The George Butterworth Award is a prize of £1,500 given annually to a UK-based composer for the creation of an outstanding new work developed through one of our artist development Programmes in the previous calendar year. Originally the George Butterworth Award was awarded by the Society for the Promotion of New Music annually between 1993 and 2008 – it has since been incorporated into Sound and Music.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no Award was made in 2021. In 2022, two Butterworth Awards (both of £1,500) have been awarded.
We spoke to both winners, Lunatraktors and Eunseog Lee about their award-winning projects.
Lunatraktors – Now the Time
Lunatraktors is a collaboration between artist, choreographer and percussionist Carli Jefferson (she/her), and artist, vocalist and researcher Clair Le Couteur (they/them). The project started in 2017 with the post-apocalyptic question: what’s left when we’ve lost everything? Stripping folk song down to the bare bones, Lunatraktors’ ‘broken folk’ blends Le Couteur’s self-taught overtones and four-octave range with the hybrid of tap dance, flamenco and body percussion that Jefferson developed after touring with STOMP (2001-2004).
Their George Butterworth Award winning piece, Now the Time is an original work composed in the folk tradition, supported by the British Music Collection’s LGBTQ+ Composers Award. It is an act of mourning for silenced voices and stories, attempting to transform erasure and violence into acceptance, transcendence and power. The song addresses the gaps in the folk music archive where trans and queer stories should be. It is composed in relation to Anglo–Irish folk traditions – particularly the neglected body of British folk songs in 5/4 time, sean-nós and keening – and to their study of flamenco.
Overtone singing allows one voice to produce multiple tones, queering the highly gendered expectations of vocal range. When two overtone singers work in close harmony in a reverberant space, eerie and unexpected ‘lost voices’ appear as if by magic. Lunatraktors recorded the piece themselves in Margate Theatre Royal, Britain’s second oldest working theatre.
Watch Lunatraktors perform Now the Time below – and read our Q+A with them here
Eunseog Lee – The Babylon Cycle
Eunseog Lee read music at King’s College London, where he studied composition under Rob Keeley and Joseph Phibbs. He graduated with First Class Honours in 2015 then completed his postgraduate studies in composition with Robert Saxton and Martyn Harry at the University of Oxford in 2017.
His award winning piece, The Babylon Cycle, created during his time on Sound and Music’s New Voices, was conceived as a long-term project that sought to explore the potential of a cross-cultural integrated compositional approach in the musical expression of the Biblical ‘exile’ – a complex identity wherein the sense of foreignness, distinctiveness, desiderium and expatriation are all entangled with the Christian faith and the hope of an eventual ‘home’ that lies at the heart of it.
Photo: ‘Eunseog Lee’ – © Joseph Sy
Credits: THE BABYLON CYCLE by EUNSEOG LEE
- P’ansori part composed by SUMI KIM
- Libretto compiled by EUNSEOG LEE
- P’ansori solo: SUMI KIM
- Baritone solo: BRIAN MCALEA
- Daegeum improvisation: HYELIM KIM
- Cello improvisation: COLIN ALEXANDER
- Percussion improvisation: SIMON LIMBRICK
- Soprano: HANNAH LITTLETON
- Tenor: HUGH BENSON
Listen to The Babylon Cycle and read our Q+A with Eunseog Lee here
The George Butterworth Memorial Fund was established in 1921 by the composer’s family, together with initial trustees including Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Dyson. It was funded by income from the estate of the composer himself who was tragically killed on the Somme during the First World War, having been awarded the Military Cross.
Read more about it, and discover previous winners of the award, here.
Featured Image: Eunseog Lee’s The Babylon Cycle – Mark Winterlin