Helen Ottaway is a composer, pianist, installation artist and curator.  While a student at Goldsmiths’, University of London in the 1980s, she studied briefly with John Cage and up to 1998 worked as a performer, musician and composer with experimental music and theatre groups, touring nationally and internationally.  In 1999, with arts administrator Steve Ehrlicher, she formed Artmusic to promote and produce collaborative,site-specific and participatory work.  As lead artist she has had extensive experience of working with artists from different disciplines and curating and producing her own and other artists work. As a composer she has received commissions from BBC2, Salisbury Festival, Bath Film Festival, the Bernardi Music Group and others. Landscape, water and nature provide inspiration and and are recurring themes in a style that is predominantly minimalist with influences from folksong and English pastoral and church music traditions.

pencil and music paper
White Storks score (detail)


With Artmusic

1999 – present 
Composer and lead artist for 13 collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. See http://www.artmusic.org.uk/ for specific work, dates and venues.

As freelance composer, curator, installation artist, pianist

Levantina for solo piano – Commissioned by Frances Ottaway for Jordanian-Palestinian pianist Iyad Sughayer. The piece was premiered at St Georges Bristol in February 2022 as part of a concert by the music charity PalMusic.

Walking with Words – Awarded DYCP (Develop Your Creative Practice) grant by Arts Council England to collaborate with three writers.

A New Kind of Requiem, illustrated talk presented at art.earth’s online conference, Borrowed Time (November 2021)

White Storks string octet – Commissioned by Shipley Arts Festival and the Bernardi Music Group (marking the re-establishment of breeding pairs of Storks in the UK after 600 years.  watch video here White Storks is 29 minutes in)

Associate composer for online literary forums A Leap in the Dark and Carthorse Orchestra

The role of movement in the participation in and appreciation of art – talk delvered at a walk – listen – cafe. Part of Sound Walk September 2020

A New Kind of Requiem, illustrated talk presented at the 14th International Conference of the Social Context of Death Dying and Disposal, at Bath University (October 2019)

Curator for LISTEN, A Season of Sound Art, hosted by Black Swan Arts (20 July – 1 September 2019)

Wind and Unwind for musical box and voice commissioned for Dorset Moon

Contributed and directed music for Melanie Thompson’s ‘Wildedges’, The Grange Orchard, Street

The Bee That Loves Blackberries, a soundscape commissioned for Fifty Bees III exhibition, Brewhouse Gallery, Taunton

Bodies of Water a pair of illustrated talks by Helen Ottaway and Melanie Thompson, Wells and Frome, Somerset

Artist in Residence,  Sura Medura International Artists Residency Programme, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Created Wave Songs: pieces for punched paper roll musical box; sound installation and outdoor performance. Wave Songs performance and installation presented as part of the first International Festival of Human Rights in Colombo.

Artist in Residence at Cooper Hall, Frome with Astaria String Quartet and sound designer Alastair Goolden

2012 – 2013
Green/Yellow from Round & Round (1999) used for DV8 Physical Theatre’s production, Can We Talk About This?  

Sound artist for 30 Bird’s performance installation, ‘Chodzenie-Siberia’ (Imagine Watford, July 2011). http://www.30bird.org/chodzenie-siberia.html

2008 – 2018 
Composer and pianist for I’m Thinking of You  by performance artist Franko B, premiered at National Review of Live Art, Glasgow in Feb. 2009, continuing to tour to European festivals until 2018. http://franko-b.com/Im_Thinking_of_You.html

Composer in Residence, Frome Festival. 

Moments of Being, Randomly playing CD piece devised to accompany an exhibition of work by artist Roswitha Gerlitz at TEA, London.

Commissioned by Bath Film Festival to compose a score for string quartet to accompany the silent film, ‘Regen’ (1929) by Joris Ivens. Performed by Opus 21 String Quartet.

Twigs, randomly playing CD piece composed of spoken text and short song fragments devised to accompany Rowena Pearce’s installation/exhibition on the nature of Charcoal.  Somerset Art Weeks.

Collaboration with performance artist Franko B on ‘O Lover Boy’ video.

Associate composer for ‘In Praise of Trees’ arts project curated by Annette Ratuszniak in association with Salisbury Festival and English Nature. Commissioned choral work, The Echoing Green, premiered in Salisbury Cathedral by Sarum Chamber Orchestra, Salisbury Festival Adult and Children’s choruses, James Gilchrist (tenor), Simon Limbrick (perc.) and Howard Moody (cond.)

1999 – 2001
Round & Round  a cycle of piano pieces and paintings.  Collaboration with artist Barry Cooper and video artist Al Morrison and performed by Helen Ottaway (Frome / Salisbury).

Commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral to compose and direct the music for the Cathedral’s Millennium Night Watch Service 31.12.99. 

Commissioned to compose and record the title and incidental music for BBC 2 documentary, ‘The River’, written and presented by Patrick Wright.

Over & Over a piano duet for the Walker – White piano duo.  First public performance by Sarah Walker and John White, Cheltenham Town Hall, 2001 (Red Beacon Music).

Devised and performed  Red Velvet Piece (solo piano) in collaboration with artist Deborah Thomas. Salisbury Festival.

1989 – 1998
created composing performing group ‘3 or 4 Composers’ with Melanie Pappenheim, Jocelyn Pook, Laurence Crane and Simon Rackham.  Concerts and installations (NRLA, Arnolfini, ICA, Contemporary Archives Festival, South Bank, Barclays New Stages Festival and Wingfield Arts).  Included the composition of a body of work for the ensemble and the commission of String Quartet No.1 from Nottinghamshire County Council in 1995.

1987 – 1988
Contributed incidental music and arrangements and performed in Graeme Miller’s theatre piece ‘Dungeness’.   ICA, London / Arnolfini, Bristol / Green Room, Manchester / Granada Festival.

1980 – 1986
Performed in theatre works by IOU, Lumiere & Son, ICA Productions,  Almeida Festival,  Cage at 70 (including appearing in Peter Greenaway’s  film about the composer). 
Founder member of Regular Music, touring nationally and internationally.