Compositions Reflecting the Nature of Old Hispanic Melisma

Tread Softly
Present Shadows (1st Movement)
Present Shadows (2nd Movement)
Moments Held

300 Word Commentary for UK REF

This is a multicomponent output comprising three compositions: Present Shadows, Moments Held, and Tread Softly, videos outlining the Research Question, Research Context, Research Narrative and New Knowledge, supported by a co-authored article with Prof. Emma Hornby at the University of Bristol (published by Context: Journal of Music Research). The research was carried out as part of the ERC-funded project Shaping Text, Shaping Melody, Shaping Experience in and Through the Old Hispanic Office (€1,470,658) between 2013-2018. The research proposes a new methodology for what has been described by Pugh and Weisl as experiential medievalism. Specifically, novel approaches to interpreting unpitched neumes in Old Hispanic Chant are presented that demonstrate new modes of intellectual and creative engagement with music from this period. Structural elements were analysed from the chant, specifically the unusually extended melismas that promoted a sense of an embodied timeless present placed within a moving compositional framework. These abstracted structural elements of Old Hispanic Chant generated new formal processes that convey a perceptual sense of compositional movement within static formal archetypes.

In these pieces, stasis is achieved by means of expansion and contraction, mirroring of musical material, and static harmonic thinking. These techniques are overlaid with devices that promote a sense of clear movement. This disorienting of the listener’s perception of musical time creates a sense of the static, yet moving, quality of Old Hispanic Chant. As such, the works propose novel formal models and thinking that can be applied to other works. The compositions are published by Edition HH and distributed worldwide. The works have received performances at the Victoria Rooms (Bristol), Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, Homerton College (Cambridge), Royal Albert Hall (London), Bristol St George’s, Royal West of England Academy (Bristol), and Hauser and Wirth (Somerset). They have been recorded by members of the Marsyas Trio, Lontano, and Bristol Ensemble.

Research Question

Research Context

Research Narrative

Research Insights

Link to Article

Efthymiou, Litha and Hornby Emma, ‘New Music inspired by Old Hispanic Chant’, Context Journal of Music Research, Issue 45 (2019). The article can be accessed here:


The new insights and discoveries were shared via publications, performances and reviews:

Tread Softly:

  • Performed by members of the Bristol Ensemble at: Bristol St George’s on 20th Sept 2015; Royal West of England Academy (Bristol) on June 7th 2015; Hauser and Wirth Museum, Brunton on 15th June 2015. 
  • Performed by the Manon Quartet at Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room on 18th October 2015.
  • Performed by the Ligeti Quartet at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre on 21st Feb 2019, and at Combination Room, Homerton College, Cambridge on 27th Feb 2019.
  • Performed by the Phacelia Ensemble at St Martin Church (Niedernstrasse 2, 24589, Nortof)  on 9th Oct 2020
  • Performed by the Phacelia Ensemble at St Peter Church, Olsdorfer Str. 15, 25826 on 10th Oct 2020
  • Published by Edition HH in 2017 (ref: Efthymiou, Litha, Tread Softly, Oxford: Edition HH, 2015). 7 copies have been sold in the UK: 10 copies were sold to the distributor MDS in Mainz.

Present Shadows: 

  • Performed at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol, by Ensemble Variances (November 2016). 
  • Published by Edition HH (ref: Litha, Present Shadows, Oxford: Edition HH, 2018). 5 copies have been Sold in the UK; 3 copies were sold to Theodore Front (music dealer in California) last year, and 7 copies to the distributor MDS in Mainz.
  • Recorded by members of the Marsyas Trio and Lontano (Val Welbanks, Helen Vidovich, Zubin Kanga, Andrew Sparling, Sam Rice) at Kings College London, June 2017.

Moments Held:

  • Performed at the Victoria Rooms by the University of Bristol Symphony Orchestra (June 2017).

All of the compositions are connected to the research project:  ERC funded Shaping Text, Shaping Melody, Shaping Experience in and through the Old Hispanic Office project at the University of Bristol (2013-2017: