Laurence Osborn


"CTRL suggests a prodigious dramatic talent."

Helen Wallace, The Arts Desk

"...a vocal extravaganza, the tripartite Ctrl"

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

"Laurence Osborn’s Micrographia delights in the wondrous microscopic world of the 17th-century natural philosopher Robert Hooke (text by poet Joseph Minden)."

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

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Laurence Osborn (b. 1989) is a British composer based in London. Laurence Osborn's music has been commissioned and/or programmed by the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Britten Sinfonia, The Riot Ensemble, Manchester Collective, Mahogany Opera Group, CHROMA, The Berkeley Ensemble, The English National Ballet, The Hebrides Ensemble, and Ensemble 360, along with performers Sarah Dacey, Mahan Esfahani, Bartosz Glowacki, Zubin Kanga, Lore Lixenberg, and Michael Petrov. His music has been programmed throughout the UK, at venues such as The Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Royal Opera House, The Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, LSO St Luke's, St Martin- In-The-Fields, Milton Court, Wilton's Music Hall, Britten Studio (Aldeburgh), The National Portrait Gallery, The Holywell Music Room (Oxford), The Crucible Theatre (Sheffield), Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge), and at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (where he was an International Showcase Artist), St Magnus International Festival, Music in the Round Festival, and Ulverston International Music Festival. His music has also been programmed throughout Europe, such as at Festival Présences (Paris), Alteoper Frankfurt, November Music Festvial (Den Bosch), The Georg Solti Hall (Budapest). Laurence's music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, Resonance FM, and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. His music has also been released on Resonus Classics, and Coviello Classics.

Laurence won the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize in 2017. He was also runner up in the New Cobbett Prize for Composition (2014) and the International Antonin Dvorak Composition Competition (2013) and shortlisted for the ICSM World Music Days (2018). He has held positions in association with LSO Soundhub (2013-15), Nonclassical (2015-17), and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (2017-18).

Projects for 2021 included a song-cycle for Agata Zubel and Ensemble Klang, a performance of Automaton with Ensemble Modern and Sir George Benjamin, and the world premiere of Coin Op Automata for string quartet and harpsichord, commissioned by the Manchester Collective.

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Riot Ensemble, CD Release (March 2020)

This lithe, witty piece refracts (via poet Joseph Minden) Hooke’s 1665 treatise describing objects viewed through a microscope.

Steph Power, BBC Music Magazine

Laurence Osborn’s Micrographia, in which Dacey is joined by soprano April Frederick, delights in the wondrous microscopic world of the 17th-century natural philosopher Robert Hooke (text by poet Joseph Minden).

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

The music, detailing things as seen through a microscope is very graphic in its instrumental colouring especially ‘Wings of Flies’ with whirling strings and the use of kazoos!

Alan Cooper, British Music Society


Riot Ensemble, Kings Place (February 2020)

Between these pieces came a vocal extravaganza, the tripartite Ctrl by Laurence Osborn (b1989), setting words by himself. And what words they were. “I was born without a heart. I was born face first into the pulp of processed male history” is the opening strand, initiating the theme of the futility of masculinity. The cabaret-style singer — the soprano Sarah Dacey, in male attire, with facial hair daubed on — essayed, with electronic aid, all sorts of distorted male voices. The second part, Body, was equally provocative, comprising 29 assertions beginning with that word — from “Body is amazing” to “Body is inescapable” — then erupting into a blatant ensemble version of the football chant “We do what we want”. Part three was a sort of abstract, eviscerated lullaby, recalling the “exquisitely tired and four-in the-morning” quality the composer Constant Lambert found in Ellington’s Mood Indigo.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

CTRL (première)

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (November 2017)

If these pieces interrogated the essence and origin of sounds, in Laurence Osborn’s remarkable CTRL sound came politically charged. This song-cycle exploring masculinity is sung by a soprano (the magnificent Sarah Dacey) heard through an autotune device, chosen by Osborn for its illusion of invulnerability. Dacey, sporting five o’clock shadow, turned the dial between "male", "female" and "alien", according to the narrative, transforming her voice from shrilly synthetic gurgle to flaccid bass.

"I was born without a heart" launches in at full-tilt, words often subsumed by the noisy glitter of its music, swooping bass riffs and shrieking flute frosted with the roar of a metal sheet. In part two, "My body", Osborn conjures a sleazy, surreal cabaret: Dacey’s deep, distorted intoning of "we do what we want" gathers into a queasy anthem punctuated by all-too human screams from the ensemble. At one point her voice is left naked in a limping lullaby, "rock me", the Leviathan breathing of deep bass waves recalling Britten’s Grimes and Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s no accusation, but a tribute to writing of powerful resonance and fluency. CTRL suggests a prodigious dramatic talent: indeed, Osborn is currently developing an opera, The Mother, for Mahagonny Opera.

Helen Wallace, the arts desk

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