Chris Noble

Chris Noble (1982-) was born and raised in the Lake District town of Kendal. Following a music undergraduate degree at Sheffield University, Chris undertook a PhD in composition under the tutelage of George Nicholson, graduating in 2009.
Chris lists a number of diverse influences upon his work including jazz pianists Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, alongside contemporary composers such as Marc-Anthony Turnage and Richard Rodney Bennett. Compositionally, he is primarily interested in integrating jazz harmonies into a more contemporary ‘classical’ context.

Away from Platform 4, Chris devotes time to teaching, both privately and at the Sheffield Music School; he’s an ABRSM examiner, working both domestically and in Singapore; and a keen jazz pianist and arranger, having worked closely with internationally-renowned trombonist Dennis Rollins.  Chris also runs the Straight 8s Big Band in Sheffield, a funk and soul specialist 18-piece band.


List of works

1 All Blues
2 Freddie Freeloader
3 Blue In Green

A Kind of Murky Blue is, at heart, a deconstruction of tracks taken from Miles Davis’s seminal jazz album, Kind of Blue, the post-bop album of 1959 which arguably cemented modal jazz’s place in the genre’s history.
The idea behind each movement is straightforward. All Blues focuses on magnifying the original’s busy underlying textures through a push-and-pull of changing rhythmic divisions. Freddie Freeloader mischievously toys with the concepts of playing ahead of the beat and ‘outside’ the key, whilst Blue In Green (re-)presents the original’s rich harmonic structure in a Steve Reich-esque shower of arpeggios, the tune marked out from the middle of the thick textures.

Four short pieces, each written as a response to a watercolour painting by Lisa O’Brien as a part of a collaborative project with Platform 4 and Lisa for Broadcast on on 6.8.14. See also
Hut Ritual – Tom Owen
Vent – Jenny Jackson
Remote Location I – Tom James

Lisa O’Brien Biography
Lisa O’Brien is based on the North West coast of Scotland. Her practice over the years has encompassed, performance, composition, video, sound, and installation. Her practice has been influenced by living in one of the remotest parts of North West Scotland for the last 10 years and is often linked to the environment and weather conditions. Her work explores the idea of temporality, and she strives to capture the essence of fleeting moments so that they can be re-examined, to some extent re-lived and this also links with how we experience memories. She is interested in how the link between time, place and sound contribute to a specific moment in time. For remote performances Lisa will make field recordings of perceived silence in the rural setting and she will continue her exploration of developing a graphic notation to record nothingness, or what we think of as silence.

Of Limits is a series of five short studies for piano (and one medley), each based upon one obvious constriction (and sometimes other limitations), and explores both the process of composing something cohesive under such limitations, and the possibility of combining each movement into a cohesive whole in the form of a medley of sorts, here entitled Off Limits.

A series of folksy melodies are given serialist treatment, which each (approximately) four bar melodic phrase accompanied by the notes that aren’t included in the melody. A calmer middle section is bookended by two frantic sections, with the accompaniment constantly diminishing rhythmically, giving the impression the movement is ‘doomed to fail’.

Octave Range
Everything here is within the range of an octave; the E either side of middle C. Different textures and applications of the limitation are explored.

All intervals here are perfect fourths and fifths, save for the odd passing note in the tune, and the ending, which breaks free from its constraints.

Major Seconds
Here the interval of a major second provides the sole building block of the study, either as part of a chord or as a melodic step (after which it can move to any other note, providing the interval after that is another major second). This limitation appears to have given rise to more folksy undertones.

A jazz chord scheme (given in full as an epilogue of sorts) is broken down into unison melodic outlines; four interpretations, each increasingly erratic.

Off Limits
The medley combines each study and attempts to create something new merely from stitching parts of the other five studies together.

Nawleans Processional is an attempt to combine polar opposites; the dirge section of a traditional New Orleans funeral, and the stately themes and instrumentation of Bach’s first Brandenburg concerto. lt uses almost exactly the same instruments as the Bach, albeit without bassoons and with the addition of a snare drum.

The piece explores a number of different themes and melodies. The first is a pastiche of a traditional American melody which bookends the work; the horns open with the theme, which is then later substantially re-orchestrated with much more pomp for the finale, with snippets of the melody reappearing throughout. lncidental fragments of the Bach are here transformed into central motifs of the procession, notably the opening horn calls and the ‘dipping’ three note pattern from the slow movement. The overall mood is one of sobriety, with displays of grieving which are not always restrained.

Sawtooth is a series of semi-structured improvisations loosely based on the properties of a sawtooth sound wave, the shape of such a wave, the literal metallic connection with its shape, and the resulting harmonics produced from sampling and gradually increasing the pitch of a low-frequency saw wave.

The seven short improvisations play with various combinations of drum kit and Nord Electro keyboard, with each player at times interpreting various waveforms seen projected on the wall. The first two improvisations explore the physical, jagged shape of a sawtooth wave, incorporating gradual climbs and sudden drops. The remaining five see one performer taking the role of a sawtooth wave gradually increasing in pitch, with the other performer playing various peaks and troughs, exploring the aforementioned resulting harmonics. The performance connects with the sculpture by incorporating a mixture of overtly metallic sounds and, given the transitory nature of each improvisation, by riffing on the fleeting nature of the sculpture’s very existence in the performance.

Solo piano.

1 The Beach at Torrylinn
2 Cir Mhor

These two impressionist sketches represent my first efforts at writing for solo piano. Both movements hark back to starkly contrasting memories of holidays on the island. The first – a golden, deserted beach at the bottom of a long, rambling track on the south of the island; the odd seagull and freight ship hooter for company. The second (pronounced ke-er vor)– an horrendous hike up one of Arran’s highest Corbetts – complete with driving rain and treacherous underfoot conditions.

Guitar, violin & cello.

1 Delphinus
2 Canis Major
3 Pavo

In To Stellar Cast is a delicate set of short movements scored for guitar, violin and cello. The piece’s central themes are the Greek legends associated with each of the three constellations that comprise each movement’s title.

Bear, Ascend!, scored for clarinet, bassoon, viola, double bass and piano, is a tour de force of all things Sabre Dance, a quirky and well-known dance which makes up part of the finale to Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane.

It was commissioned in 2017 by Sheffield’s Music In The Round and premiered by Ensemble 360, who included it in their concert ‘Hiccup’, part of their wider May festival Russia In The Round.

Meet the composers

Tom James

Tom Owen

Jenny Jackson

Chris Noble