Tag Archives: Edmund Finnis

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.


 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical/post-classical gigs – ensemble work, throat-singing and dance with Ayan-ool Sam, 12 Ensemble and Camilla Isola at Kammer Klang (1st); a baroque-to-now SOLO performance by violinist Daniel Pioro (25th)

29 Oct

At opposite ends of the month, here are the latest examples of two regular and recurring London gigs with their roots in classical music but navigating (especially in the case of Kammer Klang) its rewarding outer margins and potential associations.

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Kammer Klang, 1st November 2016Kammer Klang presents:
Ayan-ool Sam + 12 Ensemble + Camilla Isola + Carrier Records DJ set
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Headliner Ayan-ool Sam is an acclaimed xöömeizhi, or master of xöömei throat singing (the traditional droning polyphonic music of the Tuva republic in southern Siberia: solo vocalisations developed to mimic and revere both animate and inanimate sounds from nature, in line with the region’s ancient animism). He’s a former student of “xöömeizhi’s xöömeizhi” Kongar-ool, half of Alash Ensemble (with Bady-Dorzhu Ondar), and a frequent throat-singing competition winner whose garlands range from being voted this year’s People’s Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva to gaining the nickname of “Golden Throat” from banjo ace and prolific world music collaborator Béla Fleck. He’ll be performing traditional xöömei as counterpart and capstone to the rest of the evening’s repertoire and explorations.


 
Having spent the earlier part of the year in Iceland for a HEIMA artistic residency (as well as providing the musical backbone for Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’ project in Paris), orchestral duodecet 12 Ensemble are back in their London hometown for this show. Considered to be London’s foremost un-conducted string orchestra, they’ve recorded and are currently readying a debut album for next year, featuring works by William Walton, Johns Woolrich and Tavener, and the young British composer Kate Whitley (you can see the group performing her piece, ‘Autumn Songs’, below). Previously, 12 Ensemble were Ensemble in Residence for two years at the Forge in Camden, collaborating with several international artists including the tenor Nicky Spence, the pianist Mei Yi Foo and the violist Simon Rowland-Jones. On this occasion, they’ll be performing works by Alex Hills and Ruth Crawford Seeger.

 
Alex Hills is a London-based contemporary composer with a growing reputation for his “interesting and considerable gifts” (Tempo). His recent album of chamber compositions ‘The Music Of Making Strange‘ showcases his interest in diverse elements including spectralism, experimental chamber and punk rock. A performance of one of its pieces, ‘Knight’s Move’, is below.


 
The Hills piece receiving its world premiere tonight is ‘OutsideIn’, which takes inspiration from E. A. Abbott’s classic 1884 novel ‘Flatland‘ (a geometric and philosophical satire). ‘Flatland’ is a recurring source of ideas for Alex – another such piece, a choral work named after the book, can be downloaded for free here. Discussing his interest in “‘flat’ musical worlds”, Alex explains “in a two-dimensional world, a highly complex ‘inside’ would be quite invisible from the ‘outside’, yet to a hypothetical three-dimensional being staring down from above, that same inside would appear completely different.”

Regarding ‘OutsideIn’, Alex continues by describing the piece as “an attempt to think about the relationship between a soloist and an ensemble (a concerto?) in spatial terms. Rather than an ensemble acting as an accompanist to a virtuosic soloist, or a discursive, dialogue-like relationship between them, I place the soloist inside or outside the ensemble’s sound (or the ensemble in or out of the soloist’s)… ‘In’ and ‘out’ also imply boundaries and a centre, which on the one hand are made physically by the ensemble in a horizontal way, with the soloist in the centre and the other two most prominent instruments (first violin and double bass) at the edges, and also by how the musical lines move in register (vertical musical space), initially continually drawn inwards towards a centre of gravity, then at the end of the piece escaping away from that centre outwards.” Alex gives credit for further inspiration to the “virtuosity, imagination and creative freedom” of 12 Ensemble violinist and longtime Hills collaborator Aisha Orazbayev, who’ll be the featured soloist for the premiere.

A valued contemporary and fellow traveller to American modernists such as Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger was a self-taught composer pioneering a specifically American brand of dissonant, meta-mystical music. Among the elements feeding into this were Ruth’s early fascination with the atonal, innovative and highly personal mysticisms of Alexander Scriabin and her own friendship with the poet Carl Sandburg (who was the almost exclusive source of the texts she set to music, although she also carried out a self-translated, twelve-tone setting of the Bhagvad Gita). Her own pugnacious, assertive modernism was further tempered by her studies with musicologist and theorist Charles Seeger, whose concept of “dissonant counterpoint” became a major element in her work and whose cultural Marxism she came to share (leading her into an increasingly missionary devotion to curating American folk music, at the expense of her own composing) and whom she married in 1931 (at a stroke, becoming the stepmother of future folk music hero Pete Seeger).

Ruth’s late return to focussing on her own compositions (after years of selflessly serving and propogating the folk songs of others) was cut short by her death from cancer at the age of fifty-two, although not before she’d delivered a final Suite for wind quintet which incorporated everything she’d learned across her musical life; from post-tonal pluralism, American serialism and Russian-inspired mysticism to her later immersion in folk. Obscured by the reputations of her male contemporaries for many years, Ruth’s work and reputation (particularly that of her 1930s work) has been being revived. 12 Ensemble will be performing her 1931 ‘Andante for string quartet’: a key Crawford Seeger piece whose carefully structured technical dissonances do not deny its growing tragic melody line. Ruth herself valued the latter to the extent that she rearranged the piece for orchestra seven years later, in the hope that the larger arrangement and a skilled conductor would bring out the embedded line to greater effect. Here’s a taste of the original quartet version:


 
The Fresh Klang act for November is dancer, choreographer and performance artist Camilla Isola, a Trinity Laban graduate in her early twenties at the start of what promises to be an interesting career. She’ll be premiering a brand new solo work which, like the Alex Hills piece, draws on ideas and inspirations from ‘Flatland’, exploring dimensional states and the physical dilemma of the body. One of her previous pieces is shown below:

 
DJs from Carrier Records (the seven-year-old New York improv, experimental and contemporary classical label who released the Alex Hill album mentioned above) will see out the remaining gaps in the evening.

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SOLO presents:
SOLO 02: Daniel Pioro
Crypt of @ St Andrew Holborn, 5 St Andrew St, Holborn, London, EC4A 3AB, England
Friday 25 November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The intimate concert recital series SOLO – showcasing unusual works for solo instruments from early music through to new commissions – returns with a showcase in the vaulted crypt of St Andrew Holborn from acclaimed violinist Daniel Pioro.

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

As player, commissioner, leader and active champion of new music, Daniel’s experience is broad and assertive. He’s a member of innovative chamber ensemble CHROMA, current leader of the Fibonacci Sequence, and the former leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra (with whom he’s played, amongst other pieces, the ‘Triple Concerto’ by Radiohead polymath Jonny Greenwood and Schnittke’s notorious ‘Concerto Grosso No. 1’). He’s worked as a soloist or ensemble player with the Orchestra of St Johns Smith Square (Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante’, John Woolrich’s ‘Capriccio’), the BBC Philharmonic (Colin Matthews’ ‘Violin Concerto’, Thomas Adès’s ‘Concentric Paths’) and the London Sinfonietta. Daniel has also forged close musical working and performance relationships with a variety of contemporary dancers and with author Michael Morpurgo.

For this concert, Daniel will celebrate and share his eclectic tastes via a set list including “everything from the intricacies of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s ‘Passacaglia for Solo Violin’ to the mind-bending repetitions of ‘Knee Play No. 2′ from Philip Glass’ extraordinary opera ‘Einstein on the Beach’.” Also on the set list is ‘Elsewhere’ by Edmund Finnis (a violin-and-reverb piece which Daniel debuted at St Johns Smith Square in June this year), works by American composers La Monte Young and Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw (of ACME and Roomful Of Teeth) and the world première of a new piece by SOLO curator Alex Groves. There’ll also be another as-yet-unspecified baroque violin piece: this time by eighteenth-century composer-performer Nicola Matteis, an emigre virtuoso once reknowned throughout Georgian London, subsequently forgotten as a composer until the late twentieth century. (This performance will restore some of his music to its old haunts.)

No doubt there’ll be a more detailed set list emerging shortly, when tickets go on sale.
 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs – ‘Organ Reframed’ covers all manner and method of pipes and sounds at Union Chapel (7th-9th)

6 Oct

Tomorrow, London’s Union Chapel begins a celebration of a number of things (its performance acoustic, its appeal to a diverse body of musicians and audiences, its innovative cultural spirit, and not least its grand 1877 pipe organ) via the ‘Organ Reframed’ mini-festival. A three-day four-concert occasion, it “release(s the organ) from its traditional roots with a varied programme of film, intimate solo sets, ensemble improvisations and large scale commissions. This festival of experimental music will challenge perceptions and show this extraordinary instrument in a new light.”

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Organ Reframed, 7th-9th October 2016

Organ Reframed: James McVinnie/Irene Buckley/Robert Ames/Laura Moody perform new live score for ‘Nosferatu’
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Friday 7th October 2016, 7.00pm
information

Known for multiple theatre, dance and film projects – as well as for orchestral works such as ‘Stórr’) and her live work in the electronic/improv fields via Crevice (with Elaine Howley and Roslyn Steer) and Wry Myrhh (with Ellen King) – composer Irene Buckley has written a number of live film rescorings. These have included one for Carl Dreyer’s ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ and one for Jean Epstein’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’.

Her latest such commission is for ‘Organ Reframed’ – a new score for F. W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu (A Symphony of Horror)‘ – “an iconic film of the German expressionist cinema, and one of the most famous of all silent movies (which) continues to haunt — and, indeed, terrify — modern audiences with the unshakable power of its images. By teasing a host of occult atmospherics out of dilapidated set-pieces and innocuous real-world locations alike, Murnau captured on celluloid the deeply-rooted elements of a waking nightmare, and launched the signature ‘Murnau-style’ that would change cinema history forever.”

The film will be screened with a live performance of the score carried out by a quartet ensemble: leading New Music pipe organist James McVinnie, viola player Robert Ames (co-artistic director and conductor of the LCO), polystylistic cellist Laura Moody (see multiple past ‘Misfit City’ posts for more on her), and Irene herself contributing live electronics. To give you a hint of what it might be like, here’s an excerpt from Irene’s ‘…Joan Of Arc’ score, back in 2012:


 
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Daylight Music 235: Organ Reframed – Lætitia Sadier + Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch + Kieran Brunt + Angèle David-Guillou + Adrian Crowley + Gill Sandell + Ed Dowie + William D. Drake
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 8th October 2016, 12.00pm
free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The second concert in the series is a free (or donation-based) lunchtime show run in conjunction with Union Chapel regulars Daylight Music, offering “a stripped-down approach… eight sets of artists and accompanists across different genres and styles. These musicians, singers and composers — who are at various stages of their careers — will explore the very physical relationship between voice and pipes: in many cases, for the first time.”

Performers will include three Franco-London women who specialise in avant-pop/dream-pop/classical crossovers of one kind or another – Stereolab/Monade’s Lætitia Sadier (who, four days earlier, will have been part of Miles Cooper Seaton’s ‘Transient Music’ ensemble at Café Oto), Angèle David-Guillou (of Klima and Piano Magic), and electro-acoustic film soundtracker Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. Also involved is frequent Daylight guester Ed Dowie (usually a purveyor of genteel avant-parlour-pop, having passed through Brothers in Sound, Redarthur and The Paper Cinema).

The Daylighters specialise in late and interstitial additions to already interesting bills. This concert is no exception, with a bumper set of extra guests signing up and recently being unveiled. Joining in alongside the people I’ve already mentioned are Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley (who specializes in what might be described as a baroque-minimal pop style), singer Kieran Brunt (who divides time between classical choral and solo projects and his pop band Strange Boy), multi-instrumental folk singer Gill Sandell (previously of Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo) and singer-songwriter/general keyboard magician William D. Drake (once a Cardiac, now a baroque-pop solo artist with his own cross-era style – as with Laura Moody, see plenty of previous posts…).

Given the varied pop, folk, rock and classical stylings involved (and some of the signature tones of the musicians involved) it’s not clear whether there are going to be specific collaborations or mashups involved, or whether everyone’s playing solo/bringing their own backup. It’s also unclear as to whether the pop culture/pop music side of things will be honoured by Farfisa, Hammond or even Lowrey organs onstage to share musical space with the grand pipe organ; although given the emphasis on “the very physical relationship between voice and pipes”, I’m guessing perhaps not. (NOTE – since I posted that, I’ve found out that Angèle David-Guillou will be playing a new organ-and-voiceloops composition called ‘Too Much Violence’; that there will be at least one duet from Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and Kieran Brunt; that Ed Dowie has a couple of covers and one new piece; and that the Daylighters are scouring the Twittersphere looking for a last-minute pump organist. Knowing them, they’ll find one…)

Daylight Music 235, 8th October 2016

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Organ Reframed: ‘Spire’ featuring Charles Matthews + Fennesz + Philip Jeck + Simon Scott + Claire M. Singer + John Beaumont + The Eternal Chord
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 8th October 2016, 6.00pm
information

Spire is an ongoing concert series for organ and electronics, curated by Mike Harding (creative producer of the Touch organisation (which covers musician promotions, licensing, mentoring and everything but the business of being a record company association) and by dedicated organist and keyboardist Charles Matthews (one of those exemplary musicians whose work spans everything from church services and teaching to a globetrotting concert schedule and advanced curatorship). Now into its twelfth year, and with sixteen concerts plus four CD recordings behind it, Spire returns to Union Chapel to link up with ‘Organ Reframed’.

Music played at previous Spire events has included the ancient, salvaged fourteenth-century organ manuscript The Robertsbridge Codex (the oldest surving keyboard score in the world) and twentieth-century pieces such as ‘In Nomine Lucis’ (by the pioneering and mystic single-pitch/multiple-approach composer Giacinto Scelsi), Henryk Gorécki’s ‘Kantata’, Liana Alexandra’s ‘Consonances III’ and André Jolivet’s ‘Hymne à l’Universe’. The series has also premiered new works by resident Spire composer Marcus Davidson (such as ‘Opposites Attract’ and ‘Standing Wave’), as well as improvisations and collaborations by its associated musicians.

Spire also takes into account the architectural qualities of the church organ: how our perception and experience of it is coloured by its monolithic size, volume and presence compared to other instruments. As Mike and Charles put it, “the organ has the greatest frequency range of any acoustic instrument, but this is rarely exploited; the unique sound of the mechanical organ has often been limited and controlled and Spire aims to liberate it from its history without denying that history… combining organ works ancient and modern (while) other performers use the organ and organ works as a basis for their own compositions, using piano, voice, record players, samplers and other electronic devices.”

Past Spire performers have included laptop-and-guitar noisescaper Fennesz and turntablist/electronicist Philip Jeck, both of whom are joining Charles Matthews for performances this time round. Also joining in are newer Spire associates – Simon Scott (Slowdive drummer, multi-instrumentalist, sound ecologist and deep listener) and John Beaumont (whose life within Anglican church and choral music has seen him rise from treble chorister at Wakefield to tenor songman at York Minster and continuing work in London’s great cathedrals and abbeys, alongside his current work as a “story tenor” mingling classical repertoire with a bardic sensibility). Also joining in is Union Chapel’s organ director and artistic director of ‘Organ Reframed’, Claire M. Singer – a musician, composer and cross-media artist whose work extends from composition to installation via live performance, mostly based around organ, cello and electronics.

Among other pieces, the programme will feature a performance of Spire mainstay ‘The Eternal Chord‘, a Mike Harding-originated conceptual and improvised organ piece which “can take anything from eight minutes to eternity” and which is open to any number of players from a duo upwards. There have been eleven iterations of the piece so far, of which two can be heard below, including one from last year at the Union Chapel.



 

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Organ Reframed: Five new commissions for James McVinnie & the London Contemporary Orchestra
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Sunday 9th October 2016, 6.30pm
information

Having already helped to open the festival (via their contribution to the ‘Nosferatu’ live score), James McVinnie and Robert Ames return for the final concert in which James joins forces with the London Contemporary Orchestra (conducted/facilitated by Robert) to premiere five new contemporary classical or classical fusion works.

There’s not much information on the new piece by Mark Fell although it’s likely that it’ll be droning, mathematical and algorithmic (in keeping with his existing work, which is infused with electronica and club music ideas and further informed by his extension into the worlds of moving image, dance, text and son-et-lumiere). Similarly, all I can tell you about acoustic/electronic/theatrical composer Alex Groves‘ piece is that it’s called ‘On Colour’ and is six minutes long. Some pointers towards what to expect might come from Alex’s previous piece ‘Patience’ (for viola da gamba and organ), premièred as part of the Daylight Music series at the Union Chapel back in December 2014. (There’s some footage of that show below. I’m hoping that it’s Alex’s piece…)


 
There’s no doubt that one composer who’ll have no problems filling the Chapel with grand sound is Craig Armstrong, whose music has been well known to a popular audience since the 1990s thanks to his use of luscious, near-decadent massed strings and club beats (as well as his work on hefty-selling records by Massive Attack. Madonna and U2 plus film soundtracks including ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, ‘Plunkett & Macleane’ and Baz Luhrman’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’).

Almost at the other end of the spectrum is collagist-composer, cultural commentator and musical wit Caroline Haines, who records (as Chaines) for the small Berlin arts label Slip Imprint and has put out a series of restless, splice-styled, information-packed music packages in which everything from sound sources to manufacturing materials has an integral significance. When she chooses to be, Catherine is also a spirited piss-taker, using her existing methods of collagery and radio broadcast (up to and including the comedy sketch show). For evidence, see ‘WUB’, her quick and merciless takedown of pretentious, dishonest conservatoire slummers who parasitize other more media-friendly musical forms without comprehension, respect or indeed much genuine interest.

Dropped hints suggests that Caroline will be performing alongside the orchestra herself: other hints suggest that her contribution is a version of ‘OST‘ (last years’ hallucinogenic audio portrait of the north-east English industrial imprint). I’m guessing that for her second large-scale premiere with LCO (following August’s Curtain Call concert) her restless mind will have come up with something else.

American-born/Berlin-based composer and violist Catherine Lamb has a taste for adding liminal electronics and an interest in “exploring the interaction of elemental tonal material and the variations in presence between shades and beings in a room.” Her approach is inspired by Hindustani classical music and the just intonation system (with added influences from her studies with James Tenney and Michael Pisaro). Catherine’s ‘Organ Reframed’ piece is ‘Cumulus Totalitas’ – possibly a sister piece to ‘Curvo Totalis’, her “meditation on sound” premiered last month in New York by percussion-and-piano quartet Yarn/Wire.

Although the evening’s billed as five pieces, it seems that there’ll be a bonus from the LCO’s recent repertoire in the shape of the thirteen-minute string orchestra piece ‘Between Rain’. Composed by Edmund Finnis (whose work flows from the luminously minimal to frenetically eerie orchestral jousts) this will be being performed for the first time since the LCO premiered it at Imogen Heap’s 2014 Reverb festival at the Roundhouse, although it’s not clear whether Edmund’s tweaked it since then to include an organ part.

Event co-sponsors ‘Drowned In Sound‘ have an interview with Robert Ames expounding on this part of the project.

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At each event, you’ll also be able to hear sound artist Bill Thompson’s installation ‘A Knowing Space’, which “explores the idea of resonance using durations and timings derived from prime numbers as well as the pitches of organ pipes. The installation is played through seven organ pipes, using transducers that vibrate and fill the space.” Here’s an early taste:


 

You can also catch ongoing discussion about the whole ‘Organ Reframed’ event at the Facebook page

event-20161007to09-organreframed-2
 

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Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

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a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

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The title says it all, I guess!

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