Cathy Nelson Artists and Projects
The Courthouse
Hereford HR3 6AW
tel: +44 (0)1981 551903
mob: +44 (0)7740 490416

Emily Howard - Composer

Emily Howard’s distinctive music is notable for its granular use of instrumental colour, powerful use of text and inventive connections with shapes and processes. Her works - spanning large-scale word settings, orchestral music and chamber works, opera and multimedia installations – are commissioned, performed and broadcast all over the world. Three portrait albums have been released to date: The Anvil (Delphian, 2023), an oratorio to mark the Peterloo Massacre, recorded by the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Singers and Hallé Choirs ('Howard’s musical style, jangly and adversarial, entirely suits her subject,' The Times); Torus (NMC, 2023), featuring BBC Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC Symphony Orchestra ('There’s a sense of confidence that the means are always precisely suited to the expressive end,' Gramophone) and Magnetite (NMC, 2016). The latter's title track, dating from 2007, and recognised for its 'ear-catching harmonies commuting between the granitic and the silvery,' (The Telegraph) was commissioned, premiered and recorded by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Born in Liverpool and now based in Manchester, Howard graduated in mathematics and computer science from Oxford University before studying composition at the RNCM and the University of Manchester. Her breakthrough came with the aforementioned Magnetite, an ode to the ancient magnetic mineral that features melodies that trace, and ultimately escape, a crystalline lattice shape, creating music that appeals to both professional and amateur ensembles for its 'hefty, resolute, ceremonial' (Gramophone) impact. The work has been widely performed across the world, from Austria (Tonkünstler Orchestra; 2011) to Australia (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra; 2021).

The success was followed by Torus (‘Visionary’, The Times), a 2016 BBC Proms commission that won the orchestral category of the 2017 British Composer Awards, which was to be the first in an on-going series of orchestral works that use Howard's distinctive structures. sphere (Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, 2017) has been described as an ‘extraterrestrial interlude’ (Gramophone), while its dark twinAntisphere (‘triumphant and strange, a shimmering klaxon that sounds like the workings of some near-future mechanism’ New Scientist) was commissioned by the Barbican for Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra to open their 2019-20 season. The life of Torus continues through a melding of science and music: DEVIANCE (2023), a multimedia work for Zubin Kanga’s Cyborg Pianist (NMC, 2023) takes its structure from the findings of an experiment developed to measure the brainwaves of listeners to Torus.

At the heart of Howard's work is a powerful interest in social justice. The Anvil, her cantata for choirs and orchestra about suffrage and suffering, was premiered at Manchester International Festival in 2019 and marked the bicentenary of the Peterloo massacre, while her opera To See The Invisible questions society's treatment of the vulnerable and displaced. The work was premiered at the 2018 Aldeburgh Festival, as part of Howard's residency. Dramatic vocalise Ombra (2022) is central to The Wernicke’s Area (‘an extremely moving experience,’ The New York Times), a mixed media installation exploring complexities around living with epilepsy, arising out of an international multi-disciplinary collaboration between ANU Productions, Trinity College Dublin, RNCM PRiSM and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Howard’s music is able to create an overwhelming emotional effect, as in the recent work Elliptics(2022), for soprano, countertenor and orchestra. Setting a text by Michael Symmons Roberts, the work is a meditation on love and death, and what we hope will survive, exploring loss in a very personal sense (loss of a loved one) as well as in a global sense (loss of nature, our climate crisis).

Also active as a curator, Howard is founding director of PRiSM, the Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music at the Royal Northern College of Music, dedicated to understanding what it means to be human and creative today. Howard holds a Personal Chair in Composition at the RNCM; she was elected Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford in 2019. Howard has received two BASCA British Composer Awards and recognition from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. She is represented by Cathy Nelson Artists & Projects. All works are published by Edition Peters, part of Wise Music Group.

October 2024