About Stevie Wishart
Exploring music’s unique ability to express ideas on a level which transcends other routes of communication is what motivates Stevie's work as a music composer and improviser.
Educated at the University of York, the University of Oxford and the Guildhall School of Music and studying informally with John Cage in Edinburgh, Stevie's early career was playing with leading free jazz improvisers in London, Berlin, New York and with Machine for Making Sense in Australia, while also launching her own medieval music ensemble Sinfonye which won the MAfestival competition in Brugge. She has taught composition for the Dartington international summer school, and also had a visiting fellowship in composition at the University of Cambridge, as well as being a judge for the Brugge and York early music festivals, and for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's composer awards.
She has performed and had her compositions played at major venues including the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Festival Hall in London, the Sydney Opera House and St Peter’s Basilica Rome. She has recorded for Decca, Hyperion, Glossa records and Splitrec as well as for her own and other indie labels. More recently she has collaborated with Alice Oswald (Oxford Professor of Poetry), composed for the Hermes Experiment at The Barbican, the pianist Joanna MacGregor, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and for the contemporary music Ensemble Variances directed by Thierry Pecou with whom she had a Residency at Britten Pears Arts in Snape, Aldeburgh.
Concern for the environment is a natural extension of Wishart's creativity: she is a member of Fo.am and a founder member of the Ecotones Network with whom she conducted workshops listening to trees and performed with Hakoto at the 2023 Timber Festival. Endangered birdsong is heard as themes in recent orchestral, chamber and vocal works, and her future commission for the Ipswich Choral Society (2025) for whom she is honorary vice-president, is inspired by the subtleties in the sound of different types of leaves.
Dedicated to composing, she only occasionally gives concerts such as at Wintersound in Canterbury and the First Light Festival in Lowestoft and at EA Sustain (May 2024). She is a violinist who also performs on the hurdy-gurdy, a stringed keyboard instrument going back to medieval times, its strings sounded by the rim of a wheel. This instrument gives a unique 'old-and-new' sound, which resonates in Stevie’s music cutting a sonic groove between spontaneous improvisation and carefully crafted composition.
Wishart’s music has been used by numerous choreographers including Pina Bausch, Michèle Noiret, Myriam Gourfink, Tess de Quincey and Wayne McGregor. Collaborations with other artists include the Australia cult band The Necks; Fred Frith, Rhodri Davies, sessions for John Peel; “Le Son de Nous” for the designer Philippe Stark, and she has been a member of FoAM (an international network for creating sustainable futures) in Brussels since 2000.
Recent works for gallery and theatre have included "Drawn on Sound", an exhibition of scores combining digital and hand-written notations with graphic designer Kevin Mount incorporating a new vocal piece “Zie je, ik you van je” to mark the 25th anniversary of the galerie c. de vos, Aalst, September 2018; Sultry Songs with Barbara Raes for Europalia, BOZAR 2017; “Henric” for the Festival Vlaanderen, Mechelen with the writer Elvis Peeters and song lyrics of Henric van Veldeke; and “The Sound of Gesture”, a music-video installation at Netwerk, Aalst, developed at ZKM, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe and ADK, Akademie der Künst, Berlin (published as a book DVD/CD on her own label).
Ecology and nature
There is an increasing ecological element to Wishart’s creativity which she calls “Ecotones” and includes a special group of works inspired by the natural soundworld, including "The Last Dance?" Writing for voices and birdsong, 'Voicing the Dawn’ was premiered in Ex Cathedra’s Summer Music by Candlelight concerts in 2019 and was revised to inhabit the garden and trees of the Gezellehuis (Guido Gezelle Museum) and along with "Murmuration II", commissioned by the Concertgebouw Bruges for the Bruges Triennial in 2021.
Composing with birds
Looking deeper into birdsong is “Gardez La Distance”, uses the process of blackbird’s learning to sing to compose a new work for flute, piano, clarinet, was commissioned by Ensemble Variances at Le Shed in Rouen, November 2021 and Bristol New Music including a live BBC relay in May 2022. Her ongoing collaborations with the poet Alice Oswald will be performed for the 200 year anniversary of the Oxford Botanical Gardens in July 2022, and she is the composer for and on the core network of a research project called “Ecotones - soundscapes with trees” which has won an ESRC award directed by Prof Amanda Bayley (Bath Spa University) which includes partners and speakers such as Won Sop Shin, Professor of Social Forestry at Chungbuk University and President of the Society of Nature and Forest Medicine in South Korea, biologist and tree author David Haskell and Forest Research (research agency of the Forestry Commission). Her process of composing with bird song is included in the recent publication “Songs of Time and Place - Birdsong and the Dawn Chorus in Natural History and the Arts” published by Cornerhouse.
Educated at the University of York, the University of Oxford and the Guildhall School of Music and studying informally with John Cage in Edinburgh, Stevie's early career was playing with leading free jazz improvisers in London, Berlin, New York and with Machine for Making Sense in Australia, while also launching her own medieval music ensemble Sinfonye which won the MAfestival competition in Brugge where she was subsequently on the panel of judges as well as being a judge for the York Early Music Festival competition. She records for Hyperion Records, Glossa, and Decca (Universal) as well as on her own and other indie labels.
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Date: Mar 2022
The most flamboyant and mood-breaking of the pieces was Stevie Wishart’s “The Last Dance?” She juxtaposed string writing with the punch and heft of the "Glorification" scene from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with field recordings of the song of the endangered hooded grebe.
(ArtsDesk, Sebastian Scotnet, BBC Proms concert, Royal Albert Hall, London, September 2019.