Jim Pywell

composer ~ performer

Compositional Profile



list of works

contacts & links


Jim Pywell’s work as a composer combines two areas; works written for performance in a normal concert platform setting, and collaborations with other artists in the professional, amateur and educational context.

Concert Works

Jim Pywell's concert works are mostly concerned with extricating the maximum amount of energy possible from a minimum number of performers and instruments. The music is often fast, though not necessarily of extreme technical difficulty. The players are usually required to be highly interdependent and well-co-ordinated, and their musical multi-tasking abilities may be challenged. Until to 2001 all these works were fully notated using conventional notation, but the 2002 work Waking Up Graham combines standard notation with written instructions and rules.

In 1994 and 1996 respectively, two of his works (Sextet for Piano and Wind Instruments and Watered Unisons) were shortlisted for promotion by the SPNM (Society for Promotion of New Music) and received performances in London and at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. His most performed concert work is Switchback, premiered in the Royal Festival Hall by Backbeat Percussion Quartet in June 2000.

Recently recorded concert works include:

Three Beginnings for clarinet quartet

Switchback for two marimbas, four players

listen to excerpts

complete list of works



Collaborations and Education Work

In 1999 Jim Pywell joined forces with the Turkish choreographer Aydin Teker to create Dans Sergisi, a site-specific music and dance work for the Dulcinea art gallery in Istanbul. He took part in the performances as a multi-instrumentalist, playing his own music from a steel framework suspended in the ceiling. He also toured the north of England as composer-performer with Visible Inc (education theatre), performed with Golem Theatre (mask and mime), and worked with Eugene Skeef and Baldip Panesar on the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival’s 1996 education project Open Ears.

More recent collaborations include several education projects at the University of Bradford where he was Fellow in Music until August 2003. He instigated the Creative Music Workshops which were designed to facilitate composition amongst mixed-ability and multi-cultural groups of people. Participants were guided through the processes of preparation, learning, exploration, improvisation, arrangement and performance. This work generated a core of people who participated in further projects:

·    Storyscape (a multi-cultural youth theatre and music production in collaboration with director Andrew Loretto)

·    Club Create (a song and instrumental music production with Nigerian musician Moses Ekebuisi)

·    Soundings (a large-scale music event featuring the university orchestra in collaboration with The Fusion Club, West Yorkshire’s unique collective of gamelan, folk fiddle, accordion, tabla, didjeridoo, saxophone, keyboard and dhilruba)

The ongoing project resulting from these is The Small World Band, co-directed by James Squire, Andy Spearpoint and Richard Ormrod. To listen to The Small World Band or Soundings, click here.

Now based in Nairobi, Jim is currently playing in the new band Kachumbari 7, which features Indian bamboo flutes and the Kenyan kiringongo and chivoti, amongst other instruments.

Compositional Background

Jim Pywell grew up in London. He specialised in composition, bassoon and conducting during his undergraduate studies at Huddersfield Polytechnic, where his composition tutor was Barrie Webb. He later returned to the University of Huddersfield to study with Christopher Fox, and studied with Milton Babbit, David Rakowski and Martin Butler at Dartington International Summer School.

He was one of two British composers who participated in the International Composers’ Workshop Africa ’96 in Johannesburg, a unique post-apartheid conference that brought together composers from throughout Africa to exchange ideas and examine the crossover ground between contemporary European art music trends and contemporary or traditional African music. He returned to South Africa in 2002 as composer and facilitator in the International Composers’ Indaba, part of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.  In 2005 he presented the paper What's a European Composer Doing in Africa?  at the Symposium Refocusing Indigenous Music in Music Education in East Africa in Kenya. 

Jim Pywell was based at Kenyatta University in Nairobi from 2003 to 2007, where he taught performance, improvisation, musical analysis and composition. Since 2003 he has also been Composer-in-Residence at the BISYOC European Inter-Cultural Youth Orchestra Exchange (Held in the UK, Spain and Austria), and he is tutor for the Creative Music Workshops and other composition-based  courses at the Workers’ Music Association summer schools (Giggleswick, England).