Tag Archives: piano music

May 2020 – single & track reviews – MultiTraction Orchestra’s ‘Emerge Entangled’; Stuart Wilding’s ‘Spaces’ and ‘Horns’

5 May

Conceived during coronavirus lockdown, MultiTraction Orchestra is the latest brainchild of cross-disciplinary Sefiroth/Blue-Eyed Hawk guitarist Alex Roth (currently pursuing new avenues and familial roots in Kraków). It’s his way of fighting the entropy, fear and disassociation of the times: part-corralling/part-embracing a cluster of diverse yet sympathetic musicians, recruited via friendship and open-source callups on the web. ‘Emerge Entangled’ is the first result: twenty-seven players working from Alex’s initial two-and-a-half minute pass of treated, multi-layered minimalist guitarwork. If the video accompaniment (a graceful come-and-go conference call featuring most of the players) is anything to go by, Alex played the part of benign/mostly absent god for this recording. There are no solos, no aggressive chord comping. In the few shots in which they feature, his guitars and pedals sit by themselves in a system loop creating the drone with no further intervention. Instead, Alex acts as the invisible mind on faders, reshuffling the instrumental echoes and response which came back from his loop broadcast.

MultiTraction Orchestra: 'Emerge Entangled'

MultiTraction Orchestra: ‘Emerge Entangled’

It’s an eight-city affair; although the majority of musicians hail from Alex’s other base, London (including his percussionist brother and Sefiroth bandmate Simon, trombonists Kieran Stickle McLeod and Raphael Clarkson, Rosanna Ter-Berg on flute, Madwort reedsman Tom Ward on clarinet, drummer Jon Scott and effects-laden double bassist Dave Manington), the MultiTraction net spreads wide. Finnish cellist Teemu Mastovaara, from Turku, is probably the most northerly contributor; Mexico City saxophonist Asaph Sánchez the most southerly; and Texas-based glockenspieler and touch guitarist Cedric Theys the most westerly. (Muscovian tuba player Paul Tkachenko and Lebanon-based iPad manipulator Stephanie Merchak can battle out as to who’s holding it down for the east).

Instrumentally, although there’s a definite slanting towards deep strings, brass and rolling-cloud drones, there’s plenty of variety: from the vintage Baroque flute of Gdańsk’s Maja Miró to the Juno 6 colourings of London soundtracker Jon Opstad and the homemade Coptic lute of Exeter-based Ian Summers. Alex’s other brother, saxophonist Nick, features in the Dublin contingent alongside the accordion work of Kenneth Whelan and cello from Mary Barnecutt. Most of the remaining string players are dotted around England (with double bassist Huw V. Williams and James Banner in St Albans and Leeds respectively, and violinist Alex Harker in Huddersfield). There’s a knot of contributory electronica coming out of Birmingham from Andrew Woodhead and John Callaghan (with virtual synthesist Emile Bojesen chipping in from Winchester), and some final London contributions from jazz pianist/singer Joy Ellis and sometime Anna Calvi collaborator Mally Harpaz bringing in harmonium, timpani and xylophone.

Alex’s past and present work includes jazz, experimental noise, soulfully mournful Sephardic folk music and dance theatre; and while his guitar basework for ‘Emerge Entangled’ seems to recall the harmonic stillness and rippling, near-static anticipatory qualities of 1970s German experimental music such as Cluster (as well as Terry Riley or Fripp and Eno), plenty of these other ingredients swim into the final mix. I suspect that the entanglement Alex intends to evoke is quantum rather than snarl-up: a mutuality unhindered by distance. From its blind beginnings (no-one hearing any other musicians apart from Alex) what’s emerged from the experiment is something which sounds pre-composed; or, at the very least, spun from mutual sympathy.


 
There are definite sections. An overture in which increasingly wild and concerned trombone leads over building, hovering strings and accordion (gradually joined by burgeoning harmonium, filtered-in glockenspiel and percussion, dusk-flickers of bass clarinet, cello and synth) sounds like New Orleans funeral music hijacked by Godspeed! You Black Emperor; the first seepage of flood water through the wall. With a change in beat and emphasis, and the push of drums, the second section breaks free into something more ragged and complicated – a muted metal-fatigue trombone part protesting over synth drone and subterranean tuba growl, which in turn morphs into a double bass line. Various other parts make fleeting appearances (a transverse flute trill, Alex’s guitar loops bumped up against jazz drumkit rolls; a repeating, rising, scalar/microtonal passage on lute, like a Holy Land lament). Throughout, there’s a sense of apprehension, with something ominous lurking outside in the sky and the air and elements; the more melodic or prominent instruments an array of voices trying to make sense of it, their dialects, personalities, arguments and experiences different, but their querulous humanity following a common flow.

Via touches of piano, theme alternations come faster and faster. A third section foregrounds the tuba, moving in and out in deep largo passages while assorted electronics build up a bed of electrostutter underneath. During the latter, watch out in the video for benign eccentronica-cabaret jester John Callaghan, quietly drinking a mugful of tea as his laptop pulses and trembles out a gentle staccato blur. It’s not the most dramatic of contributions, but it feels like a significant one: the mundaneity and transcendent patience which must be accepted as part of lockdown life, an acknowledgement of “this too will pass”. For the fourth section, a tuba line passes seamlessly into a bass clarinet undulation with touches of silver flute; accelerations and rallentandos up and down. Initially some spacier free-jazz flotsam makes its presence felt – electronics and cosmic synth zaps, saxophonic key rattles, buzzes and puffs, fly-ins of cello and double bass. The later part, though, is more of a classical meditation: beatless and with most instruments at rest, predominantly given over to the dark romance of Teemu Mastovaara’s lengthy cello solo (apprehensive, heavy on the vibrato and harmonic string noise, part chamber meditation and part camel call). The finale takes the underlying tensions, squeezes them in one hand and disperses them. An open duet between Jo Ellis’ piano icicles and Asaph Sánchez’s classic tenor ballad saxophone, it becomes a trio with Jo’s glorious, wordless vocal part: hanging in the air somewhere between grief and peace. A moving, thrilling picture of the simultaneously confined and stretched worldspace we’re currently living in, and a small triumph of collaboration against the lockdown odds.

* * * * * * * *

Although ‘Emerge Entangled’ has a number of masterfully responsive drummers and percussionists in place already, it’s a shame that Cheltenham/Xposed Club improv mainstay Stuart Wilding isn’t one of them. His Ghost Mind quartet (three players plus a wide world picture woven in through field recording) have proved themselves to be one of the most interesting listen-and-incorporate bands of recent years. However, he’s continued to be busy with his own lockdown music. ‘Spaces’ and “Horns” are personal solo-duets – possibly single-take, in-situ recordings. Both created in the usual Xposed Club home of Francis Close Hall Chapel, they’re direct and in-the-moment enough that you can hear the click of the stop button. Stuart’s apparently playing piano mostly with one hand while rustling, tapping and upsetting percussion with the other. By the sound of it the main percussion element is probably his lap harp or a zither, being attacked for string noise and resonance.

Assuming that that’s the case, ‘Spaces’ pits grating, dragging stringflutter racket against the broken-up, mostly rhythmic midrange exploration of an unfailingly cheerful piano. Sometimes a struck or skidded note on the percussion prompts a direct echo on the piano. As the former becomes more of a frantic, swarming whirligig of tortured instrumentation (as so frequently with Stuart, recalling the frenetic and cheeky allsorts swirl of Jamie Muir with Derek Bailey and King Crimson), picking out these moments of congruence becomes ever more of a game: while in the latter half, the piano cuts free on whimsical, delighted little leaps of its own. About half the length of ‘Spaces’, ‘Horns’ begins with the percussion apparently chain-sawing the piano in half while the latter embarks on a rollicking one-handed attempt at a hunting tune. The piano wins out. I’m not sure what became of the fox.



 

MultiTraction Orchestra: ‘Emerge Entangled’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Download/streaming track
Released: 1st May 2020
Get it from:
download from Bandcamp, Apple Music or Amazon; stream from Soundcloud, YouTube, Deezer, Google Play, Spotify and Apple Music.
MultiTraction Orchestra/Alex Roth online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Pandora Spotify Amazon Music

Stuart Wilding: ‘Spaces’ & ‘Horns’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Download/streaming tracks
Released: 5th May 2020
Get it from:
Bandcamp – ‘Spaces‘ and ‘Horns
Stuart Wilding online:
Facebook Bandcamp
 

January 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – baroque, folk and present-day music intertwine at the second Baroque At The Edge festival (4th to 6th January)

2 Jan

Baroque At The Edge festivalAs regards classical music, this month appears to be opening with London’s second annual Baroque At The Edge festival across the 4th, 5th and 6th January. Dividing its time between the Clerkenwell classical-church venues of LSO St Lukes and St James Clerkenwell, it starts from a baroque basis but roughly postulates (as it did last year) along the genre-blurring lines of “imagine if Bach was a jazzman, Purcell a folk-fiddler, and Monteverdi a minimalist…”

Following on from 2018’s debut festival, there’ll be a return engagement with concert dramatist Clare Norburn. Having tackled the murderous guilt and glory of Carlo Gesualdo last time around, Clare’s new work ‘Burying The Dead’ (premiered in the West Country last May) is another deathbed dream drama: this time set in 1695 and focusing on the final protracted thoughts and hallucinations of Henry Purcell as “dream-like memories of the Plague, the Fire of London, family life and the vibrant Restoration stage merge seamlessly with his exquisite vocal and instrumental music.” Said music will be provided by London-based baroque ensemble Ceruleo, who commissioned the play, while actor Niall Ashdown features as Purcell.


 
There’s more Purcell-related goings-on via Cecil Sharp House choir director and Wing-It Singer leader Sally Davies, who with her chorally-minded pianist daughter Holly Cullen Davies is running an open-to-all English folksong workshop, focussing on the songs Purcell would have known and referred to. In a similar spirit, the festival’s closing concert features a team-up of Dipper Malkin (John Dipper on fourteen-string viola d’amore, Dave Malkin on guitar and vocals) and singing storyteller Nick Hennessy – all three keen folk-steeped reinventors, on this occasion exploring how “the sophistication of Purcell meets the soul of English folk.”



 
Several more cross-disciplinary players are taking part. Violist Liam Byrne promises a concert in which you can “expect anything, anyhow, from (Marin) Marais to (Nico) Muhly, although he’s keeping schtum on whether he’s playing pure and acoustic or with the electronics or conceptual tricks which make up the other side of his playing. Path-forging post-classical singer Nora Fischer, accompanied by theorbo lutenist Mike Fentross, will delve into the world of seventeenth century song with “intimate and exquisite re-imaginings of works by Purcell, Peri, Monteverdi and others.”




 

Elsewhere in the festival, vigorous violinist Elicia Silverstein will join the dots between Bach and Biber (representing the baroque) and Luciano Berio and Salvatore Sciarrino (representing the contemporary), as demonstrated on her 2018 debut recording ‘The Dreams And Fables I Fashion’. Replacing a planned baroque piano concert from Gabriela Montero (after she had to drop out following surgery), her fellow pianist David Greilsammer provides his ‘Scarlatti:Cage:Sonatas’ dual keyboard programme which constantly interlaces the music of Domenico Scarlatti with the twentieth-century prepared piano compositions of John Cage (hardware, wood and rubber resonating and burring between the strings).




 
Less compressed information, plus full dates and ticket info, can be found at the festival’s homepage and Facebook page.

‘Baroque At The Edge’
LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England
St James Clerkenwell, Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0EA, England
Friday 4th January to Saturday 6th January 2019 (various times)
– information here and here
 

September 2018 – more Daylight Music sessions in London – The Cornshed Sisters, Mesadorm and Kadialy Kouyate (15th September); The Left Outsides, Sister Cookie and Albecq (22nd September); ‘The Sea at the End of Her String’ with Resina, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and Shida Shahabi (29th September)

8 Sep

Daylight Music (London’s best regular free gig series – family-friendly, but never letting that spoil or limit its sense of curiosity and enquiry) sprouts back into action again mid-month for its 2018 autumn season. The gigs in the September set are a typical Daylight melange: art-pop, roots pop, electro-acoustica, folk-pop, post-classical, Kouyate griot and ambient electronica.

* * * * * * * *

The 15th September show features The Cornshed Sisters, Mesadorm and Kadialy Kouyate.

Daylight Music 287: The Cornshed Sisters + Mesadorm + Kadialy Kouyate,15th September 2018

The Cornshed Sisters are four singer-songwriters based in Tyne and Wear, who weave together pop, folk, ballad and protest music into a unique and distinctive style. Drawing on a palette of solo and harmony vocals and a blend of acoustic and electronic instruments, they convey their stories with sensitivity and humour.

“Formed in Bristol in 2015, Mesadorm is the new collaborative project of Blythe Pepino, formerly of London art pop trio Vaults. Debut album ‘Heterogaster’ is based around ideas of family, sex, trust and disconnection, using layered rich vocal harmonies to represent these issues, resulting in a truly special and original sound.

Kadialy Kouyate is a musician, a singer songwriter inspired by the West African Griot repertoire. Born into the great line of Kouyate Griot in Southern Senegal, Kadialy’s mesmerising kora playing and singing style have been appreciated in many prestigious venues as both a soloist and in different ensembles.”



 
* * * * * * * *

The 22nd September show features The Left Outsides, Sister Cookie and Albecq.

Daylight Music 288: The Left Outsides + Sister Cookie + Albecq, 22nd September 2018

The Left Outsides (Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas) are a wife/husband duo based in London. Their atmospheric, hypnotic songs echo Nico’s icy European folk, pastoral psychedelia and chilly English fields at dawn. Their recent album, ‘All That Remains’ album continues to achieve deserved critical acclaim, having been placed as folk album of the month in ‘The Guardian’ during May and receiving regular plays on BBC6 Music and WFMU in the USA.

Sister Cookie is a fixture of the vintage and retro music scenes in London. Having absorbed different genres of music throughout her formative years, from the juju, highlife, reggae and soul records favoured by her mother to the jazz LPs in her father’s collection, she developed a lasting passion for jazz and the blues, together with a unique sound and charisma.

Albecq is the project of three London-based experimental artists and composers – Angus MacRae, James Jones, and Thom Robson. The collective was formed in late 2016 based on a love of vintage synths, unhurried free-flowing soundscapes, and the pioneering ambient expeditions of Basinski and Stars Of The Lid.”

 
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The 29th September show is the collective concert ‘The Sea At The End Of Her String’, showcasing the work of four post-classical female composer/performers on FatCat Records’ 130701 imprint: Resina, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and Shida Shahabi. (As previously posted, this last gig is part of a late September tour which also takes in Brighton, Bristol and Faversham.)

Daylight Music 289: The Sea at the End of Her String: Resina + Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch + Shida Shahabi, Saturday 29th September 2018

Resina is the alias of Karolina Rec, a cellist and composer based in Warsaw, Poland. A compulsive live artist, Karolina’s style is primarily characterized by personal language of improvisation and alternative approach to melody.

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch is an award-winning French pianist/composer currently living in London. Spanning film score, bespoke composition and sound design, her work is connected by its high quality and its evocative, meticulous craft – a common sensibility of elegant, instinctual composition.

Shida Shahabi is a Swedish-Iranian pianist/composer and is currently based in Stockholm. She has made site-specific sound installations, plays in bands and writes music both solo and for dance, film, theatre and fine art contexts. Her debut album is set for release in 2018.”

 
* * * * * * * *

All gigs are at the usual place – Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England – and are free, but chuck a fiver in the bucket to keep things going. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 287: The Cornshed Sisters + Mesadorm + Kadialy Kouyate – Saturday 15th September 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 288: The Left Outsides + Sister Cookie + Albecq – Saturday 22nd September 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 289: The Sea at the End of Her String: Resina + Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch + Shida Shahabi, Saturday 29th September 2018, 12:00pminformation

 
Details on October Daylight concerts to follow in due course…
 

September 2018 – upcoming English post-classical gigs – Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Resina and Shida Shahabi join forces for ‘The Sea At The End Of Her String’ in Brighton, Bristol, London and Faversham (27th-30th September)

3 Sep

Raising little eddies in various coastal or tidal towns in southern England at the end of the month – here’s an evening of female post-classical artists: piano, cello, electronics and voices.

'The Sea At The End Of Her String', 27th-30th September 2018

“Having existed since 2001, the FatCat Records imprint 130701 label was set up (at a time way before it became popular or even recognised as a genre) as an outlet for new music based around artist’s using classical instrumentation in new, non-classical ways, and became a home to some of the most recognisable names in the now broad-reaching post-classical field, introducing the likes of Max Richter and Hauschka, as well as becoming a home for pianist/composers Dustin O’Halloran and Johann Johannsson.

“In the last few years, the imprint has renewed itself and expanded its scope, signing a number of new artists and becoming a full-time concern. This year, the label’s first four album releases all come from female artists and we are excited to introduce three of those on this four-date tour.

An award-winning French pianist and composer currently based in London, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s musical practice also spans film score, bespoke composition and sound design. Her work is connected both by its high quality and its evocative, meticulous craft – a common sensibility of elegant, instinctual composition.

“Having studied a Masters degree in composition at Goldsmiths whilst working for three years at online electronic store Bleep, these experiences show through in Emilie’s music, described by ‘Tiny Mix Tapes’ as “stunning… rich in reverb and resonance, sublime in the language its piano articulates, limned beautifully by orchestral and electronic ambience… melodic, graceful, eloquent, compelling.” ‘Exclaim!’ described Emilie as “quickly establishing herself as an important new voice in contemporary music. Her compositions for piano, viola, cello and electronics combine tender solo performances with rousing arrangements… Her exacting style produces a fully formed, gorgeously crafted result. Levienaise-Farrouch is one to watch.”


 
Resina is the alias of Karolina Rec, a Warsaw-based cellist and composer and a compelling live artist. Karolina’s style is characterized by personal language of improvisation and an alternative approach to melody, using non-obvious characteristics of the instrument alongside electronics and her stunning voice.

“She has played throughout Europe, developing into an increasingly powerful performer supporting the likes of Sarah Neufeld, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Owen Pallett, Hauschka and labelmate Ian William Craig. Resina’s music has been described as “haunting” by ‘The Guardian’ and “ineffably beautiful” by ‘Tiny Mix Tapes’, whilst ‘Self-Titled’ recently described her as offering a “mesmerizing take on post-classical music… that’ll leave the hairs on your neck standing straight up.”

 
Shida Shahabi is a Swedish-Iranian pianist and composer currently based in Stockholm, whose debut album is set for release om 130701 this October. Shida studied piano from the age of nine and began writing melodies on the instrument as soon as she could compose with two hands. Since finishing her studies at The Royal institute of Art in Stockholm in 2013, Shida has made site specific sound installations, played in numerous different bands/constellations and written music both solo and for dance, film, theatre and fine art contexts.

“Shida signed to 130701 earlier this year, having blown the label away with the dreamy, homespun charm of her album demos. Fans of the likes of Nils Frahm, Goldmund, Dustin O’Halloran and Erik Satie will find something to fall for here.”

 
Dates:

  • Church of Annunciation, 89 Washington Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN2 9SR, England, Thursday 27th Septemeber 2018, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Rough Trade, Unit 3 Bridewell Street, Bristol, BS1 2QD, England,, Friday 28th September 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music @ Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England, Saturday 29th September 2018, 12.00pm (as part of Daylight Music season, autumn 2018) – information here and here
  • The Hot Tin, St. Saviour’s Church, Whitstable Road, Faversham, Kent, ME13 8BD, England, Sunday 30th September 2018, 7.00pm – information here

 
While on the subject, there’ll be more news on other upcoming Daylight Music shows shortly.

July 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – the three nights of the Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 series, with The Mark Knoop Supergroup, Apartment House and others playing Catherine Lamb, Kevin Volans, Laura Steenberge, Martin Arnold, Hermann Meier, Johanna Beyer, Robert Ashley, Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, Michael Parsons, Georgia Rodgers and Maya Verlaak (6th, 13th, 20th July)

26 Jun

Music We'd Like To Hear, 2018

Since 2005, annual London concert series Music We’d Like To Hear has been offering “three concerts on three Fridays” curated by composers John Lely and Tim Parkinson, and performed in a City of London church. The 2018 season begins on the first Friday of July.

* * * * * * * *

The first concert, on 6th July, features The Mark Knoop Supergroup (led by pianist Mark Knoop and featuring flautist Ilze Ikse, trumpeter Chloë Abbott, cellist Alice Purton and electronics specialist Newton Armstrong).

Catherine Lamb’s prismatic music is becoming better known in the UK. In this programme we present her 2010 piece ‘nodes, various’, an early work in her continuing exploration of the behaviour of frequencies throughout an open space.

“The remarkable work of Swiss composer Hermann Meier (1906–2002) has been gaining attention following a recent exhibition and symposium at the Hochschule der Künste, Bern. As far as we know, this may well be the first presentation of Meier’s direct and uncompromising music in the UK. Thanks to the assistance of Meier’s archivist Marc Kilchenmann, we present ‘Klavierstück 1968’ alongside a realisation of ‘Flecken’, a 1980 work of cluster fields and static blocks of sonic material for eight electronic sound sources.

“Perhaps best known as a composer of operas, Robert Ashley composed his flute concerto ‘Superior Seven For Barbara Held’ in 1988. After releasing a version with MIDI orchestra on New World Records, Ashley toured a live version. Thanks to the assistance of Mimi Johnson and Tom Hamilton, we have reassembled the score of this beguiling and mysterious work for this concert.”

Previously performed versions of three of the four pieces:




 
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The second concert, on 13th July, showcases four solo or duet works for which (in two cases) the composer is on hand to perform (and which, in all cases, are too recent or rare for me to be able to offer soundclips).

“We are very fortunate to be joined by Laura Steenberge from Los Angeles, who leads a performance of some of her ‘Byzantine Rites’, a rich ongoing collection of performance pieces for music and actions drawn from fascinations with myth and ritual.

“The second half of the concert features the UK premiere of ‘Music for Boxes’ by Norwegian composer Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, an arresting sonic environment created in close collaboration with violinist Mira Benjamin.” (Gyrid herself will be performing the electronic half of the duet.)

“As a first interlude to these sets, keyboard players Francesca Fargion and Tim Parkinson give a rare performance of Kevin Volans’ ‘Matepe For Two Harpsichords’, a 1980 work which the South African composer has referred to as “invented folklore”, marrying African and European techniques and aesthetics.

“Our second interlude is an exquisite 1971 piano miniature performed by Francesca, ‘Variations’ by Michael Parsons, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year.”

* * * * * * * *

The third and final concert, on 20th July, features acclaimed New Music ensemble Apartment House playing four works for string quartet.

Johanna Beyer (1888–1944) is chiefly known today as the composer of one of the first electronic works, 1938’s ‘Music Of The Spheres’. She was one of the most colourful and individual voices of the early American avant-garde, yet long under-represented in concert programming. Recently, though, Beyer’s work has been enjoying a renaissance. This evening’s selection is ‘String Quartet No. 2’ from 1936.

Georgia Rodgers’ shimmering ‘Three Pieces For String Quartet’ is a 2015 work supported by the Sound and Music Embedded Scheme, and premiered by the Bozzini Quartet at Woodend Barn, Banchory, Scotland for their Composer’s Kitchen project.

“We are delighted to commission a brand new work from Maya Verlaak, curator of the Post Paradise concert series in Birmingham, which has exploded onto the scene in recent years with fascinating programmes of new sounds and voices.

“To end the 2018 series, there’s a performance of Canadian composer Martin Arnold’s 1997 reinvention of the string quartet – ‘Contact; Vault’. With its long, delirious melody and quiet intensity, this singular work will play us out as the sun sets on this summer’s selection of music we’d like to hear.”

Again, some previous performances…

 

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All concerts take place at St Mary-at-Hill, Lovat Lane, City of London, London EC3R 8EE, England.

Dates and links:

  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 I (featuring The Mark Knoop Supergroup) – Friday 6th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 II (featuring Laura Steenberge, Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, Mira Benjamin, Francesca Fargion and Tim Parkinson) – Friday 13th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 III (featuring Apartment House) – Friday 20th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

June 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – outstanding free late-lunch listening with Borough Music’s Series 9 (5th, 12th, 19th, 26th June) featuring Ret Frem Ensemble, Amy Jolly, Janet Oates and Aleksander Szram (plus reworked Britten and Finnissy and premiere pieces from Janet Oates, Janet Graham, Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta, Frederick Viner)

3 Jun

Borough New Music‘s rolling programme of free concerts of new, recent and/or time-tested classical music continues with Series 9 this month.

* * * * * * * *

Ret Frem, 5th June 2018

The first of the concerts, on 5th June, features the Ret Frem Ensemble. They’ll be performing a programme including ensemble leader Will Handysides‘ own ‘Geiterspeil’ (2017), the British premiere of Series 9 guest artistic advisor Hollie Harding‘s ‘by breath and bow’, Kaija Saariaho‘s ‘Cendres’ (from 1998) and Barry O’Halpin‘s ‘Catarrh’ (from 2014). The set’s completed by Wil Offermans‘ reworking of the traditional Japanese tune ‘Tsuro No Sugomori’ and by Michael Finnissy 2003 piece ‘June’ (in a new version which he specifically assembled for Ret Frem).

Here are versions of the Harding, Saariaho and O’Halpin pieces…

 
plus a previous giddy Handysides ensemble piece as a pointer…

 
* * * * * * * *

Amy Jolly, 12th June 2018

The 12th June concert is a solo instrumental event for cellist Amy Jolly. She’ll be playing Kaija Saariaho‘s 1997 piece ‘Spins And Spells’ and Per Nørgård‘s ‘Sonata for Solo Cello No.2 In Due Tempi’ (consisting of two pieces composed over a gap of twenty-seven years – 1953’s ‘Solo Intimo’ and 1980’s ‘Solo in Scena’).

In addition, she’ll be playing Benjamin Britten’s 1976 piece ‘Tema “Sacher”‘ and a pair of new Hollie Harding variations on it (‘Extension’ and ‘Motion’, both composed for Amy over the last two years).

Various previous renditions of the pieces concerned:




 
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The 19th June concert showcases the compositions of Janet Oates and features an ensemble built around the soprano vocals of Jill House, Olivia Moss and Janet herself, plus Janet’s flute-playing, piano from Ret Frem’s Clare Simmonds and cor anglais from Nancy Johnston.

Half of the programme are Janet’s own songs: the previously-performed ‘Atomic Songs and Fancies’ and ‘Blind Fool Love’, and the two world premieres ‘Arse-elbow’ and ‘A Lover’. The rest of it’s made up of recent classical song repertoire: the late Jonathan Harvey‘s ‘Ah Sunflower’ and Tansy Davies‘ ‘Destroying Beauty’ (both from 2008), plus Dai Fujikura‘s ‘Away We Play’. There’ll also be two further world premieres of as-yet-untitled works by Joel Järventausta and Frederick Viner.

Here are previous renditions of the Fujikura and Harvey pieces and one of Janet’s previous performances of ‘A Lover’; plus a couple of previous Järventausta and Viner pieces (along the same ensemble lines, at least, as the new ones to be performed).



 
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Alexandr Szram, 26th June 2018The last of the June concerts – on the 26th – is another solo instrumental concert, this time for pianist Aleksander Szram. He’ll be playing Harding’s ‘Suite P’, Daryl Runswick‘s ‘Scafra Preludes Book 2’, Haris Kittos‘ ‘Arthrós’ and Simon Katan‘s ‘Khepera’, as well as the world premiere of Janet Graham‘s new ‘Sonata for Piano’.

Here are various renditions of the Harding and Kittos pieces, plus the preceding piece in the Runswick ‘Scafra Preludes’ sequence:

 
* * * * * * * *

Borough New Music Series 9, June 2018All events are at St. George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, Borough, London, SE1 1JA, England: Dates and links below:

  • Series 9: Pot Luck! Ret Frem Ensemble – Tuesday 5th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here
  • Series 9: Featured Instrument – Cello – Amy Jolly – Tuesday 12th June 2018, 1.00pminformation
  • Series 9: Featured Composer – Janet Oates – Tuesday 19th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here
  • Series 9: Featured Performer – Aleksander Szram – Tuesday 26th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here

 

May 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – a host of intriguing devices and performers at IKLECTIK in a showcase for the Augmented Instruments Lab (11th May)

24 Apr

News on what looks like a fascinating evening at the forefront of new tweaks to music making, via a variety of performers and innovators working with intriguing new instruments and music controllers (plus adaptations of existing instruments)…

 
Xenia Pestova & Lia Mice present:
‘Augmented Instruments Lab – Live at IKLECTIK’: Xenia Pestova + Lia Mice + D. Andrew Stewart + Laurel S. Pardue/Jack Armitage + Giacomo Lepri + Kurijn Buys
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 11th May 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Augmented Instruments Lab, based out of the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary, focuses on developing new instruments and interfaces for musical expression. Come experience a selection of live performances of the instruments of the lab performed by internationally touring performers and the instrument designers themselves.

The magnetic resonator piano

The magnetic resonator piano

Xenia Pestova (an internationally acclaimed performer of augmented instruments) will perform ‘Glowing Radioactive Elements’, a new piece she composed this year for the Magnetic Resonator Piano. The composition draws on the unique timbres, harmonics, infinite sustain, and pitch bends performable on the Magnetic Resonator Piano. The MRP, invented by Augmented Instruments Lab director Dr. Andrew McPherson, is an augmented grand piano featuring eighty-eight magnetic resonators.



 
“Canadian composer and digital instrumentalist D. Andrew Stewart performs ‘Ritual For Karlax’ – a unique performance with the Karlax digital music instrument (a gestural controller developed by Da Fact). Explore new sonic territories made of real and imaginary metallic ritual bells and electro-winds.



 
“Performing her augmented violin (that uses custom sensor arrangements to detect natural playing techniques to highlight musical and technical expression), Laurel S. Pardue (of Misshaped Pearls) will perform both a solo piece and a collaborative performance with coder and instrument designer Jack Armitage (in which parameters of the augmented violin will be live coded).

“Producer and instrument designer Lia Mice debuts her newest instrument in her ChandeLIA series: the SHIMI (Spiral hanging inharmonic metal instrument). The SHIMI ChandeLIA is a new suspended musical instrument exploring inharmonic resonances and spacial gesture mapping. Lia’s debut SHIMI performance will explore the instrument’s dark sci-fi-esque bell resonances, drones and chimes.


 
“For the first time in London, Giacomo Lepri will perform his set for clarinet and live electronics. The sonic output of this otherworldly futuristic clarinet system features both live processing of the clarinet and pure synthetic sounds. This setup combines algorithms, ideas and practises developed during Giacomo’s research at Amsterdam’s STEIM institute.


 
Kurijn Buys performs experimental electronic music, conjured using an assortment of multidimensional gestural controllers including the Lightpad and Touché to control modular synthesis.”



 

April 2018 – The Ecstatic Music Festival in New York (part 3) with Margaret Leng Tan, ModernMedieval, Julianna Barwick, Patrick Zimmerli, Carla Kihlstedt and others, featuring premieres of new works by George Crumb, Suzanne Farrin, Kelly Moran, Jeremy Flower and Patrick Zimmerli (14th, 19th, 26th April)

1 Apr

During April, New York’s Ecstatic Music Festival comes to an end with its three final events. In the previous six concerts, we’ve seen (among other things) big band music, contemporary classical percussion, slam poetry, choirwork, experimental pop and progressive industrial metal. The closing three shows feature left-field jazz/classical/pop fusions, mix-and-match vocal ensemble music, and a finale of virtuoso contemporary classical piano (including toy piano).

* * * * * * * *

Jeremy Flower, John Hollenbeck, Ethan Iverson, Carla Kihlstedt, Christopher Tordini & Patrick Zimmerli: ‘Clockwork’ & ‘Songs of Mourning’
Saturday 14th April 2018, 7:30pm
– information here and here

“The evening begins with a celebration of the release of composer-saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli’s ‘Clockworks’, an hour-long jazz quartet suite and a musical meditation on time, in all its forms, performed by Zimmerli with former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Christopher Tordini and composer-jazz drummer John Hollenbeck.

“In the evening’s second half, pop/art song composer-violinist-vocalist Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Rabbit Rabbit, Charming Hostess, Tin Hat, The Book of Knots, Causing a Tiger and others) and composer Jeremy Flower joins Zimmerli, Tordini and Hollenbeck for the world premiere of ‘Songs Of Mourning’, an exploration of sorrow ranging from the political to the personal, and other works from their cumulative pasts.”



 
ModernMedieval & Julianna Barwick
Thursday 19th April 2018, 7:30pm
– information here and here

“Some of the greatest voices in contemporary music come together! Julianna Barwick’s ethereal, powerfully emotive voice (usually layered on top of itself to stunning effect) is paired with three-member super-group ModernMedieval (celebrated performers of early music, featuring former Anonymous 4 founder Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek and Roomful of Teeth’s Martha Cluver and Eliza Bagg), ascending into a thrilling and truly ecstatic sonic world.

“Featuring premieres of new works by Barwick, Caleb Burhans (“New York’s mohawked Mozart” – ‘Time Out New York’), and Caroline Shaw (the youngest ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music).”



 
Margaret Leng Tan premieres George Crumb, Suzanne Farrin, & Kelly Moran
Thursday 26th April 2018, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Margaret Leng Tan — the formidable doyenne of the avant-garde piano — has built a career on upending tradition, pushing her instrument into fresh, no-holds-barred sonic worlds,” raves the Washington Post. Tan gives the New York premiere of ‘Metamorphoses’, a major new work written for her by the seminal twentieth century composer George Crumb, for amplified piano, toy piano, percussion and voice. Metamorphoses is performed with Monica Duncan’s video projections, in which atmospheric visual textures complement the music.

“Tan will also premiere two new EMF-commissioned pieces by young composers responding to Cage and Crumb’s influence: a work for prepared piano by Kelly Moran, and a haunting new piece by 2017 Rome Prize winner Suzanne Farrin that acknowledges not only Crumb’s important contribution to American music, but, in Farrin’s words, “also Margaret Leng Tan’s special role as the artist who has brought the piano’s insides to life on stage.” Works by Toby Twining and John Cage round out the program.”



 
As with all the other EMF concerts, these will take place at Merkin Concert Hall @ Kaufman Music Center, 129 W 67th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, NY 10023, USA.

Both the ModernMedieval/Julianna Barwick and the Margaret Leng Tan concerts are co-presentations with New Sounds Live: hosted by John Schaefer, they’ll be streamed live via the New Sounds homepage.

Same again next year?

Ecstatic Music Festival, 2018

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:



 

January 2018 – upcoming London post-classical/gamelan gigs – Lubomyr Melnyk and James Heather (17th January), Aloysius Suwardi’s Planet Harmonik (18th January)

7 Jan

A quick, press-release only nod to a couple of upcoming higher-profile concerts – one for post-classical piano, the other for experimental gamelan…

* * * * * * * *

Lubomyr Melnyk + James Heather, 17th January 2018

Erased Tapes presents:
Lubomyr Melnyk + James Heather
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Lubomyr Melnyk is a Ukrainian composer and pianist who has pioneered “continuous piano music”. Classically trained and influenced by the minimalist movement in the early 1970s, he has developed his own unique language for the piano, named after the principle of maintaining a continuous, unbroken stream of sound. A true innovator, his mission is to explore new directions for contemporary music. Not only is he regarded as one of the world’s fastest concert pianists, his compositions also truly carry the listener to new realms. To witness one of his rare live performances is nothing short of a mind-opening experience.


 
Joining him on the bill will be Ninja Tune’s post-classical pianist James Heather, one of the new school set of ‘post classical’ artists flourishing in the wake of the long, steady but recently accelerated success of figureheads like Max Richter, Ben Lukas Boyson and Jóhann Johannsson, and the wider public’s overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre. His debut album – ‘Stories From Far Away On Piano’ – was released in August 2017 via Coldcut’s Ahead Of Our Time label.

“The album concept and artwork (layers of Indian ink repeatedly bled into newspaper print representing the recirculation of information) centres on Heather’s musical interpretations of real world stories; Isis jihadists hijacking the Facebook account of an executed female activist in Syria (Ruqia), the British Empire’s imprisonment of Boers in South Africa (Empire Sounds), a missing Malaysia Airlines jet in the Indian Ocean (MHope), the Paris terror suspect who reportedly had a Last Minute Change Of Heart and the Los Angeles man freed after 16 years in prison after being wrongly identified by a Teardrop Tattoo.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Aloysius Suwardi - Planet Harmonik, 18th January 2018


The Barbican, Kazum! and Europalia present:
Aloysius Suwardi: “Planet Harmonik”
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Composer, instrument-maker and gamelan expert Aloysius Suwardi presents his ‘Planet Harmonik’ project for the first time outside of his native Indonesia. Bringing together a host of self-made instruments – from giant gambang xylophones, to hydraulic bamboo flutes – Suwardi’s ‘Planet Harmonik’ takes its inspiration from the Pythagorean theory of “music of the spheres”. It’s the idea that the proportional relationship between planets is equivalent to the relationship between musical notes – that the sun, the moon and Earth all emit their own tone.

The instruments of Aloysius Suwardi (photo © Witjak Widhi Cahya)

The instruments of Aloysius Suwardi (photo © Witjak Widhi Cahya)

As Aloysius comments on the Barbican blog, “when I first read about the Pythagorean theory… my imagination was ignited. He suggested the cosmos consisted of separate spheres, one each for the planets, moon, and sun, which moved around the earth at different velocities, producing different sounds. The concept inspired me to make instruments capable of producing strong harmonics or overtones, to represent the music of the spheres.

“When I’m making musical instruments I have two starting points: firstly, I aim to make an instrument based on my mental picture of its shape, without considering the resulting sound. Secondly, I aim to make an instrument to obtain a specific sound that is derived from a sound imagined in my head. I decided to make a new ensemble to explore the possibilities of obtaining a series of harmonics produced by the instruments. The clearest and loudest harmonics are used for the pitch to be arranged as either slendro or pelog gamelan tuning scales.”

“Like the planets, ‘Planet Harmonik’ is a piece that moves with grace despite its complexity, rooted in the rich history of gamelan while also looking to the future.”


 

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