Tag Archives: music for orchestra

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – new British classical premieres – Keith Burstein’s cello sonata in London (with added Dvořàk and Schubert); and chamber works by Luke Bedford, Zoë Martlew, Richard Baker, John Woolrich in Birmingham (plus Judith Weir and Howard Skempton revivals)

28 May

Here’s a preview of the debuts of some new current-classical British pieces, all surfacing in June.

In the middle of the month, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group will be presenting the most recent fruits of their crowdfunded Sound Investment scheme (aimed to encourage enthusiasts to “get closer to the creation of new music… and support some of the world’s leading living composers,” – if you’re interested in joining in, check out the investment page here). Previously – at the start of the month – outlier composer and onetime new-classical rebel Keith Burstein will present his new cello concerto in one of London’s excellent but out-of-the-way music churches (situated as it is up near the Hoover Building, on the city’s north-west escape route and one which, as it happens, points the way to Birmingham).

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Music at St Mary’s Perivale presents:
The Lipatti Piano Quartet + Corinne Morris/Keith Burstein/Viv McLean
St Mary’s Perivale, Perivale Lane, Perivale, London, UB6 8SS, England
Wednesday 1st June 2016, 7.30 pm
– free event (with retiring collection) – more information

Programme:

Keith Burstein : ‘Wiosna’ (sonata for cello & piano) (world premiere)
Franz Schubert : Sonata in A minor D821 ‘Arpeggione’ (for cello & piano)
Franz Schubert – Adagio and Rondo Concertante D487 (for piano, violin, viola & cello)
Antonín Dvořàk – Piano Quartet in E flat Op. 87 (for piano, violin, viola & cello)

Performers:

The Lipatti Piano Quartet
Corinne Morris (cello)
Keith Burstein (piano)
Viv McLean (piano)

During his 1990s emergence as a composer, Keith Burstein warred publically, bitterly and theatrically with a stern post-serial/post-Boulez British classical music establishment over his own fervent, frequently-politicized championing of “the rehabilitation of melody to the heart of music, and of tonal harmony, which enables the expressive power of dissonance.“ At the time, he was sidelined and ostracised. Now, with a multitude of British composers happily handling melodic expressiveness in parallel with modernist complexities, those battles seem to belong to a harsher, more rigid era: one concerned more with conflicts of manners, of theory and of hierarchy than with actual musicality. Perhaps in consequence, the image of Burstein-the-heretic may gradually be giving way to that of Burstein-the-unfortunate-herald, but in the meantime Keith has continued to work his own continuing tonalist seam (regardless of scorn or praise) through oratorios and political/metaphysical opera, choral and chamber pieces, and song cycles.

Corinne Morris, 2013 (photographer unknown)

Corinne Morris, 2013 (photographer unknown)

In recent years Keith has applied his limpid, deceptively intricate compositional approach to works and situations relating to his own Eastern European and Baltic Jewish heritage (an Ashkenazy-approved symphony premiered by the Kaunas City Symphony; a string trio inspired by a Lithuanian odyssey). His latest work, the cello sonata ‘Wiosna’ , is named for the Polish word for “spring” – which he finds “much more beautiful than our stark monosyllable” – and its three movements are named after the three months of that season, Marzac (March), Kwiecien (April) and Maj (May). ‘Wiosna’ was written for Corinne Morris (the ex-Opera National de Paris cellist turned acclaimed soloist, who’s currently following up her 2013 debut album ‘Macedonian Sessions’ with a new one with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, due in 2017). She’ll be performing the piece with Keith himself as piano accompanist.

Filling out the bill will be three familiar Romantic staples. Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata (originally written for a pairing of piano and the bowed, long-since fallen-from-favour arpeggione guitar) will be performed in its more usual cello-and-piano arrangement, with Corrine Morris accompanied this time by award-winning young pianist and frequent St Mary’s performer Viv McLean. The Lipatti Piano Quartet – Gamal Khamis (piano), Amy Tress (violin), Felicity Matthews (viola) and Auriol Evans (cello) – will be completing the evening, performing two further key Romantic chamber works: Schubert’s ‘Adagio and Rondo Concertante’ and Dvořàk’s ‘Piano Quartet in E flat’.

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BCMG - Remembering the Future

CBSO presents:
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group: ‘Remembering the Future’
CBSO Centre, Berkley Street, Birmingham, B1 2LF, England
Sunday 12th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Programme:

Judith Weir: Blue-Green Hill
Luke Bedford: In Black Bright Ink (world premiere)
Richard Baker: new work (world premiere)
Howard Skempton: Field Notes
John Woolrich: Swan Song (world premiere)
Zoë Martlew: Broad St. Burlesque (world premiere)

For this one, I’ll just quote BCMG’s press release, as follows:

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group has increasingly explored the contemporary chamber repertoire in recent seasons, and we extend that journey with no less than four new works from composers with strong BCMG connections. It was our Artist-in-Association John Woolrich who originally encouraged BCMG to commission smaller-scale pieces, and as a composer of such deft chamber works as In the Mirrors of Asleep, which we have performed many times, asking John to write one of these was an obvious choice (BCMG’s, not his!).

Zoë Martlew is primarily known as a performer, playing cello with BCMG on a number of occasions. She is also a talented emerging composer, and this seems the ideal time for her first BCMG commission. Luke Bedford returned to the UK last year from a period in Berlin – an experience that has influenced his music in subtly interesting ways. Richard Baker’s output includes a string of miniature works, finely crafted and always a delight for the ear. His new commission will be a more extended chamber piece featuring oboist/fellow composer Melinda Maxwell.

“Completing the programme are Judith Weir’s ‘Blue-Green Hill’ (an elaboration of a folk-inspired miniature first written for BCMG’s tour of India in 2002), and a revival of Howard Skempton’s ‘Field Notes’ (a hit of our 2014/15 season).

“There will be a free pre-concert talk open to all ticket holders from 6.30-7pm with Stephen Newbould (Artistic Director of BCMG), Richard Baker, Zoë Martlew, Luke Bedford and John Woolrich.“
 

January 2016 – upcoming gigs (mostly London) – Daylight Music brings classical on the 23rd (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Experience Ensemble/Roger Doyle/Ok Bertie!/Jim Bishop) and pop on the 30th (The Wave Pictures/The Leaf Library/Citizen Helene); Martin Creed/William D. Drake/Stephen Evens in Brixton; jazz/Indo/groove/lyrical shapes at Cafe Oto with Emanative & Collocutor Duo/Earl Zinger/Sarathy Korwar/Sealionwoman; Medway garage, film snaps, Paris pop and hauntological folk in Putney (The Senior Service/French Boutik/Of Arrowe Hill). Plus Nerve Toy Trio in Warrington.

22 Jan

This should be the last of the January gig updates, though I always speak too soon… Don’t forget that The Bleeding Hearts Club Winter Escape is still on in Brighton on the 23rd.

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Daylight Music 212

(Daylight Music presents)
Daylight Music 212 – Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Experience Ensemble + Roger Doyle + Ok Bertie! + Jim Bishop
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 23rd January 2016, 12.00pm
– free entry – more information

“Three decades ago, a group of London musicians took a good look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and decided to start again from scratch. The Ann & Peter Law Experience Scheme gives talented young musicians a chance to perform with the Orchestra. In this concert the musicians on the scheme perform together, by themselves, for the first time, just a few weeks after finishing at the OAE Academy. It looks as if we’re going to be treated to some Haydn (Symphony No. 85 ‘La Reine’, the nickname originating because the work was a favorite of Marie Antoinette) plus the Romance written by his original London sponsor, Johann Peter Salomon.

Roger Doyle is known for his pioneering work as composer of electronic music. He has worked extensively in theatre, film and dance, in particular with the music-theatre company Operating Theatre, which he co-founded.

Ok Bertie is the moniker of Robert Szymanek, a singer-songwriter, composer, and visual artist living in London. Bertie’s debut album of songs is called ‘Music From A Crowded Planet’, and is due for release in 2016. It’s accompanied by the ground breaking Crowded Planet iOS app, created in collaboration with developer Matthew Hasler.

Sonic Brute mainstay Jim Bishop will also join us to take the Henry Willis organ out for a spin and bring us some time travel themed melodies: it’s time to go Bach to the Future!”

…or in my case, back to the past. Jim Bishop was at University with me long ago, and set some of my words to music for a body-issues revue at the Edinburgh Fringe. Jaunty.

More Daylight news further down…

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Martin Creed/William D. Drake/Stephen Evens, 26th January 2016

(Brixton Hill Studios presents)
Martin Creed & His Band + William D. Drake + Stephen Evens
The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England
Tuesday 26th January 2016, 8.00pm
more information

“As part of Independent Venue Week, tonight our lovely neighbours Brixton Hill Studios take over the venue with some special guests!

Perhaps best known for winning the Turner Prize back in 2001, Martin Creed has been actively making music since the early ’90s. Creed writes direct, compelling songs with the ability to both perturb and amuse. Think the rhythmic punk of Ian Dury and the wit and pop nous of Glasgow’s Postcard Records. He has released records on both Moshi Moshi and his own Telephone Records label.

 
William D. Drake is a keyboardist, pianist, composer and singer-songwriter. He is best known as a former member of the cult English rock band Cardiacs, whom he played with for nine years between 1983 and 1992. He has also been a member of The Sea Nymphs, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Nervous, Wood, Lake of Puppies and The Grown-Ups, as well as pursuing a career as a solo artist. His fifth album ‘Revere Reach’ came out in summer 2015.

Armed with a battered guitar, a Casiotone and a few pedals, Stephen Evens (better known as Steve “Stuffy” Gilchrist, erstwhile leader of Stuffy/The Fuses and drummer with Graham Coxon, Cardiacs, Charlotte Hatherley and The Scaramanga Six) presents songs that mix the likes of Yo La Tengo & Ivor Cutler with broken friendships and human error.”

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Emanative Collocutor Duo, 2015

(Baba Yaga’s Hut presents)
Emanative & Collocutor Duo featuring Earl Zinger + Sarathy Korwar + Sealionwoman (+ more tbc)
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Friday 29th January 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Baba Yaga’s Hut bring us an evening of cosmic jazz explorations.

Emanative & Collocutor Duo is a teamup between saxophonist/flautist Tamar Osborn and drummer/mixologist Nick Woodmansey. Tamar’s history includes work with Africa Express, Dele Sosimi and The Fontanelles: she currently leads eclectic, hypnotic modal septet Collocutor (with Josephine Davies, Simon Finch, Marco Piccioni, Suman Joshi, Maurizio Ravalico and Afla Sackey) which mixes jazz and minimalism with Afrobeat and Ethiopian ideas, Indian classical and polyphonic choral music. In recent years, Nick’s work as leader of the Emanative project has seen him take the helm for British cosmic jazz. The Duo allows Nick and Tamar to take and blend aspects and ideas from both projects in a slimmer, tighter context. Guesting with the Duo on chants and vocals is Earl Zinger, the reggae-toaster-inspired alter ego of acid-jazz veteran and former Galliano frontman Rob Gallagher (whose post-Galliano work has included jazz band Two Banks Of Four and who’s also currently working as William Adamson).

Three tastes of the project are below – a duo version of Albert Ayler/Mary Maria Parks’ ‘Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe’;an Emanative remix of a Collocutor track; and an Emanative track from last year with strong Collocutor contributions.



This is (I think) the second gig for the Duo – there’s been at least one other well-received show in July 2015, at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington). That gig also featured Sealionwoman, the playful, driving voice-and-double-bass duo whose shape-changing jazz and blues songs have enchanted ‘Misfit City’ for several years now. They’re making a return appearance at this gig too. (Here’s my my 2013 eyewitness account of them, again; plus a chunk of video from the very same show.)

In between Sealionwoman and the Duo comes Indian classical/fusion percussionist Sarathy Korwar. Dividing his time between London and Pune, Sarathy trained as both tabla and drum kit player and specialises in applying Indian classical rhythmic ideas to non-Indian percussion instruments, blending in aspects of improvisation and intuition.

More people may be added to the bill at the last moment…

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Daylight Music 213

(Daylight Music & The Hangover Lounge present)
Daylight Music 213: The Wave Pictures, The Leaf Library + Citizen Helene
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 30th January 2016, 12.00pm
– free entry – more information

The Wave Pictures will be launching their brand new, vinyl-only album ‘A Season In Hull’ at the Union Chapel on 30th January. The album was recorded on acoustic guitars in one room, with a bunch of their friends, live in to one microphone on singer Dave Tattersall’s birthday, January 28th, 2015. The songs were written as quickly as possible and the recording captures that specific moment in all its spontaneous, thrilling and immediate glory. As Tattersall elaborates: ‘That’s what this is – a one-microphone happy birthday recording.’

London quintet The Leaf Library (who create “droney, two-chord pop that’s stuck halfway between the garage and the bedroom, all topped with lyrical love songs to buildings, stationery and the weather”) have just released their debut full-length album ‘Daylight Versions’. The record is full of wonderfully woozy, drone-pop tunes about meteorology, the seasons and the incoming sea; from songs about the ghostly Suffolk coastline to the slowly rising waters of London marshes.

Citizen Helene is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from London whose blend of sunshine pop, psychedelic folk and jazz has been described as ‘baroque and beautiful’ by Darian Sahanaja (of the Brian Wilson band) and ‘like the love child of Karen Carpenter and Brian Wilson’ by ‘Word’ magazine.”

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On the evening of the same Saturday, there’s an evening with shades of garage, mod, Parisiana and spooky folk.

(Retro Man Blog & Damaged Goods Records present)
The Senior Service + French Boutik + Of Arrowe Hill
The Half Moon
, 93 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 1EU, London, England
Saturday January 30th 2016, 7.30pm)
more information

Playing ‘60s-styled instrumentals, The Senior Service feature four musicians who, between them, have moved through many of the garage bands from the Medway scene – including The Prisoners, The James Taylor Quartet, The Solarflares, The Masonics, and assorted Billy Childish bands. Jon Barker (Hammond organ), Graham Day (guitar), Darryl Hartley (bass guitar) and Wolf Howard (drums) are inspired by John Barry/Ennio Morricone/Barry Gray soundtracks, Stax rhythm’n’blues (Booker T & The MGs) and early Mod (Small Faces). Damaged Goods Records release their debut single, Depth Charge, this month (with a full album to follow).

Senior Service/French Boutik/Of Arrowe Hill @ The Half Moon, Putney, 30th January 2016
In support are French Boutik, who (inspired by their Paris home) blend ideas from 1960s French pop such as Serge Gainsbourg and Yé-yé with classic Motown and Burt Bacharach, all with a modernist pop twist.

Opening the evening are Of Arrowe Hill – Adam Easterbrook’s “hauntological” rock group who are now midway through their second decade of work. Expect their usual mix of country blues and acid folk with lo-fi psychedelia, with Adam backed by ex-Aardvarks rhythm section Ian O’Sullivan and Jason Hobart.

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Finally, further north (much further north) there’s this:

(Marpexke Productions presents)
Nerve Toy Trio
The Saracen’s Head, 381 Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington, WA4 6RS, England
Saturday 30th January 2016, 9.00pm

Nerve Toy Trio, 30th January 2016Nerve Toy Trio (guitarist Tony Harn, bass player/pedalist David Jones and drummer Howard Jones) are playing their first gig of the year, back in their hometown. Although I’ve posted about Tony before (covering his first three albums as a solo player – start here and work backwards) I don’t think I’ve posted about the Trio before. All are veterans of an underrated and overlooked Warrington art-rock scene of the 1980s which (although notable for launching Tim Bowness) was squeezed between and overshadowed by neighbouring ferments in Manchester and Liverpool. They spin out an echoed, textured fusion-rock which spans from delightfully airy to tight-and-bumptious, and which thrives on understated juxtapositions which are always earnest, cheeky or interesting, – setting a pinch of Hendrix squall against Cheshire pastoralism; Pat Metheny harmonic glitter alongside romantic Steve Hackett peals; Rush power riffage in alternation with Robin Guthrie spangle.

With their melodic, rococo flourishes and outright proggy roots, sometimes the Trio come across as uncertain time travellers – hopping and picking across four decades of art rock and fusion while still ultimately homesick for the treasures of their teenage listening – but for me that just adds to their charm. The clip below shows their mellower side and a flash of their muscle: the gig’s in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support if that’s any more of a draw. Nerve Toy Trio still seem like a band who’ve not quite found their audience yet. If you’ve read this far and are still interested, perhaps it’s you they’re looking for.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Two music crowdfunding campaigns (Utter:Jazz, Markus Reuter)

8 Jun

Partly for the sake of broadening ‘Misfit City’s music coverage – and partly because it makes me feel a little more involved in music – I’ve decided to start covering music crowdfunding campaigns which interest me. As I’m generally short of ready cash, I was late to the music pledge phenomenon as it grew, although I found it potentially fascinating when I did encounter it (see my wide-eyed response to some of Kickstarter’s more cultish implications in the middle of this review). Increasingly it’s a vision of the future – or at the very least, the future of the honest hustle – as the music industry continues to crumble and narrow down to a point where more and more of the interesting music is forced to turn self-propelled and troubadour, travelling hopefully to an unknown audience whom it’ll eventually all but know by name.

Before I get too lost in the theory, though, here are two campaigns which currently interest me:

The first is the Kickstarter campaign for the ‘Look, Stranger’ project by Utter:Jazz Collective, set up by Jazzberries singer Ruthie Culver. This is a ferment of Benjamin Britten’s music, W.H. Auden’s verse, the voices of Ruthie and several of Britain’s greatest stage actors, and the transformative flood of twenty-first century jazz. Sounds risky (the options for falling into camp or cuteness are legion) but the caliber of the people involved suggests that they’ll pull it off with flair. Ruthie’s a singer whose explorations have taken her from opera to chanson, Sondheim to cabaret, poetry to swing. Between them the Utter:Jazz instrumentalists – double bassist Jonny Gee, reeds player Mick Foster, pianist/trombonist Dan Hewson and drummer Andrea Trillo – have covered jazz, baroque music, contemporary classical music, opera, tango, pop and salsa; have worked with a swathe of bandleaders and situation-starters including Herbie Hancock, Ravi Shankar, Nigel Kennedy and Jarvis Cocker, and have tried everything from classical stand-up and serious education to writing their own string quartets.

Utter:Jazz: 'Look, Stranger'

Utter:Jazz: ‘Look, Stranger’

At time of posting Utter:Jazz are four days into their five-week campaign, and are 3% of the way towards their £8,000 goal. Here’s what Ruthie has to say about the project:

“Over the past year, my band and I have been through through a mind-boggling process of musical experimentation and harmonic analysis with twelve songs by Benjamin Britten, re-interpreting them through all the technicolour grooves and vibrant influences of 21st century jazz, including swing, samba, funk and blues… We chose Britten (whose centenary is this year) because his harmonies and melodies are delicious – something to get your teeth into – modern and beautiful. The song lyrics are satirical, romantic and witty, and all written by WH Auden (who wrote ‘Stop all the Clocks’, made famous in Four Weddings and a Funeral).

“I invited a few actors we’ve met over the years to read some Auden between the songs when we tour the project – they all said yes! Simon Russell Beale, Samuel West, Roger Lloyd Pack or Sir Derek Jacobi (one per gig) will be joining me and my brilliant quartet of world-class musicians. We have 18 performances lined up (details below) between July & November 2013, at festivals and theatres up and down the country including Northumberland, Devon, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Sussex, Suffolk, Hampshire, Herefordshire and London.”

The second crowdfunder I’m going to mention is the PledgeMusic campaign for the orchestral version of Todmorden 513, a long-form piece composed by Markus Reuter. Markus is best known for his work with centrozoon and his contributions to various King Crimson spinoffs (The Crimson ProjeKCt, Stick Men) but his work ranges beyond art-rock and explores a spectrum of ambient music, pop, systems work and contemporary classical composition.

Originally a recording for treated touch guitar and small ensemble, Todmorden 513 has now been arranged for full orchestra by Thomas Blomster who, once upon a time, was half of Pale Boy (and was responsible for the superb arrangements on their only album) but now runs the Youth Orchestra of the Rockies. The piece has recently been performed and recorded by the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, with Thomas as conductor.

Here’s a little more on the piece:

“Todmorden 513 is a unique contemporary composition of an hours duration for orchestra. It is 513 measures long and is a Concerto for Orchestra, with 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 Colorado Chamber Orchestra is very excited to present this enigmatic, mysterious, genre-bending music.”

And here’s some more background on the original Todmorden 513 in its small ensemble form:

“Employing violins, viola, cello, guitars, organ, glockenspiel, synthesisers and electronics, these instruments mesh together, in ensembles of varying size, creating a kind of gauzy web through which development takes place. Texturally its often like those wispy moments in the orchestral music of Debussy or Messiaen, combined with the tolling crawl of Feldman’s Coptic Light, but proceeding to its own rules. This is a truly stunning piece of music.” – Joshua Meggitt, Cyclic Defrost

“Markus Reuter’s Todmorden 513 is a complex work of algorithmic composition of an hour’s duration. Given Reuter’s linguistic background, one might think that the title is an exercise in existential dread in German as “Tod” means “death” and “morden” means “to murder” – forming a truly grim portmanteau. However, the title’s sourcing is actually of a small town in northern England, northeast of Manchester. 513 refers to its construction: it is 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. The rhythms of the performing instrumental trios and quartets 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 — at times quite spare — ranging from a harmony of two instruments to other moments of thick and lush instrumentation.” – Henry Warwick (original liner notes for ensemble recording)

The difference between this and the Utter: Jazz campaign is that Markus’ project is technically complete – orchestrated, recorded, mastered and now moving towards release. However, that’s not the end of the story and any further pledging and involvement will help it move further into the next (and arguably more tortuous) phase of promotion and outreach to people who want to hear it (even if they don’t know it yet). Another incentive for involvement is that 5 % over goal will be donated to the Youth Orchestra of the Rockies. It’s a little late in the day, but there’s still an opportunity to get involved in this.

There’ll be more crowdfunders along as I find them…

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