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October 2019 – sundry classical and postclassical events – Carla Rees’ ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour of England and Northern Ireland (9th, 12th, 16th, 18th, 24th October); Xenia Pestova Bennett plays Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood in London (29th October)

3 Oct

Carla Rees: 'Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics' tour, October 2019

Rarescale‘s Carla Rees is performing an October solo tour of England and Northern Ireland, playing music for various flutes (standard and Kingma Systems, alto and bass, baroque flute d’amour and piccolo) augmented by Kyma electronics.

Several compositions are being performed. The first, giving the evening its title, is Simon Emmerson’s ‘Solo Flute Quartet’ which employs extra-keyed Kingma System flutes (optimised for multi-phonics and quarter tone pitches) alongside live sampling and surround sound. Simon: “Following a recording session in the summer of 2017 the idea of using multiphonics as the generator of both harmony and melodic mode evolved rapidly and the piece was completed in January 2018 and performed a month later at City University. The four flutes (piccolo, concert flute, alto, bass) are played in varying rotations for the 16 short sections of the work. The live electronics freezes, spatialises, echoes and projects the live sound into labyrinths of colour on a surround sound system.”

The second piece (being performed at Coventry, London and Bristol) is ‘Islands’, by Carla’s regular Rarescale collaborator Scott Miller. According to Scott: “‘Islands’ is more about the river than the islands. The river is dynamic, in constant motion, many layered. It responds to the presence of objects – fish, birds, people, islands–and moves, transforms, and shapes these same objects. We can observe its passage and potential, and we can enter and navigate it. As a metaphor for the composition, the performer enters the river of processing and navigates it sonically, from island to island. The islands emerge from the river, made of the stuff that lies beneath the surface, providing unique environments that are a part of and separate from the river. The performer’s interactions with the river and the islands influence the environment immediately and downriver, which is really just a function of time, like in music. Islands can be understood as the confluence of many independent environments which unfold in generally predictable ways over the course of the composition.”

To represent this musically, Carla will be feeding her flute through ecosystemic programming within her Kyma system to create “a sonic environment modelled on a stretch of the Mississippi River.”


 
A third piece (being played at the Leicester, London and Belfast dates) is ‘tree flute’ by Karen Power, who has written a number of works in which specific recordings of environmental sounds inform and are played against live solo instruments. For ‘tree flute’, field recordings of wind moving through trees are paired with the baroque flute d’amour, an instrument which Karen finds “more vulnerable than its modern equivalent, which for me makes it more interesting. Each and every note has a unique character that is brought out when performer and instrument meet. The wooden and simple frame of the flute is the starting point and why I have paired it with the wind.”

Commenting further on the piece, Karen explains that “the field recordings are all sounds of wind moving through trees and the ground. They are not audible, but do surround us in every forest or park. They may not be audible, but they do adhere to their own time and pacing, which is governed not by man but by the weather. This pacing forms the basic structure of this piece. In the live performance the flautist is partially cut off from the aural score and only hears an individual private aural part, which guides her. The audience only hear the first ‘wind’ sound at 0’40’’ therefore the performer must prepare us for this. She will hear such sounds in her aural part ahead of us and so tries to add the missing context for us. This pull back and forth between the private aural part and the public aural score is a core component of this and other works, which I believe provides the perfect platform for true interpretation and active listening and responding to happen.”

The Belfast date also features Sungji Hong’s 2015 piece ‘Shine’, originally written for Carla and featuring a double performance by her (the live in-concert performance and an electronically treated recording of the same part for her to play against).


 
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Back in London, at the end of the month, inquisitive experimental pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett pops up at City University to play Luc Ferrari’s ‘36 Enfilades for piano and tape’ to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of his birth.

Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood, 29th October 2019

One of the pioneers of musique concrète (alongside his Groupe de Recherches Musicales colleagues Pierre Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche), Ferrari was known for his tape pieces observing and reproducing daily life and the flow of ideas. The ‘Enfilades’ (a rarely-performed duet between piano and reel-to-reel tape) are an example of this technique crossing over to link with more traditional performance, scored piano material played in time with assorted taped sonorities which alternate rapidly between the industrial and the musical, the eerie and the whimsical.

Some of the pieces last for no more than a handful of seconds. Xenia describes them as “witty, virtuosic miniatures… a whirlwind exploration of style, riven with quotations from other composers including Schumann and Brahms.” Ferrari himself noted “they start and they are already finished. Sometimes, they do not even start, do not have a beginning. Then, is it a suite? It is perhaps a theatre. Is this the old dream never to finish or that always to start again? And then, the ideas which pass so quickly and then the desire to take up the ideas already given and then the pleasure of transforming them as themes which come to give a rhythm to the travel. Then, finally, these small pieces, they make large one…”

French pianist and frequent Ferrari interpreter Michel Maurer has reinforced the idea that the entire piece is like a self-contained episode of musical theatre in which “the solo protagonist (is) a pianist playing the role of a musicologist who had discovered an anonymous manuscript”; also, that it is something like “a treasure hunt” in which both the score and the tape recording themselves contain written or spoken texts and clues from the “unknown” composer, and in which the performer (has) to question himself about the music he (is) playing.” Here’s Michel presenting his own performance of ‘Enfilades’ plus discussion.

 

Xenia will also be performing several small compositions from her repertoire of John Cage pieces, as well as two compositions by Annea Lockwood, who’s celebrating her own eightieth birthday at around the same time as the Ferrari ninetieth. While she’s gained the most attention for her conceptual “piano transplant” events (in which defunct pianos are removed from concert halls and music rooms and taken far away to meet various ritualistic but natural ends, such as immolation, immersion, or being planted into the ground like seeds), Annea is also the creator of a varied chamber music catalogue including piano compositions and tonescapes with multiple extended-technique string moves.

In this particular concert, Xenia will be playing Annea’s ‘Red Mesa’ (in which a minimal/apprehensive mood of tolling midrange notes, abrupt fanning chords, interior piano mutings and zither strums develops into a shifting and sketchy open-ended study, a stormy interlude of high drama and a fade into unresolved nothingness) and her pouncing, highly dynamic ‘RCSC’ (in which skeletal notes and silences play against strum-scurries, scratched harmonics, choked hammer mutes, slow dive-bombs and so forth).

To illustrate, before the event, here’s a Ricardo Descalzo performance of ‘RCSC’ and an Andrea Lodge performance of ‘Red Mesa’ as well as Xenia’s own performance of some Cage music on toy pianos (accompanied by her duo colleague Pascal Meyer).




 
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Dates:

Carla Rees: ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour dates:

  • Ellen Terry Building @ Coventry University, Jordan Well, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 5RW, England – Wednesday 9th October 2019, 1.00pm – information here
  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England – Saturday 12th October 2019, 8.30pm – information here and here
  • PACE1 @ De Montfort University, Mill Lane, Leicester, LE2 7DR, England – Wednesday 16th October 2019, 7.00pm – information t.b.c.
  • Victoria Rooms, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1SA, England – Friday 18th October 2019, 1.15pm – information here
  • Sonic Lab @ Sonic Arts Research Centre, 4 Cloreen Park, Belfast, BT9 5HN, Northern Ireland – Thursday 24th October 2019, 1.00pm – free event – information here

City University Concerts presents:
Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood
City University Performance Space @ City University Social Sciences Building, 32-38 Whiskin Street, Finsbury, London, EC1R 0JD, England
Tuesday 29th October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

February 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs plus previews – Edmund Finnis premieres new piano trio on Britten Sinfonia English mini-tour (12th,13th, 15th February) – plus looks at Edmund’s imminent ‘The Air, Turning’ album and Markus Reuter’s imminent ‘Heartland’ album

8 Feb

A new Edmund Finnis composition is doing the rounds on a Britten Sinfonia micro-tour next week, taking in concerts in Cambridge, London and Norwich. The piece is a piano trio nestled in amongst a programme of compositions which examine chamber music’s historical connection to, and evolution from, Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1. Starting with this sonata, the concert progresses through Leoš Janáček’ ‘Pohádka’ and Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Le merle noir’, with the piano trio then preceding a performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s ‘Sonata for flute, violin and piano’. The performers are flautist Emer McDonough, violinist Thomas Gould, cellist Caroline Dearnley and pianist Huw Watkins.

I can’t find a title – or indeed, much more context and background – for the piano trio beyond this, although all will probably be revealed at the time. At the London date, Edmund’s also providing more details in a ticketed public talk with Dr Kate Kennedy before the concert begins. I’ve previously noted his compositional style as “flow(ing) from the luminously minimal to frenetically eerie orchestral jousts”, so he should have plenty to talk about.

Britten Sinfonia: At Lunch 2 2018-2019 – Bach, Janácek, Messiaen, Finnis and Martinu

  • West Road Concert Hall, 11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP, England – Monday 12th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here, here and here
  • Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 2BP, England – Wednesday 13th February 2019, 1.00pm
    – information here, here and here (Edmund Finnis in conversation with Dr Kate Kennedy, 12.15pm – free event – information here)
  • St Andrew’s Hall @ The Halls, St Andrew’s Plain, Norwich, NR3 1AU, England – Friday 15th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here and here

Edmund Finnis: 'The Air, Turning'

Edmund Finnis: ‘The Air, Turning’

Meanwhile, the first recorded collection of Edmund’s compositions – ‘The Air, Turning’, which has been six years in the making – is out on 9th February on NMC Recordings. Besides the sensual title composition (an orchestral work inspired by the concept of how music’s sound vibrations thrum and manipulate the atmosphere around us), it includes five other Finnis works. There’s the slow-ringing string orchestra piece ‘Between Rain’ (as performed at the Roundhouse and at ‘Organ Reframed‘ in 2016); the crepuscular, haunting ‘Shades Lengthen’ violin concerto; the blossoming ensemble work ‘Parallel Colour’ (in which clarinet, piano, strings and percussion drip and swell like heavy dew in an unexpected spot of bluster) and his ‘Four Duets’ for clarinet and piano.

Players include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, violinist Eloisa-Fleur Thom and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The more electronic/electrophonic side of Edmund’s work isn’t really present (for a few examples of that, visit his Soundcloud page), but it’s nodded to via the violin-plus-reverb concert hall piece ‘Elsewhere’ (which was touched on in here around two years ago when I plugged its second ever performance by Daniel Pioro). All in all, it’s exciting music – simultaneously translucent, muscular and subtly cerebral, with a rare quality of mystique and engagement.


 
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Seeing that I’ve drawn myself into writing about Edmund’s album, I’ll add something about Markus Reuter’s upcoming string quartet project ‘Heartland’. This isn’t out on record for a couple of months but has just begun to tease on Bandcamp, although Markus was good enough to send me the whole recording this week to listen to. This isn’t the first time Markus has created music which has disengaged from his usual electrophonic world of direct sound-processing and touch guitar, or in which he hasn’t felt the requirement to be present as performer. That would have been the orchestral version of ‘Todmorden 513’ a few years ago: a dense slowly-evolving soundpool built from algorithmic processes, assuming a vast, eerie and slightly melancholic ritual character to overlay its logical progression.

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Across the sixty minutes and eight sections of ‘Heartland’, algorithmic processes are once again the driving engines: mathematics lurk within the extended composition, with fractals, magic squares, and other numerical devices defining its elegant form. The piece, however (beautifully recorded in Berlin’s Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz, Berlin last October by the Matangi Quartet) brings more to the listener than an appreciation of structures. Beyond the initial brain-tickle, it seems that different listeners are inspired into different psychoactive responses. Active voyages of discovery seem to be a common theme. Various sleevenote contributors compare the journey through ‘Heartland’ to a Jungian river-ride through the collective subconscious, or to a Kubrickian Star Gate trip; while in the teaser video, Matangi violinist Maria-Paula Majoor appreciates the essential character of ‘Heartland’ as being “contemplative, maybe, (but) not very sure… I like that, in music… I think it’s nice to feel there is a doubt…that also gives the space for interpretation, and also for the listener to create (their) own interpretation”, and cellist Arno van der Vuurst comments that the music seems to be “searching for something”.


 
On a superficial level, ‘Heartland’ sometimes also suggests a bridge between the technical perfection of Bach baroque and the programmatic patterning of New York minimalism. It’s true that that particular bridge has already taken some heavy traffic, and from many different composers; but in Markus’ case he seems to have built his own separate bridge across the same river, and it’s only a part of the architecture and living space which the piece enables – it’s by no means its raison d’être. For initial promotion, Markus has mostly restricted himself to talking about translating processes into music, and about how his algorithmic/fractal note rows (and what progresses from them) work like carefully decorated modes or ragas; but the twinkle in his eyes suggests more. On the literary side, there are explicit references to Scarlett Thomas, short stories and sad goodbyes, and implicit ones to Thomas Mann: Markus also talks about “music that is there already and only needs to be uncovered”, and he’s clearly revelling in his opportunity to go wherever he wants and that “people want to be surprised, and they kind of like the fact that I’m an explorer.”

Matangi Quartet: 'Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 'Heartland''

Matangi Quartet: ‘Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 ‘Heartland”

Due to my own circumstances, I often find that I have to run much of my music-listening time in parallel with entirely unassociated work time. In some cases this works fine: the higher levels of my brain are usually bored with lying fallow while other tasks have to be done, and the business of processing and appreciating music occupies brain space which would otherwise make me rattle and rebel. However, I do find that certain kinds of music are tougher to listen to. Much of contemporary classical music is too immediately information-dense, too neurotically intellectual – and, in a strange way, simultaneously too directly assertive and too demandingly needy for to be able to split my attention while listening to it. (Oddly enough, I have a similar response to hip hop).

‘Heartland’ is certainly full of coding, but when I ran it through the mill of listening necessity I’ve described above – while concentrating fiercely on a pile up of day-job things which needed to be fixed – I found that it also had surprisingly calming qualities. In particular, it had qualities of order – as if the pulse and pitching of the music was putting things right without relying on the usual structural/dramatic clichés to which I respond. While ‘Heartland’ is full of detail and mechanism, and while Markus is particularly open about that, much of its devicery is camouflaged: the piece does not anxiously assert its complexity and importance. Instead, I found it subtle and confident in its own intelligence, like the workings of a brain; not the chaotic, nervy dramatisation of an unbalanced mind, but something more Apollonian, with a matter-of-fact humanity. On this particular pass I didn’t feel skilled enough to analyse everything in it, but from the off I felt the structures and the processes… and also felt that I was somehow sharing in them.

This might not be a purely rational conclusion (and a different week might produce a different flexion of the imagination) but for now I’m sticking to it. Perhaps, beyond its number processes, ‘Heartland’ is a self-contained flexible map for an inner journey; perhaps, for me, it works as a set of complex mental debugging routines generated and given impetus by the chug of bow on string and the singing self-contained musicality that’s propelled string quartets in common for three centuries (and which has built a proportion of my own responses for about a sixth of that time). To these ears, this mind, ‘Heartland’ is a generous piece. It inspires a kind of serenity, even a kind of hope.

‘Heartland’ is out on Solaire Records on 12th April, and can be pre-ordered here and here.


 

October 2018 – upcoming classical/experimental gigs in London, Manchester and Birmingham – Jack Sheen’s an Assembly tour performances of Louis D’Heudieres, Rowland Hill and Charlie Usher (1st, 2nd, 4th October); Kammer Klang returns with performances of Matthew Shlomowitz, Phill Niblock and Ryoko Akama by Lucy Railton, Evie Hilyer-Ziegler, Jessica Aszodi, Antoine Françoise and Patrick Stadler (2nd October)

28 Sep

At the start of October, Jack Sheen’s experimental music ensemble An assembly embark on a brief three-date English tour including the world premieres of two brand-new, specially commissioned pieces and the London premiere of a third.

An assembly on tour, October 2010

“An assembly are a group dedicated to contemporary and experimental music, installation and performance. Conceived as a large, open, and flexible group with no fixed line up, format or personnel, An assembly have appeared in many guises, tackling works from virtuosic ensemble scores to mass group readings, via text scores, graphic notation, long duration performances, one-on-one ASMR installations, physical performance, and wrestling. For this tour, An assembly presents an ambitious two-part programme of new works by emerging composers and artists.

“Field recordings and midi-instruments are internalised, vocalised and imitated by voices and instruments in Louis D’Heudieres‘ ‘Laughter Studies 6b’; four vocalists stand downstage from a small instrumental quintet, describing and imitating their own private soundtracks of synthesised tunes and field recordings, transmitted to them via earphones in a surreal and hysterical collision of subjectivities accompanied by angular melodies and midi-drum solos.

“Award-winning visual artist Rowland Hill continues this process of interpreting found material in a new film and performance commissioned by An assembly. Created as a response to Edwin Denby’s 1959 review of Stravinsky’s final ballet ‘Agon’, Hill uses Denby’s review and its relentless metaphors, references and precise visual shocks as a script for a new work, taking the linguistic articulation of a dance and returning it to a choreographed state through film, live performance and sound in a work which Jack Sheen irreverently describes as the “silliest piece I have ever commissioned.”

“The concert will culminate in the world premiere of ‘An assembly’ by Brussels-based composer Charlie Usher, a forty-five minute meditation on listening, hearing, and duration for large ensemble and audio. A constant wave of fourteen-second miniatures, ‘An assembly’ invites us to eavesdrop on real-time transcriptions of music Usher listened to while writing, and as the piece folds into itself, and unfolds away from us, we trace this vast new work into our evening.”

Dates below: note that the London concert is free, but you’ll need to book a space via a ticket system. Note also that there’s a more in-depth preview of this concert tour on Ben Harper’s ‘Boring Like A Drill‘ blog.

 
* * * * * * * *

In the same week, avant-classical/experimental chamber evening Kammer Klang returns to London to start its own autumn series.

Kammer Klang, 2nd October 2018The main draw for the October opener is the British premiere of Matthew Shlomowitz’s ‘Lecture About Listening to Music’, 2017 performed by two members of Ensemble Nikel (pianist Antoine Françoise – this time on synthesizer – and saxophonist Patrick Stadler) and by singer Jessica Aszodi. A well-known interdisciplinary singer, Jessica has mastered an unusually wide vocal range: on this occasion, however, she’ll just be talking, delivering the lecture component as Antoine and Patrick traverse a range of musical ideas including unsettling atmospherics and repetition, quotes from 1980s mainstream pop and cerebrally playful and jazzy concepts.

Post-modernism aside, this is an upfront and accessible piece. It’s literally, a talk on how we, with our information-age sweep of unconscious and studied influences, access and process music in the present day (but with Matthew providing lengthy, sympathetic musical illustrations as well as the lecture text). Here’s an earlier performance: also featuring Antoine and Patrick, and with Matthew himself in the role of lecturer.


 
Kammer Klang’s programmer Lucy Railton will be performing ‘Harm’ by New York minimalist/microtonalist drone composer Phill Niblock; a 2003 drone piece sourced from cello. Here’s an earlier version, with the source tones performed by cellist Arne Deforce, to give you an idea…


 
The October Fresh Klang piece (performed by violinist and recent Goldsmiths music graduate Evie Hilyer-Ziegler) is Ryoko Akama’s ‘Reaction, for a string instrument’, composed this year. Ryoko’s pieces, sometimes released via text scores and conceived as much as performances as they are compositions, are attempts to create “listening situations that magnify silence, time and space… offer(ing) quiet temporal/spatial experiences.” A performer herself, she works with “tiny aural and visual occurrences that embody “almost nothing” aesthetics“: small items from which miniscule sounds can be coaxed and made microscopically purposeful. A peek at Ryoko’s homepage reveals delicate assemblages (everyday lab equipment, ancient pedal sewing machines, tin cans, glass bottles, kitchenware, paper balloons, woolen gloves) waiting to be played. As regards Evie’s violin interpretation, I reckon it’s fair to expect some very small, quiet violin playing: perhaps a fitful breath on the strings…

Kammer Klang presents:
Jessica Aszodi/Antoine Françoise/Patrick Stadler perform Matthew Shlomowitz / Lucy Railton performs Phill Niblock / Evie Hilyer-Ziegler performs Ryoko Akama
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

July 2018 – upcoming gigs – V Ä L V Ē, Stef Ketteringham and Lily Buchanan (of The Graphites) in Margate (29th July)

24 Jul

V A L V E + Stef Kettering + Lily of The Graphites, 29th July 2018Details on a show this coming Sunday in one of the smallest, most enchanting venues in Kent (Margate’s Tom Thumb Theatre), featuring an mostly-female bill with three different projects (all adventurous; all, in their way, visionary).

* * * * * * * *

I feel as if I’ve covered V Ä L V E what seems like innumerable times this year. Reedswoman/composer Chlöe Herington’s synaesthesia-slanted experimental music project has spent a year or so evolving into a live collective trio of herself, harpist Elen Evans and bass/synth player Emma Sullivan. Previously known for her bassoon, clarinet and saxophone contributions to Chrome Hoof and Knifeworld (and more recently to The Lindsay Cooper Songbook and Hirvikolari), Chlöe’s solo work has involved shed-tinkering as she builds unlikely instruments from scratch and scrap; and the pulling in of compositional ideas from medical charts, found patterns and (literal) rubbish.

On record, the results have percolated around the realms of electric art-rock experimentalism (post-Zappa, post-Henry Cow), parping chamber wind music intimacy, playfully baffling bouts of improv and bewildering schematics. Live, V Ä L V E has mutated further, drawn on by Chloe’s interest in finding out how to trigger her audience’s minds with an evolving toolkit of sensory input, and by the different dynamic of three women involved in discovery together (happy bouts of lateral thinking, plus moments when they combine in obliquely touching bouts of harmonizing song). It’s a winning combination that’s taken the band all the way to airplay on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’ – care of ‘The Quietus’s John Doran – and to the Barn stage at the Supernormal festival.



 
Formerly with abstract noise-blues trio Shield Your Eyes, guitarist/bass-drum booter/occasional vocalist Stef Ketteringham now works alone. His improvised solo music is a guttering, chattering, restlessly emotive take on exploded electro-acoustic blues, integral to which is his brawling, brutal and fearless guitar technique.

Elastic and vocal, with a gutting-knife timbre, its passing similarities to the pitch-bend avant-howls and tremolo-purrs of Henry Kaiser and David Torn is probably pure coincidence. Stef’s wildly gestural guitar-playing sounds like an instinctive discovery: more punk than professorial, bursting from his gut via his heart to tell its shattered, hollered, mostly wordless stories and personal bulletins without the constraint of manners or moderation. For all that, it’s still got the skeleton of blues rules – the existential moan, the bent pitches and percussive protest that demand attention and serve notice of presence.


 
Guitar in hand, Scottish singer-songwriter Lily Buchanan usually fronts and voices interesting south London pop-punkers The Graphites (who in turn were formerly her solo project The Graphite Set). The Graphites’ lilting jig rhythms, their echoes of girl groups and Lily’s subtly unorthodox song-structures (recalling both Chrissie Hynde and Nico, but with an understated elliptical focus that’s all Lily’s own) put them several cuts above the competition.

This is hardly surprising: Lily’s work springs out of both folk music and a life spent painting. But while many art-school music spinoffs are happy to lose themselves in arrogant vagueness, vacuity and sonic scurf, Lily’s half-spoken songs make much of their clarity of line; their deceptive ability to digress and orbit while never truly losing sight of the core matter, casting new light on it with each pass.

All by herself this evening, Lily will be performing something new – “a series of folk songs inspired by her recent intrigue into collecting sea fauna.” She’s being billed here as “Lily Of The Graphites”. Such a shame that’s not the actual project name. There’s not enough courtly allotropic geology in the world.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of Graphites songs…



 
NFA presents:
V Ä L V Ē + Stef Ketteringham + Lily of The Graphites
Tom Thumb Theatre, 2 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate, Kent, CT9 2LB, England
Sunday 29th July 2018, 7:00 pm
– information here, here and here
 

June 2018 – upcoming experimental gigs – Darkroom in Letchworth (24th June) and at Ambience Chasers in London with Kieran Mahon (26th June)

17 Jun

Darkroom gigs have perhaps become a little rarer since bass clarinettist/modular synth master Andrew Ostler dismantled their shared Hertfordshire base by moving wholesale to Edinburgh (where he’s currently and happily troubling Auld Reekie’s experimental scene on his own).

That said, geography’s really the only working challenge that Darkroom currently face. The electronica duo are a tight, happy and assured unit who, for over twenty years, have continued a well-paced, well-knit career entirely under their own control; happy to lurk a hair’s breadth under the radar while wedding Os’ fluttering flexing rhythms, synth drones, thoughtful reed interjections and dancing timbral adjustments to Michael Bearpark’s powerfully brooding guitar (a sound and approach which blends a thorny, unsettled widescreen texturalism to the muscular, compelled melodic drive of a Neil Young, a David Torn or a David Gilmour). The results have been labelled as “a crossing point between avant-free jazz improvisation and Fripp/Eno-style ambient looping”, compared to Photek, Paul Schutze, Michael Brooks and supernovae, and described as “by turns beautiful and beautifully ugly… a very human music despite the inevitable technology that produces it.”

Darkroom, 24th June 2018The first of this month’s two gigs is back in their previous Letchworth home, in the Arts-and-Crafts-Movement embrace of the town’s reknowned Cloisters venue, as part of the Letchworth Festival. They’ll be part of a Cloisters afternoon of “amazing pieces of art work, live performances and (information) about the alternative history of Letchworth”. This is more interesting and less parochial than it sounds, given the town’s influential status as the world’s first self-sufficient garden city design as well as its links with Theosophy and British astronomy and its hordes of sinister black squirrels. There’s no info on who else is playing or exhibiting, nor what times Darkroom are scheduled to have sets in place, so either watch the webpages or just turn up in the early afternoon and let the Letchworth experience wash over you.

Darkroom + Kieran Mahon, 26th June 2018Darkroom will also be playing in London a couple of nights later, when they perform at Sonic Cathedral‘s Ambience Chaser electronic night on a bill with minimalist drone-loop-echo man Kieran Mahon. Keiron’s music (informed by hallucination, “acid-drenched dronescapes” and “time and space being ripped apart”) sometimes sounds like the stern ghost of a Highland bagpipe possessing a power sander and then imposing its will on a Tangerine Dream session. For all of the noisy loomings, drapes and abrasions, there’s a sturdy romantic grandeur to his textures and to his constructions: listening to him is never a chore. In addition there’ll be DJ sets from an actual Tangerine Dream-er (Ulrich Schnauss) and from Sonic Cathedral label head Nathaniel Cramp.

Dates:

  • Darkroom @ Letchworth Festival ‘Art, Music & Performance’ @ The Cloisters, Barrington Road, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 3TH, England, Sunday 24th June 2018 2.00pm onwards – free entry – information here
  • Darkroom + Kieran Mahon @ Ambience Chasers #16 – The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 7JD, England, Tuesday 26th June 2018, 7:00pm – free entry – information here and here






 

April 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental/folk gigs – Caterina Barbieri solotronic set at Kammer Klang, plus Zwerm Ensemble and the RAM’s Experimental Music Ensemble playing Feldman, Dowland, Brown and Baillie (3rd April); the ‘What is England?’ festival including Bishi/Jeff Cook’s ‘The Good Immigrant”, Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers (20th-23rd April)

28 Mar

Dips into the mid-twentieth century New York School (including its work with graphic scores) and into unintentionally sprightly electronica characterise a surprisingly sober, instrumentally-based April show for Kammer Klang.

Kammer Klang, 3rd April 2018Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Caterina Barbieri + Zwerm Ensemble (playing John Dowland, Earle Brown and Joanna Baillie) + RAM Experimental Music Ensemble (playing Morton Feldman)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 3rd April 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Opening, the Royal Academy of Music’s Experimental Music Ensemble present Morton Feldman‘s rarely-performed, highly textured septet piece ‘The Straits Of Magellan’. Dating back to 1961, the piece’s graphical score is an array of coded time boxes, each containing representative symbols for single or simultaneous notes/durations/colourations; while the dynamics of the composition are explicitly and sternly noted (with minimal note attacks, a generally quiet approach but multiple instructions for glissandi, harmonics etc), the pitches are left entirely up to the players’ choices. Here’s one of the many possible interpretations:


 
In the middle of the bill are Belgian electric guitar quartet Zwerm Ensemble (avant-garde favourites whose collaborations and performance credits include Fred Frith, Mauro Pawlowski, Larry Polansky, Eric Thielemans, Yannis Kyriakides and Etienne Guilloteau) The four members (Toon CallierJohannes WestendorpBruno Nelissen and Kobe van Cauwenberghe) will present arrangements of ‘Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens’ (by peerless Renaissance lute composer John Dowland), ‘December 1952’ (by twentieth century “open form” pioneer Earle Brown,and, like the Feldman piece, sourced from a graphic score) plus a performance of ‘Last Song From Charleroi’, a new seventeen-minute work for four electric guitars and tape composed by Joanna Bailie. Examples of playing, pieces and general composer tone below…





 
Headlining, Italian composer and voltage-controlled-sequencer specialist Caterina Barbieri will perform a solo electronic set of her “ecstatic computation” music. Berlin-based, she explores “themes related to machine intelligence and object oriented perception in sound through a focus on minimalism” and “psycho-physical effects of repetition and pattern-based operations in music, by investigating the polyphonic and polyrhythmic potential of sequencers to draw severe, complex geometries in time and space.”

In practise, this is surprisingly accessible. Her work (including her recent ‘Patterns Of Consciousness’ album, composed entirely on Verbos Harmonic Oscillator and ER-101 Indexed Quad Sequencer) initially sounds closer to the pop-synth airiness of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream records from the ‘70s; even to the rhythmic clink of Larry Heard or the warm chitter of Jean-Michel Jarre. But even if there are similarities to ‘Pong’ or ‘Popcorn’ – especially live – this is merely a side effect of structure. Caterina’s work is intended as an austere examination of qualities: its primitive but plaintive blippery coming about due to her wish to avoid signature synth sounds, concentrating instead on careful shifts of accenture, attack and shaping on basic sine tones, accelerating and decelerating. The emotional content – like the unexpected danceability – apparently comes despite her intentions. Live, she fits right in with populist EM; sometimes, though, in the studio, she can come across as more raw, glitchy and forbidding. Perhaps in the tougher Kammer Klang environment, more of this side will will emerge.


 
* * * * * * * *

Information’s starting to come through on a defiantly heterogenous and diverse festival springing up in Stoke Newington towards the end of the month, delving into electroclassical and folk music forms, queerness, multiculturalism and the concept of English nationality in (and in spite of) ugly times. Details on this are still taking shape, so I’ll drop in what I’ve got now and add to it later, when I can…

The Old Church, The Nest Collective & others present:
‘What is England?’
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England,
20th-23rd April 2018, various times
– information here

'What Is England?', 20th-23rd April 2018“A four-day festival in the run up to St George’s Day, ‘What Is England?’ offers a chance for everyone to reimagine ‘Englishness’ in an inclusive, welcoming way, at a time when a toxic form of nationalism is on the rise.

“The festival includes the European debut of ‘The Good Immigrant’, an electroclassical song cycle for voice looper, sitar and electronics about race and identity by vocalist/composer Bishi. Co-produced with composer and sound designer Jeff Cook, the song cycle received its world premiere at The Ferus Festival in January 2018 in New York. The music is inspired by ‘The Good Immigrant’ by Nikesh Shukla, a collection of essays by 21 BAME writers, ruminating on race & identity in contemporary Britain. Each song is a response to a particular essay in the book, with special audio quotes sampled in from personal interviews conducted with writers Nikesh Shukla, Salena Godden and Darren Chetty, ending with a choral setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where The Mind is Without Fear’.

“In this work, Bishi takes a personal & intersectional journey reflecting on her experiences. As a British-Bengali daughter of immigrants, adopted by London’s community of alternative queer nightlife, she has lived through a unique cross-section of London’s contemporary urban landscape. ‘The Good Immigrant’ is a call to arms to explore our differences so that we may find more unity and empathy in a divided world. Having been trained in eastern and western classical music, and experienced performing in a Bulgarian choir, Bishi takes her influences from a variety of musical styles. Major musical influences include electronic producers Burial and Arca, and vocalists such as Meredith Monk and Lisa Gerrard.


 
“Also as part of the festival, modern folk initiative The Nest Collective presents a very special St George’s day involving established and merging talent in English folk, again looking at the idea of Englishness. Confirmed artists so far include Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers.

“Believing that “music spreads throughout the environment like a perfume.. it soaks into the fabric of other things and people”, Ansuman is an Kolkata-born percussionist, interdisciplinary artist and composer who has been commissioned by Tate Modern, National Theatre, English Ballet and has worked with Bjork and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in world music hybrid quartet Newanderthal (“four humans, three continents”). Suna is a Kurdish/Alevi singer based in London whose family moved to Smyrna (Izmir) in her early childhood (meaning that much of her formative years were spent surrounded by traditional Kurdish dengbêj music and Kurdish-Alevi laments within a rich cosmopolitan cultural environment). Her main focus is Kurdish folk songs from the four regions of Kurdistan, namely Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, but her repertoire also includes Armenian, Greek, Sephardic and Turkish songs. John Spiers, known better in folk circles as Squeezy, has made a name for himself as one of the leading squeezebox players of his generation, playing with Eliza Carthy’s Ratcatchers band, Bellowhead and the duo Spiers and Boden (with Jon Boden).”




 
Rough details on the festival dates and events below: with panel events, DJs and an as-yet-unrevealed event for the Sunday slot, expect things to expand. With ‘The Quietus’ involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if a New Weird Britain strand began to weave its way into proceedings…

  • Friday 20 April, 7.00pm – festival launch: ‘The Good Immigrant’, plus NTS and The Quietus DJs and What Is England? panel eventtickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 10.30am – OPEN: Morning including “make-you-own-flag” event with OPEN:Art/Output Arts tickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 7.00pm – The Good Immigrant, with DJs and ‘The Good Nationalist?’ panel eventtickets
  • Sunday 22 April – details t.b.c.
  • Monday 23 April, 7.00pm – Nest Collective’s St George’s day event featuring Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan, John Spiers and others t.b.c.tickets

 

March 2018 – London classical gigs – composers fresh from the Royal Academy of Music (20th); an International Women’s Day event for London Composers Forum (8th March); an evening with the Ligeti Quartet and cyberpianist John Kameel Farah (14th March); ‘Rise Of The Machines’ at the Converge Festival fuses classical music and artificial intelligence (18th March)

21 Feb

London Academy of Music: Composer's Platform, 20th March 2018Late in March, the composition department of the Royal Academy of Music makes its way over to IKLEKTIC for “an evening of cutting edge new music, specially written for academy performers. The concert will showcase a hugely diverse range of musical influences. Come along and hear new music from the next generation of composers.” No names have been announced yet… but then, that’s part of the point. Come and be in at the start of some new careers.

Just under two weeks earlier, the London Composers Forum will be running a Composer’s Voice event for March, coinciding with International Women’s Day, with a concept which speaks for itself:

The Composer's Voice (IWD), 8th March 2018“This concert will feature exclusively new live and recorded music composed by the female members of LCF, performed by women. With a mixture of choral, vocal and instrumental pieces, it is sure to be full of variety and interest.

“There will be a discussion on the theme of “music by women” between the composers and performers that we hope the audience will participate in also; and an opportunity to discuss several hot topics relating to IWD, music by women, parity and what happens next…”

The LCF IWD event is free and open to all. Forum composers involved and represented are Janet Oates (director of and participant in the Philomel soprano sextet), wind multi-instrumentalist Liz Sharma, Miriam Mackie (founder of Illumination Chamber Choir), experimental performer and Bastard Assignments cohort Caitlin Rowley, singer/actor/songwriter Jane de Florez, Zillah Myers (a member of and repertoire contributor to The Addison Singers who’s also composed for Bude Choral Society) and Pamela Slatter (who’s composed for the London Concert Choir and, more recently, has set Edward Lear’s ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’).

Royal Academy of Music presents:
Royal Academy of Music: Composer’s Platform
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

London Composers Forum presents
The Composer’s Voice: Music and Discussion for IWD 2018
Tea House Theatre, 139 Vauxhall Walk, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HL, England
Thursday 8th March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

* * * * * * * *

Taking a break from performing on ice sculptures and space shuttles in favour of a pub backroom, the Ligeti Quartet have set up a regular monthly gig with Nonclassical in Dalston, to showcase contemporary exploratory string music.

Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah, 14th March 2018

Nonclassical presents:
Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 14th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

This March, they’ll be presenting the European premiere of Anna Meredith’s ‘Tuggemo’), as well as performances of Kate Whitley’s ‘Lines’, Christian Mason‘s ‘Eki Attar’ and Tanya Tagaq‘s ‘Sivunittinni’ (as originally rendered by the Kronos Quartet, with the strings emulating Tagaq’s barrage of Inuit vocal effects via an array of frictional and percussive bow techniques devised by arranger Jacob Garchik).

Here’s a clip of the Ligetis performing an earlier Meredith work, plus the original Kronos performance of ‘Sivunittinni’, an earlier Kate Whitley strings-and-piano piece, and Christian Mason’s ‘Aimless Wonder’.



 
The Ligetis’ guest on this occasion is a pianist – Canadian musician John Kameel Farah, who surrounds and combines his piano playing with an array of synthesizers and processors which filter, warp and orchestrate his performance, which itself allies contemporary classical music with baroque, electronic, Early Music and Middle Eastern elements.

John will be premiering his new composition ‘Spinning Thread’ as well as drawing four more pieces from his back catalogue and from recent album ‘Time Sketches’ (‘Fantasia’, ‘Distances’, ‘Behold’ and ‘Maqam Constellation’) plus a performance of William Byrd’s ‘Hugh Ashton’s Ground’.



 
DJ sets will be provided by Ben Vince (a musician better known for his frenetic sets of improv/loop saxophone playing).

* * * * * * * *

More Nonclassical DJs (in the shape of Laurence Osborn and others) and more technological approaches and motifs will be showing up for the last of the four events covered in this post. While much of this year’s Convergence festival leans towards avant-garde pop artists with a foot in the contemporary classical world (John Cale, Kamaal Williams, Ben Frost, Simian Mobile Disco and Charlotte Gainsbourg are all appearing over the course of the month), the second in the festivals’s ‘Rise Of The Machines’ concert series takes a witty but serious look at the ongoing crossover between classical music and computer/systems thinking.

Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2, 18th March 2018

Convergence 2018 presents:
‘Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2’
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England
Sunday 18th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Conductor Jessica Cottis (who also contributed to the City of London Sinfonia’s ‘Modern Mystics’ series last year) will be leading a thirty-piece orchestra, bolstered by live devices operated by members of Langham Research Centre (who maintain vintage electronic instruments in order both to safeguard the performance of 20th century classic electronic repertoire and to apply “period electronica” to newer compositions). Composers Beni Giles, Laurence Osborn, Josephine Stephenson, Jo Thomas and Max de Wardener have all collaborated on the event’s world premiere centrepiece, ‘Concerto for Drum Machine & Orchestra’, each of them contributing one of five movements to a composition which “places the drum machine centre-stage as solo musical instrument, bringing the sounds of dance music and hip-hop to the classical world.” Plenty of young and youngish contemporary composers have attempted to bring forms inspired by rave, techno, house into New Classical. As far as I know, this is the first such piece to surrender entirely to the primacy of beat and box.

In Nick Ryan and John Matthias’ violin-and-string-ensemble piece ‘Cortical Songs’ “the orchestra is partially controlled by the neural patterns of a tiny computer brain. The resultant work takes the orchestra into an ethereal sound world of lush strings juxtaposed with the skittering crackles of neural activity.” Magnus Lindberg ’s ‘Engine’ (which dates back to 1996) “(was) inspired by the computing language associated with using the Patchwork1 programme. ‘Engine’ is a sort of generator of musical material, which operates according to the rules pre-established by the composer. The texture is composed by the machine, on which the composer imposes dozens of constraints.” Finally, Barry Guy’s 2015 piece ‘Mr Babbage is Coming to Dinner!’ “was inspired by Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2… The graphic score – hand-drawn and partially coloured by Barry Guy – is a work of art in itself (and) calls on spontaneity and improvisation from the orchestra.”

I tracked down a couple of previous performances of ‘Engine’ and ‘Cortical Songs’ for illustration, so here they are:



 

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