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Oxford sound artist Ray Lee named British Composer of the Year for Oxford Contemporary Music

12 December 2012

Visual Arts and Crafts

On 3 December, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) awarded Ray Lee with the country’s most prestigious honours for his work on a fascinating collection of obscure sonic machines called Ethometric Museum. The work was commissioned by Oxford Contemporary Music (OCM) and supported with an Arts Council England Grants for the arts award.

The Ethometric Museum is an extraordinary collection of mysterious machines that create specific harmonic frequencies who, when brought together, create a rich sonic tapestry and was produced in partnership with the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, where it was also exhibited.

The award-winning work is part of a long-term creative partnership between the Chipping Norton-based artist and OCM, who is one of the region’s leading promoters and commissioners of new music and will receive £375,000 Arts Council England National portfolio funding over the next thee years.

OCM commissioned a full version of Ethometric Museum in 2011 after watching a scratch performance at Battersea Arts Centre. The work has toured extensively ever since.

OCM first commissioned Lee to create Siren in 2005. The work won the Herald Angel award at the Edinburgh festival in 2007 and continues to tour to international acclaim. Lee is currently working on a new work Chorus, which is a monumental performance sound sculpture for outdoor spaces which will be touring to festivals and major cultural events in 2013. Chorus is a joint commission between OCM, Newbury Corn Exchange and Oxford Brookes University, where Lee also teaches, and the project sees him working with freelance producer Simon Chatterton to tour the work abroad.

Ray Lee’s naming as British Composer of the Year places him amongst other BASCA winners including Harrison Birtwhistle, Jocelyn Pook and Thomas Ades. The artists’ work has been supported with over £12,000 in Grants for the arts awards, which is Arts Council England’s open application funding programme, funded by National Lottery, that aims to support activities that engage people in the arts and helps artists and arts organisations with their work.

Ray Lee says: ‘I'm delighted to win the composer's award for the Ethometric Museum, and it wouldn't have been possible without the support of the Arts Council in funding the making of the work. In the past year and a half the work has been performed around 150 times and this week it's going to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade with the support of the British Council which I'm very excited about.

Chorus is an ambitious project and it's been great to have got it up and running at this preliminary stage. I've never made a work specifically for an outdoor context before and I'm really excited by the possibilities that Chorus has for reaching really large audiences.’

Victoria Bosher, Deputy Director, Oxford Contemporary Music says: ‘OCM is absolutely thrilled that Ray has won a British Composer Award. Ethometric Museum captured the imagination of the whole team here at OCM from the moment OCM Director Jo Ross saw the scratch at BAC. The premiere in 2011 at the prestigious Museum of the History of Science in Oxford opened the door to an exciting new partnership for OCM and proved to be a very special venue, where the piece sat alongside the Marconi Collection and Einstein’s blackboard. Audiences in Oxford and around the UK have been captivated, surprised and enthralled by Ethometric Museum. We have given Ray our warmest congratulations and look forward to working with him on future projects.’

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, South East, Arts Council England says: ‘Congratulations to Ray Lee on winning this special honour and to OCM for working collaboratively with other organisations to nurture and support the immense musical talent we have in the region. It just goes to show how our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme can develop world-class art and culture that is part of the UK’s cultural offer to audiences internationally, as well as home.’

For more information, see

Notes to editors

Ray Lee is an artist, composer, and performer. His work investigates his fascination with the hidden world of electro-magnetic radiation and in particular how sound can be used as evidence of invisible phenomena He is interested in the way that science and philosophy represent the universe, and his work questions the orthodoxies that emerge, and submerge, according to the currently fashionable trends. He creates spinning, whirling, and pendulous sound installations and performances that explore “circles of ether,” the invisible forces that surround us.
His large scale installation and performance ‘Siren’ was a hit at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe winning a Herald Angel Award and receiving 5 star reviews. ‘Siren’ was featured at the 2007 Ars Electronica Festival in Austria and has gone to tour the world with performances in 12 countries including the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and several countries in Europe.

His recent work ‘Force Field’ received an award at the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica for Digital Music. He lectures in contemporary arts and music at Oxford Brookes University.

OCM is a unique producer that works to develop and present the highest quality and most innovative new music and sound-based live events, to engage diverse local and national audiences with its work, and to deepen understanding and appreciation of musical cultures from within the UK and worldwide. Its raison d’être is to bring music, artists and audiences together in ways that encourage and create memorable and meaningful experiences for all.

Past commissions and projects include Power Plant (recently achieving a sell-out tour to Sydney, Tasmania and Hong Kong), award winning sound artist Robert Jarvis’s Echolocation (a sound installation for a choir of bats at Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve), and Music from the Genome (the world premiere of Michael Zev Gordon’s award winning Allele based on cutting edge research into the human genome, performed at the UK’s national synchrotron facility Diamond Light Source). Ray Lee’s Ethometric Museum was premiered at Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science and has since been performed across the UK to captivated audiences. OCM’s latest project is Mira Calix’s Nothing Is Set In Stone, was premiered at Fairlop Waters in June 2012 and was part of Secrets, presented by the Mayor of London and London 2012 Festival.

Newbury Corn Exchange is situated in the historic market place in the centre of Newbury. New Greenham Arts, a 120-seat studio space, also housing a gallery and artist studios, is an 8-minute drive away in New Greenham Park, Greenham Common.

Recent theatre programmes have included Filter with their RSC commissioned Twelfth Night, Unlimited (The Moon The Moon), UK premiere of Improbable (Panic), New International Encounters (The End of Everything Ever) as well as German mask masters Familie Floez (Hotel Paradiso). We also present up to 10 dance companies every year, with recent programmes including Scottish Dance Theatre, Hofesh Schecter (In Your Rooms & Uprising), Yasmin Vardimon (Yesterday) and 2 Faced Dance (Still Breathing).

Through their Evolve programme they have also supported/co-commissioned a range of artists and companies. Recent commissions have included Amanda Lawrence (Jiggery Pokery), Vincent Dance Theatre (If We Go On) and New Art Club’s Extraordinary World. Recent collaborators include Sharpwire (Johnny’s Midnight Goggles), Scott Davison Productions (Future Me) and So & So Circus (The Hot Dots).

Simon Chatterton works as an independent producer creating multi-disciplinary arts events and collaborative performance projects. His main areas of focus include outdoor performance, music, visual theatre, circus and site-specific work. Simon has a reputation as a creative producer of innovative, high-quality arts events and is an experienced manager of international performance projects.
His experience has included creating and managing cross-artform festivals, producing touring work and developing complex collaborative projects. Project work has ranged from commissioning large-scale outdoor spectacle for audiences of several thousand to creating site-specific performances in unusual locations.

Simon's background spans 18 years working in the performing arts as a programmer, promoter and Festival Director including a long standing relationship with South Hill Park Arts Centre where he spent six years as Festival Director and full-time Performing Arts Manager. He spent five years as the founder and director of a small-scale arts centre and was also a director of the producing company Elemental Arts Ltd. Simon is currently working with the Oxford Playhouse as an associate producer.

Chorus photos should be credited to James Lyon

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.