Ruari Paterson-Achenbach


Ruari Paterson-Achenbach is a composer, artist, curator, performer and researcher from South-East London. In their work they want to provide sonic performative experiences which challenge assumptions about music and sound from a celebratory queer perspective. They want to invite discussion, exploring and amplifying voices which have been silenced and excluded in an act of sonic resistance through noise. 

As a composer Ruari has worked with a variety of ensembles, visual artists and writers, including the Juice Vocal Ensemble, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, The Hermes Experiment, Kathryn Williams, Billie Collins, Naomi Woo, Jesus College Chapel Choir, James Varney and No Dice Collective. Ruari’s work is consistently interdisciplinary in concept and implementation. They frequently collaborate with makers of Fine Art, Film and Theatre, with their own creative practice incorporating experimental performance, painting, filmmaking, physicality and sonic collage. Improvisation, workshopping and non-traditional forms of creation are at the core of their creative practice.

Ruari is currently a ‘New Creative’ for the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, NTS Radio and BBC. Through the New Creatives project they produced the sound piece ‘The Lesbian Families Sound Archive’ (co-commissioned by the ICA, BBC and NTS, with mentorship from Rory Bowens). The piece uses sound material from interviews, field recordings, home videos and original composition, preserving often neglected and forgotten sonic elements of queer lived experience taken from encounters with my own lesbian parents and other London-based lesbian families from our familial social circle. It is currently broadcast through BBC Sounds. 

Ruari’s creative work is inherently linked to their practice as a researcher and activist. Their interests include anticolonial praxis, queer utopian discourse and sound studies. Their piece ‘An ‘almost-manifesto’- Recollection, Utopianism, Lesbian Families and Sonic Archival Practice’ was presented at the April 2020 eavesdropping symposium ‘creative activism: radical responses within new music’. They recently sat on the panel ‘Decolonising pedagogies: dismantling and disrupting music education practices’ at the ‘Decolonising the Musical University’ conference organised through Edinburgh University. Their undergraduate degree was in Music at the University of Cambridge, Girton College, where they received an Outstanding Student Contribution to Education Award for Inclusive Practice. Ruari will soon be participating in the MA Gender, Media & Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Ruari is 1/2 of creative collective the mermaid café with Joanna Ward. The mermaid café thinks towards, and imagines the potential of, a contemporary compositional / curatorial / performative artistic practice which is radical, feminist, queer, antiracist, decolonial and resistive in concept and practice -- explicitly and directly political in its aims. 

Ruari is also a vocalist, drummer and DJ / Sound Collagist, specialising in contemporary experimental vocal repertoire and the interpretation of graphic and text scores. Performance highlights include the curation and performance of a vocal recital / performance art piece around queering vocal practice which included works by LGBTQ+ composers in styles ranging from Cabaret to contemporary classical music; a free improvisation performance responding to Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Divided Circle’ exhibition at the Heong Gallery (with the mermaid café); performing with An Assembly led by Jack Sheen at London Contemporary Music Festival 2019; a set at the February 2020 ‘Tate Late’ held in Tate Modern, London, in conjunction with Steve McQueen’s ‘Year 3’ project, which combined experimental sound collagism and theatre.

Composer Website