Christopher Mayo

Solo & Duo


2014 | 6'  

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta
for flute and electronics

Wintermute was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta and first performed by David Cuthbert and Sound Intermedia at the BFI Southbank. The title comes from William Gibson’s 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. In the book, Wintermute is a vastly powerful artificial intelligence who orchestrates a heist designed to increase his capabilities beyond the restrictions of the government-enforced “Turing Law Code”.

Gibson was born in Conway, South Carolina, but left the United States in 1968, one of the tens of thousands of draft dodgers who fled to Canada to avoid military service in Vietnam. This led to the dialogue of Neuromancer’s futuristic underworld drawing heavily on what Gibson calls “1969 Toronto dope dealer's slang, or biker talk”. This piece uses an early, out-of-print audiobook of Neuromancer as the sole sound source for the electronic sounds. As the piece progresses, snippets of this underworld dialogue—in Gibson’s own voice—can gradually be heard seeping through the texture of the piece.

This piece is about the compression of vast amounts of information. It’s about cataloging, indexing, sorting, resorting and organising: an innocuous spreadsheet in a cyberpunk bureaucracy.

for Michael Harrison

2013 | 2'  

Commissioned by Kettle’s Yard in memory of Michael Harrison
for violoncello and piano  


for Michael Harrison is a short variation on the song “O what would we now say?” by Emily Hall. It was written for Kettle’s Yard gallery in remembrance of their former director Michael Harrison who died in 2013.

The Lesson of the Ice-House

2012 | 4'  

Commissioned by Manchester Camerata
for violoncello and drone  


Homes, and How to Make Them is an 1875 instructional epistolary novel by Eugene Clarence Gardner designed to give "hints on locating and building a house… in letters between an architect and a family man seeking a home". The book succinctly captures the middle-class lifestyle of late nineteenth-century Massachusetts and suggests not only how one should construct their house, but also how they should conduct their life within the home. For me, though, the most evocative part of the book is the titles of the letters. Listed in the table of contents, they read like a found poem telling a surprisingly sad story of optimism, aspiration and loss. The titles of the last twelve of the letters are:

Go to; let us build a tower
Basements and balconies
Four rooms enough
Conveniences and conjectures
The lesson of the ice-house
Shingles, sunshine, and fresh air
Where the doctors differ
How to do it
The breath of life
Eternal vigilance
Saved by conscience
Final and personal

To Carve in Wild Cherry 

2012 | 9'  

Commissioned by Oliver Coates
for violoncello


To Carve in Wild Cherry was commissioned by Oliver Coates. It was first performed by him January 29, 2012 at Southbank Centre as part of Harmonic Series.

To Carve in Wild Cherry imagines a lost, folk-cello performance tradition where melodies are exclusively played on one string with the adjacent strings used for resonance and harmony. The piece was inspired by the music of Appalachian composer, singer and dulcimer player John Jacob Niles. The title is drawn from a poem of the same name by Jonathan Williams:

To Carve in Wild Cherry
For John Jacob Niles

30 dulcimers-
one long life

and what I said to the one of wild cherry was
bend a little, break later

where the bamma-gilly and the cow-cumber
flower forever
in a god's eye

out under the sky
out under the sky

- Jonathan Williams

Pike and Shot

2008 | 5'  

Commissioned by Lionel Handy
for violoncello and piano


Pike and Shot refers to a military formation used from the Italian wars of the late fifteenth century until the adoption of the bayonet in the seventeenth century.  A mixed formation of 'pike' and 'shot' allows the musketeers to inflict casualties from a distance while the pikemen protected them from enemy cavalry.  
Pike and Shot was written for Lionel Handy and Nigel Clayton in 2008.