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October 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – Music-in-Motion & Gildas Quartet immersive show, and the Ligeti Quartet’s ‘Remembering the Future’ (both 28th October)

8 Oct

There’s a couple of classical concerts at the end of the month: not necessarily groundbreaking in what they play (although there is one premiere involved) but interesting in how they arrange their programme or in how they perform it.

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Music-in-Motion, 28th October 2017

Conway Hall Ethical Society presents:
Music-in-Motion Ensemble & Gildas Quartet, directed by John Landor
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Saturday 28th October 2017, 3.30 pm & 7.30pm; Tuesday 31 October 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Following his powerful staging of Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ with the Gildas Quartet at Conway Hall last May, John Landor returns with the quartet and the newly-formed Music-in-Motion Ensemble of thirteen string players to present an eclectic programme of music from Purcell to Pärt.

“Immersive, visual and theatrical, Music-in-Motion brings a bold new aesthetic approach to the traditional classical concert. Turning the whole auditorium into a “theatre of music”, the musicians become embodied channels of the musical drama, dissolving boundaries between performers and audience. You are welcome to sit, stand, or even lie down pretty much anywhere during the performance, so you can bring your own cushion or mat, or use ours. It’s a social event too! At the evening concerts, you can bring in drinks from the bar, and everyone is invited to the ‘after-party’ where audience and performers can mingle and discuss the performance, or indeed anything else!”

What this means in practise is the exploding of the orchestral positioning and of orchestral uniformity – while retaining the hidden discipline of the orchestral units, the musicians wander out on their own across the performance space and through the audience as individuals rather than remaining en bloc, with each performer free (and encouraged) to act out the emotionality of the music. The set’s a selection of well-known repertoire war horses: the presentation and implications are less familiar.

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G BWV1048
Antonio Vivaldi – Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro in B minor RV169
Arvo Pärt – Fratres
Leoš Janáček – String Quartet No. 1 ‘Kreutzer Sonata’
Henry Purcell – Chacony in G minor
Edward Elgar – Introduction and Allegro Op. 47

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The Ligeti Quartet present “Remembering the Future: Tradition and the Contemporary String Quartet”
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 28th October 2017, 7:30pm
information

Since their formation in 2010, Ligeti Quartet, 2017The Ligeti Quartet (violinists Mandhira de Saram and Patrick Dawkins, viola player Richard Jones and cellist Val Welbanks) have commissioned multiple new works and collaborated with artists from all types of musical backgrounds including Anna Meredith, Elliot Galvin, Kerry Andrew (Juice Vocal Ensemble, You Are Wolf), Laura Jurd, Meilyr Jones, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Seb Rochford (Polar Bear), Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming), Shed 7 and Submotion Orchestra. They are currently working on a long-term project with Ernst von Siemens prize-winning composer Christian Mason to create a series of ‘Songbooks’ for string quartet, based on overtone singing traditions from around the world.

For this performance, the Ligeti Quartet are performing traditional (20th century) and contemporary pieces. These include two Bach related works (a Sofia Gubaidulina tribute and a Birtwistle rearrangement of fugues, , a revival of the debut composition by http://www.plusminusensemble.com Plus-Minus Ensemble co-leader/Cut and Splice curator Joanna Baillie (originally written for Apartment House, and performed here in its 2006 string quartet version) and a brand new piece by former Unthanks member/ Streetwise Opera composer-in-residence/Timeline Songs director Stef Conner (whose body of work as a composer has revealed her as a walker and crosser of fine lines between classical, folk, jazz and antiquity).

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. Harrison Birtwistle) – Three Fugues from the Art of Fugue
Anton Webern – String Quartet, Op. 28
Joanna Baillie – Five Famous Adagios (2006 string quartet version)
Stef Conner – (LQ Commission, title tbc) (premiere)
Igor Stravinsky – Concertino for String Quartet
Sofia Gubaidulina – Reflections on a Theme B-A-C-H
Georg Friedrich Haas – String Quartet No. 2
 

October 2017 – upcoming gigs – world fusion guitar with Pierre Bensusan’s English tour (12th-18th October); various jazziness/spoken word/flaneûrism at MAP Cafe in London with Abstract Word (12th October), Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Brown (14th October), Jazz In Cinema (21st October) and Grain Of Sand (26th October)

8 Oct

There’s an imminent brief English tour for acoustic fusion guitar ace Pierre Bensusan this month. Here’s what I said about him last time:

“World music’s an often-abused term, especially when you can see crude joins within it. Yesterday’s exotic-record discovery shopped and slopped onto whichever beats selling; or the sound of one particular city’s overbearing acquisitiveness, engulfing and pickling the music of its immigrants rather than fostering it. Pierre’s music is an example of how you can revitalise and justify the term.

“I’ve spoken before about the French-Algerian-Sephardic background which gave him a head start as regards polycultural vision, but perhaps what he actually embodies is the mixed grain of musical acceptance: the travelling tunes and the more intangible freight of cultures soaking and blending into his playing without strain. Neither jazz nor folk nor Spanish classical, neither rai nor chaabi, nor flamenco (old or new), it nonetheless contains all of these – a translucent, fully-realised and seamless chamber-acoustic melange, played softly and without affectation.”


 

As before, among the venues Pierre is playing are some out-of-the-way ones which it’s a pleasure to find out about. Full tour dates below:

  • Chapel Arts Centre, St. James’s Memorial Hall, Lower Borough Walls, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1QR, England, Thursday 12th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Ale House, Mill Lane, Colwall (near Great Malvern), Hertfordshire, WR13 6HJ, Friday 13th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • St Mary’s Church, Alveley Village (near Kidderminster), Shropshire, WV15 6ND, England, Saturday 14th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Half Moon, 93 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London, SW15 1EU England, Tuesday 17th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire, S11 7BS, England, Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pminformation


 
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Meanwhile, back in London, there are a number of jazz or jazz-inspired dates this month at another undersung out-of-the-way venue – Kentish Town’s MAP Cafe. I’ll just run through them below…

Abstract Word, September-December 2017Abstract Word
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 12th October 2017, 8.00pm
 – information

“A chance to see a unique blend of music & spoken word fused with vocal and poetic verse… A night of music & rhythmic words featuring performers from the Abstract Word collective, as well as a range of performance poets and spoken word artists crafting their words to a rhythmic backdrop provided by longtime Jazz Jam collaborator Oliver Staines on eight-string guitar plus trombone and saxophones provided by Richmond “Journeyman” Trew and other horn players. Also a songwriter and performer, Richmond is the spearhead of Abstract Word and has been providing his unique “abstract rhythmic” style since 1995.”

 

Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Brown, 14th October 2017

Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Bown
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Friday 14th October 2017, 8.00pm
information

“While attending Yale University, Alexander Dubovoy and Eli Brown played in the quartet Newspeak. They are featured on its debut album Machinery of Night, recorded by 11-time Grammy-winner Jack Renner. After touring domestically and internationally, Newspeak put its work on hold after its older members graduated.

“Now, Dubovoy and Brown have moved to London – having played at top New York venues and toured internationally, Alexander’s first piano-and-songs solo album ‘Portraits Drawn Without You‘ was released in summer 2017, while Eli is currently a student in the conducting department at Royal Academy of Music (while remaining active as a trumpet player focusing primarily on new and Early music). The two will be performing their first gig together in the UK at MAP, playing improvised duo music (including old and new repertoire) as part of this reunion.”


 

Jazz In Cinema, 21st October 2017

Jazz In Cinema
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm
 – information

Germana La Sorsa and Joe Boyle come together as Jazz In Cinema. In this harmonious Italian/English duo they bring you the finest jazz music as written for, or used in, movies over the course of the last century.

“The interesting arrangement of just voice (Germana) and double bass (Joe) creates some interesting textures, from wistfully open to tense and sinister, with bountiful experimentation and freedom. Neither, however, strays too far from the roots of the music or the mood they create.”
 

 

Grain Of Sand, 26th October 2017
Grain Of Sand
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 26th October 2017, 8.00pm
information

“The fruits of excessive people-watching, eradicating anonymity one tale at a time. From the flaneûr’s eye, humorous characters, drenched in poetic language, retell their adventures. Accompanied by the finely tuned fingers of pianist Alexi Bromsky, maestro prose performer Alex Glendinning graces these sketches with his musical mystique.

“Investigating the fantastic potential of the city, the stories give reign to the bizarre and hopeful conjectures of everyday observation – the passing glance at the bus stop, the sombre couple in the coffee shop – and delight in its quotidian beauty, discarded daily amongst the infernal throng. With piano and bass, an hour of snapshot stories awaits. Drop in and out as you like and enjoy the stories with a crowd’s fluidity. Imagine the face, as you brace the morning commute, which recalls a lost lover, beloved brother, or terrifying sister. The glimmer of bewilderment, terror, or joy in those fleeting seconds, swept away in the tube’s slipstream, now becomes a seed for reflection.

“These stories are also a sentimental conversation with the whims that we deem trivial. Lively, satirical, laced with romance and introspective nostalgia, they are performed through the eye of a brash, sharp romantic, lavished with mortal pathos.”
 

October 2017 – upcoming English gigs – Holly Penfield chops and changes in London (18th October); Minute Taker’s multimedia love-and-ghosts story ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ in Glasgow, London & Brighton (15th, 21st, 22nd October); Cardiacs’ ‘Marenest’ fundraiser showing in Bristol with The Scaramanga Six (21st October); and something on Paul Diello

7 Oct

Holly Penfield presents:
‘Holly Penfield – Spooky Little Girl’
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HY, England
Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here

Holly Penfield: 'Fragile Human Monster', 18th October 2017For a while, there, I was spun back. Twentysomething years ago, I was a regular at Holly Penfield‘s ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ (having first caught her performance on a random Edinburgh night back in 1992). Ostensibly based around sleek ’80s synth’n’sequencer pop, her shows had a number of twists. More like ’70s songwriter confessionals, they stirred yearning jazz and blues strands back into a genre which had mostly eschewed them. Based around Holly, her Kurzweil keyboard and a saxophonist (usually her husband Ian Ritchie, who’s had a hand in everything from Scouse artniks Deaf School to the Roger Waters band and the ‘Lonely Planet’ theme), they also had a compelling and bizarre Californian theatrical edge which variously sat in your lap and purred, wailed over your head, broke down in front of you, or made you feel less alone – always in the same set.

If you can dig up Holly’s long-lost debut album ‘Full Grown Child‘ – a brash early ‘80s Chinnichap production – you’ll hear an Innuendo-strewn, pop-belting cross between Suzi Quatro, a bleach-blond Rizzo, ABBA and full-on coke-blizzard-era Stevie Nicks. ‘Fragile Human Monster’ was the fallout from all that: an onstage realisation of Holly’s independent followup ‘Parts Of My Privacy’, in which she and Ian went back to her bluesier and torchier San Francisco roots, merged it with Ian’s techno-pop skills and teased out a series of passionate, cracked paeans (plus jarring digressions into performance art) about fear, instability and how the lost rebuild their lives and make their way. Tremendously tuneful but at odds to the music biz, the ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ was that rare thing: outsider music with genuine craft and skill. It was also pretty queer and culty, drawing a diverse squadron of waifs and strays of all stripes (including me) to Holly’s home venue on the Kilburn High Road. Eventually it wore Holly out: putting it to rest, but still hanging onto her stubborn kookiness, she applied her remarkable voice and stage presence to a new career as a jazz cabaret diva. She’s made, I think, just one revisitation to Monster territory since (which you can read about here).

Holly Penfield: 'Spooky Little Girl', 18th October 2017Late this summer, though, Holly announced that she was bringing the old show back for an evening in October, though she wasn’t clear about how she’d be doing it: perhaps reworked for the acoustic jazz band she’s used for the last couple of decades, or perhaps with her going it alone (with the Kurzweil and sequencers brought out of mothballs and will go it alone). At any rate, I thought I’d be going along – possibly in search of my own confused, similarly theatrical mid-twenties self, perhaps to see if I got along with him a little better.

However, everything was upended in early September following Holly’s jolting appearance in the auditions for ‘The X-Factor’. Ubercamp, leather-clad and singing Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, she went full-on nightclub and came on to Simon Cowell like a kinky Weimar nightmare with a riding crop. Inspired by the experience (and not a little miffed at the mocking edit that made it to TV) Holly’s now claiming that “the evil jazz cabaret performer in (me) has clawed its way to the surface”, and has morphed the October show into an upbeat Halloween “Spooky Little Girl” special (billed as “cabaret classics, spooktacular rocking favourites and self-penned songs as only our Diva can deliver them”).

I can’t help thinking that an opportunity’s been lost (or steamrollered) but I might show up anyway. She’s still promising to pepper all of the knowing cornballery with old FHM songs; several existing set standbys (such as Stay With Me, seen below in a torch-jazz arrangement from 2009) originated in the old show, and a new-ish piano/vocal song Confessions (posted up online a year ago) suggests a creative leaning back towards the old days of torch and bearing witness. Regardless of any of that, there’s still the voice; there’s still the onstage magnetism. Should be some sort of a blast.



 
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Minute Taker: 'To Love Somebody Melancholy' (live show)Also during the midmonth, acclaimed LBTQ folktronicist Minute Taker (aka Ben McGarvey) takes his multimedia show ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ out on tour in England and Scotland. I missed the news about his summer tour (which spiralled out from his homebase of Manchester, taking in Oldham, Chorlton and the Didsbury Art Festival plus a trans-Pennine appearance at Hebden Bridge) but managed to catch the news about his autumn followups in Glasgow, Brighton and London (including an appearance at the seventeenth century “actor’s church”, St Pauls in Covent Garden). Here’s the story:

“Singer-songwriter Minute Taker and BFI award-winning animation artist Ana Stefaniak have created a haunting, modern fable told through projected film and an epic live band performance of Minute Taker’s upcoming album… Expect to be immersed in a dark and magical world of strange animated characters and piano songs brimming with ethereal harmonies, fizzing synthesisers and orchestral twists.

“In ancient Greek philosophy Aristotle first popularised the notion that artists, poets and writers were of a melancholic disposition. In the middle ages melancholics were thought to be possessed by demons if they could not be “cured” of their depressive tendencies. Set on a desolate seashore, ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ explores the notion of the archetypal artist as he journeys through the euphoric highs and the self-destructive lows of his creative cycles. A new romantic relationship brings the artist the contentment he craves but it soon becomes apparent that there’s something else lurking in the shadows; a ghostly, shapeshifting third entity whose form is entirely dependent upon the artist’s current mindset. Sometimes a saviour, a source of inspiration and hope, sometimes a savage, ruthlessly determined on driving his lover away.”


 
Ben comments “one of my biggest influences when creating ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ was Kate Bush’s masterpiece ‘The Ninth Wave’. Such a wonderfully magical, otherworldly and at times frightening journey into the unknown. I never tire of going on this adventure with her. Come join our own dark adventure, inspired by Kate’s.”

Dates:

  • Websters Theatre, 416 Great Western Road, Woodlands, Glasgow, G4 9HZ, Scotland, Sunday 15th October 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • St Paul’s Church, 29 Bedford St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED, London, England, Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF, England, Sunday 22nd October 2017, 7.30pm (with Paul Diello) – information here

Additional support comes in Brighton comes from the award-winning “pop/folk/fabulous” singer-songwriter Paul Diello, who recently wowed the Brighton Fringe Festival with a sold out run of five-star-review shows and who promises “a special set of songs” for the occasion. Citing Madonna, Bowie, Kate Bush and Anohni as inspirations, Paul is an increasingly powerful artistic presence in the LGBT underground, operating in the febrile interface between cabaret, chart pop, queerness and visual staging (in particular, via video). Provocative and insidious, with an ear for the brazen tunes of ‘80s synthpop, Paul reminds me of a tougher Marc Almond – albeit with the sturdy physique of a dockside bouncer – while his songs are sharp confections of fists, flowers and standing your ground.


 
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Kate Bush seems to have become a recurring presence in this thread. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’ve always drawn a vague connecting line between ‘The Ninth Wave’ and Cardiacs’ 1989 album ‘On Land And In The Sea’.

Despite their common south London roots and the bare three years between them, there doesn’t initially seem to be much linking Bush’s silky-petalled Fairlight-driven art pop with the shrill, switchbacking, horns-and-artpunk firepower of Cardiacs, let alone their urchin squawks versus her sensual coo (though I’d have loved to have heard them cover each other). Dipping beneath the surface, however, reveals plenty to unite the two work. There’s the common and commonly transmogrified debt to English prog (in the structural ambition, the little flourishes of grandeur, and the enthusiastic mining of everything from twinkling tunes to violent psychedelic riffs, looming synth orchestration to jigs and jittering dreamscapes). There’s the common immersive marine motif – even when the sea’s banished from the foreground, it’s always present to embrace, propel, threaten or dissolve the bobbing characters within the songs. And although ‘The Ninth Wave’ centres pretty clearly on the near-death experience and night journey of a single castaway, while ‘On Land…’ zig-zags crazily over suburbs, shorelines, skies and inlets while weaving through multiple blurred perspectives (from the individual to that of a kind of profoundly skewed post-war national consciousness) in both works a half-sleeping, half-waking British mythology gets forked up and worked over anew, with a relentless filmic curiosity.


 

‘On Land And In The Sea’ provided most of the songs played in Cardiacs’ 1990 concert film ‘Marenest’, which brings its own chaotic theatrics to a fundraiser showing in Bristol. Live support comes from brutally grand, macabre Yorkshire rockers The Scaramanga Six, bringing a punchy live set based in part on their new crowdfunded ‘Chaotica’ album.

If ‘On Land…’ really was intended as some kind of concept album, it hid the fact under a typically Cardiacs welter of invention and disinformation. In contrast, ‘Chaotica’ wears its conceptual heart on a stained sleeve – the Scaramangas have been pretty open about its roots in “an abstract story roughly hewn from a concept of a dystopian island society. A place where everything has fallen into ruin, yet people still seem to have the same preoccupation with the trivial crap they had before. The population trudge through a chaotic existence on top of each other with absolutely no hope of a better life. Society is reduced to its base behaviour yet people still crave superficial fixes. The human condition carries on regardless. There is no outcome, no lessons to be learned. Familiar?” ‘Chaotica’ might not quite be a Brexit ‘Quadrophenia’, but it’s clearly leaning that way.


 
As is generally the rule with Cardiacs-related events these days, all profits on the day (including bonus donations by bucket or booking-stage gifting) are going to fund the care of Cardiacs’ driving force Tim Smith as he continues to battle against the aftermath of heart attacks and stroke. Note that the venue is quite hard to find, hidden as it is away behind the rubbish bins in a nondescript Bristol car park. Some Cardiacs fans would claim that this is only appropriate.

‘Maresnest’: Tim Smith Benefit with The Scaramanga Six
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.00pm
information
 

October 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Howard Skempton at 70 (13th October), Rarescale’s New Baroque (14th October)

5 Oct

A couple of quick referred notifications of a pair of upcoming gigs on the classical/experimental cusp – just the blurb…

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Howard Skempton @ 70, 13th October 2017

Club Inégales presents:
Howard Skempton at 70
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 13th October 2017, 10.00pm
– information here and here

“Club Inégales’s live club nights in Euston create the unexpected chemistry that enables the special to happen as brings in the best in new and spontaneous performance. Its house ensemble Notes Inégales was created by two innovators in British music (Peter Wiegold and David Purser) and features some of the finest players in the country, dedicated to improvisation as well as other contemporary repertoire. Peter has been a pioneer of bringing together composition and improvisation, working directly with musicians in the creation of new work.

“Vocalist, accordionist and composer Howard Skempton has made two delightful visits to Club Inégales, performing his solo accordion pieces and singing and playing with the ensemble. In this special concert at Kings Place, Howard will be joining Notes Inégales to improvise and perform new arrangements of pieces including ‘In Cuba They Play With Maracas’, ‘Chorale Inégales’, Show Me The Limelight’, ‘Trapeze’ and a seventieth birthday tribute to American composer Christian Wolff, entitled ‘Forget the Minuet’.”

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rarescale's 'New Baroque', 14th October 2017

rarescale presents:
New Baroque (with Carla Rees & Michael Oliva)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 14th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here and here

“The first in a series of concerts combining new and old repertoire for baroque flute, ‘New Baroque’ explores how a historical instrument can be used in modern times through a series of collaborations with imaginative contemporary creators. In this eclectic programme, hear new works for baroque flute solo and with electronics by a range of living composers interspersed with music from the baroque era.

“The performers are rarescale regulars Carla Rees and Michael Oliva. A British-based low flutes player and arranger, Carla is the artistic director of rarescale and runs low-flutes publishing company Tetractys, working frequently in collaboration with composers to develop new repertoire and techniques. Originally trained as a biochemist, Michael is rarescale’s composer-in-residence: an electronic musician, with a fondness for woodwind he lectures in and teaches electroacoustic music and music technology at the Royal College of Music and Imperial College. In addition, he runs and premieres multimedia opera work with madestrange opera, a company dedicated to producing new forms of the genre for modern audiences. Recent works include a requiem commissioned by the choir Mosaic (2010) and a new full length opera, ‘Singularity’ (2015).”

The programme is still to be confirmed, but here’s a double taste of what’s likely to be involved:

&nsbp;

October/November 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – post-various loops and shades from Rothko, Yellow6 and Darkroom (12th October); Moondog For Gamelan plus Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba duo (28th October); Steel Pan Fusion plays Philip Glass (23rd November)

4 Oct

Several longstanding Misfit City experimental favourites (all veterans of the liminal cross-encroachments between British post-rock, noise and electronic explorations during the 1990s) feature in a mid-month triple bill of shifting noise, words and melodies down at IKLECTIK.

Champion Version presents:
Edition 1: Rothko + Yellow6 + Darkroom
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 12th October 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Champion Versions Edition 1, 12th October 2017Though they’ve passed through a shifting variety of lineups and different instrumentation, Rothko are based around a single constant: Mark Beazley’s resonant post-industrial bass guitar, which speaks stern granite-y notes and impressionistic chthonic drones and blurs, sketching and deepen evocatic musical landscapes from unyielding post-punk city visions to soft-edged post-rock hillscapes.

On this occasion they’re appearing in an expanded version of the beautifully bleak words-and-shades trio last mentioned in ‘Misfit City’ just under a year ago (in which Mark was joined by recitateur Johnny Brown from Band of Holy Joy, and by Inga Tillere on projected visuals). In place for tonight’s show is a fourth member – Mark’s Low Bias colleague Graham Dowdall (a.k.a. Gagarin), whose synth wizardry’s brought him into collaboration with Pere Ubu, Suns of Arqa, Roshi and no less than two former Velvet Undergroundeers (Nico and John Cale).


 
Intermittent and elusive, yet steadily prolific, Jon Attwood’s solo guitar project Yellow6 has links with the undersung east London post-rock scene of the 1990s (which also spawned A.R. Kane, Disco Inferno, Moonshake and Bark Psychosis (BP’s drummer Mark Hartnett would later put in a Yellow6 stint). Moving away from his initial goth and anarcho-punk roots (tempered with soul), Jon was drawn into the world of minimalism, repetition and reverbed/distorted drone loops. Shaped equally by Jon’s natural humility and his “obsessive need to create” toward an artistic peak he’s not yet reached, Yellow6 has produced over fifty releases with results variously described as “gentle shape-shifting misery” and “beautiful, shimmering and blissful”.


 
With roots in Cambridge science culture, propulsive and unorthodox ambient duo Darkroom initially found their feet in the fertile 1990s ferment surrounding art-poppers No-Man (initially sporting the latter’s singer Tim Bowness as a member, and providing that particular scene’s experimental edge alongside Steven Wilson’s electrodrones as Bass Communion). Since then, like a wide-orbiting comet, synthworker Os and guitarist Michael Bearpark have forged their own idiosyncratic path in and out of various drone, loop, texture and improv clusters, as well as becoming in-house soundtrackers for brain investigations at the Hub. Moving on from their earlier minglings of boiling starstuff, ambient techno and gasping tidal experimental textures, their more recent music is moody, beating improvised electronica increasingly shaped by Mike and Os’ rediscovery of attenuated blues tones, troubled elongated Neil Young guitar churns and dark bass clarinet voicings. For more assorted ‘Misfit City’ froth and musings on Darkroom, click here. Less celebrated than their gigmates, they’ll be opening the show. They could just as well be closing it.


 
This concert has been set up by boutique vinyl art-music label Champion Version, who’ll have one of their limited-edition vinyl EP featuring all three acts available on the night.

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Towards the end of the month, there’s an intriguing reconnection between late twentieth-century New York and the Indonesian form which inspired so much of it…

Moondog Gamelan, 28th October 2017
Europalia Arts Festival Indonesia presents:
Iwan Gunawan & Stefan Lakatos’ ‘Moondog For Gamelan’ + Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba
LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, St Luke’s, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 28th October 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Few musicians are the source of as much intrigue as Moondog. A blind man from Kansas transplanted to New York City, he dressed as a Viking and chose to live on the streets. His compositions reflect his experiences of hearing his way through the city – motifs borrowed from Jazz, Classical and Native American music unwind over the constant beating of a tom-tom drum, like the thumping of a subway train. Occasionally field recordings of traffic noise or crying babies sneak in, as if leaking through an open window. It’s the sound of a city, the sound of a wealth disparate parts coming together to create a complex whole – a kind of urban gamelan.

“For this concert, Moondog’s output is literally reimagined as gamelan by Iwan Gunawan (a reknowned contemporary Javanese gamelan composer known for combining the tradition with the use of electronics and computers) and Moondog’s friend and pupil Stefan Lakatos (who performs using a homemade percussion instrument given to him by the composer himself). Featuring instruments built especially for the occasion, this performance takes gamelan out of its traditional context, taking on Moondog’s experimental yet optimistic compositions. Almost minimalist in its construction – indeed, Moondog alleged that Phillip Glass once called him the “father of minimalism” – the influential outsider musician’s melodies resonate amid the controlled chaos of gamelan.”


 

In support, there’s a duo performance by another ‘Misfit City’ favourite – bass guitar looper Steve Lawson and experimental vibraphonist Corey Mwamba. Collaborators for at least a decade, they’re a pair of accessible yet stubborn musicians creating their own long-distance version of village music on the outskirts of the music business. Recorded/filmed evidence of what they do is surprisingly thin on the ground (I can’t find any) so you’ll have to go on word-of-mouth info about their past gigs. Expect some aspects taken from jazz and fed through sundry loops, delays and perky processors, but don’t expect them to be confined by that – their musical minds stretch from contemporary classical and process music to goofy tunes, and their textural tastes from lowdown murmur to ear-piercing noise. A big bucket to dip into.

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While we’re still on the topic of New York minimalism and Philip Glass, look out next month for what sounds like it’ll be an enthralling conjunction of Big Apple pulse and Caribbean tonal warmth…

Steel Pan Fusion Play Philip Glass, 23rd November 2017

‘Steel Pan Fusion Plays Philip Glass’
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Thursday 23rd November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“One of the most influential and important composers of the twentieth century, Philip Glass is a pioneer of minimalist music alongside fellow luminaries Steve Reich and Terry Riley. With a body of work that stretches beyond contemporary classical music into film scores, operas and more, the source material is rich for reinterpretation. We have commissioned London based ensemble Steel Pan Fusion to perform a selection of works from Glass’ extensive repertoire, from his peerless ‘Glassworks’ to the soundtrack for ‘The Truman Show’.”



 

October 2017 – London classical gigs – Olga Stezhko’s Paris flash (10th & 19th October); Billroth Quartet play Mozart and a Paul Barnes premiere (15th October)

30 Sep

Olga Stezhko, 2015It’s always good to hear about new concerts by Olga Stezhko. In addition to her dazzling piano technique, Olga’s enquiring mind, her intellectual rigour and her urge to communicate ideas always ensures that she sets up interesting programmes and juxtapositions.

Her latest London appearances are no exception, as she focusses on music created during a particularly animated period of cultural shift. As she comments, “all the pieces… (Debussy, Poulenc, Prokofiev and Ravel) were composed in Paris at a time when Europe was undergoing a seismic cultural and socio-political shift. I will explore the dynamics that drove the creativity of four complex personalities in the fast-paced environment of the City of Lights…”

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Suite bergamasque; Children’s Corner (Wigmore Hall only); Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (from ‘Images, Series 2’ – Wigmore Hall only)
Francis Poulenc – Trois pièces
Maurice Ravel – Oiseaux tristes and Alborada del gracioso (from ‘Miroirs’)
Sergei Prokofiev – Pensées Op. 62 (Wigmore Hall only)

* * * * * * * *

Billroth Quartet, 15th October 2017

In between the two Stezhko dates, the Billroth Quartet (violinists Thomas Leate and Christian Halstead, viola player Simon Ballard and cellist Heidi Parsons, whose performance gamut runs from contemporary classical to jazz, tango and world recordings) are premiering a debut piece by composer and crystallographer Paul Barnes, in programme with a Mozart favourite.

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Duo for Violin & Viola (K423)
Paul Barnes – Layers of Life (for string quartet)

Regarding his piece, Paul Barnes writes:

“…’Layers of Life’ is a commemoration of all lives that fulfil some aspect of their potential, whether small or large, recognised or hidden… This composition is very unusual in that the styles of its four movements contain aspects of the four basic musical styles (respectively: baroque, classical, Romantic, and modern) thereby illustrating the passage of time, from cradle to grave, of its subject. The story ends with a passage where the subject enters a dreamy phase which becomes strongly agitated when its status, as a life finale, is realised.

“However, the dream then reforms into a vision in which the subject’s whole life flashes quickly past, as represented by the distorted re-appearance of several themes from its earlier movements, and by the final harmony which signals an ambiguous ending indicative of the varying beliefs concerning an afterlife.”

Billroth Quartet
Platform Theatre @ Platform Islington, Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place (off Hornsey Road), Holloway, London, N7 7EE, England
Sunday October 15th, 3.00 pm
information (tickets available on the door, or reservable by emailing the composer)

This low-key concert (you won’t currently find it mentioned on the Platform website) is the debut live event from a new North London recording and performance initiative, aiming to find and carry out effective micro-budget strategies for classical musicians and composers. They’ll be producing a limited-edition CD-R of the Barnes piece for the evening, with hopes of further concerts and releases later on. I’ll post up more info on all of this, as and when I get it.
 

June 2017 – upcoming London/German gigs – Lindsay Cooper remembered by Half The Sky (22nd June – plus Avantgarde Festival appearance on 25th June)

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

Long before the knot of current pop culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, the late Lindsay Cooper was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz. Later this month, the Half The Sky ensemble (led by vigorous curator/arranger /multi-instrumentalist Yumi Hara) will be bringing their showcase of her music both to London and to a small town outside Hamburg, re-animating the work she created for Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music For Films between the late ’70s and the mid-’80s.

Originally formed in 2015 for festival appearances in Japan and France, Half The Sky derive their name from the Maoist/feminist maxim, “women hold up half the sky”, as used by Lindsay as a composition title on Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’ album, back in 1978) and feature an impressive alliance of British and Japanese art-rock musicians. As well as Yumi on keyboards, lever harp and vocals, the ensemble features two members of Cicala-Mvta (Miwazow on koto, ching-dong percussion and voice; Wataru Okhuma on alto saxophone and clarinet), the Korekyojinn/Altered States bass guitarist Nasuno Mitsuru; Chlöe Herington (the reeds and melodica player from Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof and V Ä L V Ē) and finally two of Lindsay’s former Henry Cow/News From Babel colleagues (singer Dagmar Krause and drummer Chris Cutler). As Yumi points out, “the gender split follows Lindsay’s general practice and the example of the original bands – Henry Cow (50% female) and News from Babel (75% female).”

Yumi’s comments on the music:

“In 2013, soon after Lindsay passed away, Matthew Watkins made a call for arrangements of her mini-composition ‘Slice’ for a special edition of his podcast ‘Canterbury Sans Frontières‘. I made a transcription of the piece and recorded it for solo clavichord. Chris Cutler and I also played it in Japan and New York. A little later, inspired by the three memorial concerts Chris Cutler organised in 2014 with the original bands, I put Half The Sky together to play Lindsay’s music in Japan.

“With the exception of ‘Slice’, it was only after – and because of – the 2014 concerts that any working scores for the Henry Cow pieces became available, having been painstakingly assembled from Lindsay’s notebooks, original band-members’ surviving parts and careful analysis of the recordings. A handful of the News from Babel songs – none of which had ever been performed live – had already been reconstructed for the memorial concert by Zeena Parkins; the rest I had to work out from scratch – as well as rearranging everything for a mixture of occidental and oriental instruments.

“This programme is approached very much as a music of the present – and not as an academic reconstruction.”

In addition to Half The Sky’s performance, the London show will feature DJ sets from two of London’s more interesting musical personalities. Marina Organ’s known both for three decades of staunch work as writer/co-driving force of ‘Organ’ magazine and for her indefatigable DJ/interviewing work on ‘The Other Rock Show’. James Larcombe is the keyboard player and sometime composer with Stars In Battledress, Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Zag & The Coloured Beads and the William D. Drake band; now he seems to be extending his talents (or at least his brassy neck), to disc-spinning.

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Thursday 22nd June 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Avantgarde Festival, Steinhorster Weg 2, 23847 Schiphorst, Deutschland, Sunday 25th June 2017, 2.15pm – information here and here


 
* * * * * * * *

Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform. In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through.

Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation. Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild.

Although she also put in stints with both the cheery Canterbury fusioneering of National Health and the terrifying dark-folk band Comus during the 1970s, Lindsay was probably best known for her work with the powerful political chamber-prog of proto-Rock In Opposition ensemble Henry Cow (a creative ferment which she joined and left twice and, like most Cow-ers, never entirely left behind). Having initially brought in her toolkit of reeds, woodwind and piano skills to play on the band’s second album ‘Unrest’, she subsequently made small inroads into the writing, contributing to a number of group compositions on ‘In Praise of Learning’ and the ‘Concerts’ set. As a composer, though, she finally came into her own on the band’s final, all-instrumental statement ‘Western Culture’, on which she was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland).

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Perhaps more significantly, by this point in the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG; a project which she co-ran with vocalist Maggie Nichols in parallel with her Cow work. Generally considered to be the preoccupation and property of educated, intense, white men, the British and European free improvising of the time tended to be a little short on jokes (bar occasional pranking along the lines of the Free Art Research Trio). FIG allied Lindsay and Maggie with various other musical and performance talents – “feminist rock” trumpeter Corine Liensol (who’d played in Jam Today with a young Deirdre Cartwright), pianist Cathy Williams (who’d worked with another Cow-er, Geoff Leigh, in the Rag Doll duo), future filmmaker Sally Potter, latterday Cow cellist Georgie Born and Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer (the last being allegedly the only European female improviser on the ‘60s and ‘70s scene). In classic feminist tradition, FIG not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve.

In comparison to the demanding and abstruse Maoist politics of Henry Cow (which, in private, sometimes resembled a brutally masculine university debating society preoccupied with games of political high-grounding), FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic. In addition to the music, their shows featured parodic stagings and examinations of domestic work (such as kitchenwork and cleaning) and of consumer preoccupations. Vegetables were peeled onstage; household tools such as dustpans and brooms pressed into service as props and noisemakers; oppressive or manipulative memes transformed into call-and-response singing.

Reading accounts of FIG work reveals a tale of tough gigs, audience misunderstandings and frequent frustration. Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see. It’s a shame that much improv and theatrical work is always of the moment and tends to vanish like dew in the morn. Without recorded evidence or restaging, it fades into hearsay, and in this case an important chapter in Lindsay’s work has to dwell in a kind of word-of-mouth samizdat.

Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined another former Cow colleague ((the now-mellowed Chris Cutler) for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel: here, Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

Half The Sky provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.


 

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