Audrey Riley joined Icebreaker as cellist in 1989, for their second ever gig, which took place at the Shaw Theatre, London. She vowed never to play with them again, it was so loud. Unfortunately, she forgot to take with her the music stands she had lent them. Thirty years later, (and still not having retrieved the stands) she is the group's co-Music Director with James Woodrow, (having taken over from Richard Craig in 2009) and also contributing cello, keyboards, arrangements, and occasional singing.
Recently her arrangement for the group of Scott Walker's Epizootics!, performed at the Barbican and during the 2019 Apollo tour, received warm praise from the press. She also worked closely with arranger Woojun Lee and Brian Eno during the 2009 Apollo project. When the band accompanied Eno in his own songs at Brighton Festival that year and won the award for best performance, Audrey understood that she would be unlikely to get back her music stands.
During thirty years of Icebreaker Audrey has learned and performed so much new music that she has had to invest in a wall of shelves to archive the scores, but has had a great time playing all the notes. She has also, because the band is so loud, had to develop the playing of electric cello, combining it with an amp and several effects pedals which have made interesting new textures, and in this way commissioned an English electric cello (David Bruce Johnson). Which is red, although she preferred it before it was painted. She now has a second electric cello made by made by Bridge Violins, which is also red.
In the rest of her professional life, and playing her acoustic, Italian cello, as a soloist she has had numerous new works written for her, David Lang, Emanuel Pimenta, Jonathan Eato, Craig Vear, and Gavin Bryars: Lauda (con sordino) and Tre Laude Dolce. Craig Vear completed for her Black Cats And Blues, a Hypermedia Concerto for Cello and Digital Technology (Kyma). She performs often with James Woodrow, contemporary music for 'cello and guitar, and also with the turntablist James Kelly, music for cello and locked grooves. She regularly takes part in contemporary and improvised performances.
As an arranger, composer and improvising 'cellist she has recorded with many groups including Muse, Dave Matthews, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and The Smashing Pumpkins.
In 2003 she launched the project A Change of Light with James Woodrow and Andrew Zolinsky, with Arts Council Funding to support the commissioning of new work and collaborating with film.
She has worked especially with many dance companies: Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Random Dance, Siobhan Davies Dance Company. From 2001 until its close in December 2011 she toured with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing works by John Cage, Christian Wolf and Gavin Bryars, including Biped and One8, giving her the opportunity to work with, and learn from Takehisa Kosugi, Christian Wolf, John King, Bryars, Emanuel Pimenta and many other MCDC composers. She continues to perform Biped with Robert Swinston’s CNDC Angers, and frequently performs with the Gavin Bryars ensemble. When the MCDC closed in 2011 Audrey realised that she had experienced something very powerful which had changed her approach as a musician, and missing the Company, decided to embark on a part time PhD investigation into what that experience might have been.
Since 2014 Audrey has been engaged in research at De Montfort University, Leicester, investigating performance practice in the music of Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, awarded funding by the Earle Brown Music Foundation to support performances of works there by composers of the New York School. During this research project, she has created several performances, working in collaboration with the dancer Sally Doughty, performing Cage, Brown, Feldman and Wolff, with James Woodrow, Andrew Zolinsky and faculty of DMU. Collaborations with John Richard’s Dirty Electronics Ensemble culminated in 108 with One8 (Cage) in 2019.
In 2010 she started her own record label, AR Records, which exists to record and release experimental and contemporary recordings by herself and her contemporaries.
In 2011 she began the young composers collective: We Are Children (We Make Sound), and continues to guide the group. In 2015 Gavin Bryars created a work, Burroughs, for them, premiered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
She has been a tutor in Composition and also Advanced Ensemble Skills at ICMP, London, of cello at Goldsmiths College, for a number of years and regularly gives workshops and master-classes.
She loves to spend time in her garden, where it is not loud at all.
Audrey Riley's web page.