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Oscar Bettison

O Death

work 2007 (65)

(2005-7 rev. 2009)

Oscar Bettison’s evening-long work O Death mixes saxophones, trombone, banjo and piano with jaw’s harps, harmonicas, recorders, melodica, flower pots and prepared wrenches. This seven-movement requiem masque assembles a broad range of traditions, including blues and other American folk music, exploring the theme of death and transcendence. O Death presents a dream of life from the perspective of the timeless dead and a premonition of death from the vantage of the clock-bound living.
Premiered with the Eliza Miller Dance Company, in New York in March 07.

‘terrific and unusual’ played with ‘great flair’ (Danceview Times New York)

Reviews of the CD recording of O Death, from 2010:
CD Pick of the Week: “an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty” (WNYC radio, Soundcheck, 16 April 2010)

“an ever-developing swirl of swarming, syncopated horns” “feverish interplay” “the keening penultimate movement telegraphing terror in its descending scales before the inevitable lulling finale, nailed shut by a thudding drum.” (Baltimore City Paper, 21 April 2010)

5-stars: “a theatrical atmosphere, building in intensity. From a lazy funereal blues via dissonant, relentlessly pulsating blocks of energy it arrives at an uneasy close.” (NRC Handelsblad, 21 May 2010)

  • 29 Mar 2007


  • 3 Dec 2016, Dag in de Branding Festival, Korzo, The Hague
  • 21 Oct 2011, Griswold Hall, Baltimore
  • 19 Oct 2001, Thalia Symphony Space, New York
  • 3 Dec 2009, Theater Kikker, Utrecht, Utrecht
  • 1 Nov 2009, De Witte Dame, Eindhoven
  • 19 May 2009, Korzo5HOOG, The Hague
  • 29 Mar - 1 Apr, St Mark's in-the-Bowery, NYC, New York City, USA

Oscar Bettison

Described as possessing “an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty” and a “unique voice”, British/American composer Oscar Bettison’s music has been commissioned and performed by leading ensembles and soloists around the world. His work demonstrates a willingness to work within and outside the confines of concert music. He likes to work with what he calls ‘Cinderella instruments’, either by making percussion instruments or by re-imagining other instruments as well as writing for instruments more common in rock music and the inclusion of electro-acoustic elements. More recent pieces have been concerned with bringing these strands together. His music as been featured and reviewed in the LA Times, the New York Times, the British, Dutch and Italian press as well as having been played on radio throughout the US, Australia, Britain, The Netherlands and Brazil and on British and Dutch Television. His latest work has been described as “pulsating with an irrepressible energy and vitality, as well as brilliant craftsmanship.”

Born in the UK, he studied with Simon Bainbridge at the Royal College of Music (London), with Louis Andriessen and Martijn Padding at the Royal Conservatorium of The Hague (The Netherlands) and at Princeton University where he completed his PhD with Steve Mackey as his advisor. He has served on the composition faculty of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University since 2009.

Oscar Bettison, 2012

Works for Ensemble Klang

Ensemble Klang albums