Tansy Davies rose to prominence on the British scene with a sequence of ensemble works for the Composers Ensemble (Patterning), the London Sinfonietta (Torsion) and The Brunel Ensemble (The Void in this Colour), all of which bear the hallmarks of her apprenticeship under Simon Bainbridge and Simon Holt. In her recent work, Davies has found an accommodation between the worlds of the avant-garde and experimental rock, between - in the words of one critic - Xenakis and Prince. Filled with sounds of cracking, slapping, whipping and scraping, it is music that is utterly contemporary, inhabiting the same urban landscape as industrial techno and electronica, And while Davies is similarly fascinated by the potential of 'looping' as a structural device (as in neon), there is none of the formal predictability of much commercial dance music. Rather, the skewed proportions of works such as her recent LSO commission Tilting attest to her keen interest in applying structural principles found in the natural world, or the work of architect Zaha Hadid.
Tansy Davies' recent works include Contraband for the Britten Sinfonia, Streamlines for the CBSO Youth Orchestra, Spiral House for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, kingpin for the City of London Sinfonia and Falling Angel for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Thomas Adès. Future commissions include works for the Norwegian group Bit20, the City of London Sinfonia and a large-scale, multi-media work for the 2007 Aldeburgh Festival.
A number of Tansy Davies' works are published by Faber
'With Davies, contemporary music never lives in an airtight box. It's out on the street, friendly-aggressive, mingling with rock without ever losing the poise that stems from the right number of notes in the right place.'
'...a brilliantly imaginative new ensemble work, Inside Out ii. The piece is based on a transformation of a musical line from one of Bach's two-part inventions, and the result is a superimposition of two kinds of music. The strings and prepared piano create an infectious riff of spikey rhythms and percussive sounds, while the woodwind and horn play a sonorous chorale. Both layers begin to converge, in a chaotic conflict between instrumental timbre and melodic material. The piece generated an irresistible energy, at once playful and precipitous.'
'(in spine)... we were beguiled by yet another fascinating sound-world; a slow, twilit procession of bass flutes and clarinets, flecked by sinisterly beautiful highlights of cimbalom, harp and percussion.'
'kingpin, named after the only part of the Model T engine that Henry Ford supposedly found never wore out. Opening lurchings in the bass suggested Frankenstein's monster on the ballroom floor. But the rhythmic machinery never collapsed as the music wheeled around at conflicting speeds and instrumental colours, clanking, tootling and chortling away until the final upbeat “kerplunk”.'
'Tansy Davies's neon evokes tawdry urbanity in music of dangerous vibrancy.'
'Tansy Davies's neon is.... lucidly structured with its frieze-like series of vivid musical events each generated by a different rhythmic figure or process.'