"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
Laurence Osborn is a British composer currently based in London. His music has been commissioned and programmed by the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Britten Sinfonia, The Riot Ensemble, Manchester Collective, 12 Ensemble, GBSR Duo, Ensemble Klang, and Ensemble 360, among others, along with performers Sarah Dacey, Mahan Esfahani, Bartosz Glowacki, Zubin Kanga, Lore Lixenberg, and Michael Petrov. He has composed works for venues throughout the UK 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.
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). Laurence has won student prizes for composition while studying at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, including the Adrian Cruft Prize for Composition and the Royal College of Music Concerto Competition. His cycle Essential Relaxing Classical Hits was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 2022. He has held positions in association with LSO Soundhub (2013-15), Nonclassical (2015-17), and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (2017-18).
Laurence read Music at Hertford College, Oxford, studying Composition with Martyn Harry and Martin Suckling, and graduating with a 1st in 2011. He then studied for an MMus in Composition with Kenneth Hesketh at the Royal College of Music, London, supported by an RVW Trust Scholarship and graduating with Distinction in 2013. Laurence then studied for an MA in Opera Making and Writing with Julian Philips at The Guildhall School of Music, generously supported by The Leverhulme Arts Scholarship. He graduated with Distinction in 2015, and held the position of Artist Fellow in Composition for the following year. While composing freelance from 2016 to 2018, Laurence studied composition privately with Julian Anderson. He then began studying for a PhD in Composition at Kings College London, supervised by Sir George Benjamin, and supported by a full scholarship from the AHRC London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) Research Studentship.
Current projects include a series of portrait concerts at the Wigmore Hall featuring Britten Sinfonia, Mahan Esfahani, The Castalian Quartet, and Marian Consort, a co-commissioned work for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Cheltenham Music Festival and Kings Place, and commissions for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the SmorgasChord Festival.
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12 Ensemble & GBSR Duo, Kings Place (May 2023)
Its centrepiece was a new work for strings, piano and percussion by Laurence Osborn, commissioned for the tour, and by quite a margin the most absorbing and worthwhile piece in what was a rather uneven concert. Osborn describes his piece TOMB! as recognising “the necrophiliac side of heritage and our morbid obsession with dead things”. In this case the “dead things” are traditional musical forms like fugue, jig and passacaglia, which flit in and out of the 20-minute movement like apparitions, only occasionally assuming recognisable forms. The effect is intriguing, sometimes unnerving, but always engaging, and full of textures that are never quite as straightforward as they seem.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
The Biggest Thing I’ve Ever Squashed
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Birmingham (January 2023)
…the most successful [compositions] were those in which vivid thematic material was used with economy and perceptible logic. That material came in various forms … [including] the deconstructed march of Laurence Osborn’s The Biggest Thing I’ve Ever Squashed.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian****
Zubin Kanga, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (November 2021)
More rewarding musically was the set from pianist Zubin Kanga, in which spacey, clangorous sounds obtained by electronically distorting a piano were often laid alongside familiar musical gestures, including (in Laurence Osborn’s Absorber) processions of guieless common chords, sullied gradually by foreign notes – a fascinating effect.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
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
Mahogany Opera, Polish Social And Cultural Association, London (May 2018)
If the action evokes the inter-war avant-garde, Osborn’s music also pays tribute to the 20th century. Intricate, animated and predominantly atonal, it contains snatches of parlour song as the Mother waxes nostalgic, and jazz rhythms flash through its lucid textures.
Yehuda Shapiro, The Stage
Fantastic absurdity… Osborn’s score draws on the eclectic, intoxicatingly democratic soundworlds of Ligeti, Stockhausen and Gerald Barry in its garish grotesques, creating memorable moments of surreal beauty and wit, with the help here of an outstanding young cast and the accompaniment of Chroma and conductor Jamie Man.
Alexandra Coghlan, The Tablet
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
The most assured piece was Laurence Osborn’s Ctrl, which showed a confident hand with larger forces and a talent for synthesising different kinds of harmony and stylistic reference points in a manner reminiscent to Thomas Adès or Maxwell Davies.
Stephen Chase, Tempo
I’m sure I can’t have been the only person in the hall to feel as though Osborn had personally punched me in the chest… Ctrl was clearly something special and possibly – time will tell – important.
Simon Cummings, 5:4
April in the Amazon
Lore Lixenberg and CHROMA, The Platform Theatre (July 2014)
An exuberantly colourful and emotionally volatile sonic tapestry
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
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