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"Britain's most radical and innovative composer of the present...his younger British colleagues have a lot to learn from his example."

John Warnaby, Musical Opinion, (March 2002)

Born in 1959 in Swansea, Wales, Richard Barrett gained an honours degree in Genetics and Microbiology from UCL before studying composition privately with Peter Wiegold and also at Darmstadt with Brian Ferneyhough and Hans Joachim Hespos. His compositions have won the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis (1986), Gaudeamusprijs (1989, for the string quartet I open and close) and the inaugural British Composer Award for chamber music (2003, for the string quartet 13 selfportraits). In 2005 his BBC commission for Symphony Orchestra NO was one of the works nominated for the BBC Radio 3 Listeners' Award, and his 1994 work Vanity has been internationally acclaimed as one of the most important orchestral scores of the 1990s. He taught electronic composition and performance in the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag from 1996 to 2001; during 2001-02 he was a guest of the DAAD Berlin Artists' Programme, and has lived in Berlin since then, except for the period 2006-09 when he was a research professor at Brunel University in London.

His work has been performed by numerous soloists and ensembles such as Richard Craig (flute), Andrew Sparling, Carl Rosman, Richard Haynes, Mark van der Wiel (clarinet), Pascal Gallois (bassoon), Michael Finnissy, Mark Knoop, Sarah Nicolls, Jonathan Powell (piano), Barrie Webb, Ivo Nilsson (trombone), Jonny Axelsson (percussion), Magnus Andersson, Seth Josel, Daryl Buckley (guitar), Mieko Kanno, Mark Menzies, Graeme Jennings (violin), Maurizio Barbetti (viola), Arne Deforce, Friedrich Gauwerky, Gabriel Prynn, Frances-Marie Uitti (cello), Arditti String Quartet, Kairos Quartet, Quatuor Diotima, Pellegrini Quartet, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, Champ d'Action, Cikada, Elision, Ensemble Exposé, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble L'Itinéraire, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Mosaik, Klangforum Wien, Libra, London Sinfonietta, Nieuw Ensemble and KNM Berlin. In 1997 he was the Composer-in-Residence for Ensemble Champ d'Action and in 1998 he was a featured composer at the Festival Ars Musica (Brussels) and Gaudeamus (Amsterdam). Of central importance is his collaboration with Elision Ensemble, for whom he has written Another heavenly day (1989-90), negatives (1988-92), Opening of the Mouth (1992-97), transmission (1996-99), and several improvisational projects, as well as the evening-long DARK MATTER (1990-2003) for Elision together with the Norwegian Cikada Ensemble and installation artist Per Inge Bjørlo, which has so far received performances in Berlin, Brisbane and Oslo, and been recorded for a forthcoming CD.

His compositions have featured in festivals such as Bath Festival, Cheltenham International Festival, Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Gaudeamus (Amsterdam), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Ars Musica (Brussels), Images sonores (Liège), Musica (Strasbourg), Transit (Leuven), Présences (Paris), Tage für neue Musik Zürich, Ultima (Oslo), Ultraschall and MaerzMusik (Berlin), Warsaw Autumn, Wien Modern, 0903 (Auckland), and many others.

Richard is also a dedicated performer and, together with Roger Redgate, founded the UK based Ensemble Exposé (and acted as co-director from its foundation in 1984 until 1993) and was composer-in-residence to Ensemble Champ d'Action in 1997/98. He has also been a jury member for both the Gaudeamus Composer's Competition and the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. Richard also continues his 23-year collaboration with Paul Obermeyer in the electronic duo FURT and performs regularly with vocalist Ute Wassermann, saxophonist Evan Parker (including in the Evan Parker Electroacoustic Ensemble), cellist Arne Deforce and numerous ensembles from both compositional and improvisational areas, including the FURT-based vocal/instrumental/electronic octet fORCH, which gave its first performances in Germany and Switzerland in late 2005. His work as composer and performer is documented on over 20 CDs, including four discs devoted to his compositions and five by FURT. Richard has contributed articles to over twenty publications worldwide and is also well-known as a record producer for contemporary music recordings.

Current projects include Mesopotamia for 17 instruments and electronics, commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, IF for orchestra, commissioned by the Bavarian Radio and CONSTRUCTION, an extended work for Elision commissioned by the City of Liverpool.

(September 2009)


Click on titles with links to call up a programme note


No (resistance and vision part 1) (1999-2004)
Symphony Orchestra
First performance: 11 February 2005, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tadaaki Otaka, conductor, Barbican, London
DARK MATTER (1996-2001)
soprano, 2Fl, 3Cl, Pf, 2Gtr, 2Perc, 2Vln, Vla, 2Vc, Db and multi-channel sound projection.
(Doublings include saxophone, chamber organ and hardanger fiddle).
Installation by Per Inge Bjorlo.
First performance: 16th November 2001, Powerhouse Theatre, Brisbane, Cikada Ensemble and ELISON Ensemble conducted by Christian Eggen.
Commissioned by the Cikada and ELISON ensembles.
Duration: 95 minutes.
Vanity (1990-94)
3picc.3(ob-d'am,ca).1+Ebcl+bcl.3(2cbn)/2sax/6032 6perc/pno(2players)/2 elec bass gtrs/str ( - 27'
first performance: 21 January 1995, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Tamayo, London.


Adrift (2004-07)
improvisation framework (based on lost for piano) for piano and electronics - 20'
first performance: 21 November 2007, Huddersfield; Sarah Nicolls and Richard Barrett
Flectwerk (2004-06)
or clarinet and piano - 13'
commissioned by Carl Rosman and Mark Knoop
first performance: 16 June 2007, London; Carl Rosman and Mark Knoop
The Light Gleams an Instant (1989-96)
for piano solo - 3’20”
first performance 11 July 1996, London; Ian Pace
Lost (2004)
for piano solo - 9'
commissioned by TRANSIT Leuven
first performance: 24 October 2004, Leuven; Ian Pace
Ecliptic (2003)
for viola solo - 1'40"
first performance: 7 September 2003, Santa Maria Nuova; Maurizio Barbetti
Binary (1996)
for two flutes - 1'30"
Blattwerk (2002)
cello and live electronics - 25'
First performance: 2 October 2002, Musica, Strasbourg, France
Arne Deforce, cello and Richard Barrett, electronics
Commissioned by Musica, Strasbourg and Bruges Cultural Capital of Europe for Arne Deforce Research and development at CRFMW, Liège.
Transmission (1996-2000)
electric guitar and live electronics - 18'
first performance: 31 August 2000, Daryl Buckley, Oldenburg, Germany.
interference (1996-2000)
contrabass clarinet (with voice and pedal drum: one performer) - 10'
first performance: 14 May 2000, Carl Rosman, Brisbane, Australia.
CHARON (1994-95)
solo bass clarinet - 10'
(from Opening of the Mouth )
first performance: 13 October 1995, Andrew Sparling, London.
inward (1994-95)
alto flute, 1 percussionist (both amplified) - 7'30"
(from Opening of the Mouth )
first performance: 3 December 1995, Paula Rae and Peter Neville, Melbourne, Australia.
air (1993)
solo violin - 6'
(from Opening of the Mouth ) first performance: 22 January 1994, Mary Oliver, Amsterdam.
trace (1994)
2 diatonic musical boxes - 2'
first performance: 12 June 1994, Amsterdam.
von hinter dem Schmerz (1992-96)
solo cello - 10'
(from Opening of the Mouth )
first performance: 3 March 1997, Friedrich Gauwerky, Perth, Australia.
abglanzbeladen/auseinandergeschrieben (1992-96)
solo percussion - 10'
(from Opening of the Mouth )
first performance: 3 March 1997, Peter Neville, Perth, Australia.
knospend-gespaltener (1992-93)
solo C clarinet - 8'
(from Opening of the Mouth , for singers, instrumentalists, electronics and installation)
fp: 21 September 1993, Andrew Sparling, London.
praha (1991)
solo cello (two bows) - 4'
first performance: 17 December 1993, Frances-Marie Uitti, Amsterdam.
basalt (1990-91)
solo trombone - 8'
first performance: 10 November 1995, Barrie Webb, Rome.
colloid (1988-91)
solo 10-string guitar - 8'
first performance: 12 June 1992, Daryl Buckley, Melbourne, Australia.
reticule (1988)
solo violin - 2'15"
first performance: 30 July 1989, Roger Redgate, London.
Dark ages (1987-90)
(ninth work in the series Fictions )
solo cello (two bows) - 7'
first performance: 5 September 1990, Frances-Marie Uitti, Amsterdam.
EARTH (1987-88)
(fifth work in the series Fictions )
trombone, 1 percussionist - 11'30"
first performance: 14 June 1988, Barrie Webb and Elizabeth Davis, Amsterdam.
nothing elsewhere (1987 - 2005)
(fourth work in the series Fictions )
solo viola - 7'
first performance: 13 August 1988, Barbara Maurer, Darmstadt.
first performance (definitive version) 23 August 2005, Oslo; Erkki Veltheim
Alba (1986-87)
(third work in the series Fictions )
solo bassoon (amplified) - 8'
first performance: 15 May 1994, Pascal Gallois, Paris.
Ne songe plus à fuir (1985-86)
(second work in the series After Matta )
solo cello (amplified) - 8-10'
first performance: 27 January 1987, Alan Brett, London.
Tract (1984-96)
(eighth work in the series Fictions )
solo piano (optional amplification) - 25'
first performance (part 1): 26 September 1989, James Clapperton, Strasbourg.
first performance (parts 1 & 2): 10 October 1996, Ian Pace, University of Wales, Bangor.
Principia (1982-84)
baritone, piano - 7'
(Text by A.L. Jones after Sir Isaac Newton)
first performance: 17 February 1986, Austin Allen and Michael Finnissy, London.
Invention 6 (1982)
solo piano - 4'
first performance: 31 July 1984, Luc Brewaeys, Darmstadt.


Landschaft Mit Umenwesen (1996-97)
(from Opening of the Mouth) - 15’03”
realised at the Instituut voor Sonologie (Den Haag) and STEIM (Amsterdam)
Involuntary 2 (2002)
realised at the composer’s studio - 3'
music for the animated film Entrance by Rosie Pedlow, commissioned by S4C
first performance: 6 May 2005, Berlin
Katasterismoi (1998-99)
(tape piece from DARK MATTER ), produced at the Institute of Phonology, The Hague - 10'02"
Zungenentwerzein (1996-97)
(tape piece from Opening of the Mouth ) - 5'33"
The Unthinkable (1988-89)
(fourth and final work in the series After Matta ) produced at UPIC, Paris - 6'25"
first performance: 27 January 1989, London.


Codex V (2007)
12 or more players of any instruments
commissioned by COMA
first performance: 22 June 2007, London; COMA London, cond. Gregory Rose
Island (2006)
for 2 improvising soloists and instrumental octet (alto fl., alro rec., flugelhorn, trombone, vn., va. , vc., cb.) - 11'
first performance: 18 November 2006, Huddersfield; Timothy O’Dwyer (sax) & Richard Barrett; Elision, cond. Carl Rosman
Melos (2004-06)
for recorder, flugelhorn, percussion, baroque triple harp, electric guitar, live electronics - 7'
commissioned by Elision
first performance: 12 November 2006, Liverpool; Elision
Codex I (2001)
for improvising ensemble, 6-12 players - 10'
Tenebrae (1994-97)
for voices, instrumental ensemble and electronics - 6'
Text by Paul Celan (from Opening of the Mouth)
first performance: 1 November 1997 , London (version for solo voice); Ute Wassermann
Schneebelt (1994-96)
or voices, instrumental ensemble and electronics - 7'30"
solo flute & percussion (as duo work inward), soprano, mezzosoprano, bass recorder, hardanger fiddle
Text by Paul Celan
(from Opening of the Mouth)
Partikelgestober (1992-97)
clarinet in C, mandola, guitar and bass koto - 8'
(rearranged from Opening of the Mouth)
first performance: 11 March 1997 , Sydney ; Carl Rosman; Elision, cond. Simon Hewett
Largo (1994-96)
voices, instrumental ensemble and electronics - 6'
Text by Paul Celan (from Opening of the Mouth)
first performance: 11 March 1997 , Sydney ; Deborah Kayser, Satsuki Odamura, Friedrich Gauwerky; con. Simon Hewett
faux departs (2000-2003)
for piano quintet - 15'
commissioned by Ars Musica Brussels and the Cheltenham International Festival
first performance: 13 March 2004, Brussels; Arditti Quartet and Ian Pace
for voices, instrumental ensemble and electronics
Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (1996-2001) from Dark Matter - 16'
for contra bassoon, clarinet, ensemble and electronics
13 Self Portraits (2002)
string quartet
First performance: 24 November 2002, Wien Modern, Wien, Austria Kairos String Quartet
Commissioned by Wien Modern and the BBC for the Kairos Quartet, Berlin
Khasma (2001) from Dark Matter - 13'
for string quintet and electronics
11111 and electronics
stirrings (2001) from Dark Matter - 5'
for mixed ensemble. 101 (bass clarinet)0/0000. Percussion, piano, strings (10111)
Empire of Lights (2001) from Dark Matter - 10'
1010/0000. Harding fele, piano, percussion, strings (10111)
Stress (1997)
String quartet - 10'
first performance: 27 April 1997, Arditti Quartet, Witten Tage für neue Kammermusik, Germany
Liebestod (1999-2000)
4 recorders and live electronics - 10'
first performance: 26 November 2000, Malle Symens Quartet, Richard Barrett, live electronics, Hellevoetsluis, The Netherland
Trawl (1995-97)
flute, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano - 11'
first performance: September 1998, Ensemble Köln, Robert Platz, conductor, Gaudeamus Festival, Amsterdam
Opening of the Mouth (1992-97)
soprano, mezzo, 10 instruments and electronics (flutes, clarinets, percussion, mandoline/mandola, 12-stringed guitar/ electric guitar, 10 stringed guitar, koto/jushichigen, violin/viola/ hardanger fiddle, cello, sampler - 90'
first performance: 3 March 1997, Elision, Simon Hewett, conductor, Festival of Perth, Australia
what remains (1990-91)
(first work in the series Addenda)
fl.bcl.pno - 9'30"
first performance: 31 July 1995, Topologies/Roger Redgate, London.
Another Heavenly Day (1989-90)
(seventh work in the series Fictions )
Ebcl/elec gtr/cb/live electronics - 7'
first performance: 22 April 1990, Elision, Melbourne.
lieder vom wasser (1989-90)
(tenth work in the series Fictions )
bcl.cb.1perc/solo soprano - 11'30"
Text by Elisabeth Borchers first performance: 22 September 1990, Ensemble 'Accroche Note, Strasbourg.
negatives (1988-93)
ensemble (9 players) with amplification - 34'30"
five works composed with overlaps for complete performance; they may also be performed separately.
first complete performance: 14 October 1994, Köln.
first performance (movements 2,3 and 4): 10 May 1992, Melbourne.
first performance (movements 1 and 5): 10 October 1993, Melbourne.
All by Elision, Sandro Gorli conductor.
1. delta (1990-93) - 6'30"
afl/tbn/angklung/sitar (amplified)/10-str gtr (amplified )/str: 10111
2. colloid-E (1988-92) - 8'
fl/tbn/mandolin/cb/1perc/solo 10-str gtr (amplified)
(guitar part also performed as the solo work colloid)
3. archipelago (1990-92) - 5'
bfl+alto recorder/tbn/1perc/10-str gtr/str (10111)/solo mandolin (amplified) + retuned mandolin
4. basalt-E (1990-92) - 8'
1perc/str (10111)/solo tbn
(tbn part also performed as the solo work basalt)
5. entstellt (1990-93) - 7'30"
picc/tbn/angklung/sitar (amplified)/ 12-str gtr (amplified)/str (10111), all players doubling perc except picc, angklung and vc
Temptation (1986)
(second work in the series Fictions )
alto/bar sax/cbcl;trpt/picc trpt/cornett/slide trpt; vc; synth; 1perc; live electronics - 12'
first performance: 8 February 1987, Metanoia, London.
ruin (1985-96)
(eleventh/final work in the series Fictions )
6x3 instruments, spatially separated 2tbn.tba/ (flutes and percussion amplified) - 18'
first performance: November 1996, Klangforum Wien, Vienna.
Anatomy (1985-86)
(first work in the series Fictions ) 11111 (all amplified) - 7'
first performance: 20 July 1986, Ensemble Modern/Bernhard Kontarsky, Darmstadt.
Illuminer le temps (1984-90)
(third work in the series After Matta )
picc/fl; bass/Bb cl;1perc; hp; 2 elec gtrs; vln; cb; (all amplified) - 15'
first performance: March 1990, Nieuw Ensemble/Ed Spanjaard, Maastricht.
I open and close (1983-88)
(sixth work in the series Fictions )
string quartet (optional amplification) - 19'
first performance: 15 December 1988, Arditti String Quartet, London.
Coïgitum (1983-85)
(first work in the series After Matta )
afl.ob-d'am/1perc/pno/solo mezzo-soprano - 15'
first complete performance: 11 May 1985, Suoraan/Roger Redgate, Paris.
Essay in Radiance (1981-83)
picc/bass fl;sop/ten sax; Eb/bass cl;elec
org or synth; 1-2 perc; vln/vla; vc - 12'30"
first performance: 5 February 1984, Music Projects/London, Richard Bernas, London.

Music Theatre

Unter Wasser: Fünf Akte für eine Sängerin
und 13 Instrumenten
(chamber opera to text by Margaret Kreidl)
mezzo-soprano, 1020, 2010, 1perc, guitar, mandolin, zither, strings 55-60'
first complete performance: 9 September 1998, Marianne Pousseur, Champ d'Action, Koen Kessels, conductor, Gaudeamus Music Week, Amsterdam.

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