Tag Archives: Cornelius Cardew

January/February 2019 – upcoming classical gigs around Britain and Ireland – Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands (23rd January); Scordatura’s Clara Schumann evening (3rd February); Gyða Valtýsdóttir’s ‘Epicycle’ tour (29th January to 3rd February)

18 Jan

Nonclassical open their year with their annual Battle of the Bands at their live homebase in Hackney’s Victoria performance pub. Six competitors will be duking it out for industry attention and more Nonclassical gig opportunities. As usual, they’ve been chosen from the permeable space where contemporary classical touches on other musical forms, on other arts and on current concerns.

Nonclassical: Battle of the Bands, 23rd January 2019

There will be two solo performers. Woodwind specialist James Hurst will be swapping between alto saxophone and alto recorder to perform his own ‘The Descent of Ishtar To The Underworld’, a guided, Bronze Age-inspired improvisation. Reylon Yount, a San Franciscan Chinese-American yangqin player and member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, will be performing the diasporan-influenced sound exploration ‘Rituals and Resonances for Solo Yangqin’ by Chinese-British composer Alex Ho, which “attempts to engage with the paradoxical sense of nostalgia one may feel for a place one did not grow up in” via “an exploration of the relationship between sound and its resonance.”



 
Three collectives are also competing. Chamber ensemble Scordatura Women’s Music Collective champion and perform the work of female composers, both living and dead: on this occasion, they’ll be performing ‘Las Sombras de los Apus’ by Gabriela Lena Frank, a cello quartet in which each instrument plays in a different tuning. The recently-formed New Music group 4|12 Collective will be playing James Saunders’ Instruments with Recordings (with a lineup of viola player Toby Cook, flautist Epsie Thompson, accordionist Giancarlo Palena, bassoonist Olivia Palmer-Baker, trombonist Benny Vernon and tuba player Stuart Beard).

Rita Says & The Jerico Orchestra (performing Paragraph 7 of ‘The Great Learning’ by Cornelius Cardew) have been around a little longer: over the past decade, they’ve been working at “defin(ing) a connection between fine art performance practise and the history of contemporary music”, exploring a spontaneous blend of physical action and visual interaction to create and conduct pieces.


 

Finally, there’s composer/performer and Filthy Lucre co-founder Joe Bates, who pitches his camp on the faultline between contemporary classical music and avant-rock, hip hop and electronics; and whose artistic interests include “desire at a remove” and “the decline of classical music’s social prestige and the possibilities for its future.” His music blends contemporary classical structures and instrumentation options with “intense, still, driven riffs” and harmonies from rock and other pop forms. On this occasion, he’ll be playing pieces from his microtonal synthesiser suite/EP ‘Flim Flam’.

 
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If you’re sympathetic to Scordatura’s role as feminist music historians and curators, you might like to know that they’re popping up again in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in early February – as part of the Abbey Chamber Concerts series.

Scordatura, 3rd February 2019

Their 3rd February gig, titled as “Celebrating Clara” (and utilising a shifting duo/trio/quartet formation of clarinettist Poppy Beddoe, violinist Claudia Fuller, cellist Rachel Watson and pianist Thomas Ang) ostensibly showcases Clara Schumann, the similarly talented but undervalued composer-pianist married to Robert Schumann. They’ll be playing one Schumann piece – the Piano Trio in G minor – and possibly some of her clarinet work, but the remaining programme slots are given over to the work of other female composers. Contemporary composer Cecilia McDowall’s chamber piece ‘Cavatina at Midnight’ is followed by the Victorian ‘Piano Suite in E major’ by Clara Schumann’s contemporary Ethel Smyth.

The last piece is by Fanny Hensel ( ‘Fantasia for Cello and Piano’) a.ka. Fanny Mendelssohn, whose life was a sometimes-uncomfortable reiterating mirror of Clara’s. Both were similarly talented intimates of established composers (one a wife, the other a sister); both had surprisingly encouraging husbands; both were also tutored and driven by demanding fathers who established excellence in them. Both, too, were ultimately constrained as composers by the discouragements and domestic responsibilities forced upon women of their times, with the men in their families often acting with a frustrating mixture of systematic positive pressure and patriarchal forbiddings. (Felix Mendelssohn, for instance, was a devoted, championing brother who found that he drew the line at Fanny entering the canon of published composers.)

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Gyða Valtýsdóttir 'Epicycle' tour (Britain/Ireland), January/February 2019Overlapping these two concerts is a British/Irish mini-tour by Gyða Valtýsdóttir – still known as the former cellist for Iceland experimental pop band Múm even though she only played on two of their albums and has been out of the band for sixteen years.

Having immediately returned, post-Múm, to her classical roots (formally studying, graduating and applying herself to classical cello) Gyða’s spent the time since then in the genre-stepping world of the modern post-classical musician. Outside of the classical gigs, rent-paying but artistically respectable engagements adding stringwork to records or tours by Sigur Ros’ Jónsi, Damien Rice and Colin Stetson have alternated with assorted film, dance, theatre and installation music around the world, as well as bouts of free improvisation gigs. Allied with her twin sister and ex-Múm bandmate Kristín Anna, Gyða also added a “reciprocal twin” component to Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s 2015 song cycle ‘Forever Love’, conceived and delivered with performance artists Ragnar Kjartansson.

Although Gyða’s latest personal release (last year’s ‘Evolution’) features her own compositions and a return to her Múm-era multi-instrumentalism – and although some of those songs will get an airing – this tour focusses mostly on her 2017 solo debut ‘Epicycle‘, a two-millennia-spanning exercise in musical commonality and reconfiguration originally intended as “a gift for friends” on which Schubert, Schumann and Messiaen rub shoulders with Harry Partsch, George Crumb, Hildegard von Bingen and the nineteen-hundred year old Seikilos Epitaph. The album was an Icelandic smash hit and a talking point elsewhere: a classical debut recorded with the immediacy of a jazz record and with a broad-minded disregard for purity, bringing in upfront studio processing techniques and stylings/instrumental responses from other traditions from jazz to ancient folk to experimental post-rock.

On tour, she’s performing with her Epicycle trio, also featuring multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily (on guitar, synthesizer, percussion and anything else which needs playing) and drummer Julian Sartorius, both of whom played on the record.




 
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Dates:

Nonclassical presents:
Nonclassical: Battle of the Bands
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, E8 3AS London, United Kingdom
Wednesday 23rd January 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Abbey Chamber Concerts present:
Scordatura: Women’s Music Collective: ‘Celebrating Clara’
St Nicolas’ Church, Market Place, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire OX14 3HF
Sunday 3rd February 2019, 3.00pm
– information here, here and here

Gyða Valtýsdóttir – ‘Epicycle’ tour:

  • Norwich Arts Centre, 51 St. Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4PG, England, Tuesday 29th January 2019, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England, Wednesday 30th January 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Metropolitan Arts Centre, 10 Exchange St West, Belfast, BT1 2NJ, Northern Ireland, Thursday 31st January 2019 – no further information
  • Dublin Unitarian Church, 112 Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, D02 YP23, Ireland, Friday 1st February 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL, Scotland, Sunday 3rd February 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here

 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs – two-part experimental concert from Laura Steenberge, Michael Winter and friends at IKLECTIK and Hundred Years Gallery (7th & 9th)

5 Oct

Two Los Angeles composer-experimentalists – Laura Steenberge and Michael Winter – flit between two London art-music venues at the end of this week, joining forces for a two-part concert.

‘Open… and perhaps not yet fully formed’, 7th & 9th October 2016Mira Benjamin presents:
‘Open… and perhaps not yet fully formed’ (with Laura Steenberge and Michael Winter)

  • Part I – IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Friday 7th October 2016, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Part II – Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England, Sunday 9th October 2016, 3:30pm – information here and here

The two visiting musicians make an interesting and complementary pair. Laura’s linguistic training backs up her musicality and instills a curiosity about the roots of communication, with her ‘Chant Etudes’ series attempting to recreate or recapture a “deep past, when the idea of a musical instrument was not yet fully formed.” Making and playing rudimentary part-salvaged instruments (which combine standard recorder or trumpet mouthpieces with flexible metal or plastic piping), Laura blows and sings into them while also whirling them, combining simple and complex harmonies from instrument and voice while participating in a sound which she partially controls and partially doesn’t. It conflates ideas of natural wind sound, air-hung instruments which play without human intercession (such as Aeolian harps) and human attempts at music making which suggest both the pre- and post-industrial. There’s a mystical element too, as Laura deliberately searches out “the secret vibrations hidden among the controlled tones.”

 
As for Michael, he’s more computationally-minded: setting out his algorhythmic pieces via scores involving minimal standard notation, or minimal graphical cues, or succinct but meticulous lines of text, and drawing structural elements from other disciplines (science, architecture, mathematics, different art fields). Both concerts will feature a performance of Michael’s ‘for Sol LeWitt’ – a text score piece for solo glissando and four sustained tones, which on these occasion will be performed with at least one amplified/processed violin. (Perform it yourself, right now, using any available sound source, from the instructions here – otherwise, cop a listen to the slow-evolving version below).


 
Four London-based players are joining in on both occasions, fanning the event out out into a loose potential sextet. Two of these are avant-garde violinists – prepared-instrument/improv doyenne Angharad Davies; microtonal specialist Mira Benjamin. The remaining two are objects-and-electronics player John Lely and fellow object botherer/roving conceptualist/sometime pianist Tim Parkinson.

I’m being more than a little glib and flippant in my descriptions here. Just think of them as being like the tabs in a pop-up book, something which you pull out to unfold the details what these assorted players really do – a cascade of directions and deconstructions springing off from the music and situations they engage with. Many of the ensemble are also active encouragers or curators of New Music – Mira through the vigorous commissioning and nurturing of new compositions, as well as serving as the impresario for these two ‘Open…’ shows; others through running various performance nights in LA or London (Michael’s experimental institution the wulf.; the ‘Music We’d Like to Hear‘ series which John and Tim run with Marcus Trunk).

In addition, two ‘Music We’d Like to Hear’ semi-regulars – double bass player/onetime Oxford Improviser Dominic Lash and cellist/Apartment House founder Anton Lukoszevieze – will join in for the second concert. (Anton will be playing John Leles’ self-descriptively-titled ‘The Harmonics of Real Strings’).


 

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Beyond the pieces I’ve mentioned before, the programmes vary between the concerts, although the general brief is “simple processes and open forms.” One inclusion will be another Michael Winter piece (the rhythmic three-line drone-counterpoint process ‘tergiversate’). Another will be a second John Leles composition, ‘All About the Piano’, in which the initial piano lines are recorded onto a series of dictaphones as they’re played, and are then replayed later on in lo-fi over the top of later lines. (This enables the piece’s history to repeat – the first time as grace, the second time as what sounds like a distant, distracting coterie of ice cream vans.)



 
Tim Parkinson will be contributing two brand-new pieces – ‘No. 4’ and ‘No. 5’ – about which he’s not provided any information. Having recently composed an almost actionless opera with a combined orchestra-pit-cum-stage-set of trash and rubble, without any music (bar stolen snippets of Handel and Rossini as performance bookends), and which mostly consists of the performers wading through the wreckage, he’s arguably the most playful of the composers contributing to ‘Open’. Expect anything; and then expect to see that anything dismantled.

Outside of music sourced by the ensemble members themselves, ‘Open…’ will see a performance of one of the Circular Music piano pieces by Swiss composer Jürg Frey (a member of the Wandelweiser Group, who pursue a John Cage-inspired integration of silence and humble reticence into composition). ‘Circular Music part 6’ is part of a series in which Frey seems to have been skirting around the avant-garde composer’s fear of (or suspicion of) virtuoso cliché or cultural determinism – aiming instead to naturally compose something which is both starkly simple and, at the same time, significant.

In an interview with Sheffield record label Another Timbre, Frey expanded on this by talking about how he was “looking to find a confidence in chords, dyads and single notes… I hope that accordingly they will resonate with confidence. This applies to every material, whether stones or a piano, but with the piano it seems to be more challenging because of the clarity of the material and how the instrument itself suggests it should be used.” (Full interview text here, while one of the other Circular Music pieces is linked below.)


 
The last piece confirmed for the concert (although there should be others) is ‘Another’, by Christian Wolff: conceptual composer, final survivor of the Cage-led New York School of experimental classical, a muso-political provocateur in step with Cornelius Cardew, and an avowed influence on both Tim Parkinson and John Leles. ‘Another’ isn’t a piece I can actually find in Woolf’s catalogue. It may well be a version of his floating, fragmentary but surprisingly lovely nine-minute electric guitar piece ‘Another Possibility’, which is and was a response to a 1966 piece which Woolf’s friend Morton Feldman had composed for him to perform on electric guitar (despite Woolf’s own unfamiliarity with the instrument).

Woolf would later recall the process of making ‘The Possibility Of A New Work For Electric Guitar’ as “we immediately set to work, (Feldman) at the piano, playing a chord: “can you do that?” I could. “How about this?” With some contortions (the guitar was laid flat so I could better see what I was doing – I’m not a guitar player, and this way I could finger and pluck with either hand), yes.”This?” Not quite. “Now” (with changed voicing, or a new chord)? Yes. And so on, until he had made the piece. Tempo was slow and dynamics soft, the structure dictated by the amount of time we were able to concentrate on the work. The sound, the chords or single notes, were reverberations set off by his (characteristic) piano playing, feeling for a resonance, then confidently transferred to the guitar within that instrument’s capacities (sometimes adding one of its particular features, the ability to make small slides with a vibrato bar).” Woolf only performed Feldman’s composition three times before both guitar and the manuscript were stolen from his car the following year – but he’d subsequently use the memory of the lost piece for inspiration.

Incidentally, three years after Woolf composed ‘Another Possibility’ (and some forty years after the theft), a recording of the stolen Feldman score was recovered, and it was subsequently transcribed and put back into the repertoire. The full story is here, and you can compare the two related pieces below – ‘Another Possibility’ via an interesting effect-sprinkled performance (Andy Summers-gone-avant-garde) by Swiss omin-guitarist Gilbert Impérial, and the original Feldman ‘…Possibility…’ in a straight, reverent reading by Japanese classical/electric crossover player Gaku Yamada.



 
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Here’s a quick rundown of ‘Open…’ again.

Performers:

Laura Steenberge (objects and voice)
Michael Winter (guitalele, objects, electronics)
Mira Benjamin (violin)
Angharad Davies (violin)
John Lely (objects, electronics)
Tim Parkinson (piano, objects)
Dominic Lash (double bass – Part 2 only)
Anton Lukoszevieze (cello – Part 2 only)

Programme:

Part 1 includes:
Laura Steenberge – The Chant Etudes
Michael Winter – for Sol LeWitt
John Lely – All About the Piano
Jürg Frey – Circular Music No. 6
Tim Parkinson – No.4 (2016) & No.5 (2016)

Part 2 includes:
Laura Steenberge – The Chant Etudes
Michael Winter – tergiversate
John Lely – The Harmonics of Real Strings
Michael Winter – for Sol LeWitt
Christian Wolff – Another
 

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