UnHeard is a collective of composers, conductor and instrumentalists based in Manchester; united in their burning passion for new music, new technology and the wish to use that passion to inspire, entertain and delight audiences across the North of England and beyond. At present this group includes Artistic Director Tywi JH Roberts, Music Director Omer Shteinhart, composers Simon Knighton, Robert Laidlow, Athanasia Kontou, Nate Chivers and Bofan Ma, plus outstanding instrumentalists such as Johanna Leung and Poppy Philligreen.
We seek to bring our influences together to create a unique blend of classical music informed by popular culture, myth, interactive media, scientific discovery, and more. Our goal is to organise and execute outstanding concerts in which the works take inspiration from all of the above; as well as creating a crossover between the audiences for these sources and the audiences of the art music world.
Beginning in the Royal Northern College of Music as the New Music Society, UnHeard has graduated beyond the boundaries of the college; showcasing our hybrid electronic/acoustic approach to the wider public beyond the academic and classical worlds. By collaborating with pop musicians, scientists, academics and film makers; we further aim to broaden this music’s impact.
Tywi JH Roberts
Photo Credit: Neil Winward Photography
Tywi John Hywel Roberts is a composer and performer from South Wales. He has written for groups such as Psappha, Festivo Winds and the Nexus Duo. In 2019 he was the joint winner of the Rosamond Prize competition for his collaboration with poet Samantha Weaver.
Tywi’s work frequently incorporates innovative technologies, and he has created pieces involving virtual reality, live coding, super low-latency streaming technology, and multiple laptops. From Autumn 2019 he was the leader of the UnHeard New Music Society in the RNCM, which led in February 2020 to his being the musical director of the premiere performance of the UnHeard Hybrid Orchestra, and he played a similar role in 2021’s UnHeard Hybrid Online, which headlined the first RNCM PLAY Festival. From July 2021, Tywi founded UnHeard as an independent collective along with Omer Shteinhart.
Earlier in his career Tywi was part of Bristol post-rock band A Procession, and earlier still he studied a Master’s in Sonic Art & Digital Media Production at the University of Sheffield with Professor Adrian Moore. Since 2005, he has also spent a number of years working in the context of Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft seminars.
Tywi’s current PhD research at the Royal Northern College of Music (supervised by Larry Goves and Rodrigo Constanzo) is focused around mapping the methodologies of digital composition over to the acoustic space, and exploring this work through hybrid electronic/acoustic ensembles.
Omer Shteinhart is a versatile conductor, pianist and drummer with a wide-ranging knowledge and passion for a diverse range of repertoire, from Baroque to contemporary classical to rock music.
He is a finalist and Critics award winner of the Guido Cantelli 2022 competition and was a participant of the prestigious Gstaad Conducting Academy 2022. Omer has worked with the BBC Philharmonic performing pieces by Schumann, Bloch and Musgrave and has conducted Orchestra del Teatro Regio Torino, Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra, Gstaad Festival Orchestra and the Norwegian Marine and Navy bands. In the new music scene, He took part in the highly regarded 2020 London Sinfonietta masterclass and has co-founded the UnHeard collective for new music, which takes place in Manchester, England. Omer was the Music Director of the Settle Orchestra during the 2020\21 season.
He has assisted at the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra working with conductors such as Simone Young, Omer Meir-Wellber, Ludovic Morlot, Julian Rachlin, John Wilson, Andris Poga and Alpesh Chauhan, among others.
In masterclasses, Omer has been mentored by conductors such as Antony Hermus, Gianandrea Noseda, Jaap van Zweden, Sir Mark Elder and Professors Nicolás Pasquet, Johannes Schläfli and Christian Ehwald.
Graduating from the RNCM conducting class with distinction, under the guidance of Mark Heron and Clark Rundell, Omer was awarded The Mortimer Furber Prize for Conducting for 2020/21. Currently he studies with Bjarte Engeset and Peter Szilvay at the UiS, Stavanger.
Athanasia Kontou is a Manchester-based composer from Greece. She studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she completed the Masters course and the PGDip in Composition (90% Distinction), both supported by entrance scholarships from the RNCM. Her teachers there were Prof Adam Gorb, Prof David Horne and Dr Laura Bowler.
She is the 2019 Rushworth Composition Prize winner, awarded by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to this, her monodrama based on Sophocles’ Antigone premiered last April at The Tung Auditorium in Liverpool by Ensemble 10/10 under Clark Rundell, with Rosie Middleton as the soloist.
Other works have been premiered by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Psappha Ensemble, ensemble recherche, accordionist Miloš Milivojević, and pianist Adam Swayne. She has worked in workshops with the Elias Quartet, the Ligeti Quartet, the BBC Singers and pianist Ian Pace. Last season, Athanasia was commissioned by Psappha Ensemble for their 30th birthday concert. Her multidisciplinary projet ‘The Styx’, combining poetry, music, and film, was supported by a project grant from Arts Council England. The film, directed by Katie Byford, is currently in pre-production. This year she is working with Trio Estatico (Megumi Kasakawa, Jack Stulz, Paul Beckett), as part of their Composers Workshop.
Robert Laidlow is a composer and researcher interested in scientific collaboration and creative applications of advanced technology. He currently works at Jesus College, Oxford, as a Composition Career Development Fellow, and from 2018-22 he was the PRiSM Researcher in AI-Assisted Composition in association with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. His music has been performed and broadcast worldwide and has received awards including the 2022 Ivan Juritz Prize, a Royal Philharmonic Society Composers Prize 2019 and nomination for the 2018 and 2020 Ivors Composers Awards.
Recently he has worked with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Barbican Centre, Ensemble Modern, the Britten Sinfonia, Psappha, guitarist Fabio Zanon, the International Festival of Campos do Jordao, the Elias Quartet, the Echea Quartet, and Access Contemporary Music Chicago among others. His works have been broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3 and his music was also recently televised on BBC Four as part of the Royal Institution's popular Christmas Lectures annual series.
Simon Knighton is a composer and sound artist whose work investigates the interplay of acoustic instrumentation and electronic music production. Using acoustic and psychoacoustic phenomena to create methods of blurring the boundaries between different types of sound, his methods push non-conventional aspects of music composition (such spatialisation and the physicality of sound) to the fore, leading to work that sits on the boundary of concert, installation, ritual and theatre. He enjoys working closely with musicians, and often creates bespoke collaborative methods for each project he undertakes which are designed to explore and sample instrumentation in fine detail. These pre-recorded samples then form a key part of the composition process, before being manipulated and fed back into performances.
Simon has composed concert music for ensembles such as Riot Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, Ricciotti Ensemble, House of Bedlam, the Dutch National Youth Fanfare Orchestra, Score Collective, the CvA Symphony Orchestra, Psappha, Camerata Temporalis, and the I Solisti Wind Ensemble. In 2015 he was part of the creative team to win the Gi20 jury prize for an experimental street theatre commission for marching band and electronics. In 2018 he was a finalist in the Tromp International Percussion Festival in Eindhoven and was also selected as a finalist in the US-based Kaleidoscope Orchestra Composers Competition. His music has been performed in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and Cuba.
Simon is an associate composer with Nonclassical records for the 2021-22 season (which involves a variety of commissions and projects). He is currently working on a series of Sound Sculptures (one for each instrument family and a final one for symphony orchestra) through which he aims to develop a musical vocabulary that presents the instruments of the orchestra in new and interesting ways.
Bofan Ma is a Manchester-based composer-performer and multidisciplinary artist. Originally from China, he makes music that embodies an intricate entanglement between sound and performative actions, as well as a normalised, transnational artistic identity. His work often draws on instrumental theatre, multimedia, preconditioned improvisation, and materials associated with historically and culturally-informed stereotypes.
Bofan has worked with ensembles/initiatives including Shanghai Conservatory Chinese Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Psappha, Ensemble Mise-en, Ensemble X.y, Distractfold Ensemble, ANU Productions, Vonnegut Collective, Music Theatre Wales. His music has been heard across the globe, namely in the Shanghai Spring International Festival (China); Mise-en International Festival (USA); Hearing Art Seeing Sound International Festival (Armenia); Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Germany); and The Irish Museum of Modern Art (Ireland).
Having completed a PhD in composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (fullyfunded by RNCM, and awarded with no corrections) in 2021, he is currently the Post-Doctoral Research
Associate at The RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM), and working closely with the RNCM Experimental & Exploratory Music Research Centre (EEMRC). He is one of the founders
of, and curators for the composer collective The Incógnito Project, promoting interdisciplinary collaborations and a truly diverse, unbiased artistic practice. He is also the Chair of, and one of the events/ensemble coordinators for the Manchester branch of the international network of Contemporary Music for All
(CoMA), a community-based new music group with a focus on inclusivity and accessibility.
Photo Credit: Abhishek Kodaganallur Pichumani
Nate Chivers is a composer and electric guitarist soon to be based in Florida, United States. An amalgamation of sweet melodies and experimental techniques would best describe his music, exemplified in his solo electric guitar works. He is constantly looking for interesting new sounds and timbres while still being grounded in melodicism. His solo guitar album Nowhere to Hide exemplifies his propensity for technical innovations and explorations of alternative timbres and sounds, while still grounding itself in melodicism.
As a concert composer he has worked with UnHeard, Psappha, Royal Scottish Northern Orchestra, BBC Singers, ALEA III and performers like Jasdeep Singh-Degun and Jack Adler-McKean amongst others. His pieces have been performed in the UK, USA, China, France, and Germany.
He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music where he is currently a PhD student. He also arranges for various groups like the Sono Ensemble and the Manchester Video Game Orchestra of which he is also the guitarist.
Johanna Leung is an active clarinettist and project manager based in Manchester. She graduated with Master of Performance in the Royal Northern College of Music, studied clarinet performance with Antonio Salguero, Chris Swann, Sarah Watts and Nicholas Cox.
Johanna has participated in various orchestras including The Halle Orchestra, UnHeard Hybrid Orchestra and RNCM Symphony Orchestra. She has given solo and chamber recitals across the North West, including Manchester St Ann’s Church, Bury Parish Church, Didsbury Emmanuel Church and Lancaster Priory. Johanna has been invited to perform in various high-profile festivals including GAIA Festival of The Earth, The Sound of Contagion (collaborative project between the University of Oxford and the University of Arts, Berlin) and Gey Teal Music Festival.
Johanna achieved 2nd prize in the senior solo category of the 2019 Buffet Crampon Clarinet Competition and Help Musician Postgraduate Award 2020.
As a contemporary music specialist, Johanna is particularly interested in collaborating with different musicians, composers and artists. She has been closely collaborating with composers on commissioned compositions, commercial recordings as well as hosting collaborative events. Johanna enjoys exploring the extreme of the instrument and her personal capability.
Poppy is a saxophonist and teacher based in Manchester. As a performer she enjoys collaborating with composers and other instrumentalists, and is particularly interested in limits of technical ability and the instability that arises when they are pushed. Alongside her performing work she is involved with music education, having joined Olympias Music Foundation in 2021 as a woodwind teacher for their Learn to Play programme. She also volunteers with SEN music group Special Virtuosi.
Having completed her undergraduate degree at the RNCM in 2018, she is currently studying for an MRes with Lisa Colton at the University of Liverpool. Her research looks at the material culture of medieval manuscripts as a means to interrogate aspects of her own performance practice.