Tag Archives: Morton Feldman

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.


 
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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

 

February 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – assorted songwork with London Composer’s Forum’s ‘Art Of The Song’ (2nd February), Mimi Doulton’s ‘Focus: Solo Voice’ (13 February); and ‘Songwriters of 2018’ (20th February)

18 Jan

Various vocally-slanted classical gigs for the coming month, with an emphasis on various kinds of songcraft.

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London Composer’s Forum presents:
Tea House Theatre, 139 Vauxhall Walk, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HL, England
Friday 2nd February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here, here and here

London Composers Forum: The Art Of Song, 2nd February 2018“In this concert London Composers Forum composers will explore the many and varied aspects of the art song, with solo and ensemble vocal pieces on a wide variety of themes accompanied by a chamber ensemble of wind and strings.”

“Vocal music, which may have begun as an accessory to the dance in remote antiquity, is probably the oldest branch of the art of music. At a later time, bards and troubadours developed the art to commemorate heroic exploits and heroes’ deaths, and minstrels, with their songs of love both innocent and erotic, contributed another genre. During the course of the twentieth century, with the assistance of broadcasting and the record industry, the art of song proliferated into many styles. There are good and bad examples in all of these, but on the whole, there has been a regrettable tendency to ignore the art and craftsmanship in the process.

“The aim of this venture is to write songs for an evening’s general entertainment and to demonstrate that the art of good song-writing never died. Nine musicians will provide the accompaniment to a variety of original and colourful songs, especially written for the occasion. Come, with your friends, and enjoy the music in the ambient atmosphere of the Tea House, where food will be served until 10pm and drinks until midnight. See you there!”

Among the works performed will be David Arditti’s ‘Chamber Music’ (a song cycle setting of James Joyce, sung by tenor Ezra Williams and now orchestrated for a larger chamber ensemble) and Laurence Glazier‘s ‘Smartphone Aria’. There will also be new songs by Denis Betro, Jane de Florez, Peter Openshaw, Pamela Slater, John Holland, Liz Sharma, Janet Oates and Philip Jones. No news on who, besides Ezra, is actually performing (although I’m reasonably sure that Jane de Florez will be singing her own material.)

A preview of Lawrence’s piece – and a few examples of previous songs from various contributors – are below…



 

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Another classical songwriter’s concert for February is here – this one’s a free admission event for anyone who’s got an early Tuesday afternoon available…

Borough New Music Series 5: Featured Composers, 20th February 2018

Borough New Music and 2021 Concerts present:
‘Featured Composers: Songwriters of 2018’
St. George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, Borough, London, SE1 1JA, England
Tuesday 20 February 2018, 1.00pm
– free event – information here

Rasmus Zwicki and Robert Reid Allan (glockenspiel/melodica), Ben Smith (piano, glockenspiel/melodica), Siân Dicker (soprano), Mimi Doulton (soprano), Delphine Mégret (soprano) and Krystal Tunnicliffe (piano) are performing a set of songs composed over the last few years by contemporary composers born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (including Rasmus himself).

Programme:

Clare Elton – Escape
James Garner – Emily Dickinson Settings
Cecilia Livingston – Give Me Your Hand
Oscar Ridout – Élévation
Mo Zhao – Just Watching
Rasmus Zwicki – Fly Little Birdy

A couple of tastes…

 
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The above is part of Series 5, the latest set of lunchtime concerts from south London New Music promoters Borough New Music covering new and rarely-performed contemporary pieces. For part of this season, Borough Music have teamed up with 2021 Concerts (Mimi Doulton and fellow soprano Patricia Auchterlonie’s own concert series) for several performances focussing on the human voice, sometimes in odd combinations and juxtapositions with other instruments.

Mimi herself makes another appearance in the series, performing a series of vocal/song-pieces, one of which – Alex Gowan-Webster’s ‘Cantio Invocatione’ – is a world premiere. The rest, dating from the late 1970s to the late noughties (Judith Weir’s ‘King Harald’s Saga’, Stephen Barchan’s ‘Two Songs About Spiders’, Elliott Carter’s ‘La Musique’, Georges Aperghis’ ‘Récitations 1 & 8’ and Oliver Knussen’s ‘Four Late Poems and an Epigram of Rainer Maria Rilke’) are not.

Borough New Music and 2021 Concerts present:
‘Featured Instrument: The Voice’ (or “Focus: Solo Voice’)
St. George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, Borough, London, SE1 1JA, England
Tuesday 13 February 2018, 1.00pm
– free event – information here and here

Borough New Music Series 5: Featured Instrument: The Voice’ (or “Focus: Solo Voice’), 13th February 2018

Some previous examples of the songs in the set…





 
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Other events in Series 5 this month are:

As with the two other Series 5 events, these are both free and take place at St. George the Martyr at 1.00pm.
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – The Riot Ensemble play Mark Simpson/Jack Sheen/Tigran Mansurian premieres plus Morton Feldman, Mark Bowden and Anna Meredith for ‘The Viola in my Life’ (21st); Clara Rodríguez & TangOpera Duo’s ‘Great Latin American Composers’ featuring Antonio Estévez and Alberto Ginastera, plus Villa-Lobos, Cervantes and Ruiz (24th)

20 Nov

A very quick note on two upcoming shows:

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The Riot Ensemble presents:
The Riot Ensemble: ‘The Viola in my Life’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 21st November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The Riot Ensemble's 'The Viola In My Life', 21st November 2016“Led by a core group of seven musicians, The Riot Ensemble programme a wide array of the new music from across the globe, connecting people to great contemporary music and collaborating with a prestigious roster of guest artists in musician-led and organised performances. One of the few emerging ensembles in the UK to regularly commission and perform music by international emerging composers, they present the young composers they commission alongside exciting and established music from Bach to Birtwistle.

“This performance – The Viola in my Life’ – features Riot’s new Artistic Board Member Stephen Upshaw, who programmed this concert alongside fellow rioters Sarah Mason & Claudia Maria Racovicean.”

Programme:

Mark Simpson – New Work for Solo Viola (world premiere)
Morton Feldman – The Viola in My Life 3 (for viola and piano)
Mark Bowden – Hoist (for solo percussion)
Jack Sheen – Each One Cancels Out the Last (for viola, piano and tape) (world premiere)
Anna Meredith – Flex (for solo percussion)
Tigran Mansurian – Duet (for viola and percussion) (UK premiere)

Performers:

Stephen Upshaw – viola
Sarah Mason – percussion
Claudia Maria Racovicean – piano

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Clara Rodriguez' 'Great Latin American Composers', 24th November 2016Iberian & Latin American Music Society presents:
Echoes Festival: Clara Rodríguez & Friends – ‘Great Latin American Composers’
Bolívar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5DL, England
Thursday 24th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

“Venezuelan virtuoso pianist Clara Rodríguez joins forces with TangOpera Duo to mark the centenary of her compatriot, composer Antonio Estévez (1916-1988) with a concert showcasing his works for piano and voice as part of a vibrant programme of piano pieces by some of the giants of Latin American classical music, including the seminal Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (Argentina) (1916-1983), who also celebrates his centenary this year.

“Antonio Estévez is one of the most important Venezuelan composers of the 20th century, known especially for his ‘Cantata criolla’ and ‘Mediodía en el llan’o, recorded by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 2008. A leading light of the Parisian-Venezuelan avant garde, Estévez’s music stands out for its rare beauty and profound originality. In Clara Rodríguez, Estévez has a longstanding ambassador for his legacy – her successful campaign to establish his output on the ABRSM 2015-2016 exam syllabus saw his music performed by thousands of pianists in the UK.

Heard here alongside some of Latin America’s most famous composers, such as Villa-Lobos (Brazil) and Cervantes (Cuba), this event places Estévez firmly amongst the panoply of Latin America’s ‘great’ composers. If you are unfamiliar with his music, this programme will be a revelation.”

Programme:

Antonio Estévez – 17 Piezas infantiles
Antonio Estévez – Songs (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas brasileiras No. 4 (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Ciclo brasileiro (Selection)
Alberto Ginastera – Three Argentinean Dances
Alberto Ginastera – Dos canciones Op. 3
Ignacio Cervantes – Three Cuban Dances
Federico Ruiz – Encuentro de Antonio y Florentino

Performers:

Clara Rodríguez – piano
TangOpera Duo – soprano & piano
William Roberts – actor
Timothy Adès – translator-poet
 

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
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘The Secret Life of Organs’ tour of England (with The Necks and James McVinnie); plus, in London, ‘The Female Persona’ (a woman’s-eye music evening with works by Sally Beamish, Robert Schumann, William Bolcom and a performance of Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau’s ‘La Voix Humaine’)

4 Apr

Some interesting classical or classical-slanted gigs coming up this week and next week…

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'The Secret Life of Organs', April 2016

No-Nation presents:
‘The Secret Life of Organs’ with The Necks + James McVinnie

A double-bill of experimental musicians revealing the secret sounds of some of England’s most majestic pipe organs and using the instruments to their full potential. The tour takes in some of the finest organs in the UK; housed in Birmingham Town Hall, Leeds Town Hall, The Meeting House at Sussex University Brighton, Colston Hall Bristol and the Union Chapel London.

Australian trio The Necks are known for their improvisational approach, never playing the same set twice and each performance a ‘thrilling, emotional journey into the unknown’ (Guardian). This concert sees pianist Chris Abrahams eschew his usual instrument in favour of the organ, showing off the versatility of its deep, warm sounds as part of a trio.

Organist and composer James McVinnie is fast becoming the country’s leading performer of new organ music as comfortable playing medieval music as he is collaborating with the likes of Nico Muhly, Oneohtrix Point Never, Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and Bryce Dessner (The National). Here he plays a specially-commissioned new score by Tom Jenkinson (which intertwines expansive classical influences with the chaotic intricacy for which Jenkinson is so well known in his work as Squarepusher) as well as performing two of Philip Glass’s most emblematic organ pieces, ‘Mad Rush’ and ‘Music in Similar Motion’.

Tom Jenkinson: “The experience of hearing organ music as a child is one of the most significant influences on my work. Through this new set of pieces I intend to explore some of the darker and more mysterious timbres available on these fantastic instruments.”

James McVinnie: “The organ is the ‘original synthesiser’ — an orchestra of sound like no other, which can fill huge architectural spaces without amplification but can also create a huge range of colourful and beguiling sounds. I enjoy working with many living composers and electronic musicians breathing new life into this grand, noble instrument and I’m thrilled to be now working with Tom Jenkinson on his beautiful and haunting new work.”

Chris Abrahams, The Necks: “With the pipe organ, the Necks take the idea of site-specific music making to another level; one where both the site and the instrument are the same. The hugeness of sound coming from an organ comes about through the combination of thousands of discreet sound producing units as well as the complex, multi directional reverberations possible in the hall space. The sound seems everywhere. Sometimes a pipe set is split between both sides of the pipe array, making possible wild “panning” effects; some pipes sound from the front of the instrument – like the massive bass pipes of the Leeds Town Hall organ; others sound from unseen pipe chambers deep within the confines of the instrument. Each organ is an important part of the building in which it is housed and is reflective of the economic and cultural aspirations of the city that brought it into being.”

Here’s a quick clip of James McVinnie performing a snippet of Morton Feldman’s ‘Principal Sound’ from another event, last month.


 

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'The Female Persona', 12th April 2016The Amalie Trio/Eleanor Janes/Maya Soltan/P.J. Harris present:
‘The Female Persona’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 12th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Programme:

Robert Schumann – ‘Frauenliebe und –leben (Op. 42)’
William Bolcom – ‘Let Evening Come’
Sally Beamish – ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’
Francis Poulenc/ Jean Cocteau – ‘La Voix humaine’

Performers:

The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse – mezzo soprano; Alexa Beattie – viola; Elspeth Wyllie – piano)
Eleanor Janes – soprano
Maya Soltan – piano
PJ Harris – director (‘La Voix Humaine’)

“The members of The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse, Alexa Beattie and Elspeth Wyllie) first met as pupils at St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. Now establishing themselves amongst Scotland’s most outstanding young soloists, they unite to champion the wonderful repertoire for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Considering their audiences at every turn they offer thoughtful, varied and engaging programmes that bring freshness and life to a large and flexible repertoire ranging from Brahms to Bernstein.

At this concert the Amalie Trio will perform the London premiere of ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’ by Sally Beamish, alongside the work that inspired it: Robert Schumann’s ‘Frauenliebe und –leben’ (a song-cycle based, in turn, on poems by Adelbert von Chamisso which voice a woman’s perspective on her love for a man, from first meeting through marriage to his death and her widowhood). The end of life is the subject of William Bolcom’s trio piece ‘Let Evening Come’, which sets the texts of three female American poets: Maya Angelou, Emily Dickenson and Jane Kenyon.

The second half of the evening features a performance of the Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau collaboration ‘La Voix humaine’, an emotionally powerful monodrama presented as one side of a telephone conversation between a suicidal woman and her ex-lover. The piece explores the nature of fear, depression and nervous exhaustion that obsession, rejection and the loss of a lover can bring on. Poulenc, who had himself experienced the pain of separation wrote: ‘I’m writing an opera – you know what it’s about: a woman (me) is making a last telephone call to her lover who is getting married the next day.’ As the woman attempts to disguise her despair and panic with superficial chat, Poulenc’s music expresses her true state as she verges towards a mental breakdown. Performed by London soprano Eleanor James and pianist Maya Soltan, this version of the piece was directed by P.J. Harris (who’s worked with Scottish Opera and Opéra National du Rhin).”

Here’s the Amalie Trio introducing themselves:

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More on the Gnod weekender next time…
 

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