Bettison, Oscar International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

go to content

Born in 1975 on the island of Jersey (United Kingdom) to Spanish and British parents, he began his music education with violin classes at London’s Purcell School. The rebelliousness of his teenage years diverted his attention to rock’n’roll percussion and to a fascination with uncompromising composers from George Crumb and Steve Reich to György Ligeti and Igor Stravinsky. He won the BBC Young Composer of the Year award at the age of eighteen. He studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama; however, it is his move to study at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague with Louis Andriessen and Martijn Padding that he considers as a decisive turning point. It was there that he developed a philosophy that characterises his music to this day: to embrace creative discomfort, to shun pre-planning, and crash through challenges with daring, imaginative twists. As Bettison has stressed: “It’s not that refinement is a bad thing. But there are times when it can get in the way.” In 2005–7, after taking up PhD studies at Princeton University, Bettison composed a breakthrough work, O Death, which grafts popular musical styles, including blues, onto the requiem structure. The artist has received awards and commissions notably from the Royal Philharmonic Society (1997), Jerwood Foundation (1998), Yvar Mikhasho Commissioning Fund (2009), Chamber Music America (2013), Guggenheim Fellowship (2017), and Fromm Music Foundation (2018). He currently lives in New Jersey (USA) and is chair of the Composition Department of John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore. 

Selected works: B&E (with aggravated assault) for seven performers (2006; version for saxophone quartet, 2010), O Death for ensemble (2005–7), Lights in Ashes for orchestra (2007), Gauze Vespers for six performers (2007), The Afflicted Girl for chamber ensemble (2010), apart for four percussionists (2012), Livre des Sauvages for large ensemble (2012), An Automated Sunrise (for Joseph Cornell) for chamber ensemble (2014), Threaded Madrigals for viola (2014), Sea Shaped for large orchestra (2014), String Quartet (2015), Presence of Absence for mezzo-soprano and ensemble (2016), Pale Icons of Night for violin and ensemble (2018), Remaking a Forest for large orchestra (2019), La Arqueología del Neón for ensemble (2020), The Light of Lesser Days, opera (2021).