Ewan Mackay

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My compositional journey began at the age of 14 when I began composing at Peterhead Academy, where I studied with Elaine Waters and Diane Pert. I began writing music in a range of styles to further my knowledge of composition and to hone my skills. With limited theoretical knowledge, the compositional process was focussed around listening work and experimentation with Sibelius notation software. As my theoretical knowledge continued to grow, I became more confident and began to make creative decisions – some of which have remained a feature of my work to this day. My first premiered piece – Goodnight Moon, for String Ensemble was incredibly simple in comparison to my work today, however, at the time it gave me a crucial opportunity to have my work performed, and I believe it gave me much needed confidence and ultimately gave me a belief that composition was an activity I could pursue. 

As I moved up to the North East Scotland College (NESCOL), I studied with Paul Tierney, who introduced me to Atonal composition. This was another important discovery and my work here was responsible for expanding my compositional and musical palette. Common features that emerged within my work at this stage included the use of modes, tightly packed harmonies and compositional exploration of light and dark within my work. 

Throughout the course of my studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in the BA Applied Music and MA Music and the Environment degrees, my work with Mark Sheridan was enlightening. Throughout this period I continued to expand upon the techniques and musical elements I had learned at NESCOL. Crucially, through my involvement with UHI, I was able to have my work performed by a number of performers and ensembles such as the Grampian Concert Orchestra, Jillian Hunter – for whom I composed Soliloquy (2018) and The Dreaming Tree (2020). In 2019, I was been presented at the Barbican as part of Drake Music’s Access Day, where I took my work in an exciting new direction, premiering my Educational performance piece – which included part-presentation and part composition, Something From Nothing. This performance allowed the audience to become part of the compositional process, selecting random motivic cells over a pre-existing chordal texture, in a form of chance collaboration between myself and those in the audience. The concept of the piece was not to create a carefully constructed piece, but rather to prove that composition could be achieved by all – regardless of ability, using a small amount of material(s), in a short space of time. Other recent commissions include the Aberdeen International Sound Festival’s Composer Development scheme, and a collaboration with one of Scotland’s foremost new-music Ensembles, Red Note. The final piece, Over the Far Horizon, for Oboe (Sergio Vega Domnigquez) and Cello (Martin Storey), was premiered on October 26th in Aberdeen’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral. I was also a recipient of a compositional grant from The Doric Board, for which I collaborated once more with Sergio, this time composing a Solo Oboe work – Reflection O the Hills, which takes inspiration from a poem Glen Muick, written by the board’s poet in residence, Sheena Blackhall. Upcoming collaborations will include the live world premiere’s of The Dreaming Tree and Reflection O the Hills – which were digital collaborative projects, a new work for Violist Jessica Beeston, who performed my Solo Viola piece Monologue as part of Ben Lunn and Drake Music Scotland’s collaboration with the Hebrides Ensemble – Diversions (2019).

Solo

In the Stillness of Time | 2016 | 3′ | cello

Reed Songs | 2017 | 10′ | cello

Soliloquy | 2018 | 7′ | flute

Monologue | 2019 | 4′ | viola

The Dreaming Tree | 2020 | 25′ | flute

Reflection O the Hills | 2020 | 5′ | oboe

Ensemble

Dream-Land | 2018 | 10′ | flute, violin, piano

Scenes of Aden | 2018 | 18′ | string quartet

Over the Far Horizon | 2019 | 5′ | oboe, cello

Orchestral

In a Mystic Garden | 2017 | 25′ | 2222, 222, timp, 2 perc, strings