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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


 
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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.


 

June 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang double event – ‘Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade’ (5th June); Apartment House and Jacob Kirkegaard play Pade and Henning Christiansen, plus Vitalija Glovackyte (6th June)

24 May

The June Kammer Klang is a double event centred loosely around Danish composers Else Marie Pade and Henning Christiansen, who variously pioneered mid-twentieth century electronic music and cross-genre intermedia Fluxus experiments.

Kammer Klang presents:
‘Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade’
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 5th June 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here
and
Apartment House (performing Henning Christiansen) + Jacob Kierkegaard (presenting Else Marie Pade) + Vitalija Glovackyte + Aguirre DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 6th June 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

'Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade', 5th June 2017

“The sounds outside became concrete music, and in the evening I could imagine that the stars and the moon and the sky uttered sounds and those turned into electronic music.” – Else Marie Pade.

Increasingly recognised as Denmark’s first composer of electronic music, Else Marie Pade imagined “aural pictures” during a childhood afflicted by illness, and later learned jazz piano. Operating within the Danish resistance in the Second World War while still a teenager, she was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Frøslevlejren internment: an experience which must have had a long-lasting and damaging effect since it undermined her post-war attempts to train as a classical pianist. Undaunted, she concentrated on composing instead: finding her particular niche after hearing a 1952 Danmarks Radio programme on Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète and realising that he’d given aural shape to the same ideas she’d had as a child. From the mid-1950s she was in at the start of art programmes on Danish television, establishing a lifelong position for herself both as a Danmarks Radio producer and as a pre-eminent radio and television composer (at a time when that strand of musical work offered as much genuine creative opportunity as anything in the avant-garde).

Over the course of her lifetime Pade produced a wide variety of sensuous, stimulating electronic compositions to entwine with various broadcast work: avant-garde documentary work, audiovisual ballet and more. Having studied with Schaeffer during the 1950s, she also attended the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt during the 1960s and early 1970s, studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez and György Ligeti (and impressing Stockhausen enough that he’d use her own ‘Glass Bead Game’ piece as a lecture topic). Apparently taken for granted in her home country, Pade’s reputation was greater abroad – her work was eventually compiled in a three-LP retrospective on Important Records (‘Electronic Works 1958-1995’) in 2014, two years before her death.

Regarding the ‘Soarings’ salon:

“…”Soarings” is a rough translation of the Danish word “svævninger” – a word coined by Pade to encompass both the phenomenon of different frequencies colliding to make an interference beat, and the more poetic image of soaring through the air. The ‘Soarings’ salon event is a special opportunity to hear more about her work via talks, film screening and discussion.

“The evening begins with a talk from artist and composer Jacob Kirkegaard, a long-time friend and colleague of Pade’s. Jacob will speak about Pade’s life and work from his unique perspective, having both produced her three-LP retrospective and collaborated with her on their joint composition ‘Svævninger’ (released by Important Records in 2012, and from which the evening takes its name). His presentation will include new images (including recently digitised scores) never previously shown in public.

“The evening will include the UK premiere of Pade’s extraordinary audiovisual piece ‘En dag på Dyrehavsbakken’: one of her very earliest works, which was first broadcast in 1955 by DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation). It consists of pictures and sounds recorded over two summers at Dyrehavsbakken, near Klampenborg in Denmark, and also includes electronically-produced sine tones and echo effects. This makes it the first piece of musique concrete and electronic music made by a Danish composer.


 
“The salon will conclude with a panel discussion with diverse contributions and reflections on Pade’s work and its wider context from Danish musicologist (and ‘Seismograf‘ editor) Sanne Krogh Groth, sound designer/studio manager Jo Langton and ‘Wire’/’Sight & Sound’ writer Frances Morgan. There’ll also be a reading by sound artist Ain Bailey (whose work includes sonic autobiographies and investigations of both architectural acoustics and the role of sound in the formation of identity).”

Kammer Klang, 6th June 2017Jacob Kierkegaard returns for the full Kammer Klang show the following night, where he’ll be presenting Pade’s 1962 work ‘Faust Suite’, generally considered her masterpiece and described by Jennifer Hor of ‘The Sound Projector’ as “beautiful and mysterious, elegant and eerie music that can express deep solitude or wonder… a secret three-dimensional universe where the most amazing experiences may be had.” Over half an hour of sensually chiming oscillator churn (with nimble, challenging digressions of timbre, tone and emphasis), it places Pade’s work in parallel to the electrophonic imaginings of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram – similarly thoughtful, similarly detailed and discursive; part of a wave of highly individual and original female composers and sonic réalisatrices with much of their work taking place within broadcast media, dancing apart yet in step.


 
Opening the show is composer/performer Vitalija Glovackyte, who “creates deep-felt chirpy music, bringing together conventional and homemade instruments, electronics, lo-fi devices and visuals. Her works span intimate solo sets and large-scale multimedia performances. Aside from her solo work, Vitalija co-runs the Almost Credible Music Ensemble and is one-half of the experimental pop duo Kinder Meccano.”


 
The track above stems from an eighteen month residency Vitalija spent with modern chamber ensemble Apartment House, who are also contributing to the evening in a seven-piece formation of Gordon MacKay (violin), Lucy Railton (cello), Frank Gratkowski (bass clarinet), Simon Limbrick (percussion), Kerry Yong (keyboard/piano), Loré Lixenberg (voice) and AH founder Anton Lukoszevieze as conceptualizer and director. They’ll be presenting the UK premiere of Anton’s adaptation of ‘Requiem of Art (NYC) – Fluxorum Organum’, a Henning Christiansen piece originally performed in 1967 (and reworked three years ago by Anton for an Ultima New York performance).

An adherent to the Fluxus art movement, Christiansen spent his artistic life rejecting standard distinctions of stylistic boundaries (including those between nominally different art forms) and the concept of the lone genius. Instead, much of his work was based on direct, implied or encouraged collaboration, whether he was encouraging others to freely interpret his ideas or whether he was actually working in equalized tandem with another artist. In its original form, ‘Fluxorum Organum’ is an example of the latter situation (having been created as the soundtrack portion to a film collaboration between Christiansen and conceptual art godfather Joseph Beuys) while its Lukoszevieze reinterpretation brings it back under the first method. You can view the original Beuys/Christiansen collaboration below:


 
The month’s Kammer Klang DJ slot is taken care of by representatives of Belgian record label/mail order distributors Aguirre who release and/or stock a wide range of electronic, ambient, experimental to rock, jazz, new wave and reggae. (including Pade and Christiansen recordings plus reissues from the revered French avant-garde record label Shandar. They’ll be playing various selections both from their catalogue and from their enthusiasms.
 

Programme:

Fresh Klang: Vitalija Glovackyte
Henning Christiansen – ‘Requiem of Art (NYC) – Fluxorum Organum’ (1967-68) adapted by Anton Lukoszevieze for Ultima New York at Issue Project Room, 2014 (UK premiere) – performed by Apartment House
Else Marie Pade – ‘Faust Suite’ (1962) performed by Jacob Kirkegaard
DJs: Aguirre
 

June 2017 – upcoming English gigs – the return of Pram with the immersive ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ event in Birmingham (June 3rd); Zarjaz Baby and Jon Slade/Night of the Comet in London (June 3rd); Arthur Russell’s ‘Calling Out Of Context’ revisited in London (June 7th)

23 May

Some shows and events to start June off. In Birmingham, experimental dream pop/post rock band Pram (one of the most original and charming groups ever to work in either genre) have resurfaced and are taking over an Edgbaston park for a very different kind of performance. Back in London there are opportunities to catch up with Zarjaz Baby (one of the wilder characters from the original wave of British post-punk) an acoustic set from Jon Slade (who’s navigated his way through a heap of scenes from art-punk to Riot Grrl to a thousand indie DJ nights); and a recreation of the cello/pop songs of Arthur Russell, one of the darlings of the 1980s New York loft music scene.

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Pram: 'Under The Blossom That Hangs On The Bough', 3rd June 2017

for-Wards, MAC Birmingham and Pram present:
Pram: ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’
Martineau Gardens, 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7UG, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 4:30pm
– free event – information here, here and here

“Composers and sonic artists Pram have been exploring south Birmingham with the help of local community groups to uncover the sounds of the locality. The results are both familiar and surprising.

“Let Pram take you on a journey through the city, a sound trail through the four wards of Birmingham’s Edgbaston district. Hear the world from the perspective of a bee as it flutters and forages. The snuffles of a tiny baby become the snores of a lion, the gurgle of a stream a mighty cataract. Come along and follow the woodland trail, bring a picnic and settle down for a performance inspired by the sound of the city as you’ve never heard it before.

“Set in the magical surroundings of Martineau Gardens, ‘Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough’ is an installation and performance by Pram, celebrating the sounds of Edgbaston. It will take place at Martineau Gardens on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd June, concluding at 6.30pm with a Pram performance inspired by sound recordings made in the wards of Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston and Bartley Green. Free admission if you register at Eventbrite…”

This isn’t quite the same Pram that charmed us and subverted pop for a surprisingly long stint in the ’90s and noughties across a string of albums which included ‘Dark Island’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ and a sound that seemed to be part child’s murmur, part clinking post-kosmische stroll and part friendly haunted house. Most obviously, singer and lyricist Rosie Cuckston (she who used to mount her keyboard on an ironing board at concerts) is absent, having moved on into academia and a more direct form of the social activism which the band’s eclectic inclusiveness and tendency to take philosophical side roads only hinted. That said, the rest of the band’s original creative core (multi-instrumentalists Matt Eaton, Sam Owen and Max Simpson) are all present, having spent the interim years of Pram downtime working with wonky loops as Two Dogs, creating film and theatre sound and making sonic art out of books with the Sound Book Project.

This also isn’t the first time that the post-Rosie Pram’s reappeared. Earlier in May they made an appearance at Imaginary Musics in Switzerland, playing a “music for Kopfkino” audio-visual set in a festival dedicated to “cinematic, recomposed and fictional musics”, and it seems as if losing Rosie’s quiet reflective voice and cocooned lyrics has shifted them further over into the areas suggested by Matt’s sound design and by Sam and Max’s live sound art. On-spec, it seems as if they’ve succeeded in becoming a kind of “post-band”, with a foot in their old live work, song-structures and performance coherence, but leaning towards something far more abstract and ego-free. ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ sounds as if it will be something fascinating to be immersed in – an urban psychedelic afternoon stroll with the family, an aural refraction of Birmingham through leaves, greenery and company.

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Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade, 3rd June 2017

Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An existentialist extravaganza featuring a solo acoustic set from Zarjaz Baby (Freakapuss and former Tronics). Zarjaz will be performing dark atmospheric songs, full of imagery, with jazz, blues, early ’60s beat and pop influences, with live performance artists, in a style not seen since the basement and candles days of Beatniks.

“Also featured on the night is a solo acoustic Love-Rock revival set from Jon Slade/Knight Of The Comet, incorporating songs from his former bands Huggy Bear and Comet Gain, plus a Fire Department number, some Electric Bull re-workings, as well as songs he wrote with Wolfy Jones.


 
“’60s European pop music in between sets, Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Gillian Hills. Expect sombre girls dressed in black and boys in Breton shirts.”

For more information contact incoming@freakapuss.com

For more on Zarjaz’s chequered life and career, have a read of this interview he did with ‘The Quietus’ three years ago, featuring accounts of brushes with mental illness, of releasing surreal post-punk songs with titles like Shark Fucks, of arguing with ‘2000AD’ over his stage name, and of having his image ripped off by Sigue Sigue Sputnik.


 
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Arthur Russell: 'Calling Out Of Context', 7th June 2017

XOYO Live and Milestones present:
‘Arthur Russell – A Classic Reinterpreted’
XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, St Lukes, London, EC2A 4AP, England
Wednesday 7th June 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“It’s been said that “Arthur’s songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.”

“Twenty-five years after Arthur Russell‘s death, some of the most exciting, forward-thinking faces in music are set to present a unique rendition of Arthur Russell’s timeless album ‘Calling Out Of Context’. A posthumous album that brought together twelve incredible tracks from across two previously unreleased LPs, ‘Calling Out Of Context’ represents Arthur in his prime. Two decades later and the music sounds as contemporary as ever – a huge inspiration for those performing on the night. We’re very excited to hear this new rendition.”

Bringing together elements of electropop, classical minimalism, post-disco, hip hop and singer-songwriter work, the ‘Calling Out Of Context’ songs span twenty years of Arthur’s composing and creative history while he was battling to fuse the parallel New York worlds of dance culture and art music between the late ’70s and the early ’90s – a pioneer of the freewheeling musical eclectism which today we pretty much take for granted. Take a look at this salvaged 1987 interview feature from the ‘Melody Maker’ for more on the topic, featuring reflections from Arthur and others on Indian music, the pulse shared by formal minimalism and New York dance clubs, and the social and cultural challenges of the time regarding blending “high” and “low” cultures.

The band for this London performance consists of Ashley Henry (keyboards), Midori Jaeger (cello), Alica Higgins (vocals), Sam Gardner (drums) and Joe Downard (bass).


 

May 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – polygender opera with ‘Binary Optional’ at CPT (May 25th & 26th)

21 May

One of the month’s more interesting London opera events…

'Binary Optional', 25th & 26th May 2017

Oedipa & Lucia Lucas present:
‘Binary Optional’
Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, Euston, London, NW1 2PY, England
Thurday 25th & Friday 26th May 2017, 9.00pm
information

From the press release, spliced with a little more research:

Oedipa collaborates with the extraordinary female baritone Lucia Lucas (Wuppertaler Bühnen, Deutsche Oper, Chicago Opera Theatre) on an evening of song in transition: from masc to femme, classical to queer and oppression to freedom.

“A freelance opera singer based in Germany (who has previously held full-time contracts with the Badisches Staatstheater, Kalsruhe, Theater und Orchester Heidelberg and the Deutsche Oper, Berlin), Lucia Lucas is a strong dramatic baritone specializing in Verdi roles, and has sung roles including Ford in ‘Falstaff’, Iago in ‘Otello’, Escamillo in ‘Carmen’, Le Grand-Prêtre in ‘Samson et Dalilah’, Jochanaan in ‘Salome’, Alberich in ‘Das Rheingold’, Thoas in ‘Iphigenie en Tauride’, Figaro in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Leporello and Giovanni in ‘Don Giovanni’, Mephistopheles in ‘Faust’, Don Pizzaro in ‘Fidelio’ and Nick Shadow in ‘The Rake’s Progress’.

“Beyond this, Lucia is one of the small but growing number of transgender woman performing significant operatic roles (a list of singers which includes Breanna Sinclairé and Emily De Salvo, whose own unusual range covers baritone to soprano). As Lucia commented in an interview in ‘Slipped Disc’ a couple of years ago, “I am performing all of the same things. Still singing angry old men on stage, but fringe projects have also started appearing as possibilities”. ‘Binary Optional’ is one such project – singing Bizet, Britten, Wagner, Purcell and Adams, flirting with Sarah Vaughan and ‘Rocky Horror’, Lucia draws on her experience singing classical repertoire across the world to tell her incredible story and celebrate the fluidity and plurality of gender in opera.


 
“Oedipa is the alter ego of writer/director Finn Beames (who’s dedicated himself to working “against the male perspective”) and a diverse range of varying collaborators. As Oedipa, groups of artists create and produce live performances in theatre, opera and related forms, often with an emphasis on music.

“Based in London and working internationally, Finn won the 2015 Genesis Future Directors Award at the Young Vic for his production of Man: 3 Plays by Tennessee Williams in the Clare theatre. He also holds the 2015 Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship, granted by the British Council for research into the eponymous Brazilian architect and the creation of a piece of theatre. For his own company, bodycorps, he recently directed a sold-out run of a new opera about depression, funded by The Wellcome Trust and ACE. Finn has commissioned further new work for bodycorps, including a musical based on The Sorrows of Young Werther. In 2014 Finn wrote, directed and designed a new music theatre work for the London Sinfonietta with composer Gavin Higgins, which they are currently expanding into a triptych. Finn is a director/librettist on the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music, and a member of the Young Vic Directors Network and Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York.”
 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – I’m This I’m That play Moondog, plus Ed Dowie (19th May); Trembling Bells spinoff Alex Rex plus The Left Outsides and Plague Dogs (20th May)

14 May

It’s always good to hear that Homerton’s 33 Chatworth Road – a.k.a. “The Dentist” – is hosting another of its gig-cum-house-parties. I’ve still got fond memories of the first concert I ever went to there: a mixture of jazz atmospheres, experimental folk and mythic New York chamber pop from Sealionwoman, Foxout! and Liam Singer (which you can read all about here.)

I’ve been out of the loop regarding their activities for too long, but here’s quick news on another couple of imminent shows there in collaboration, one in collaboration with folk promoter Muckle Mouth and the other with the Tin Label. (There are another two coming in the following week…).

* * * * * * * *

I'm This, I'm That, 19th May 2017

Muckle Mouth and 33 Chatsworth Road present:
I’m This, I’m That (playing the songs of Moondog) + Ed Dowie
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Friday 19th May 2017, 7.00 pm
– information here, here and here

Assembled rapidly from the gig publicity, and from Wikipedia:

“Louis Thomas Hardin, better known as Moondog, was an American composer, musician and poet. His music took inspiration from street sounds, such as the subway or a foghorn. It was characterized by what he called “snaketime” and described as “a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary […] I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time.” Many of his works were highly contrapuntal, and he worked hard on perfecting his counterpoint. He was also the inventor of several musical instruments (including a small triangular-shaped harp known as the “oo”, another which he named the “ooo-ya-tsu”, and a triangular stringed instrument played with a bow that he called the “hüs” (after the Norwegian, “hus”, meaning “house”). Perhaps his best known creation is the “trimba”, a triangular percussion instrument that the composer invented in the late 40s..

“Moondog was blind from the age of sixteen. In New York from the late 1940s, until he left in 1972, he could often be found on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 55th Street wearing a cloak and Viking-style helmet, sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silent and still. He was widely recognized as “the Viking of 6th Avenue” by thousands of passersby and residents who weren’t aware of his musical career.

“Dedicated Moondog interpreters I’m This, I’m That return to The Dentist performing their own arrangements/transcriptions of Moondog compositions with support from Ed Dowie (a Daylight Music favourite – there’s more about him here). Due to massive demand, there will be a double performance – an early show and a late show, with the one you see depending on when you’ve bought your ticket. Doors open at 7.00pm for fire/drinks/chat…”

Schedule:

7.30pm – first Ed Dowie set
8.15pm – first I’m This I’m That set
9.15pm – second Ed Dowie set
10:00pm -second I’m This I’m That set

Here are a couple of clips from the previous I’m This I’m That Moondog show back in July 2015, plus a taste of Ed Dowie:




 

* * * * * * * *

33 Chatsworth Rd and Tin Angel Records present:
Alex Rex + The Left Outsides + Plague Dogs
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Saturday 20th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Alex Rex: 'Vermillion'“This is the one and only live outing with full band for Vermillion – Alex Neilson (of Trembling Bells)’ solo record as Alex Rex. Aside from a Cerys Matthews session the following morning, the material from this fantastic record will never be performed again.”

From ‘The Guardian‘:

“His debut solo album Vermilion presents him as a provocative, poetic lothario with the alter ego Alex Rex. On record, rose thorns grow in Rex’s throat and he sleeps with girls for their minds as well as their bodies… Written during a “particularly self-destructive” period in his life in late 2015, Vermilion begins with the Gregorian chant-inspired blues of The Screaming Cathedral, with a chorus telling of “horror heaped on horror”. Please God Make Me Good (But Not Yet) features a girl sticking pins into a voodoo sex doll of him, before he has a “hit on myself.”

“Getting the worst bits of himself out there was therapeutic and necessary for Neilson. “I wanted songs that spilt out of themselves. The records I cherish most are asymmetrical things, full of blemishes,” he says. But there’s plenty of perky, almost poppy moments too. Neilson wrote the skronky psych-blues of Song for Dora while reading “lots of Ovid and taking MDMA”, while Postcards from a dream has a remarkably radio-friendly, West Coast-brightened Hammond organ intro before it kills its A-list potential with lyrics about “a necklace of bungee cord” and Adam “cup[ping] his nuts behind the tree.” Sex is everywhere, but this shouldn’t surprising for a folk musician, Neilson laughs. “The oldest folk songs are lusty and carnal. And I like having sex! People do!”




 
This in from the promoters: The Left Outsides have joined the bill, playing in an Alison/Mark guitar duo formation.” If you remember, these are further Daylight Music favourites, so I’ll just steal the blurb from a previous DM show I posted about – “Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton (are) a London-based husband and wife duo whose atmospheric, hypnotic songs echo Nico’s icy European folk, pastoral psychedelia and chilly English fields at dawn.”


 
The third act is Plague Dogs, about whom I’ve been able to find out precisely nothing: but they must have impressed Muckle Mouth, since they’re also playing at the Family Élan gig the following. Maybe when I get around to posting about that I’ll have found out more…
 

May 2016 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang with Scenatet/Matt Rogers, David Helbich, Benjamin Oliver/Yshani Perinpanayagam (May 2nd); Ensemble in Process presents a showcase of modern American composers (May 15th)

27 Apr

Ensemble In Process: Americuration, 15th May 2017

Ensemble In Process presents:
Ensemble In Process: Americuration (featuring Zubin Kanga, Marsyas Trio, Jonathan Russell, Seth Bedford & Maria Fiore Mazzarini)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Monday 15th May 2017, 7.30pm
information

Formed just under a year and a half ago, Ensemble In Process has progressed from being a small chamber ensemble (formed to compete in Nonclassical‘s annual Battle of the Bands Competition) to being a multiple-direction contemporary music project. Now straddling London and New York – and planning performances, programming and networking across the UK, America, Europe and the wider globe – they have a particular focus on helping contemporary composers without sufficient UK resources to achieve performances of their work within the UK.

Their debut concert as both performers and organizers showcases American composers. Bookended by performances of well-established Steve Reich pieces (from the ‘Counterpoint’ series), it also features works by George Crumb, Michael Gordon, Timo Andres, David Lang, Missy Mazzoli and Jonathan Russell as well as premieres of music by Seth Bedford, Ryan Brown and Ian Dicke, and by EIP’s artistic director Brian Mark.

Participating are the three members of the Marsyas Trio – pianist Zubin Kanga, flautist Helen Vidovich and cellist Valerie Welbanks – and violinist Maria Fiore Mazzarini (plus Seth Bedford and Brian Mark, performing voice and piano respectively on some of their own works and on those of others).

Programme:

Steve Reich – Vermont Counterpoint (for flute & tape)
Timo Andres – At the River (for piano)
David Lang – Killer (for violin & electronics)
Ian Dicke – Get Rich Quick (for piano & fixed media) (UK premiere)
Seth Bedford – Three Cabaret Songs (for piano & voice) (UK premiere)
George Crumb – Vox Balaenae (for electric flute, cello and amplified piano)
Jonathan Russell – Assorted Past (for piano)
Missy Mazzoli – Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos (for piano & video installation)
Ryan Brown – Bedside Manner (for flute & cello) (UK premiere)
Brian Mark – Lucid Dreaming (for flute & cello) (world premiere)
Michael Gordon – Light is Calling (for violin)
Steve Reich – Piano Counterpoint (for piano & electronics)

Regarding the future, Brian claims that “Ensemble In Process… will be a rotating vehicle with respect to size, instrumentation, and nature of specific programming. Eventually, it will also feature a special annual transatlantic event, which will become a six-hour concert marathon that will take place between London and select US cities via live streaming. After its debut concert and the first year of operation, Ensemble in Process… will eventually launch into an annual series of multiple diverse concerts and other exciting outreach activities.”

Meanwhile, here are soundclips and video examples for the concert programme (where I could find them…):



 






 
* * * * * * * *

A little under two weeks previously, there’s another Kammer Klang session at Café Oto, presenting an evening of London loft music on the ground floor again. This time, the concert has a particularly strong theatrical tinge, though not necessarily in a conventional manner.

strong>Kammer Klang presents:
Scenatet performs Matt Rogers + David Helbich + Yshani Perinpanayagam performs Benjamin Oliver + Slips DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 2nd May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Kammer Klang, 2nd May 2017The Fresh Klang performance this month is a new keyboard duet by Benjamin Oliver ‘Mr. Turquoise Synth’, which “explores how the contrasting sonorities of the piano (acoustic) and synth (low memory electronics) and modes of production (human/computer agency) can be combined and juxtaposed. Initially the duet partners are isolated but gradually become entwined in a playful and dynamic relationship.” It’ll be performed as a solo by pianist/keyboard player Yshani Perinpanayagam (Del Mar Piano Trio, Rambert Dance Company, and ‘Showstopper! The Improvised Musical’) and features both the venue piano and a bespoke one-bit pulse synthesiser designed by chiptune jazzer Blake Troise (Protodome).

Brussels-based philosopher-composer David Helbich (perhaps best known for his ‘Belgian Solutions‘ project, which spots, photographs and documents various frequently absurd-but-human fixings and methods) goes beyond the territory of being a conceptual musician in order to explore and share along the very faultline which separates musical concepts from non-musical concepts. It’s worth noting that David is the kind of composer who chooses to write for air guitar. Having dispensed with instruments, sound and multi-media trappings, what he’s mostly now interested in is the audience, with whom he will be performing one of his “No Music” sessions,

“No Music is no music, but still a musical experience. No music, still for your ears. Since 2010 I have worked on scores for pieces that could be performed right at the spot, in whatever context, as long as one could freely use both hands and had two functioning ears. The pieces offer notated situations of organised listening and simple ear manipulations. I understand the this material more as a practice than as a series of composition, even though they can appear as such. Pieces appear in printed form as well as in spontaneous performances or entirely set theatrical or concert performances. These interventions are entirely personal and therefore not so much interactive as “inner-active”, self-performative. The reader as the performer as the listener.”

Below is an example from a performance in Brussels.


 

In between, there’s Scenatet – an ensemble working under the remit of “art music theatre in unusual spaces” and generally works with younger Danish composers, creating cross-genre performances involving elements of drama and “happenings” as well as music. Though the ensemble consists of twelve permanent musicians, for this concert, they’ll be down to a trio of Vicky Wright (clarinet), Mina Fred (viola) and My Hellgren (cello) in order to perform the world premiere of Matt Rogers‘ ‘Weep At The Elastic As It Stretches’ The piece is an attempt to “embody the attitudes and spirit” of N.F. Simpson’s 1958 absurdist play ‘A Resounding Tinkle’, which “ask(s) that we rejoice in all manner of unexpected objects, situations and concepts, taking great delight in the most categorical of descriptions and in a complete lack of distinction between the mundane and the exotic.”

This month’s Kammer Klang DJ set is provided by Tom Rose and Laurie Tompkins, the people behind the London/Berlin record label Slip (which specializes in “exploratory work which negotiates the fringes of new instrumental and electronic music” and is heavily involved with site-specific live events from instrumental performances through to club nights).

Programme:

Fresh Klang: Benjamin Oliver – Mr. Turquoise Synth
Matt Rogers – Weep at the Elastic as it Stretches (world premiere)
David Helbich – No Music (a performative rehearsal)
DJs: Slip
 

March/April 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang taken over by moss, yeast and bacteria (via Hackuarium’s Living Instruments project and the We Spoke Ensemble); plus music for spectral/timbral moods and for mute/hands/voice (via Explore Ensemble and Wai-Nok Angela Hui performances of Mark Applebaum, Fausto Romitelli, Gérard Grisey) – 31st March to 4th April

24 Mar

Punters at Café Oto will tell you that the beloved Dalston art pit sells a variety of craft beers. To my knowledge, none of them are made with singing yeasts. Next month, that might change.

Kammer Klang, 4th April 2017The centrepiece of this month’s Kammer Klang activities at Oto are the Living Instruments – “musical instruments based on microorganisms, built by a team including classically trained musicians and professional and hobbyist scientists” – which are making their British debut following their world debut at Le Bourg, Lausanne and an appearance in Darmstadt at the 2016 International Summer Course for New Music. Initiated by Swiss DIY-biology open lab Hackuarium as a low-tech, low-cost, open source interdisciplinary research project, they’re being presented and performed by the Swiss-Anglo ensemble We Spoke, who’ll be triggering the lifeforms and interpreting their output.

Both ensemble and organisms are taking up residence at Café Oto for five days, incorporating a public exhibition, a two-day composer’s workship culminating in a free performance, and a headlining slot on the April Kammer Klang bill. Here’s more on the science and method behind the project:

“Performers will stimulate fermentation bubbles, paramecia, moss, visualised radioactive traces and other curiosities of nature, their activity and data converted into sound via sensors. The nature of the instruments allows the performers to engage with them interactively, and the cyclic behaviour of the living objects is reflected musically in rich grooves and rhythmic patterns.”

Control devices featured include the Mossphone (which monitors the physical reactions of moss when it’s touched, and interprets them as analogues to “singing, snarling, murmuring or growling”), the yeast-driven Bubble Organ, the bacteriological marshal-and-track Paramecia Controller and the iPadPix app (part Geiger counter, part cloud chamber, part drum machine), in conjunction with the Virtual Soprano instrument controller (which translates facial movements into music). Some of the chemical and biological actions will be projected onto screens as a visual accompaniment.

The Living Instruments in action

The Living Instruments in action

The composer’s workshop (with ten places available to those who can send a CV and a couple of sentences outlining their interest in the project) gives composers a crash-course in the workings of the organisms and their control devices, plus the opportunity to compose and fine tune a piece using the control software, to be presented to the public on the Monday night concert.

* * * * * * * *

Also playing at Kammer Klang are twentieth/twenty-first century classical specialists Explore Ensemble, made up of soloists associated with the Royal College of Music. They’ll be playing two pieces: both of them by composers whose lives were unfairly cut short, and both of whom were associated with the evolving-timbre-over-time school of spectral music.

The first of these is ‘Talea’, a 1986 piece by spectral pioneer Gérard Grisey. Here’s something on the piece from ‘The Strad‘s Bruce Hodges, taken from a description of a performance by the Talea Ensemble:

“In Latin, “talea” means “cutting,” and in Gérard Grisey’s ‘Talea’, an initial idea is gradually excised—elements removed and others taking their place. In two parts played without pause, the work is intended to — in the composer’s words — “express two aspects or, more precisely, two auditory angles of a single phenomenon.” But his concise description feels inadequate to describe the experience of hearing the score. ‘Talea’s power comes from its examination and illumination of an overtone cycle, a phenomenon integral to Grisey’s output (and spectral music in general).

“Somehow when one hears the ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) illuminating Grisey’s argument, it feels like being exposed to one of life’s basic building blocks—like grasping at DNA and holding it in your hands. The five players alternate between moments of great ferocity (especially in the piano), and those of eerie quietude — at times almost as if everything has been shut down completely; at others, sounds emerge like soft groans from the earth itself. The timbres float, hover, barge into your brain, recede, reform themselves, take you hostage. As the scurrying of the first part calms down in the second, the waters reform, interrupted by various phenomena, until a kind of miraculous climax occurs near the end. Bit by bit, the violinist states the overtone scale with a thrilling baldness—as if everything previously had been building toward this moment—before the violinist repeats the scale again, and this time the sequence is abruptly cut off.”

The second piece is ‘Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero’, composed by Fausto Romitelli (a student of Grisey’s who took strong inspiration from both him). The piece – the second section of which is dedicated to Grisey and his fellow Spectralist Hugues Dufourt – was worked out in various versions between 1996 and 2000 prior to Romitelli’s untimely death from cancer. Again, I’ve lifted a little text from the Talea Ensemble pages to illustrate the nature of his work:

“Romitelli’s music is a collage of styles that defy classification; his work drawing from all corners and incorporating timbres associated with psychedelic rock music and spectral harmony. From screaming electric guitar and electronics to sensual textures, his music is fresh and innovative in the contemporary canon. At times, his hellish sound-world evokes nightmarish and hallucinatory qualities that inspire a visceral listening experience.”

The composer himself once laid his methods out as follows: “At the centre of my composing lies the idea of considering sound as a material into which one plunges in order to forge its physical and perceptive characteristics: grain, thickness, porosity, luminosity, density and elasticity. Hence it is sculpture of sound, instrumental synthesis, anamorphosis, transformation of the spectral morphology, and a constant drift towards unsustainable densities, distortions and interferences, thanks also to the assistance of electro-acoustic technologies. And increasing importance is given to the sonorities of non-academic derivation and to the sullied, violent sound of a prevalently metallic origin of certain rock and techno music.”

Examples of both pieces below, plus excerpts of Explore Ensemble performing another Romitelli piece, ‘Professor Bad Trip’:




 
This month’s Fresh Klang item is provided by London-based percussionist Wai-Nok Angela Hui, one of the percussion finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2010 and a performer with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as well as a soloist and chamber musician. She searches for the unexplored possibilities between classical music, musical theatre and art, and collaborates with artists, poets and painters, incorporating a multitude of instruments and styles.

She’ll be performing ‘Aphasia’ by Mark Applebaum– a demanding physical/philosophical performance piece written for hand gestures synchronised to pre-recorded sound. (The latter is based on thousands of edited and transformed vocal samples originated by baritone Nicholas Isherwood, from sung notes, musical phrases and intoned numbers in a variety of language through to drones, lip smacks and hiccups). Here’s an excerpt from Camille Brown’s ‘Stanford Report’ essay on the original work, plus a video of Applebaum himself performing it.

“While the piece was inspired by a conversation between Isherwood and Applebaum, the idea to write a piece for a mute singer with hand motions was Applebaum’s own “obsession.” His intention was to have Aphasia come across as a metaphor for “expressive paralysis,” something that unnerves him every time he “confronts the terror of composing a new piece.” So how does one go about the paradox of writing a composition for a performance that has no form of verbal communication or written words?

“Applebaum began by collaborating with Isherwood to produce the sounds, a collection of three hours of Isherwood singing. The singing consisted of “a bunch of crazy sounds – very strange things I asked of him.” From there Applebaum isolated individual samples and transformed his selections radically through computer processes. The result, he said, “was a garbled voice of sorts.” Applebaum then choreographed “a kind of invented nonsense sign language” to accompany the now otherworldly sound sequence. Based on everyday activities, the gestures were recorded as a written musical score, using icons with names such as “give me the money” and “Post-it Notes.”

“These gestures, each of which are described in detail in the work’s appendix, are intended to reflect the composer’s fascination in “absurdity that seems to be the consequence of tedious, obsessive attention to ridiculous things.” Or, in other words, how bizarre the actions of our mundane routine of activity seem when they are examined out of context… The fast-paced and unexpected nature of Aphasia in performance that gives it charm and broad appeal. Since the piece is so far removed from what is recognized as common musical practice, it is equally accessible to music experts and novice listeners alike. As Applebaum points out, “Kids love it. So do people who need a break from conventional modes of expression.”


 
This months’ Kammer Klang DJ set is provided by Neu Records, an independent label which, last year, released We Spoke’s album ‘Different Beat’ (featuring the music of Fritz Hauser). Based in Barcelona, the label is devoted to recording contemporary music in surround and 3D formats, as well as providing a platform for interaction between international composers and performers of the highest level.

Programme summary:

Fresh Klang: Mark Applebaum – Aphasia (performed by Wai-Nok Angela Hui)
Explore Ensemble performs:
Gérard Grisey – Talea (for violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Fausto Romitelli – Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero (for four instruments) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Living Instruments (UK premiere – presented and performed by We Spoke Ensemble & Hackuarium)
DJs: Neu Records

Full dates:

  • Living Instruments Composers’ Workshop – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Friday 31st March 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm & Monday 3rd April 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments Exhibition – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Saturday 1st April 2017, 11.00am-8.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments free performance (featuring outcomes of Composers’ Workshop) – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 3rd April 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Kammer Klang (We Spoke & Living Instruments + Explore Ensemble + Wai-Nok Angela Hui)- Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Tuesday 4th April 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

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