At pretty short notice, there’s a chance to see a version of guitarist Alex Roth‘s spellbinding Sephiroth project in Camden Town this coming Thursday (while Alex takes a little live-refresher break from recording his debut solo album).
Mosaic Nights presents:
Basement Bar @ The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.30pm – information here and here
Sephiroth Trio, 2016
From Alex: “Sefiroth is the group I co-founded with my brother Nick to explore traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire. After releasing an EP in 2012 and staging a multimedia theatre show in 2013, we put the project on hold for a while, but I’m really excited to be getting members of the band together to play these achingly beautiful songs again. This intimate trio performance at one of London’s cosiest venues will feature new arrangements of traditional melodies which have been haunting me for years now. Given the intimacy of the venue, booking is highly recommended!”
The trio performing are the same trio who performed at the Play For Progress fundraiser mentioned here last December – Alex on guitar, plus Shirley Smart on cello and Alice Zawadzki on voice and violin. (Shirley is also the woman behind the Mosaic Nights organisation presenting the concert – they put on a variety of monthly folk/jazz/classical fusion events. I’ll need to look out for more of those.)
Here’s more information which I’ve scrounged up on the project:
“Sung in Ladino, these ancient songs weave timeless stories of love, loss and yearning for home, evoking the lands in which the Sephardic diaspora settled: Iberia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The group’s arrangements are as porous and wide-ranging as the history of the Sephardim, combining acoustic and electric instruments, improvisation and trance-inducing rhythms. Following the release of its debut EP… Sefiroth’s multimedia theatre show ‘Arvoles Lloran por Lluvia’ (brought) its experimental arrangements to life through dance, digital projection and production design. It was hailed as “absolutely incredible” (Musicians Benevolent Fund), “striking and innovative” (‘Plays to See‘) and “flawless… an incredibly fascinating collaboration between music, dance and digital media”…”
You might not get the dance and visuals this time, but you’ll get the music up close and personal. Alex isn’t kidding about the intimate venue. Green Note is tiny, and its basement bar more so. At time of posting there were only twenty-one tickets left. Move fast. To encourage you, here are snippets from the EP and the multimedia show, plus the full version of the latter if you want to see and hear more. (And if you miss out on a Sephiroth ticket, there’s always the rather rowdier She’Koyokh Baltic kletzmer gig over in Kings Cross the following night…)
As well as composers ranging from Grieg to Takemitsu, these three upcoming London gigs take in trolls, moths, David Bowie, extended fiddles and oboes, and just a tiny hint of saw abuse. Let’s have a look and listen.
* * * * * * * *
Kammer Klang presents:
Klara Lewis + Phaedra Ensemble (performing Leo Chadburn) + Christopher Redgate + John Uren + Holodisc DJs Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 7th March 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
From the Kammerers (supplemented by a few text raids from here and there)…
“In our second show of 2017 we are joined by Klara Lewis, the critically acclaimed sound sculptress who has performed in clubs and art galleries around the world. Lewis builds her work from heavily manipulated samples and field recordings, creating a unique combination of the organic and the digital. Klara’s second album ‘Too’ was released in 2016 on Editions Mego to great acclaim. She will be performing with Nik Colk Void, an experimental electronic recording artist who is one part of Factory Floor (an alliance with Gabriel Gurnsey) and one-third of Carter Tutti Void (with former Throbbing Gristle members Cosey Fanny Tutti and Chris Carter). Coming from an English art school background, and an education that was decidedly non-musical in nature, Nik’s work is as conceptual as it is visceral – exploring the out-regions of pushing and manipulating sound (via modular synthesis, extended guitar techniques and vocal processing), and collaborating with contemporary visual artists such as Haroon Mirza and Philippe Parreno.
“We are also joined by Phaedra Ensemble, whose performances explore the spaces between classical, experimental and contemporary music. Phaedra brings together some of London’s most exciting musicians to curate programmes with new collaborations, reinterpretations of well-known modern works and forgotten classics. Its members have a strong intuition for genre-crossing and interdisciplinary work, often in collaboration with artists from other disciplines. This month Phaedra will perform ‘The Indistinguishables’, a 2014 string-quartet-and-electronics work by Leo Chadburn. Leo is a composer and performer of experimental and electronic music, gallery music and (as Simon Bookish) avant-pop. ‘The Indistinguishables’ works through a cycle of seventy names of UK moth species, each accompanied by a chord or phrase, like a fleeting soundtrack to these evocative words. The recordings are triggered by the quartet, so the pacing of the pauses and resonances is under their control, part of their ensemble dynamic.
“Phaedra will also be performing this month’s “Fresh Klang” work, which is from British composer John Uren. ‘A few weeks after David Bowie’s death in January 2016, Dr Mark Taubert, a palliative care doctor based in Cardiff, wrote an open letter to Bowie, posthumously thanking him for the soundtrack he had provided to his life, his dedication to his art, and the inspiration he was, and continues to be, for others also facing end-of-life illnesses. Retweeted by Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, Mark’s letter has gone on to have a huge impact, and has been recited at several Letters Live events by Jarvis Cocker and Benedict Cumberbatch. John collaborated with Mark for this composition, combining a recording of Mark reading his own beautiful letter with fragile strings and electronic timbres; acting as a cushion for Mark’s words to drift across.
“The distinguished oboeist Christopher Redgate will perform his own work ‘Multiphonia’. Since his time as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, he has specialised in the performance of contemporary oboe music. Now the Evelyn Barbirolli Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, Christopher (in collaboration with Howarth of London) has redesigned the instrument. He performs exclusively on his creation, the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe, which offers extended capability for twenty-first-century music including microtones, multiphonics, extended range and electronics.
“There will also be DJ sets from the people behind British experimental music label Holodisc.”
Fresh Klang: John Uren – Her Own Dying Moments (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Leo Chadburn – The Indistinguishables (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Christopher Redgate – Multiphonia (for solo oboe)
Klara Lewis + Nik Colk Void – improvised set
* * * * * * * *
South and slightly west, here are a couple of interesting-looking duo shows at the 1901 Club in Waterloo – picked out from the rest of the venue’s busy schedule by dint of having interesting instrumentation, interesting juxtapositions, or the promise of new pieces being premiered.
* * * * * * * *
Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Tomos Xerri & Claire Wickes 1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 6.00pm – information
Outstanding contemporary harpist and Riot Ensemble member Tomos Xerri performs regular duet concerts with English National Opera’s principal flautist Claire Wickes (who also plays as guest principal with most of the big London orchestras, as well as the São Paulo Symphony). Here’s one of those shows – one of the Hattori Foundation’s showcase concerts, nicely timed for the Waterloo homeward-bounders.
While Claire and Tomos will be playing a set of established pieces by Takemitsu, Debussy, Piazzolla and American tonal hero Lowell Liebermann (as well as a sonata by the distinguished twentieth-century British polymath William Alwyn), they are both strong enthusiasts for contemporary music, and are premiering a new composition by Trinity Laban alumnus Liam Mattison (a recent partipant in the LSO’s Panufnik Composers Scheme).
Look out, too, for any mention of Tomas’ upcoming musical-saw-and-electronics project… which at the moment seems to be more of a tingling promise than anything concrete. If any more evidence shows up, I’ll blog it myself.
1901 Club presents:
Elisabeth Turmo & Elena Toponogova: “Two Journeys” 1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Friday 17th March 2017, 6.30pm – information
This is a musical celebration of two cultures, Norwegian and Russian, performed by Norwegian violinist Elisabeth Turmo and Siberian pianist Elena Toponogova. Both are recent or imminent Masters graduates from the Royal College of Music, with growing international reputations. Elizabeth has performed as a soloist with the Arctic Philharmonic, the Oslo Chamber Orchestra, the Toppen International Festival Orchestra and the Barratt Due Symphony Orchestra; while Elena has performed as a chamber musician and soloist across the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.
Already tagged as “conveying the stormful temperament of a northern Norwegian” in her concert performances, Elisabeth is also an up-and-coming exponent of the hardingfele, or “Hardanger fiddle” – the thin-wooded Norwegian violin with additional sympathetic strings which is traditionally used for folk dances and church processionals, and which bridges the gap between Norway’s ecclesiastical life and its supernatural mythology (by way of “troll-tunings” and Robert Johnson-esque myths about music lessons from the Devil).
Several hardingfele pieces will be performed as part of the concert set. I doubt that these will include a solo arrangement of Michael Grolid’s recent ‘Ouverture’ (as played here two years ago by Elizabeth and Barratt Due’s Symphony Orchestra) but I’ve included it in lieu of her having posted up any other recordings with the instrument.
“Man with drumkit and nerve available. Works well on his own, but can work with anyone from virtuoso level to raw newbie. Will also travel, though being in the right place is essential.”
Charles Hayward – drummer, songwriter, improviser; patron saint of South London spontaneity. Creator, humble communitarian and sharer. Kit-and-tapes driver for avant-rockers This Heat and Camberwell Now! during the ‘70s and ‘80s; more recently, the curator-enabler of experimental multi-media events such as Accidents & Emergencies. Internationally reknowned but publically anonymous go-to bloke for musical support and thrilling upset. A musician who goes out and does.
Here are four separate upcoming instances of Charles Hayward in the act of doing: all taking place this month or next month. As good a hook as any to hang a ‘Misfit City’ post off.
* * * * * * * *
London EFG Jazz Festival presents:
Hallkvist/Taylor/Goller/Hayward + Charlie Stacey IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 8.00pm – information here and here
“The Swedish musician Samuel Hällkvist was given the ‘Jazz in Sweden’ award in 2010. It caused some controversy at the time because Samuel is a guitarist who doesn’t fit comfortably into the template of Scandinavian jazz. Nordic brooding is not his style at all. Instead Samuel brings unsurpassed wizardry to the use of effects pedals, which he deploys with great discretion and aplomb. He has toured extensively in Scandinavia, other parts of Europe and Japan, as well as touring the UK in 2012, where he performed with Yazz Ahmed, Denys Baptiste and Gary Crosby.
“Samuel is joined on this occasion by a carefully selected cast, featuring Ruth Goller (the bass guitarist of Acoustic Ladyland), the wonderful Charles Hayward on drums (This Heat etc.) and free improviser Noel Taylor on bass clarinet. The ensemble is a combustible blend of elements which promises high-energy rhythmic patterns awash with thunderous beats of drum and bass, and surmounted with the languorous, rich tones of bass clarinet.
“Charlie Stacey first popped into the jazz scene when he was featured on UK television as a child prodigy. In 2012, still a teenager, he reached the semi-finals of the Montreux Jazz Piano Competition. Since then he has performed at festivals around the world. Stacey’s tastes range from Keith Jarrett to Sun Ra and Albert Ayler – stir these ingredients together into a swirl of mood and pianistic virtuosity: that’s the unique sound of Charlie Stacey.”
* * * * * * * *
The Xposed Club presents:
Charles Hayward + Phosphene The Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England
Friday 18th November 2016, 8.00pm – information here and here
“Charles Hayward‘s ‘(begin anywhere)’ is a new project centred around songs performed at the piano, a sequence of betrayal, paranoia, subterfuge, opening out into resistance, hope and humanity, interweaved with sound events, drums, spoken word, performance. Stark, minimal arrangements; an unexpected departure.
“Phosphene is the name Glasgow-based artist John Cavanagh has worked under for his solo music-making since 2000. In that time, there have been three full-length Phosphene albums, featuring collaborations with Lol Coxhill, Bridget St. John, Raymond McDonald, John McKeown (1990s/Yummy Fur), Isobel Campbell, Bill Wells and others. John is also a a member of the duo Electroscope, along with Gayle Brogan (Pefkin) and the more recently formed Sonically Depicting, with Ceylan Hay & friends. He is also known as a radio presenter & contributor, voice-over artist, author of a book on the Pink Floyd album ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’, producer of records/occasional record label operator and organiser of music nights at Glasgow’s Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery.”
* * * * * * * *
Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 240: Laura Cannell presents “Memory Mapping”: Charles Hayward + Mythos Of Violins + Hoofus + Jennifer Lucy Allan Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 12.00pm – free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information
“The Arctic Circle At Ten celebrations continue courtesy of experimental fiddle and recorder player Laura Cannell, bringing together musicians whose work is both spontaneous and deeply inspired by their surroundings. Using real and imagined memory, ideas are mapped internally and externally and turned into atmospheric, moving and unexpected performances.
“Charles Hayward gives a solo performance of his piano piece (begin anywhere)…” – see the Xposed Club bit for more on that. Also note that Charles and Laura play together in the Oscilanz trio (with Ralph Cumbers of Bass Clef/Some Truths), creating new music by exploding, recombining and reinterpreting the music of twelfth-century composer and polymath Hildegard Von Bingen, in a web of drums, trombone, violin, recorders, singing and electronics. (There’s a clip of them below, for context.)
“Mythos Of Violins is the experimental violin work of Laura Cannell and Angharad Davies, creating new works inspired by location and memory and “puzzling over the unsconcious or conscious effect of place on the creative development of an artist.” ‘The Scotsman’ reviewed their performance at Glasgow University Chapel earlier in April this year as “hypnotic… they made judicious use of the venue as they circled the pew-bound audience, unfurling a tapestry of intense scratches and squeals – as if the cloisters had been infested by an attack of rabid rats – fused with discordant prettiness and yearning hints of Celtic folk.” Laura and Angharad will be performing a special piece inspired by the Union Chapel. Laura will also be performing a solo set of her own.
Jennifer Lucy Allan – former online editor of ‘The Wire’ (and still running their Resonance FM radio show), as well as being the co-runner of experimental record label Arc Light Editions – will be weaving rural and industrial soundscapes through this very special event (possibly including evidence of her ongoing research project on fog horns).” Also to have played was Hoofus, a.k.a. Andre Bosman, an electronic musician based in coastal Suffolk. Focused on live performance, emergence and improvisation, Hoofus uses drifting oscillators, overlapping frequency modulation, ragged percussion and a sense of tactile interaction between performer and machines to create music of wayward eerie wonder. Drawing on ideas of edgelands and peripheries and the intersecting of wilderness with urban/industrial spaces, Hoofus explores the uncanny beauty of the intangible, the occult and the arcane seeping through into the post-industrial 21st century world of reason and corporate compliance. Unfortunately he won’t be performing them here this time around – maybe next time?
* * * * * * * *
The Jimmy Cake present:
Charles Hayward + The Jimmy Cake + Percolator Bello Bar, Portobello Harbour, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 6, Ireland
Saturday 10th December 2016, 8.00pm – information
For this December show, Charles heads up an evening of “loud instrumental space-prog-post-apocalypse rock”. There’s no word on what he’s specifically doing, but I’m guessing it’s a return to the furious drums, the disruptive tapes and the man-in-the-moment vocals of his main improvisation style.
Event organisers The Jimmy Cake are sixteen-year instrumental veterans of Irish instrumental rock. Over five albums under the leadership of keyboard-playing main-brain Paul G. Smyth they’ve employed banjos, clarinets, strings and brass – mixing Chicagoan post-rock, European space rock and Canterbury prog with the happysad fiddle-and-whistle uplift of Irish music sessions – or lurked behind gonging walls of noise and synth. Fast friends with Charles already (he guested at their previous annual show, prompting his invite back for this one), they’ve also backed Damo Suzuki – a set of influences and associations which should make their intentions, impulses and credibility clear.
When they’re clicked into “simple” mode, Waterfordian trio Percolator bounce and sing-song like an appealing, easily-approved indie-pop mix of The Stooges, Television, and Pavement influences, with additional craic courtesy of the chatty vocal rapport between drummer Eleanor and fuzz-sliding, odd-angles guitarist Ian. When they pull out the remaining stops on their organism and get more complicated, they transform into something much more remarkable – one of the few bands who can appropriate that lazy “sounds like My Bloody Valentine” tag – or have it foisted on them – and not disgrace it. The wilder tracks on their last EP, ‘Little Demon’ are whirlwinds of biplane-crash guitar drones, road-hammering motorik drums and bass surges. They sound like so much more than a rock trio – virtual unknowns already able to capture the wheeling cosmic dizziness of a full-on King Crimson soundscape or the pre-apocalyptic glower of a Gnod blur-mood as well as the microtonal shear of Kevin Shields.
At opposite ends of the month, here are the latest examples of two regular and recurring London gigs with their roots in classical music but navigating (especially in the case of Kammer Klang) its rewarding outer margins and potential associations.
* * * * * * * *
Kammer Klang presents:
Ayan-ool Sam + 12 Ensemble + Camilla Isola + Carrier Records DJ set Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
Headliner Ayan-ool Sam is an acclaimed xöömeizhi, or master of xöömei throat singing (the traditional droning polyphonic music of the Tuva republic in southern Siberia: solo vocalisations developed to mimic and revere both animate and inanimate sounds from nature, in line with the region’s ancient animism). He’s a former student of “xöömeizhi’s xöömeizhi” Kongar-ool, half of Alash Ensemble (with Bady-Dorzhu Ondar), and a frequent throat-singing competition winner whose garlands range from being voted this year’s People’s Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva to gaining the nickname of “Golden Throat” from banjo ace and prolific world music collaborator Béla Fleck. He’ll be performing traditional xöömei as counterpart and capstone to the rest of the evening’s repertoire and explorations.
Having spent the earlier part of the year in Iceland for a HEIMA artistic residency (as well as providing the musical backbone for Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’ project in Paris), orchestral duodecet 12 Ensemble are back in their London hometown for this show. Considered to be London’s foremost un-conducted string orchestra, they’ve recorded and are currently readying a debut album for next year, featuring works by William Walton, Johns Woolrich and Tavener, and the young British composer Kate Whitley (you can see the group performing her piece, ‘Autumn Songs’, below). Previously, 12 Ensemble were Ensemble in Residence for two years at the Forge in Camden, collaborating with several international artists including the tenor Nicky Spence, the pianist Mei Yi Foo and the violist Simon Rowland-Jones. On this occasion, they’ll be performing works by Alex Hills and Ruth Crawford Seeger.
Alex Hills is a London-based contemporary composer with a growing reputation for his “interesting and considerable gifts” (Tempo). His recent album of chamber compositions ‘The Music Of Making Strange‘ showcases his interest in diverse elements including spectralism, experimental chamber and punk rock. A performance of one of its pieces, ‘Knight’s Move’, is below.
The Hills piece receiving its world premiere tonight is ‘OutsideIn’, which takes inspiration from E. A. Abbott’s classic 1884 novel ‘Flatland‘ (a geometric and philosophical satire). ‘Flatland’ is a recurring source of ideas for Alex – another such piece, a choral work named after the book, can be downloaded for free here. Discussing his interest in “‘flat’ musical worlds”, Alex explains “in a two-dimensional world, a highly complex ‘inside’ would be quite invisible from the ‘outside’, yet to a hypothetical three-dimensional being staring down from above, that same inside would appear completely different.”
Regarding ‘OutsideIn’, Alex continues by describing the piece as “an attempt to think about the relationship between a soloist and an ensemble (a concerto?) in spatial terms. Rather than an ensemble acting as an accompanist to a virtuosic soloist, or a discursive, dialogue-like relationship between them, I place the soloist inside or outside the ensemble’s sound (or the ensemble in or out of the soloist’s)… ‘In’ and ‘out’ also imply boundaries and a centre, which on the one hand are made physically by the ensemble in a horizontal way, with the soloist in the centre and the other two most prominent instruments (first violin and double bass) at the edges, and also by how the musical lines move in register (vertical musical space), initially continually drawn inwards towards a centre of gravity, then at the end of the piece escaping away from that centre outwards.” Alex gives credit for further inspiration to the “virtuosity, imagination and creative freedom” of 12 Ensemble violinist and longtime Hills collaborator Aisha Orazbayev, who’ll be the featured soloist for the premiere.
A valued contemporary and fellow traveller to American modernists such as Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger was a self-taught composer pioneering a specifically American brand of dissonant, meta-mystical music. Among the elements feeding into this were Ruth’s early fascination with the atonal, innovative and highly personal mysticisms of Alexander Scriabin and her own friendship with the poet Carl Sandburg (who was the almost exclusive source of the texts she set to music, although she also carried out a self-translated, twelve-tone setting of the Bhagvad Gita). Her own pugnacious, assertive modernism was further tempered by her studies with musicologist and theorist Charles Seeger, whose concept of “dissonant counterpoint” became a major element in her work and whose cultural Marxism she came to share (leading her into an increasingly missionary devotion to curating American folk music, at the expense of her own composing) and whom she married in 1931 (at a stroke, becoming the stepmother of future folk music hero Pete Seeger).
Ruth’s late return to focussing on her own compositions (after years of selflessly serving and propogating the folk songs of others) was cut short by her death from cancer at the age of fifty-two, although not before she’d delivered a final Suite for wind quintet which incorporated everything she’d learned across her musical life; from post-tonal pluralism, American serialism and Russian-inspired mysticism to her later immersion in folk. Obscured by the reputations of her male contemporaries for many years, Ruth’s work and reputation (particularly that of her 1930s work) has been being revived. 12 Ensemble will be performing her 1931 ‘Andante for string quartet’: a key Crawford Seeger piece whose carefully structured technical dissonances do not deny its growing tragic melody line. Ruth herself valued the latter to the extent that she rearranged the piece for orchestra seven years later, in the hope that the larger arrangement and a skilled conductor would bring out the embedded line to greater effect. Here’s a taste of the original quartet version:
The Fresh Klang act for November is dancer, choreographer and performance artist Camilla Isola, a Trinity Laban graduate in her early twenties at the start of what promises to be an interesting career. She’ll be premiering a brand new solo work which, like the Alex Hills piece, draws on ideas and inspirations from ‘Flatland’, exploring dimensional states and the physical dilemma of the body. One of her previous pieces is shown below:
DJs from Carrier Records (the seven-year-old New York improv, experimental and contemporary classical label who released the Alex Hill album mentioned above) will see out the remaining gaps in the evening.
* * * * * * * *
SOLO 02: Daniel Pioro
Crypt of @ St Andrew Holborn, 5 St Andrew St, Holborn, London, EC4A 3AB, England
Friday 25 November 2016, 7.00pm – information
The intimate concert recital series SOLO – showcasing unusual works for solo instruments from early music through to new commissions – returns with a showcase in the vaulted crypt of St Andrew Holborn from acclaimed violinist Daniel Pioro.
As player, commissioner, leader and active champion of new music, Daniel’s experience is broad and assertive. He’s a member of innovative chamber ensemble CHROMA, current leader of the Fibonacci Sequence, and the former leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra (with whom he’s played, amongst other pieces, the ‘Triple Concerto’ by Radiohead polymath Jonny Greenwood and Schnittke’s notorious ‘Concerto Grosso No. 1’). He’s worked as a soloist or ensemble player with the Orchestra of St Johns Smith Square (Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante’, John Woolrich’s ‘Capriccio’), the BBC Philharmonic (Colin Matthews’ ‘Violin Concerto’, Thomas Adès’s ‘Concentric Paths’) and the London Sinfonietta. Daniel has also forged close musical working and performance relationships with a variety of contemporary dancers and with author Michael Morpurgo.
For this concert, Daniel will celebrate and share his eclectic tastes via a set list including “everything from the intricacies of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s ‘Passacaglia for Solo Violin’ to the mind-bending repetitions of ‘Knee Play No. 2′ from Philip Glass’ extraordinary opera ‘Einstein on the Beach’.” Also on the set list is ‘Elsewhere’ by Edmund Finnis (a violin-and-reverb piece which Daniel debuted at St Johns Smith Square in June this year), works by American composers La Monte Young and Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw (of ACME and Roomful Of Teeth) and the world première of a new piece by SOLO curator Alex Groves. There’ll also be another as-yet-unspecified baroque violin piece: this time by eighteenth-century composer-performer Nicola Matteis, an emigre virtuoso once reknowned throughout Georgian London, subsequently forgotten as a composer until the late twentieth century. (This performance will restore some of his music to its old haunts.)
No doubt there’ll be a more detailed set list emerging shortly, when tickets go on sale.
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).
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.
* * * * * * * *
Here’s a quick rundown of ‘Open…’ again.
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)
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
Three more engaging shows around the London fringes. Two have press releases which speak for themselves, while I wrote some babble for the other one (since it’s the first time I’ve covered one of the bands in a long time, while the other band turns out to be a trio who could use some more words spent on them)…
* * * * * * * *
Crick Crack Club Presents
Fairytales for Grown-ups – The Devil’s Purse The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Wednesday 22nd June 2016, 7:30 pm – information
“Beguiling, tricksy, highly-strung, and suspiciously helpful – the Little People are waiting in the shadows, beneath your feet, under the tables, and even in the cracks in the walls. They’re waiting to prove just how hard it is to tell that they are there… On hot summer nights their world is a breath away and on long winter evenings they have far too much time on their hands.
“Dominic Kelly, Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson fuse storytelling performance and Nordic music in a wild journey into the cinema of the imagination. A lost traveller finds himself guided through the mountain mists; a farmer marries an apparently perfect wife; a drunk gambles with a purse that is forever full, and an anxious mother watches her child turn to skin and bone… Come spend some time in the company of Themselves, the Gentry Below, the Good Folk, the sylphs, the sprites, the fairies, and a labyrinth of stories.
“Dominic is a performance storyteller whose dynamic style has captivated audiences across the UK, Sweden, and around the world. He has performed in many prominent venues and festivals including The Barbican and the National Theatre in London, The Times Literature Festival, and on tour internationally from India to the Arctic Circle. Bridget and Leif form a duo whose interpretations of Nordic folk music take place in a filmic borderland of tunes and soundscapes. Leif challenges conventional ways of using the accordion and has distinguished himself on the Swedish folk scene as an instrumentalist, composer and arranger. Bridget studied folk music at Stockholm’s Kungliga Musikhögskolan: her band Stormsteg won Best Newcomer at the Swedish Folk & World Music Awards 2012.”
* * * * * * * *
Rothko + Ghost Mind IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 8.00pm – information
At IKLECTIK, a concert of two fascinating experimental acts creating powerfully visual and immersive music.
Aiming to explore the full sonic possibilities of his instrument (and inspired by the towering ‘Seagram Murals’ in the Tate Gallery), bass guitarist Mark Beazley founded Rothko in London during 1997. The initial lineup was a triple-bass trio with Crawford Blair and Jon Meade (of on-off London math-rockers Geiger Counter), which for three years clanged, droned, whirred and rumbled around its own constantly expanding iron-grey niche.
Creating great frowning arches of dark notes, torrential thrums of noise or transcendent etched outlines in the lower ranges, Rothko insisted on being judged as pure music, batting away any enclosing accusations of being post-punk, post-Gothic, post-rock, or anything similar. Somehow they managed to achieve this aim, defying all expectations by becoming universal and making inroads into the awareness, the perception and the affections of a wide and diverse audience. They found favour amongst the kind of sternly political art-music devotees who’d immerse themselves in ‘The Wire’, amongst the brain-knitting psychedelic leanings of London math-rock enthusiasts, and amongst the surprised followers of various indie bands who’d taken a shine to them and taken the opportunity to stick them onto a live bill. After three albums (and various EPs and collaborations) they bowed out in 2001 after a successful support slot with Porcupine Tree, playing to an audience of progressive rock fans.
While the original Rothko is arguably the best-known version, Mark maintained the Rothko name and core concept for another nine years across a solo presentation, a bass duo, an wide-screen ambient septet (which swallowed up consenting fellow travellers Delicate AWOL) and a more rhythmic quartet. While the various versions of the band were always underpinned by Mark’s resonant four-string underlay – a slatey burr or baritonic voice speaking out of the deep – the bass-guitar-only rule was relaxed to allow other instruments into the space such as flute, voice, electric guitar, piano and viola (while the synths and drums of the last and longest-lived lineup even occasionally hinted at a post-Can rumble). After Rothko, Mark took his skills and explorations solo, and formed new bass-friendly projects: Low Bias (with Pere Ubu’s syntheur Gagarin), Signals (with Phil Julian and textural guitarist Chris Gowers), Tetherdown (with Anne Garner and James Murray), and Rome Pays Off (in which he reunited with Crawford Blair)
Reactivated in 2015, a revived Rothko saw Mark re-teamed with ex-Delicate AWOL bassist and later solo recordist Michael D. Donnelly (his main partner in the post-2000 lineups). Together, they revisited their previous duo work while expanding it with additional lessons learned (in technique, in sonic attitude, in being an interpreter of feeling) during the five year break. A new EP, ‘Severed Tense’ arrived in September last year; a new album ‘Discover The Lost’ is now available on pre-order.
(recent Rothko track Truths And Signs)
This particular gig at IKLECTIK, however, showcases a newer Rothko lineup of Mark plus Johny Brown (the latter better known as the frontman of long-running post-punk poetry rockers Band Of Holy Joy, with whom Mark played during the Rothko layoff). Eschewing both past and recent work, they’ll be performing a set of all-new material from a work in progress – a new album called ‘A Young Fist Wrapped Around A Cinder For A Wager’, which they’re planning to record shortly.
While I might be behind the most recent developments, listening to the recent Beazley/Donnelly material has reminded me about what drew me to Rothko in the first place – their ability to grab such fascinating visual evocations out of the kind of low frequencies which you’d think would restrict them. From dirty crumbling bass notes they sketch a grumbling, majestic London ambience of half-forgotten post-industrial structure: the kind you find while turning down sidestreets running under grimy, half-forgotten Victorian railway viaducts or hosting the grand shells of factories. At least, that’s what they seem to do from where I’m listening. Mark apparently draws significant inspiration from sojourns in quiet rural locations far from the pressure and grime of great cities. It’s generally true that what any one listener draws out of Rothko tends to be only a few facets of the band’s mysterious kaleidoscope.
With roots in the Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra, Ghost Mind is an experimental soundscape collaboration currently consisting of trumpet player Pete Robson, percussionist Stuart Wilding, and Jon Andriessen on heavily-treated guitar, combined with a background of found sounds gathered from around the planet. They present themselves as “a four-person trio” (the fourth member being the titular ghost). Live, they’re a magical concoction, with Stuart’s percussion exploits recalling the startling, fleeting and unforgettable work that Jamie Muir brought to various Derek Bailey bands and King Crimson in the 1970s, Pete’s trumpet journeying from jazz-mute musings and trombone impressions to free-improv mouthpiece splutters, and Jon’s heavily-processed guitar creating dense architectural fabrics and noise blocks but sometimes rising up with plangent, momentary clean licks.
Working together, Ghost Mind create aural experiences which suggest both the world traveller and the documentary edit suite. Their instrumental illustrations and interspersed field recordings link temples to shopping precincts or treetops hung with birdsong, or link toyshops to ping-pong matches; while further human-driven sounds flicker briefly through the mileu via interjections of harmonica and glockenspiel, water-warbling bird whistles, drum notes to shoe-scrapes and miscellaneous tickings. The fact that it all sounds musical throughout – as compelling to children and casual attendees as to dedicated deep listeners – is another of their creative triumphs.
* * * * * * * *
Ánde Somby: The Animals Inside The Man And The Man Outside The Animals Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Friday 24th June 2016, 7.00pm – information
“The Sámi people are a transnational minority living in Sápmi, an area of land stretching across the borders of northern Scandinavia, Finland, and throughout the Kola Peninsula of north-western Russia. Yoik (also spelt joik or jojk) is the Sámi’s ancient and characteristic vocal art, with yoiks traditionally used to invoke a person, animal, place, or experience. You don’t yoik about something, you just ‘yoik it’.
“Ánde Somby yoiks animals including salmon, grouse, bear, crow and mosquito, but his signature yoik is that of the wolf. The wolf yoik is a traditional yoik that Somby has developed with dramatic elements in an expressive performance. Somby has been an active musician since 1976 and has performed for royalty, heads of state and even at the funeral of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren! His many animal yoiks are inspired by the idea of transformation in the pre-Christian Sámi religion, when the noaidi (shaman) used yoiks to transform into an animal and back into a human. Somby is also a professor of law at the University of Tromsø and is engaged in Sámi social and political issues.
“In January 2016 Somby released the album “Yoiking With The Winged Ones”, recorded outdoors in Lofoten by the renowned British sound artist artist and field recorder, Chris Watson. The recordings took place in Kvalnes, mid June 2014, in a moment while the Arctic winds were having a little rest.”
Three contemporary classical concerts coming up in London between now and the end of the month, including a number of premiere performances of new pieces.
* * * * * * * *
IKLECTIK presents :
rarescale (Carla Rees & Michael Oliva) IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Sunday 19th June 2016, 8.00pm – information
Piers Tattersall – Analogue
Michael Oliva – Bereft Adrift
Pauline Oliveros- Bye Bye Butterfly
György Ligeti – Artikulation
Bruno Maderna – Music su due dimensioni
Dan Di Maggio – Same Old Monsters
Thea Musgrave – Narcissus
Carla Rees (flute & bass flute)
Michael Oliva (electronics)
rarescale is a flexible-instrumentation contemporary chamber music ensemble which exists to promote the alto flute and its repertoire. Its artistic director, Carla Rees, is a UK-based low flutes specialist – player, arranger and the director of music publishing company Tetractys. She plays Kingma System flutes and works frequently in collaboration with composers to develop new repertoire and techniques: she’s also released five records with rarescale‘s in-house record company.
rarescale‘s composer-in-residence, Michael Oliva, also performs regularly with the ensemble in the UK, Europe and the United States. Originally trained as a biochemist, Michael is now a composer with a fondness for writing operas and music for electronics and woodwind. In addition he runs madestrange opera, a company dedicated to producing new forms of the genre for modern audiences, including Michael’s own multimedia operas ‘Black & Blue’, ‘Midsummer’ and ‘The Girl Who Liked To Be Thrown Around’. Michael also teaches composition with electronics at the Royal College of Music, where he is Area Leader for Electroacoustic Music, and runs the termly “From the Soundhouse” series of concerts of electronic music.
Here’s a video of an earlier rarescale performance.
* * * * * * * *
Douglas Finch – Inner Landscapes CD Launch The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 20th June 2016, 7:00 pm – information
From the Forge’s press release:
Douglas Finch (photo by David Yeo)
“Douglas Finch, described as “a true virtuoso” (‘The Independent’), is best known for his innovative and imaginative approach to performance, and for helping to revive the lost art of classical improvisation in concert. As a pianist (winner of the silver medal at the Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels in 1978) and improviser, Finch has already recorded extensively – most recently with the saxophonist Martin Speake, but also with The Continuum Ensemble for NMC and Avie.
“This event celebrates the first ever CD recording of Douglas Finch’s piano and chamber music. ‘Inner Landscapes: Douglas Finch – Piano and Chamber Music 1984-2013’ was recently released on the Prima Facie label. The music was selected from Finch’s catalogue of over forty works, which range from piano, chamber ensemble, orchestra and theatre music to the soundtracks for five feature-length films. The evening will include a performance of selected works from the recording, played by Lisa Nelsen (flute), Aleksander Szram (piano) and Mieko Kanno (violin). Each ticket includes a complimentary glass of wine and a copy of the CD.”
Douglas himself will also be performing, playing “a short piece which is not on the CD, as well as an improvisation to mark the occasion, based on themes that you suggest on the night.”
* * * * * * * *
Reform Club Lunchtime Concerts presents:
Douglas Finch and Bobby Chen: Two Pianos (Four Hands) Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, Westminster, London, SW1Y 5EW, England
Wednesday 29th June 2016, 12pm – information
Later in the month, Douglas Finch will also be performing with fellow pianist and regular duet partner Bobby Chen at a lunchtime show at the Reform Club. In addition to a performance of Rachmaninov’s ‘Suite for Two Pianos, Op 5 no 1′, they’ll be premiering one of Douglas’ own compositions, provisionally titled ‘Hapsburg Burlesques – Fantasy Transcriptions on Der Rosenkavalier, Mahagony and Other Elegies’ and working around variations on Strauss, Beethoven and others.
This is almost certainly to be a formal club event with a dress code and restricted access to non-members, so be sure to email and enquire about tickets in advance using the link above. Meanwhile, here’s a sample of Douglas’ improvisations and “instant variations”.