Refugees Welcome ♥: for Saxophone Quartet

Richard Whalley (Composer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


Written for the Ebonit Saxophone Quartet, this piece was premiered in Manchester in November 2017. Subsequent performances occurred in Alkmaar, Netherlands (February 2019), Leeds (November 2019), and Rotterdam (January 2020; broadcast at The submitted CD comprises the quartet’s commercial recording (Metier, 2020).

The impetus for this piece came from graffiti – the words ‘Refugees Welcome’ followed by the emoji ♥ – seen by the composer on a railway bridge in Manchester in 2016. The primary research objective was to find a musical response to celebrate this statement in the context of Manchester’s vibrant multiculturalism at a time when anti-immigration sentiment was prevalent in some parts of UK society. Informed by other contemporary compositions borrowing musically from other cultures (e.g. Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, Ligeti’s Piano Concerto), its methodological basis was to pay homage to specific musical patterns prevalent in two cultures – Middle Eastern modes and West African rhythms – intermixing them as fluidly as possible with each other and with Whalley’s own musical language to represent musically the freedom and creativity of multiculturalism.

Microtonal tunings from Middle-Eastern maqams and fragments of Middle-Eastern modes themselves, particularly the Bavati scale, were used within a pitch continuum ranging from semitones to microtones, to microtones within multiphonics. The timbral spectrum encompassed normal techniques, multiphonics, breathing and air sounds. Concurrently, polyrhythmic patterns based on Ghanaian Takada drumming were placed on a rhythmic continuum ranging from entirely uncoordinated non-metred music to fully controlled polyrhythm via various combinations of unmetred and metred patterning. The gradual transformation of textures as each pattern is introduced, developed and faded out while new ones are introduced creates a new form of the textural polyphony characteristic of Whalley’s compositional language, providing research insights into the distinct shapes and contexts that result from the fluid and seamless interweaving of specific and contrasting cultural references.
Original languageEnglish
Place of Publicationonline
EditionComposers Edition
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2017
EventEbonit Saxophone Quartet - Part of the New Music North West Festival 2017 - Martin Harris Centre, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Nov 201718 Nov 2017


  • Contemporary Composition
  • Saxophone Quartet
  • Chamber Music
  • Multiculturalism
  • Stylistic Integration
  • Extended Saxophone techniques
  • Polyrhythm
  • Microtonality


Dive into the research topics of 'Refugees Welcome ♥: for Saxophone Quartet'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this