Tag Archives: music for orchestra

June 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – John Sturt premieres ‘Beyond the Cradle of Humanity’ (15th June); The Octandre Ensemble play Frank Denyer (17th June); emerging young Trinity Laban composers storm The Ivy House for ‘Hidden Messages: Contemporary Music’ (18th June)

10 Jun

John Sturt: 'Beyond The Cradle Of Humanity', 17th June 2018

“Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever…” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

It’s been a highly productive year for emerging Trinity Laban composer John Sturt. His ‘Pulsar’ (for cello and percussion) premiered at the college back in February, several vocal works were also premiered the same month up at the Old Royal Naval College chapel in Greenwich, and his string quartet ‘Volatilis’ will getting its continental European premiere in Switzerland in July.

This month he’s premiering his largest work to date, at the college’s Laban Building in Deptford. Responding to the concept of the colonisation of space, ‘Beyond The Cradle of Humanity’ is a larger scale work for orchestra, chorus and narrator. I can’t tell you much more about it beyond that, or providing the video clip above. There are some five-year-old pre-Laban synthesized symphony demos over on John’s Soundcloud page (along with his cute and deceptively clever experimental faux-muzak effort ‘Space-Lift Waiting Room‘). However, this summer John is also releasing his first record – ‘The Cloths of Heaven: The Vocal Work of John Sturt’ – with a preliminary taster available below: and perhaps this, plus the Soundcloud clip of his church choral work ‘Breaking of the Bread’, are better pointers to what ‘…Cradle…’ might be like.

 
John Sturt: ‘Beyond the Cradle of Humanity’ World Premiere
Studio Theatre @ Laban Building (Trinity Laban University), Creekside, Deptford, London, SE8 3DZ, England
15 June 2018, 6.00pm
– information here

* * * * * * * *

Sticking with Trinity Laban for a moment: three days later, a gang of composers and musicians from the college will be showcasing their own music at a free concert in Nunhead.

“Inspired by Easter eggs hidden in video games, twelve composers attempt to hide references, clues and secret messages within newly written pieces of music performed by three fantastic ensembles. These ensembles will also be performing music of their choice, in response to their newly written works. Come and celebrate the start of the summer and the end of exams!”

'Hidden Messages', 18th June 2018

Event organiser Mikey Parsons explains “most Trinity Laban student events take place on campus at the student union bar. We were frustrated by this, because it meant that only other students or teachers generally saw our work. I also personally was frustrated by the formalities observed in a classical music setting. My background is in performing with rock bands in pubs: I prefer the laid-back atmosphere there and wanted to organise a concert of our work that was for all intents and purposes the same vibe as a rock gig in a pub. In the future I want to organise gigs that feature rock bands and classical groups on the same bill. I’d love to see a string quartet open for a punk band!

“The groups playing at the Ivy House are a brass quintet, a vocal sextet and a mixed group (flute, clarinet, baritone sax, percussion and guitar). We divided the twelve composers across the three groups. The brass and vocal groups are also going to choose some repertoire in response to their new pieces: it’s an opportunity to bring some of their music into a fresh context.

“The theme was inspired by video game easter eggs. My first easter egg was the one in ‘Grand Theft Auto 3’ where you find a hidden area and there’s a sign saying something like “You weren’t supposed to be able to find here”. The thing I enjoy about them the most is the looking for them. For example – when I wrote the brief and sent it to the composers, I told them that I had hidden an easter egg in the message. Some of them went crazy trying to find it and one in particular spent a whole weekend on it, re-reading the message! In the end none of them got it but they came up with some interesting theories. I found it fascinating that they would spend time on a simple piece of text like that, and that they would read all kinds of messages out of it that I hadn’t intended at all.

“So what I’m hoping to achieve with the audience at this concert is the same focused attention of trying to work out what the music is trying to say, feeling delighted when discovering a reference to something, and perhaps coming up with their own theories as to what the answer could be.”

Despite being forthcoming about motivations and inspirations, Mikey’s not sent me composer names and work titles yet. I’ll post some up in a later edit if I get the chance…

Porcine Moth Promotions presents:
‘Hidden Messages: Contemporary Music’
The Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road, Nunhead, London, SE15 3BE, England
Monday 18th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here

Update, 12th June – the following composers will be having their work performed: Mikey Parsons, Samuel Pradalie, Caitlin Harrison, Aurora Nishevci, James Layton, Theo Finkel, Markas Michmel, Sam Carr, Jess Ward, James Taylor, Haribaskar Ganesan and Marisa Munoz Lopez. Here are some of their past pieces…

 
* * * * * * * *

Octandre Ensemble

In between, there’s the second in the ongoing run of “composer portraits” at west London’s Print Room, presented by ritual-and-timbre-focussed chamber group The Octandre Ensemble.

Frank Denyer is an interesting contemporary classical contradiction (and marketer’s nightmare) – he’s a dedicated composer, musical thinker and ethnomusicologist who, in spite of having always written for “strange combinations of instruments” including non-Western ones, has declared a lack of interest in hybridization or crossover work. He’s specialised in a knack for acoustics and timbre, for interest in quietness or in “radical melody”, and – according to ‘The Strad’, music with a “semi-theatrical, almost ritualistic atmosphere”; but while he’s composed for non-Western instruments such as shakuhachis and ocarinas, it’s been primarily for their opportunities of tone-colour and readily-available microtonal pitches rather than for cultural histories, which he respects but makes no effort to ape.

 
Clarifying Frank’s position, the late fellow musicologist Bob Gilmore‘s introduction to the Denyer website asserts that his work “suggests that all instruments bear the imprint of the tradition of which they are a part, whether that tradition be nascent, mature or decaying, and that at the beginning of the twenty-first century we cannot afford to be complacent about which musical traditions we consider to be ‘ours.’…his concern with musical instruments can also be seen as a metaphor for the larger question of what can be salvaged, artistically, from the chaos of civilization as we begin our new century.”

In a 2007 interview with ‘Paris Transatlantic’, Frank himself stated that “many composers seem happy with the inherited traditional models of music making, albeit with the occasional minor modification, but for me, in the rapidly transforming social environment we find ourselves in, this seems woefully inadequate. We urgently need a fluidity that will allow a multiplicity of new models of musical collaboration to emerge.”


 
For this concert, Octandre and guests will perform an hour’s worth of Denyer music (plus interval) spanning from 1972 to 2017. ‘Screens’ (composed in 2017 and being performed by EXAUDI soprano Juliet Fraser plus violin, viola and two percussionists), requires four “visually arresting dressing screens to conceal performers” as well as elements of stage lighting; while 1983’s ‘After The Rain’ (for shakuhachi, three ocarina players, percussion and violin) is “a work of unique beauty… inspired by Denyer’s experience of the breathtaking regeneration of the Kenyan landscape after an extended drought.”

The other pieces in the programme includes some of Frank’s early ’70s pieces – the bass flute quartet ‘Quick, Quick the Tamberan is Coming’; ‘Unison 1’ (for female voice, two flutes, violin and viola) and ‘Hanged Fiddler’ (for violin, sustaining instrument – in this case, viola – and percussion), while his twenty-first century work is also represented by ‘Two Voices and Axe’ (for female voice, male voice, violin, viola, flute, double bass, and doubled percussion).

As with the other Way Out East sessions, the composer will be discussing his work in a pre-concert interview, and socialisation with the musicians afterwards is encouraged.

Way Out East: Composer Portraits presented by Octandre Ensemble – Frank Denyer
Print Room @ The Coronet, 103 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3LB, England
Sunday 17th June 2018, 5.00pm
– information here and here

Some assorted Denyer work, for the curious…

 

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:



 

Through the feed – Markus Reuter (soundscape & orchestral albums), Death In Texas (debut album news and promotion), Vespers (three little tastes)

1 Jun

Markus Reuter: 'Sultry Kissing Lounge'

Markus Reuter: ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’

Fresh from his successful European spring tour with The Crimson ProjeKct (in which three veteran members of the 1990s King Crimson teamed up with three younger musicians in order to revisit and revitalise Crimson music of the ’80s and ’90s in concert mode), Markus Reuter has released an album called ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’. This is a selection of the opening live improvisations/ instant compositions which Markus performed as curtain-raisers on the TCP tour.

Markus was filling some particularly big shoes for that particular tour. In King Crimson terms alone, he was taking on, developing, reinventing and re-personalising the live role once taken by the band’s prime mover/form-dictator Robert Fripp. In doing so, he played a key role in providing a window onto an alternative King Crimson – one minus Fripp’s key presence. By all accounts that I’ve heard, the results were no less potent than the original band was. (Sadly I had to miss the shows, so can’t bear witness myself).

Markus Reuter, 2014 (photo by Danil Golovkin)

Markus Reuter, 2014 (photo by Danil Golovkin)

Among other things, Markus was responsible for replacing those droning, skirling, semi-abstract soundscapes (sometimes celestial, sometimes nightmarish) which Fripp used to deepen Crimson textures, to uproot rigid Crimson structures and to express the band’s contradictory undercurrents of formal futurism, chance risks and frustrated romanticism. Historically, soundscapes have often been used as intros to Crimson concerts, gelling a mood and a context out of simple but deepening ingredients. Markus continued this tradition, playing his U8 Touch Guitar through extensive laptop processing and looping, and it’s this particular work that you’ll be listening to here. These pieces set the tone for each concert, and provided a launch-pad for TCP drummers Pat Mastellotto and Tobias Ralph to begin their own regular opening duet.

Markus brought his own tones and personality to the role. For those who are familiar with King Crimson, it’s interesting to contrast his soundscapes to those of Fripp. To my ears, Markus’ soundscapes tend to be more oblique: simultaneously more rational and more abstract than Fripp’s. They ask different questions, and in many respects give less away, seemingly more interested in opening up the audience’s minds rather than jogging their hearts or jogging their complacency. A Reuterscape demands a little more audience involvement, presenting a different vista in which to think rather than performing Fripp’s process of reeling in the listener by expressing wonder and those more tender, contradictory sensibilities that his more aggressive straight guitar playing didn’t allow. I may be wrong. Judge for yourselves – here are two of Markus’ soundscapes, recorded in the Czech Republic and in Switzerland respectively, and each named after a different woman (no doubt Markus can explain why.)


If these tempt you, ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’ is available as a CD or download (featuring artwork by another TCP band-mate, bass guitarist Julie Slick) and can be ordered from here.

* * *

Later this month, Markus releases another long-cherished project – the full orchestral recording of his generative concerto ‘Todmorden 513’. I’ve touched on this in a previous bit of crowdfunder news. Originally a electro-acoustic ensemble work based mostly around Markus’ own touch guitar tracks, the composition has already been compared to those of Messiaen, Feldman and Debussy. It was re-arranged for full orchestra by Thomas A. Blomster (who, long ago, was half of Pale Boy) and then debuted and recorded by the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Thomas.

Markus Reuter: 'Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)'

Markus Reuter: ‘Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)’

The documentary ‘Breaking 513‘ provides more information on how the project was conceived and developed. Here’s some interim compositional notes for those interested, taken from combined sources (including the original electro-acoustic version liner notes by Henry Warwick, plus comments by Joshua Meggitt of Cyclic Defrost):

“A continuous movement and sequence of five hundred and thirteen harmonies and triads generated by a combinatorial compositional technique of Reuter’s own design. The notes of each harmony or triad is then fed back into the same algorithm, resulting in a progression of chords and note clusters of highly varied density, ranging from simple two note harmonies to dense twelve note chords spread across several octaves. Starting on an A flat, the sequences of pitches form a kind of melodic or thematic line throughout… Each of the 50 string, woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians performing an individual solo part. These solo parts are in turn each a part of a trio or quartet, all joining together to form the orchestra… The rhythms (were) derived from the chord sequences themselves, which were looped across the whole piece, mapped to the notes of each chord, then mixed together. From there it was split into three or four independent voices respectively. The result is a shifting set of harmonic densities… Instruments mesh together, in ensembles of varying size, creating a kind of gauzy web through which development takes place.”

If you want to know what that might sound like (or if you’re just baffled by the description), there’s a video excerpt below:

The recording of the CCO performance is being released on 17 June 2014 on the 7D Media label, as a CD/DVD double pack with both stereo and surround sound mixes, plus an alternate 2.0 stereo mix by ambient music pioneer Robert Rich (see the embedded stream below). More info is here and the album can be pre-ordered from here.

* * *

Meanwhile, husband-and-wife team Ruth and Kane Powers – better known as virtuosic drama-pop duo Death In Texas – have also gotten in touch. Since the pair moved from New Zealand and started tearing up small venues in London five years ago, their self-confessed “grandiose, over the top and cinematic” music and performances – full of guts and gear-changes – has seen them compared to Lana Del Rey, The Dresden Dolls, Tori Amos and ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ (I’d suggest that they’ve also got a judicious dash of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in gleeful entertainer mode and perhaps a hint of Suzi Quatro). More recently they’ve been in flux, solidifying recent changes in tone, personnel and approach and preparing to get it all recorded. Over to them:

“Last time we wrote it was for the release of (the video for) Sonic Switchblade, so much has happened since then behind the scenes. We have been crazily writing songs, then rewriting them, arranging and recording them in our home studio and trying to make a good guide for what will eventually be our debut full-length record. We have been listening to a whole lot of new music, taking in new influences and have shaped a new sound for Death In Texas which we are excited to show you. In July we will be heading into the studio to begin recording an album we’ve spent the last seven months preparing for. This is the best music we’ve made yet; it’s ethereal, powerful and more refined. We’ll be excited to share it with you once it’s ripened.”

Death In Texas: 'Pluck' EP

Death In Texas: ‘Pluck’ EP

To fund the album, Ruth and Kane set up a crowdfunding deal a short time ago. As it happens, they’re already hit their target (and sold out of the initial run of the forthcoming DiT album) but in order to clear space and merchandise and to ensure that there’s enough in the album fund to cover eventualities, they’re currently offering an additional deal for T-shirts plus a free download of last year’s ‘Pluck‘ EP. If you’re interested, click here.

If you’re curious as to what you’d be getting, there are videos for two ‘Pluck tracks below, the music for which was recorded back when Death In Texas was a piano/ bass/drums trio. Assuming that they’ve built on their music for the forthcoming album, rather than utterly reformatting themselves, expect to hear more of Ruth’s arresting vocal and piano and of Kane’s dense-but-nimble drumming.

* * *

Finally – here’s a quick word about the London folk trio Vespers. I only really discovered them yesterday when I saw them play at Daylight Music (although they’ve been nice enough to follow the ‘Misfit City’ Twitter feed for a while). This definitely won’t be the last time I write about them – their generous blend of voices, their acoustic delicacy and their combined songwriting skills promise plenty, and their approach wells with compassion.

So far as I know, they have no album ready, and are still working to finesse a new demo which they’re happy with, but they do have three tracks up on Soundcloud in the meantime. I’ll save more comments for the live review later. Have a listen for yourselves.



Markus Reuter online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

‘Todmorden 513’ project online:
Homepage

Death In Texas online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp YouTube

Vespers online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud

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