TO:101 – Claire M Singer “Solas”

Double CD in digifile – 7 tracks – 68:11
+ bonus DL track

Track listing:

1. A Different Place 06:35
2. Ceò 05:39
3. Solas 10:50
4. Dìobaig 04:47
5. Eilean 11:36
6. Wrangham 06:47

1. The Molendinar 25:57
and Aisir (Bonus track) (download only)

All tracks written & performed by Claire M Singer
Mastered by Denis Blackham @ Skye
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Solas, Wrangham & The Molendinar were recorded by Iain Berryman at Union Chapel, London 26-27th February 2016 on the organ built by Henry Willis in 1877
Mixed at Bennachie Studios, Aberdeen and EMS Goldsmiths, London
Violin extract on Eilean from “Land of the Standing Stones” composed and performed by Paul Anderson

Eilean was commissioned by Aberdeenshire Council and The Molendinar by Civic Room, Glasgow and Union Chapel

Solas (‘Light’ in Gaelic) is Claire M Singer’s debut album spanning 14 years of her work in acoustic and electronic composition. In recent years she has focused on writing and performing a mix of organ, cello and electronics with regular performances at Union Chapel where she is Music Director, running a diverse programme of concerts and educational workshops around the Chapel’s Henry Willis 1877 organ.

Other performances include the Roundhouse London by The LCO Soloists; a’ fàs soilleir, an audio-visual work, exhibited at Tate Modern London, XMV New York City and Ceremony Hall Austin TX and she has performed as part of Spire at Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Cologne and many more.

The Molendinar, which was co-commissioned in 2015 by Civic Room, Glasgow and Union Chapel, London to celebrate Glasgow’s Molendinar Burn Project was performed on the 14th June 2016 at Glasgow Cathedral to conclude the weekend festival.

Track Notes:

A Different Place: Cello – Recorded in Bennachie Studios, Aberdeen in 2009
Ceò: Electronic work derived from recordings of cello, piano and percussion, recorded at EMS Goldsmiths in 2002
Solas: Organ and cello. Written and recorded at Union Chapel in 2015
Dìobaig: Cello. Recorded in Bennachie Studios, Aberdeen in 2009
Eilean: Electronic work derived from recordings of cello, piano, violin.
In 2009 Claire was commissioned by Aberdeenshire Council to write a new work for the Homecoming Scotland referencing “Land of the Standing Stones” composed and performed by Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson. Small extracts of Paul’s work can be heard interweaving throughout.
Wrangham: Organ and electronics. Written and recorded at Union Chapel in 2014
The Molendinar: Solo Organ. Written and recorded at Union Chapel 2015
The Molendinar is a co-commission between new Glasgow art gallery Civic Room and Union Chapel London. The work is part of The Molendinar Burn Project which is a twelve site series of art projects, each individually situated along the exact route of the Molendinar, a hidden burn upon which the city of Glasgow was founded by St Mungo in the sixth century.

The work explores the precise control of wind through the pipes and therefore can be played fully on a mechanical drawstop action organ (Union Chapel) or with the addition of electronics (from the Union Chapel Henry Willis organ) when performed on an electro-pneumatic organ (Glasgow Cathedral).

Aisir (Bonus track): Electronics. Originally an 8 channel work, recorded at EMS Goldsmiths in 2006


Top 10 albums of 2016:

On A Good Day (UK):

When I wrote about Claire M. Singer’s track Wrangham back in July, I mentioned it was a type of music I knew so little of that it was a struggle for me to describe. I suppose I think of it as classical music, but of a modern, experimental variety. The three pieces on the album which make use of the organ from Islington’s Union Chapel (where Singer is the musical director) are especially exciting. The aforementioned Wrangham first drew me in with its’  blend of organ and electronics, but the astonishing 25 minute closing piece The Molendinar, all slow builds and shimmering menace, is the most unlike anything else I’ve heard before. Despite the unique quality of the organ-led tracks however, it is the dramatic opening cello piece ‘A Different Place’ which remains my highlight of a wonderful album.

texture (USA):

Solas (“Light” in Gaelic) is, in many ways, the quintessential Touch release, as much for the photo imagery by Touch founder Jon Wozencroft as its musical content. On this debut album by Claire M Singer, elements of both drone minimalism and classical minimalism (of the Part and Gorecki kind, though Glass might also be said to figure) co-habit, and while electronics are involved they’re often integrated so subtly they go unnoticed. The album itself is a wide-ranging affair featuring works for organ, cello, and electronics that span fourteen years; Solas thus serves as an excellent portrait of Singer, who in her position as Music Director of London’s Union Chapel oversees concerts and educational workshops revolving around the chapel’s 140-year-old organ; in fact, three of the album’s seven pieces were recorded at Union Chapel on the instrument. Calling the London-based Singer an electro-acoustic composer isn’t unwarranted, but it is a tad misleading when the ‘electro’ side of the equation is so understatedly addressed.

One of the release’s most appealing aspects is its two-disc presentation, with the first focusing on relatively shorter works and the second a single, long-form organ setting. Disc one’s six settings, which allow for the breadth of Singer’s musical interests to be accounted for, are inaugurated by “A Different Place,” a strings-centric exercise in orchestral minimalism that follows an elegiac intro with intense string stabs that are markedly more aggressive, violent even, than the classical minimalism norm. Her electro-acoustic side moves to the fore during “Ceò” when processing treatments of various kinds are applied to acoustic piano, resulting in a setting that embeds the instrument within an aquatic swirl of mutating ambient textures, sonar pings, and bowed string effects.
As fine as all of the first disc’s settings are (none prettier and more entrancing than “Wrangham”), two stand out as particularly compelling: the title tack, because its eleven minutes of organ-and-strings interplay makes the strongest argument possible on behalf of Singer’s composing gifts; and “Eilean,” for the way in which this 2009 commission by the Aberdeenshire Council threads stirring extracts of Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson’s “Land of the Standing Stones” into Singer’s meditative drone framework.

At twenty-six minutes, “The Molendinar” affords Singer ample room to explore the way wind funnels through the Union Chapel organ’s pipes. Drawing on drone and minimalism traditions, the setting gradually swells in volume and density, its thick chords wavering in place for extended moments until, like some slowed-down Glass pattern, simple organ figures emerge against the droning backdrop to give the piece an understated melodic dimension. The juxtaposition of droning chords and a repeating motif (especially when it ascends in characteristic Glass fashion) makes for an arresting listen. Though all seven of Solas’s pieces could have fit onto a single CD, it feels right that the second disc features “The Molendinar” only. In this case, the impact of a setting so representative of its creator is maximized by the stand-alone presentation.

The Quietus (UK):

The deep, transcendental works for church organ, cello and electronics spread across Solas’ two, generous discs tend to inspire visions of a pre-industrialised countryside. Each emergent piece initially evokes an unpopulated bucolic panorama, but, as the instrumentation slowly and seductively swells, our gaze intensifies and begins to note the odd labourer in the field or child running down a hill, until a whole community has somehow materialised. It is a haunting of sorts, but instead of the usual malevolence of ghosts and ghouls, it seems to celebrate the complex resonances between place and its history.

Indeed, many of the titles use the original Gaelic names of rural locations in the composer’s native Scotland, and the second disc is devoted to ‘The Molendinar’, named after an early settlement that evolved into the metropolis that is now Glasgow. Its fertile 25 minute time-lapsed trip is conjured on the vast church organ built into London’s Union Chapel, one of the city’s best live music venues (as well as being a working church and drop-in centre for the homeless) where Singer is music director. Her precise control of the air flow through the pipes of this unique, nineteenth century behemoth of an instrument, delivers a vital, ascendant experience. The long, rich tones initially float and combine to produce heady artefacts and ultimately bear traces of choral qualities, as if devotional vocal performances from the church’s past have become reconstituted through the wind in the pipes.

However, Solas delivers its delightful, historical hallucinations with a bold, modern sensibility. This is no nostalgic excursion. Although traditional themes occasionally float to the surface of Singer’s sonorous pools – like on ‘Éilean’ that incorporates extracts of the folk fiddle of Paul Anderson – the work focuses more on the sensuous dimensions of sound than their musical heritage. This leads to something very special indeed – each piece is timeless and genuinely magical. [Russell Cuzner]

Uncut (UK):

The 16th Uncut Playlist Of 2016

Norman Records (UK):

Though she has been making music for 14 years, Solas is the debut album release from Claire M Singer, a composer / performer of electronics, organ and more besides. Solas is a double CD collection (presented in typically beautiful, understated style by Touch) of her work, much of which was performed on the Union Chapel’s ancient grand organ. Why have we had to wait this long for this excellent sound to be recorded and released?

Neural (Italy):

Claire M Singer is a well-known Scottish composer and instrumentalist accustomed to the formalities of tradition but also comfortable with electronics, musical direction and live multimedia. Solas (“light” in Gaelic) is her slightly belated debut album released by Touch. The album consolidates he artist’s research made possible by the nineteenth-century organ built by Henry Willis at the Union Chapel in London, an institution where Singer leads an extremely updated and rich program of concerts and educational workshops. The title track boasts sacred and majestic sequences but the other pieces made with the organ are equally impressive such as “Wrangham” and “The Molendinar”. “Wrangham” is made in combination with a cello, while “The Molendinar” uses a series of electronic devices. A third track features only the organ. “The Molendinar” composition occupies CD two in its entirety and was co-commissioned in 2015 by Civic Room, Glasgow and Union Chapel, London to celebrate Glasgow’s Molendinar Burn Project, an event that took place in June 14, 2016, at Glasgow Cathedral. This track draws us in an involves us totally in its enveloping and enchanting, neo-classical and powerfully meditative sequences, punctuated at times with audio-micro-emergencies, then meticulously engulfed in the polyphonic unfolding at others. The entire set of electronic/acoustic compositions emphasises subtleties and small details; while Singer always embraces an iterated style, she favours orchestrations that are complemented by percussions or by violin, cello or piano.

Boomkat (UK):

Enchanting electro-acoustic folk (eh? – ed.) and classical drone compositions for organ, cello, piano, percussion and electronics by Claire M Singer. [RIYL Richard Skelton, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Kyle Bobby Dunn]. “Solas (‘Light’ in Gaelic) is Claire M Singer’s debut album spanning 14 years of her work in acoustic and electronic composition. In recent years she has focused on writing and performing a mix of organ, cello and electronics with regular performances at Union Chapel where she is Music Director, running a diverse programme of concerts and educational workshops around the Chapel’s Henry Willis 1877 organ. Other performances include the Roundhouse London by The LCO Soloists; a’ fàs soilleir, an audio-visual work, exhibited at Tate Modern London, XMV New York City and Ceremony Hall Austin TX and she has performed as part of Spire at Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Cologne and many more. The Molendinar, which was co-commissioned in 2015 by Civic Room, Glasgow and Union Chapel, London to celebrate Glasgow’s Molendinar Burn Project was performed on the 14th June 2016 at Glasgow Cathedral to conclude the weekend festival. (Germany):

In der Tiefe des Klangrausches
Ich wußte gar nicht, wie schön ein Ton klingen kann. Wie kraftvoll, wie tief- und auch nahegehend. Claire M. Singer legt mit “Solas” ein Debutalbum vor, das für mich großartig ist. Irgendwie würde ich sie zwischen dem avandgardistischen Komponisten Ben Frost und den Ethereal-Soundkreationen von Miranda Sex Garden ansiedeln. Hier die Offenheit, neue Soundwege zu gehen, da das Düstere, ja Beängstigende.

“The Molendinar” heißt das erste Stück auf dieser Platte, ein fast 26 Minuten langes Aufbäumen, das den einen Ton für diese Platte vorgibt. Ganz langsam, ganz ruhig beginnt es, entwickelt sich immer mehr zu einem gewaltigen Klanggewitter. Man wünscht sich richtig, dass es draußen regnet, stürmt, blitzt und donnert, um dabei diese wunderbaren Soundmalereien zu bewundern. Es wäre das vollkommene und alles ergreifende Bild.
Singer beschreibt ihre Musik als “Live Electronics / Experimental / Electronic / Organ / Cello / Contemporary / Improvisation” und ja, es ist all das. Für manchen Hörer mag ihre Musik anfänglich eintönig wirken, doch das ist es ganz und gar nicht. Auf “Solas” läßt die Londoner Klangkünstlerin gewaltige Bilder entstehen. Es ist kein Album für nebenbei, man braucht Zeit zum Zuhören, zum tiefen Eintauchen in die Musik, die es zum Glück noch fernab der Charts und Sang-Und-Klanglos-Sendungen gibt.

Das ist nichts für den iPod und billige Kopfhörer, “Solas” ist ganz großes Kino, in das man hineinwachsen muß. Das Cover zeigt einen Waldrand, davor Sträucher, Büsche. Als ich das Bild sah, mußte ich gleich daran denken, dass ich mit meiner Grünschwäche wohl nicht alle Farbschattierungen erkennen kann. So profan dieser Anblick des Waldes auch erscheinen mag, da ist Tiefe zu entdecken. Wie auf diesem Album. Mehr durch Zufall stieß ich auf dieses Album, für mich schon jetzte eines der Highlights in diesem Jahr. [Arndt Peltner]

nowamuzyka (Poland):

Poznajcie debiutancki album brytyjskiej artystki opublikowany przez Touch.

Claire M Singer to wykształcona wiolonczelistka i organistka, wykorzystująca w swojej muzyce także elektronikę. W ciągu ostatnich czternastu lat jej prace można było usłyszeć w wielu galeriach i salach koncertowych na całym świecie. Singer regularnie występuje w Union Chapel, gdzie sprawuje też funkcję dyrektora artystycznego. Pierwsza płyta artystki, pt. „Solas” (24.06.2016 | Touch) zawiera kompozycje napisane w latach 2009-2016. Sam tytuł wydawnictwa w języku gaelickim szkockim oznacza „światło”. Może i mało wyszukana nazwa albumu, ale doskonale oddająca nastrój tych nagrań.

Twórczość Singer nie jest ani typowym ambientem, choć ma pewne cechy tej stylistyki, ani nie jest tzw. kameralistyką czy stuprocentową muzyką klasyczną/współczesną. Na „Solas” odnajdziemy elementy wszystkich wspomnianych gatunków. To jednak kluczowym składnikiem jest minimalizm.

Praktycznie każda kompozycja została zarejestrowana w innym miejscu i czasie. Inaczej sytuacja przedstawia się w przypadku trzech nagrań: „Solas”, „Wrangham” „The Molendinar”, które powstały na początku 2016 roku w Union Chapel. Tam znajdują się organy wykonane przez Henry’ego Willisa w 1877 roku. Organowe fragmenty skojarzyły mi się z muzyką Brytyjczyka Jamesa McVinnie’ego z płyty „Cycles” (Bedroom Community, 2013, recenzja) i duetu Tobias Preisig & Stefan Rusconi – „Levitation” (Qilin Records, 2016, recenzja). Z kolei tam gdzie pojawiło się więcej wiolonczeli w towarzystwie elektroniki może przywodzić na myśl dokonania eleh. [Łukasz Komła]

Das Filter (Germany):

Thaddeus: Lange hat mich kein Debütalbum mehr so sanft und rabiat zugleich aus dem täglichen Promo-Halbschlaf gerissen. Claire M Singer komponiert und kuratiert schon seit vielen Jahren, ihre Musik jedoch hat es praktisch nie auf Tonträger geschafft. Bis jetzt. „Solas“ (gälisch für „Licht“) ist ihr Debüt, nach vollen 14 Jahren kompositorischer Arbeit. Dass diese Platte nun beim Londoner Traditionslabel Touch erscheint, passt ins Bild. Denn die Orgel als tragendes Instrument spielt im Katalog des Labels des begnadeten A&R Mike Harding und des ebenso begnadeten Fotografen und Designer Jon Wozencroft immer wieder eine Rolle. Und Claire M Singer kennt sich aus mit der Orgel. Sie steht im Mittelpunkt der Kompositionen, das Cello und ein wenig Elektronik steuern die Ausschmückung bei. Bei den auf dem Album versammelten Stücken handelt es sich ausschließlich um Auftragsarbeiten. Das spielt in Bezug auf die Musik keine Rolle, erklärt jedoch, wie schwierig es mittlerweile ist, eine solch zeitgenössische Musik aufzuführen, ohne dabei in Kosten zu versinken. Singer leitet das Orgel-Projekt in der Union Chapel in London, die dortige Orgel von Henry Willis (Baujahr 1877) gilt als legendär. Andere Kompositionen wurden von der Tate Modern beauftragt, von Kulturinstitutionen in Köln, Amsterdam oder New York. Oft scheint bei diesen Performances auch die visuelle Komponente eine große Rolle gespielt zu haben; uns bleibt nur die Musik. Und die ist zeitgenössisch, aber nicht zickig. Streng, aber vor allem gütig. Und in Teilen so epochal, dass man trotz der nicht vorhandenen Beats die Hände gen Himmel strecken will und muss, wie zur Peak Time im Club. „Solas“ ist eine große und umso wichtigere Platte. Ein Zeichen, dass es nach wie vor möglich ist, das Zeitgenössische in der E-Musik ganz unbewusst mit dem Populären vermischen kann. Dafür braucht es Mut und ein reines Herz. Beides hat Claire M Singer.

Amazon (UK):

A welcome debut recording from Claire M Singer which is also a retrospective of-sorts, the seven pieces in this collection spanning her activity the years from 2002 until 2015. This sublime music combines both acoustic and electronic elements and give us time to both breathe and think about the gentle sonic manifestations which she conjures from the ether.

From the haunting opening piece ‘A Different Place’ (2009) scored for cello; built up from sequences of vacillating percussive and lyrical layers and subjected to further subtle technological manipulation; through the dirge-like ‘Ceo’ (the oldest piece in the set – 2002) and the melismatic ‘Eilean’ (2009) which incorporates contributions from the Scottish fiddle player Paul Anderson; to the large-scale concluding work for organ ‘The Molendinar’; an arch of slowly-moving chords which hover in the still air of The Union Chapel in London’s Islington where it was recorded like an ancient sacred absolution.

We are indeed fortunate to finally have this marvellous music at hand to savour and more fully assimilate.

Highly Recommended. [The Wolf]


Solas (meaning Light in Gaelic) is the debut album of Claire M. Singer.
In her case, the ‘debut’ is a double CD (plus a beautiful 15 minute bonus download track called Aisir), released on the Touch label, and presenting an overview of 14 years of her work in acoustic and electronic composition.

She writes for cello and electronics, solo electronics, organ and cello and solo organ.
Some of the pieces are recorded in the Union Chapel, London (where she is musical director), resulting in a warm sound. Some others are mysteriously linked to Scottish roots (recorded in Aberdeen) – and while they are not exactly ‘traditionals’, they definitely breathe a mysterious and dense atmosphere – such as The Molendinar (commissioned to celebrate Glasgow’s Molendinar Burn Project, and Eilean (for cello, piano and violin – featuring fragments played by Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson).

Experimedia (USA):

Solas (“Light” in Gaelic) is Claire M Singer’s debut album, spanning 14 years of her work in acoustic and electronic composition. In recent years she has focused on writing and performing a mix of organ, cello, and electronics with regular performances at Union Chapel, where, as Music Director, she runs a diverse program of concerts and educational workshops around the chapel’s organ, which was built by Henry Willis in 1877. Solas comprises seven works for various combinations of organ, cello, and electronics, including “Eilean,” which is an electronic work derived from recordings of cello, piano, and violin. In 2009 Singer was commissioned by the Aberdeenshire Council to write a new work for the Homecoming Scotland referencing “Land of the Standing Stones,” composed and performed by Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson. Small extracts of Anderson’s work can be heard interweaving throughout “Eilean.” “The Molendinar,” which takes up the whole of the second disc, is a co-commission between the Glasgow art gallery Civic Room and Union Chapel. The work is part of The Molendinar Burn Project, which is a 12-site series of art projects, each individually situated along the exact route of the Molendinar, a hidden burn upon which the city of Glasgow was founded by Saint Mungo in the sixth century. A work for solo organ written and recorded at Union Chapel in 2015, “The Molendinar” explores the precise control of wind through the pipes and therefore can be played fully on a mechanical drawstop action organ (Union Chapel) or with the addition of electronics (from the Union Chapel Henry Willis organ) when performed on an electro-pneumatic organ (Glasgow Cathedral).

All tracks written and performed by Claire M Singer. Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering. Photography and design by Jon Wozencroft. “Solas,” “Wrangham,” and “The Molendinar” were recorded by Iain Berryman at Union Chapel in London, February 26-27, 2016, on the organ built by Henry Willis in 1877. Mixed at Bennachie Studios in Aberdeen and EMS Goldsmiths in London.

Singer’s previous work includes “4-8-1,” a piece for string quartet and eight-channel surround which was performed at the Roundhouse in London by the LCO Soloists, and the audiovisual work a’ fàs soilleir, which has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, XMV (New York City), and Ceremony Hall (Austin, Texas). She has also performed as part of Spire at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter in Cologne, and many other locations.

Dalston Sound (UK):

In recent years, composer and audio-visual artist Claire M Singer has created new music for organ, cello and electronics while holding down the position of Music Director at London’s Union Chapel, Islington. Following in the steps of Buxtehude and JS Bach, you’d as likely hear her playing the chapel’s organ during Christmas services as performing her own music.

Three of the seven pieces on Solas (Touch), her debut album, were recorded on the Union Chapel organ, built in 1877 by Henry Willis and recently restored: a rare instrument “with a fully working original hydraulic blowing system, which can be used as an alternative to the electric blowers” (

Singer also makes multimedia works—not represented here, but interesting to know about—of which a’ fàs soilleir is an audio-visual piece for organ, electronics and film (to be made available as an AV download in Touch’s Touchline series), and the curiouser RADIOROBOT is a sound sculpture in the shape of a robot, made entirely out of analogue radios. Singer says it “draws together interests in radio frequency interaction, circuit bending and sculpture using found objects”, and you can easily guess how the same interests inform her instrumental pieces.

The main piece on the album, “The Molendinar”, is named for the burn on which Glasgow was founded in the sixth century, but it was developed and recorded at the Union Chapel, where Willis’ fully mechanical organ made the addition of any electronics, which are required to enhance any performance on an electro-pneumatic organ, unnecessary, so preserving the purity of Singer’s intention to “explore the precise control of wind through the pipes.”

And if that sounds reductive, it’s a fair indication of the result: a purity of line, with warm, shimmering vibrato producing tonal richness; keyed sustains with vocal qualities contrasting electronic properties; rich contrasts in depth and coloration; strength in subtlety. Then, in the seventh minute, an injection of languid, churchly melody, with unstopped sound amassing; in the fifteenth minute, new clarion tones; and in the sixteenth minute, surging, gut-deep emphases in the organ’s lower register, reaching for sublimity, only to withdraw in the 22nd minute. It’s an excellent, unabashed glorification of the organ’s voluminosity.

“The Molendinar” lasts 25:57, and (deservedly) gets a whole CD to itself. Another contains six shorter pieces, two of which were also recorded at the Union Chapel—”Solas”, for organ plus cello, and “Wrangham”, for organ plus electronics. Four other works are for cello, piano, violin, percussion and/or electronics.

On “Solas”—’Light’ in Gaelic—Singer casts quasi-electronic luminescence over steady, more recognisably organ-sourced sustains, and blends in haunting arco cello. The effect is subtly dramatic, inducing a feeling of revelatory disconnectedness or detachment. “Wrangham” is brighter and more open, with an uplifting, almost hymnal feel.
Singer’s unabashed but unaffected exploitation of the organ’s potential tonal abundance is refreshing. That her work is sophisticated and meticulously constructed but never strives for effect makes it all the more powerful. Her works for cello and electronics are equally compelling.

Music News Scotland (UK):

Solas (‘Light’ in Gaelic) spans 14 years of Claire’s work in acoustic and electronic composition. The album released on Touch is predominantly a mix of cello, organ and electronics all performed by Claire with one track Eilean which was commissioned by Aberdeenshire Council in 2009 featuring Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson.

Claire M Singer is a composer, producer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. She has performed her music everywhere from the Roundhouse in London with The London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists; Glasgow Cathedral; XMV NewYork, Ceremony Hall Austin TX, Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Cologne, the Tate Modern London, Union Chapel London and many more.

Born in Inverness but grew up in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire Claire moved to London in 2002 to study a bachelors in music at Goldsmiths College, University of London and continued on to get her masters in composition.

In 2012 Claire became Music Director of the Organ at London’s award winning music venue Union Chapel creating and running a diverse programme of concerts and educational workshops around the Chapel’s newly restored Henry Willis 1877 organ. In her fourth year at the Chapel she is now embarking on curating a brand new festival of new and experimental music for organ in October with a number of big headline names to be announced in the coming weeks.

Solas was released on the 24 June and has already attracted numerous praise from press and media around the world including being featured in the top 10 of Uncut Magazine’s 16th playlist of 2016. Some of the tracks reference Aberdeenshire and the west coast of Scotland when Claire spends most of her time writing.

Ondarock (Italy):

Appassionata esecutrice d’organo e di violoncello, studiosa di elettronica, curatrice di eventi multimediali, realizzatrice di installazioni interattive di suono (il “Radiorobot” elettromagnetico), la scozzese Claire M Singer incide il suo primo “Solas” improntandolo al minimalismo drone Phill Niblock-iano.

Le tre migliori composizioni, “Solas”, “Wrangham” e i venticinque minuti di “The Molendinar”, Claire li ha eseguiti all’organo ottocentesco costruito da Henry Willis della Union Chapel di Londra (di cui è anche direttrice artistica). “Solas” imposta al meglio il tono sacrale, anche attraverso stilettate di cello attraverso la bruma. Lontana da questa circolarità magnetica, la toccatina di “Wrangham” è la più sbrigliata e travolgente, davvero prossima a un corale barocco.

Più metafisica è “The Molendinar”, una radiazione che parte da una nota tenuta e che, via via, rassomiglia sempre più a un lungo om, cui si frappongono sempre nuove impercettibili sfumature e nuovi battimenti acustici. Inizia poi un crescendo di polifonie degne di Klaus Schulze, un lento, deforme, spettrale ispessimento di timbri e altezze (che, però, non conduce a una conclusione degna di nota).

Completato da alcuni riempitivi fuori contesto, ma anche da una “Eilean” che è un mormorio celestiale in mezzopiano con qualche frase folk (un campionamento del “Land Of The Standing Stones” di Paul Anderson), una testimonianza fresca di un astro nascente della musica colta britannica, ancora alle prese con la mera fascinazione – pur emozionante – delle possibilità compositive. “The Molendinar”, commissionata nel 2015 da Civic Room e la stessa Union Chapel, premiere nel giugno 2016 a Glasgow in concomitanza con l’uscita del disco, è il lancio del Molendinar Burn Project. “Solas”: “luce” in gaelico.


Eternal Music (Japan)
Hatena (Japan)

The National (UAE):

Claire Singer’s organ music and the pipes of Brexit

We tend to think of technology in an ever-present state of the gleaming and the new. In the age of now, anything in the realm of the technological is digital, miniaturised or plastic in either a literal or figurative sense. And so it must have always been, at least in a way that would have pointed forward to the mono-directional march of history.

But what of the organ? What of that huge, heaving machine from a distant past when machines weren’t anything like what the notion of machinery calls to mind now? There’s an organ of the sort in London, at Union Chapel, that is nothing if not a technological marvel – even at an age approaching 140 years old.

Built in 1877, its legacy owes to a number of distinctive features. It was designed by Henry “Father” Willis, a pivotal figure among those who admire masterful Victorian-era organ builders of yore. It’s the sole remaining example in England of an organ with a fully operating hydraulic power system, meaning the air coursing through its pipes can be blown by water. Of the pipes, there are more than 2,000, ranging in sizes from a few inches to the height of three people standing on end, with extra reach for arms at the top.
Emblems of archaic church services and rituals from before the advent of electricity, organs of the sort sound old, almost ancient in a way. But then they also sound beamed back from some distant time that has not yet transpired, a signal from the future and a past still stirring in our bones.

The organ at Union Chapel, historic but actively played, features prominently on a new album by Claire M Singer, and it would be hard not to hear it in mind of the news roiling England of late.

England never lacks for a certain pull between the present and a deep past, but there has been no escaping it in recent weeks, after the Brexit vote upended a nation and threatened to break apart allegiances and détentes ages-old.

The Molendinar, a standalone 25-minute track that takes up one of two CDs for Singer’s album Solas, showcases the Union Chapel organ in a grand fashion. The song was recorded in the chapel (as songs involving enormous and thus immobile organs must), and there is an otherworldly power in hearing several, many, even dozens of drastically different musical moods being expressed all at once, in any one cluster or cloud of notes being summoned in any one given moment.

That’s what pipe organs are uniquely suited to do: scramble the signals of what might inform an elementary musical language of tidy binary sentiments like happy or sad, dark or bright, quiet or loud, mournful in a minuscule way or celebratory in a scale fit for the high heavens. A note on an organ summons all of those couplings simultaneously and complicates what it would mean to consider any one without the other.

The Molendinar opens with a spell of silence slowly filled out by a sound that patiently, portentously rises. It’s like you can hear the air making its initial way through hollow metal pipes of gigantic size, the early digestive stirrings of an instrument that will spew. From there it’s a methodical folding-in of notes in a droning manner, with an interest in subtly undulating masses of sound and ethereal overtones. It is an organ of incredible stature and Singer knows her way around the instrument as the acting music director of Union Chapel and public programmes offered there. [Andy Battaglia]

Radio Wave (Czechia):

Debut Claire M Singer oslňuje jako nová hvězda na scéně drone ambientu
Album Solas, což znamená ve skotské galštině světlo, je pozoruhodné z několika důvodů. Jednak jde o silný, opožděný debut britské skladatelky a hráčky Claire M Singer, která vytváří hudbu už čtrnáct let. Za druhé, se tu tak trochu vrací do hry zásadní londýnský label Touch, který opakovaně posunul hranice dnešní hudby, ale v poslední době mu docházely síly.

A za třetí, a možná především: tenhle rok se doširoka rozlévají inspirace hudbou droneových prodlev a leckdo je vede dál, k širšímu publiku. Do alba The Ship nabral tuhle poetiku Brian Eno, k post-drone scéně po svém přispívají Tim Hecker i Ben Frost. V jiné podobě se tenhle proud zjevuje u téměř popového Iana Williama Craiga nebo u skladatelky Catherine Lamb. Tahle autorka tuhle scénu výtečně posiluje.

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Claire M Singer ve svých skladbách a nahrávkách obsadila polohu, jakou jinde těžko uslyšíme. Sama hraje na violoncello i chrámové varhany, přičemž amalgam výsledného zvuku prochází elektronickou postprodukcí. Tak jako se pohybuje na pomezí hudby hluboce harmonické a experimentální, tak dokáže jít i po hranici mezi statičností a pohybem. Nejplněji to ukazuje track A Different Place, který může lehce připomenout i jinou ze ženských autorek spojených s labelem Touch: islandskou cellistku Hildur Gudnadóttir.

Mohli bychom zaváhat, zda toto není album „za zásluhy“: Claire je uměleckou ředitelkou londýnské scény Union Chapel. Ale sama hudba ty pochyby dost rozhání, stejně jako životopis Singerové, která koncertovala už v Tate Modern a před vydáním ji protáhl label Touch svou koncertní šňůrou alternativních varhanních koncertů Spire. Mimochodem, čistě varhanní pětadvacetiminutová skladba The Moledindar vyplňuje celý druhý disk z dvojalba. Krátce řečeno, jsou tu tracky, které se harmonicky nehnou z místa, a pak ty druhé, které jakousi harmonickou a melodickou cestu urazí, byť třeba velmi střídmě.
Jak víme, varhany rezonují skrze sloupce zvuku, cello nebo housle znějí víc z hloubi dřeva. Snad proto Claiřin proud zvuku jako by rozrezonovával celé místo, vzduch v místnosti i hmotu v hloubi stěn a lidských těl. Je to hudba, které sluší hmatatelný prostor, se kterým by se snoubila, odrážela se o něj a ožívala drobnými akustickými víry, které nemohou nastat ve sluchátkách, ale v reálném místě ano. Dokážu si představit, že něco z téhle hudby se licenčně dostane do soundtracků a bude se to na nás hrnout z vychytaných kino soundsystémů. A taky bych to autorce přál: licence pro podobné účely dnes muzikantům významně pomáhají uživit se.

No a pochopitelně je potěšující taky už jen to, že label Touch o sobě znovu dává takhle výrazně vědět. Vydavatelství a producentské centrum se silnou vizí dalo v uplynulých letech světu osobnosti, jako jsou Biosphere, Philip Jeck, Fennesz, Ryoji Ikeda, Chris Watson, Oren Ambarchi nebo Hildur Gudnadóttir. Jenže s koncem éry nahrávek to má těžší a zvláštními projekty, jako byla kniha fotografií s hudebním doprovodem Miky Vainia Halfway To White, se nedá vystačit dlouho. Biosphere, Fennesz i Ikeda už dnes vydávají desky jinde – a výborná hudba Simona Scotta z kapely Slowdive tu prošla dost bez povšimnutí.

Claire M Singer a její Solas (Světlo) se těší dost dobrému ohlasu. Snad to znamená dlouhodobější oživení u cenné a chytré značky Touch. Na podzim tady vyjde titul mnohem víc temný než světelný: album legendy dark ambientu, amerického producenta jménem Lustmord. [Pavel Klusák]


Directrice musicale de l’Union Chapel de Londres, Claire M Singer était jusqu’alors dotée de virginité discographique. Elle a néanmoins maintes fois traversé les frontières pour présenter ses divers travaux et installations. La glorieuse maison Touch ne sort plus aussi régulièrement des disques indispensables, mais continue d’éditer des oeuvres dont la production et les qualités d’enregistrement demeurent exceptionnelles. L’artiste y rejoint donc une galerie d’artistes impressionnante (Chris Watson, Biosphere, Oren Ambarchi, Fennesz, Hildur Guðnadóttir…) pour y poser Solas (lumière en gaélique), un recueil de travaux électro-acoustiques enregistrés entre 2002 et 2015.

La britannique utilise un violoncelle et l’orgue datant de 1877 de l’Union Chapel où elle travaille, et allie ces deux éléments à des manipulations électroniques. En terme de mixage et d’enregistrement, on peut ici parler de pure orfèvrerie. Rien ne dépasse, le grain du son résonne comme particulièrement pur, bien aidé souvent par la réverbération naturelle inhérente aux lieux clos et « sacrés » dans lesquels elle opère.

Le disque s’ouvre sur le somptueux A Different Place, pièce en crescendo d’intensité, au tempo enlevé et presque martial, où les notes d’un plaintif violoncelle ont le mérite d’être joliment déliées, évoquant une course poursuite à la recherche du temps perdu dans une forêt de cyprès galloise.

Il est à mon sens regrettable qu’on ne retrouve pas ce genre de tempis par la suite, avant tout parce que l’intervention des crins et de l’orgue dans un registre « dronesque » invite malheureusement à une injuste comparaison avec les exceptionnels et inégalables derniers albums de Stars of The Lid. Les meilleurs titres sont donc pour moi ceux où elle accepte un peu de lâcher la bride et la rondeur de ses notes (A Different Place, Eilean et Wrangham).

La valeur ajoutée du disque tient sans nul doute dans l’intégration de l’orgue, cet instrument puissant qui renverse la tripaille, diffuse des colonnes de lumières lacérant l’azur et rassurant ceux pour qui habituellement la contemplation de l’horizon brûle la rétine.

Si j’avoue m’être cordialement ennuyé lors du trop long The Molendinar malgré ses éparses fulgurances, Solas demeure un album assez impressionnant, où le temps se suspend, où la vision se stratifie puis se dilate clairement lors d’errances lumineuses parmi les fougères et les lichens, entre les glens et les lochs où résident les banshees.
Claire M Singer livre donc chez une crémerie légendaire un travail de haute volée. Si son écoute au casque n’est pas à négliger, elle sera d’un écho tout autre encore chez les chanceux équipés d’une installation de forte qualité.

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Against the Silence (Greece):

Άλλος ένας δίσκος πρωτοεμφανιζόμενου ονόματος, της Βρετανίδας Claire M Singer, στη σύγχρονη πειραματική-ορχηστρική μουσική σκηνή. Για άλλη μια φορά ο Jon Wozenkroft έχει αναλάβει το αισθητικό κομμάτι κυκλοφορίας της Touch και εκ πρώτης όψεως το περιεχόμενο της αναμένεται μια από τα ίδια. Πρώτο κομμάτι το “In A Different Place” και όλα κυλάνε ζεστά σαν δάκρυα. Ένα τσελιστικό μπουμπουνητό σφαλίζει τα μάτια για να εισέλθουμε σε έναν άγνωστο από τα πριν κόσμο. Στη συνέχεια κάθε νότα κυλλά όσο πρέπει αργά με τα βήματα να μην παρεκκλίνουν από την πορεία προς τον πυρήνα του δίσκου. Αυτός θυμίζει καρδιά ανοιγμένη σαν πολύχρωμο λουλούδι με το εκκλησιαστικό όργανο να δίνει μια παραδεισένια υφή και μια θεόσταλτη αύρα γύρω από κάθε σύνθεση. Ιδανικό φινάλε του πρώτου cd καθώς και η επιτομή όλων των παραπάνω αποτελεί το “Wrangham” το οποίο ηχεί σαν τίτλος τέλους σε μια περιπέτεια με ένδοξο τέλος. Το δεύτερο cd με την μεγάλη σε διάρκεια σύνθεση του θα μπορούσε και να παραλειφθεί, αν και όλα οφείλουν να απολαμβάνουν την ποιητική αδεία που τους αναλογεί. Όντως τελικά, άλλος ένας πανέμορφος δίσκος της Touch.

Swirls of Noise (blog):

Back in October I saw Claire M Singer opening for Stars of the Lid at the Barbican, and though a short set, her organ based ambient drone music filled the room with gorgeous sound for half an hour, and I knew I’d have to check out more of her music after this. I was pleasantly surprised to find that her debut album Solas released a few months previously was a double disc release, the first featuring more expansive modern classical with cello and electronics in addition to the organ, the second featuring the sole track The Molendicular [sic], the organ piece performed that night. The two approaches are distinct enough to warrant two discs (at seventy minutes it could all fit on the one CD) but also both work as a whole album of fantastic ambient drone.

As mentioned above, the first disc is a quite expansive and varied take on ambient music with classical instrumentation. A Different Place opens the album with layers of strings woven together to create a beautiful blanket of sound, but with dramatic low cello driving the track along in a piece that evokes an autumnal feeling of forests and rain – the music on Solas feels very warm, organic and cinematic throughout. Diobaig is more bleak, high pitched synth droning away before fading into the background slightly as more layers of synth and cello introduce themselves in a quieter, thoughtful piece.

I’ve always loved the organ when used in drone music – the massive sound of the low end, the grandiose tone of the higher register and the way the held notes reverberate powerfully make it an instrument that you don’t hear enough of in drone music, in comparison to guitar, strings and synthesizer. On the title track Solas the organ takes the lead and it’s a very warm piece of drone where the organ melody evolves slowly and beautifully over the course of the track, with cello dipping in and out, taking more of a role as the track goes on, all surrounded in an electronic haze. It’s minimalist, but as it moves slowly toward it’s gorgeous climax, it rewards active listening with shut eyes and could’ve easily lasted more than its eleven minute length. Eilean even manages to one-up this great piece though, with synth, organ and cello all ebbing and flowing over each other in a gorgeously layered conglomeration of textures to get lost in. The Molendinar makes up the whole of the second disc, a twenty five minute piece for solo organ, with huge stacks of reverberation filling your headphones with powerful droning bliss. The first eight minutes has Singer playing organ drones, before she starts playing a slow melody, each note reverberating around for full effect. It’s really well done, evolving in such a manner, and she could have made a whole album purely out of this track. You can just imagine the feeling of the notes reverberating against the walls of the Union Chapel where it was recorded. It’s both heavy and awe-inspiringly beautiful and should appeal to any fans of drone, whether the doom metal end of Sunn O))) or the minimal ambience of Stars of the Lid.