festival Hirondelle and Birdfoot Festival

World premiere: August 2021

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The Work for SATB choir a cappella (2020) 5′

Commissioned by Blake Meike for Jerry, Sally, Rusty, Annemarie, Mercy and Roger Meike

The Work sets an extract from Rabbi Tarfon’s teaching in Pirkei Avot. With its almost zen-teaching-like contradictory nature, this short sentence invites the listener to contemplate the nature of our life pursuits or work. Sung alongside the English translation, the Hebrew text is set on very long notes, like a cantus firmus in early Renaissance vocal settings. The English, on the other hand, unfolds quickly but in a fragmented manner, gradually revealing the meanings of each phrase, often contradicting itself. The piece culminates in the word libatail and liberty, while the two languages sound almost the same, the music splits into two completely different textures: one joyous and free, and another an intensifying demand or protest.

This piece can be performed by four solo voices as well as by a larger choir.

Completed on 9 November 2020 with gratitude to Jenna Sherry whose support and ideas contributed to the creation of this piece, and to composers Malcolm Singer and Alastair Putt for their advice.

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Prometheus for viola da gamba and fortepiano (2019) 10.5’

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Träumerei for clarinet and piano trio (2019) 6′

Commissioned by the Linos Festival

World premiere: Liana Leßmann (clarinet), Linos Piano Trio – Konrad Elias-Trostmann (violin), Vladimir Waltham (cello), Prach Boondiskulchok (piano), Linos Festival, Cologne, Germany, June 2019

Träumerei explores the idea of a fleeting moment of time, and took inspiration from Robert Schumann’s expertise in capturing such moments. The title refers in equal measure to Schumann’s work and Harald Braun’s 1944 Nazi-propaganda film about the life of Clara Schumann. The juxtaposition between these two works and their politics brings to mind the fragility of cultural environment and heritage. During the composition of this work, on 15 April 2019, the Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire, and its spire tragically collapsed. As a tribute, the middle section of 'Träumerei' echoes the church bells and polyphonic music of the 12th century Notre Dame school.

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Ritus: Four Portraits for string quartet (2019) 6′

Commissioned by the Endellion String Quartet

World premiere: Wigmore Hall, London, 29 May 2019

Review of the premiere in The Guardian

Other performances: Karski Quartet – Kaja Nowak (violin I), Natalia Kotarba (violin II), Diede Verpoest (viola), Julia Kotarba (cello) at the Banff International String Quartet Competition 2022 

Commissioned by the Endellion String Quartet for their 40th Anniversary. The title comes from the Sanskrit word “ritu” for “season”, while simultaneously referencing the Latin word for ceremony. In each movement, the instruments of the quartet take turns at being the principal voice, depicting evocative elements of the four seasons:

  1. Shoots begins with a tentative first sign of life in spring. The different textures compete for prominence and become a brief waltz which then grows into a life-force-explosion.
  2. Crickets is a playful scherzo echoing the sounds and mating rituals of summer insects.
  3. Skein depicts the journey of migratory birds. Their flying patterns are reflected in the interlocking violin parts, while the viola’s melody travels through different soundscapes and cultures, ending in Thai-inspired microtonalities.
  4. Melting is a picture of a winter cut short. Spring returns.

Lacrimae Variations for recorder quartet (2018) 6′

Commissioned by BLOCK4

World premiere: Brockwood Park, UK, 2018

Score

Goose Daughter for female voice, violin, viola, cello and piano (2016) 22’

Commissioned by the Birdfoot Festival

World premiere: Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, Karen Kim, Jenn Chang, Han Bin Yoon, Prach Boondiskulchok, Birdfoot Festival, New Orleans, USA, 2016

NY premiere: Ariadne Greif, Alex Fortes, Rose Hashimoto, James Waldo, Alyona Aksyonova, Listen Closely Chamber Series, New York, USA, 2016

EU premiere: Catherine Hopper, Linos Piano Trio, Jenna Sherry, King’s Place, London, UK, March 2017

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Piano Trio No. 1: Night Suite for piano trio (2014) 12′

World premiere: Linos Piano Trio, London, UK, 13 March 2014

Night Suite' for Piano Trio depicts the night in various guises: the night sky in Prelude, the night dances, evoking my then-annual visit to New Orleans (and my own struggle to dance) Blues, and the music of sleep and dreams in Lullaby. The Lullaby is a set of variations on a gently breathing, rocking Sarabande rhythm. The folk melody that eventually appears in the violin is a fantasy on a lullaby my grandmother sang to me as a child, juxtaposed with hypnotic spectral harmonies.

Six Epigraphs for natural horn and piano (2007) 10′

Commissioned by the Fund for Classical Music under Royal Patronage of Princess Galyani Vadhana

World premiere: Komsun Dilokkunanant (horn), Prach Boondiskulchok (piano)

Five Characters from the Tempest for wind quintet (2006) 13′

World premiere: New Music Festival 2006, Guildhall School Music Hall, London, UK

Piano Trio No. 0 (2006) 12′

World Premiere: Gordon Bragg, Anna Menzies, Prach Boondiskulchok

String Quartet (2004) 14’

World premiere: David McCaroll, Joshua Burke, Benjamin Gilmore, Mary Elliott, Manchester Quartet Fest 2004

Solo

Sonatine for solo cello (2021) 5’

Commissioned by Vladimir Waltham

Score

Inventions for any keyboard instrument (2020) 7’

World premiere (online): Prach Boondiskulchok, Terence Charlston, James Johnstone, Jenna Sherry and Michael Unterman, 22 April 2020

World premiere (live): Konrad Elias-Trostmann, Alinka Rowe, Vladimir Waltham, Yuko Hara and Joëlle Martinez, Dante Festival, UK and the Hirondelle Festival, France, August 2020

These seven short two-part compositions were written between 21 and 27 March 2020, the beginning of the initial UK lockdown period in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Each piece is governed by a musical restriction of some kind. Within this, the musical materials find ways to be inventive, at times testing the boundaries, and breaking the rules. These are pieces that can be performed on any type of keyboard instrument with the range of 5-octave FF-f’’’, including most historical keyboards. This set has also been arranged for any combination involving violin, viola and cello.

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Squonk Diptych for portative organ (2019) 5′

Commissioned by Catalina Vicens

World premiere: Bijloke, Ghent, Belgium, 10 November 2019

The two movements for the medieval portative organ is based on one of Jorge Luis Borges’ creature from his faux-medieval bestiary 'The Book of Imaginary Beings'. The Squonk was described by Borges: “Because of its misfitting skin, which is covered with warts and moles,it is always unhappy; in fact it is said, by people who are best able to judge, to be the most morbid of beasts. Hunters who are good at tracking are able to follow a squonk by its tear-stained trail, for the animal weeps constantly. When cornered and escape seems impossible, or when surprised and frightened, it may even dissolve itself in tears.”

Imaginary Beings for fortepiano

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Research in collaboration with the Orpheus Institute and Geraldine van Heemstra

- A Bao A Qu’s Stairs (2018) 5’

Score

Commissioned by Philipp Koralus for Christian Storch

World premiere: Prach Boondiskulchok (fortepiano), London, UK, 16 May 2018

This piece is one of the three fortepiano studies based on Jorge Luis Borges’ creatures from his faux-medieval bestiary 'The Book of Imaginary Beings'. 'A Bao A Qu’s Stairs', originally intended to be performed as a companion piece to Haydn’s 'Andante and Variations in F minor', follows roughly the shape of Haydn’s Variations. The idiosyncratic sounds of the Viennese fortepiano in the different registers of the instrument, as part of my ongoing research on new compositions for the fortepiano.

- The Devil of Symmetry (2017) 3’

Commissioned by M. R. Saisvasdi Svasti

World premiere: Prach Boondiskulchok (fortepiano), London, UK, 16 May 2018

This piece is one of the three fortepiano studies based on Jorge Luis Borges’ creatures from his faux-medieval bestiary 'The Book of Imaginary Beings'. This piece echoes Haydn’s 'Menuetto al Rovescio' from the Piano Sonata H. XVI:26, where both the Minuet and the Trio are played until their halfway points, then continue exactly backwards. In 'The Devil of Symmetry' a further step is taken: not only is every phrase and gesture played forward and backwards, the two hands of the fortepianist also mirror each other to a greater or lesser extent throughout. The keyboardist is encouraged to use identical fingerings for each hand in the ‘mirrored’ material. The symmetry is gradually distorted, like an ancient bronze Tao Tie, rusted and no longer so symmetrical.

- The Remora (2018) 4’

Score

Commissioned by Stuart Mitchell

World premiere: Prach Boondiskulchok (fortepiano), London, UK, 16 May 2018

This piece is one of the three fortepiano studies based on Jorge Luis Borges’ creatures from his faux-medieval bestiary 'The Book of Imaginary Beings'. The Remora, a burdensome sea creature that was believed to have slowed down boats and changed the fate of nations, is reflected in this piece with a set of paper wedges preventing the fortepiano dampers from operating properly. As a kind of opposite version of Ligeti’s 'Touches Bloquées', the fortepiano ‘preprogrammed’ pitches continue to resonate through the other short notes, creating different layers of sound.

Lullaby for piano (2012) 5′

World premiere: Royal Over-Seas League Piano Series, London, UK, 2013

Prelude and Double for piano (2011) 6′

World premiere: St. Martin-in-the-Fields Pianists of the World Festival, London, UK, 2012

Prelude and Fugue for solo violin (2003) 8′