Simon Waters

Queen's University of Belfast

Simon Waters is a composer, improvisor, performer and instrument maker who initially came to prominence as a composer of electroacoustic music. His 1983 composition ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ made him a laureate of the Bourges Festival of that year, and was choreographed for Rambert by Richard Alston, touring the world and contributing to Rambert’s 1986 Olivier Award for their 60th Anniversary season. Artist residencies at EMS Stockholm and GES Vierzon in 1985/6 and awards from the RVW Trust, Hinrichsen Foundation and ACGB resulted in further commissions, and collaborations with other prominent choreographers which secured his compositional reputation, particularly in the contemporary dance world. Concurrently with this he was a performer and composer in physical theatre, working with Geoff Moore’s pioneering multimedia theatre company Moving Being, with Pauper’s Carnival Theatre, and in collaborations with Richard Gough’s Cardiff Laboratory Theatre, Academia Ruchu (Warsaw) and others.

Other recognitions for his work came with a laureateship of the Prix Leonce Petitot (Noroit, Arras) in 1991 and a Hamlyn Award nomination in 1994. During the 1990s he combined his composition and performance activity with academic posts at Norwich School of Art and Design and Bath College of Higher Education, before becoming director of the electroacoustic studios and a Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.

Waters joined the staff of SARC in 2012, immediately taking on the role of Director of the Sonorities Festival. As a curator he has worked with Fylkingen (Stockholm), Ultima Festival (Oslo) and programmed the Sonic Arts series in Norwich for over 15 years, producing over 100 concerts. He curated the 2002 Hybrids Festival for the Sonic Arts Network, and was director of Sonorities Belfast 2013-2015 inclusive and in 2018. Since 2016 he has also been an Associate Researcher of the Orpheus Institute Ghent. He has been a key figure in electroacoustic music’s gradual transformation and growth into the ‘Sonic Arts’ and has considerably influenced the expansion of this area in higher education in the UK. His current research explores continuities between tactility and hearing, and is particularly concerned with space as informed by and informing human presence, rather than as a benign ‘parameter’.

Waters’s most recent work ‘Line’ was premiered at Turner Contemporary in 2018, and featured at ‘Open Circuit’ in Ghent in 2019. Nearer home, his 2019 installation ‘Armagh: Whispering from the Sky’ was commissioned for the Robinson Library, following on from his successful 2016 collaboration with Belfast-based poet Maria McManus -‘Longer to write than to speak: longer to think than to write’ – which was exhibited in Downpatrick, Enniskillen and Belfast. He is currently involved in a collaborative composition project with George Lewis, Nic Collins, Jonathan Impett and others to be premiered in 2022 in Belgium.

His practice-based work is counterbalanced by an interest in music’s historical entanglement with technologies, and he is increasingly recognised for his research on the transition from artisanal to industrial activity in eighteenth and nineteenth century musical instrument making.