Find out more: SHIFTS & The Virus Within


Benjamin Oliver is a composer of, in the main, contemporary instrumental music. More than fifty of his works have been performed, his music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and his piece ‘Loop Concerto’ was nominated in the Contemporary Jazz category of the British Composer Awards 2017. He is Associate Professor in Composition at the University of Southampton and conductor of Workers Union Ensemble.


Benjamin Oliver writes: I’m delighted and excited to be directing two contemporary music focused projects at Turner Sims in the coming months.

SHIFTS (Sunday 27 January) will feature the HARTLEY Loop Orchestra performing works by Steve Reich and Lois V. Vierk alongside three compelling premieres. The orchestra brings together students from the University of Southampton Department of Music from undergraduate to PhD, members of teaching staff as well as visiting professional musicians.

The New Yorker has described the ‘relentless energy’ of Lois V. Vierk’s works as ‘the musical equivalent of white-water rafting’ and Red Shift is no exception. Scored for a quartet featuring a raft of percussion (including circular saw blades!), electric guitar, a specific late 1980s Yamaha synthesizer and amplified ‘cello it gradually builds from a quiet slow opening to the concluding loud and energetic power chords.

As one of the most successful composers on the planet, Steve Reich may need little introduction, but SHIFTS gives you a chance to hear one of his less frequently performed works Music for a Large Ensemble, which has been described by Joan LaBarbara as ‘bright, joyous and exciting’. Watch a 360° video from the Proms a few years ago.



Featured alongside these seminal minimalist works will be three new works by Southampton faculty composers Brona Martin, Drew Crawford and me. Brona’s electroacoustic work Sowing Seeds is made up of recordings gathered from soundwalking and field recording community workshops she undertook with Seed Studios in Manchester. Brona has created a new soundscape that is inspired by and celebrates the creative explorations of the workshop participants.



Waves of… by Drew Crawford is a fascinating experiment in working with the acoustics of a performance space, in which he explores what compositional possibilities are opened up by the movement of the performers in that space (see Drew’s sketches above for some clues for the sorts of movements you can expect to see!). Expect all manners of stage action and to experience instrumental music in a new spatialised way.



My work, Changing Up +, will feature leading young percussionist Joley Cragg as soloist to a large ensemble of strings, brass, woodwind, drums and keyboards. Jazz, funk and contemporary classical soundworlds collide as the piece moves through 70s cop show theme music, cheeky swung blues-scale material and itchy marimba triplets. The focus of the work is on the transformation of materials to evoke the idea of ‘changing up’ (low to high; slower to faster; no repeats to loopy).

SHIFTS will be a massively exciting concert featuring young, passionate and talented musicians (along with a few older ones too!). Not to be missed!



My music will also feature at the University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day in Workers Union Ensemble performances of The Virus Within: Hearing HIV (Saturday 16 March). This work is a result of a long-term collaboration with virologist Dr Chad Swanson (King’s College London) and musically depicts HIV replication processes and explores how innovative ‘Shock and Kill’ treatments might provide a cure for HIV. Expect disjointed grooves, whistles and duck calls, complex systematic musical processes developed from biological principles, whimsical chords, sirens, gnarly electronics and bags of science…!



Two performances: 12 – 1pm / 2.30 – 3.30pm
Free admission: no ticket required


Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.