Tag Archives: string quartet music

May/July 2019 – upcoming classical/experimental gigs – multimedia string quartet work – Solem Quartet in London, Liverpool and Manchester (2nd, 9th, 10th May); Kronos Quartet & Trevor Paglen’s ‘Sight Machine’ in London (11th July)

29 Apr

Some quick signal-boosing for those of you who might enjoy augmented string quartet music…

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Solem Quartet, 2nd/9th/10th May 2019“In the first of a brand new series, Solem Lates, the Solem Quartet present ‘batózeyal’: a night of music for string quartet and electronics.

“Excitingly, ‘batózeyal’ will feature two specially commissioned premieres, from Larry Goves and Aaron Parker, alongside Anna Meredith‘s ‘Tuggemo’ (a dance-inspired romp mixing the sounds of live string quartet with synth electronics), and other exhilarating recent works from Jonathan Dove (‘Quite Fast’ from his 2001 string quartet ‘Out of Time’) and Paul Zaba (‘Sidechains’, a dizzying musical incarnation of the electronic effect of the same name).

“In the context of this contemporary music, we will also be performing Bartók’s 3rd Quartet which sounds as fresh and visceral as it did at its conception, almost one hundred years ago.

“The title of the night shares its name with the piece by Aaron Parker, which responds to and interacts with the Bartók Quartet (while incorporating electronics and film). So come and join us for sparkling new music and a masterpiece of twentieth-century chamber music!”

There were no initial details for what the Goves piece was called, but talk on Twitter has confirmed that it’s a nine-minute composition called ‘Two-Way Mirror’. Meanwhile, here’s the Solem playing the Bartók (along with a Paul Zaba Soundcloud clip of ‘Sidechains’ and a performance of ‘Quite Fast’ by the Eurasia Quartet).


 
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“Artist Trevor Paglen and the ever-inventive Kronos Quartet present Sight Machine, a multimedia performance putting a string quartet under the gaze of machine-vision and artificial intelligence.

Kronos Quartet/Trevor Paglen: ' Sight Machine', 11th July 2019We live in a data-driven world, but is it really possible to quantify human emotion? This concert puts that question under surveillance. While the Kronos Quartet perform works by Terry Riley, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich, Egyptian electronic musician Islam Chipsy and others, the musicians are monitored by cameras feeding into a suite of artificial intelligence algorithms. The software turns this abstracted information back into images, which are then projected onto the screen behind the performers, showing us how machines and their algorithms perceive what we are seeing.

“Utilising algorithms ranging from consumer-grade facial detection to advanced surveillance systems and even guided missiles, ‘Sight Machine’ is a fascinating and unsettling illustration of the discrepancy between what we experience as human beings and what machines ‘see’.

“This is part of Life Rewired – the 2019 Barbican season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything.”

 

This work was originally performed in New York back in 2017 – read some more about that here. No extra details on the setlist yet…

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Dates:

Solem Quartet: ‘batózeyal’

  • The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, Peckham, London, SE15 3SN, England – Thursday 2nd May 2019, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • The Invisible Wind Factory, 25 Carlton Street, Liverpool, L3 7BX, England – Thursday 9th May 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1DF, England – Friday 10th May 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here


Serious presents:
Kronos Quartet & Trevor Paglen: ‘Sight Machine’
Barbican Hall @ Barbican Arts Centre, Silk Street, City of London, London, EC2Y 8DS, England
Thursday 11th July 2019, 8.30pm
– information here and here

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Also, I guess it’s worth mentioning that the Markus Reuter string quartet record I previewed back in February is now out. Here are some promotional clips for those of you who missed out on the previous post…




 

February 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs plus previews – Edmund Finnis premieres new piano trio on Britten Sinfonia English mini-tour (12th,13th, 15th February) – plus looks at Edmund’s imminent ‘The Air, Turning’ album and Markus Reuter’s imminent ‘Heartland’ album

8 Feb

A new Edmund Finnis composition is doing the rounds on a Britten Sinfonia micro-tour next week, taking in concerts in Cambridge, London and Norwich. The piece is a piano trio nestled in amongst a programme of compositions which examine chamber music’s historical connection to, and evolution from, Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1. Starting with this sonata, the concert progresses through Leoš Janáček’ ‘Pohádka’ and Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Le merle noir’, with the piano trio then preceding a performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s ‘Sonata for flute, violin and piano’. The performers are flautist Emer McDonough, violinist Thomas Gould, cellist Caroline Dearnley and pianist Huw Watkins.

I can’t find a title – or indeed, much more context and background – for the piano trio beyond this, although all will probably be revealed at the time. At the London date, Edmund’s also providing more details in a ticketed public talk with Dr Kate Kennedy before the concert begins. I’ve previously noted his compositional style as “flow(ing) from the luminously minimal to frenetically eerie orchestral jousts”, so he should have plenty to talk about.

Britten Sinfonia: At Lunch 2 2018-2019 – Bach, Janácek, Messiaen, Finnis and Martinu

  • West Road Concert Hall, 11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP, England – Monday 12th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here, here and here
  • Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 2BP, England – Wednesday 13th February 2019, 1.00pm
    – information here, here and here (Edmund Finnis in conversation with Dr Kate Kennedy, 12.15pm – free event – information here)
  • St Andrew’s Hall @ The Halls, St Andrew’s Plain, Norwich, NR3 1AU, England – Friday 15th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here and here

Edmund Finnis: 'The Air, Turning'

Edmund Finnis: ‘The Air, Turning’

Meanwhile, the first recorded collection of Edmund’s compositions – ‘The Air, Turning’, which has been six years in the making – is out on 9th February on NMC Recordings. Besides the sensual title composition (an orchestral work inspired by the concept of how music’s sound vibrations thrum and manipulate the atmosphere around us), it includes five other Finnis works. There’s the slow-ringing string orchestra piece ‘Between Rain’ (as performed at the Roundhouse and at ‘Organ Reframed‘ in 2016); the crepuscular, haunting ‘Shades Lengthen’ violin concerto; the blossoming ensemble work ‘Parallel Colour’ (in which clarinet, piano, strings and percussion drip and swell like heavy dew in an unexpected spot of bluster) and his ‘Four Duets’ for clarinet and piano.

Players include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, violinist Eloisa-Fleur Thom and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The more electronic/electrophonic side of Edmund’s work isn’t really present (for a few examples of that, visit his Soundcloud page), but it’s nodded to via the violin-plus-reverb concert hall piece ‘Elsewhere’ (which was touched on in here around two years ago when I plugged its second ever performance by Daniel Pioro). All in all, it’s exciting music – simultaneously translucent, muscular and subtly cerebral, with a rare quality of mystique and engagement.


 
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Seeing that I’ve drawn myself into writing about Edmund’s album, I’ll add something about Markus Reuter’s upcoming string quartet project ‘Heartland’. This isn’t out on record for a couple of months but has just begun to tease on Bandcamp, although Markus was good enough to send me the whole recording this week to listen to. This isn’t the first time Markus has created music which has disengaged from his usual electrophonic world of direct sound-processing and touch guitar, or in which he hasn’t felt the requirement to be present as performer. That would have been the orchestral version of ‘Todmorden 513’ a few years ago: a dense slowly-evolving soundpool built from algorithmic processes, assuming a vast, eerie and slightly melancholic ritual character to overlay its logical progression.

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Across the sixty minutes and eight sections of ‘Heartland’, algorithmic processes are once again the driving engines: mathematics lurk within the extended composition, with fractals, magic squares, and other numerical devices defining its elegant form. The piece, however (beautifully recorded in Berlin’s Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz, Berlin last October by the Matangi Quartet) brings more to the listener than an appreciation of structures. Beyond the initial brain-tickle, it seems that different listeners are inspired into different psychoactive responses. Active voyages of discovery seem to be a common theme. Various sleevenote contributors compare the journey through ‘Heartland’ to a Jungian river-ride through the collective subconscious, or to a Kubrickian Star Gate trip; while in the teaser video, Matangi violinist Maria-Paula Majoor appreciates the essential character of ‘Heartland’ as being “contemplative, maybe, (but) not very sure… I like that, in music… I think it’s nice to feel there is a doubt…that also gives the space for interpretation, and also for the listener to create (their) own interpretation”, and cellist Arno van der Vuurst comments that the music seems to be “searching for something”.


 
On a superficial level, ‘Heartland’ sometimes also suggests a bridge between the technical perfection of Bach baroque and the programmatic patterning of New York minimalism. It’s true that that particular bridge has already taken some heavy traffic, and from many different composers; but in Markus’ case he seems to have built his own separate bridge across the same river, and it’s only a part of the architecture and living space which the piece enables – it’s by no means its raison d’être. For initial promotion, Markus has mostly restricted himself to talking about translating processes into music, and about how his algorithmic/fractal note rows (and what progresses from them) work like carefully decorated modes or ragas; but the twinkle in his eyes suggests more. On the literary side, there are explicit references to Scarlett Thomas, short stories and sad goodbyes, and implicit ones to Thomas Mann: Markus also talks about “music that is there already and only needs to be uncovered”, and he’s clearly revelling in his opportunity to go wherever he wants and that “people want to be surprised, and they kind of like the fact that I’m an explorer.”

Matangi Quartet: 'Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 'Heartland''

Matangi Quartet: ‘Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 ‘Heartland”

Due to my own circumstances, I often find that I have to run much of my music-listening time in parallel with entirely unassociated work time. In some cases this works fine: the higher levels of my brain are usually bored with lying fallow while other tasks have to be done, and the business of processing and appreciating music occupies brain space which would otherwise make me rattle and rebel. However, I do find that certain kinds of music are tougher to listen to. Much of contemporary classical music is too immediately information-dense, too neurotically intellectual – and, in a strange way, simultaneously too directly assertive and too demandingly needy for to be able to split my attention while listening to it. (Oddly enough, I have a similar response to hip hop).

‘Heartland’ is certainly full of coding, but when I ran it through the mill of listening necessity I’ve described above – while concentrating fiercely on a pile up of day-job things which needed to be fixed – I found that it also had surprisingly calming qualities. In particular, it had qualities of order – as if the pulse and pitching of the music was putting things right without relying on the usual structural/dramatic clichés to which I respond. While ‘Heartland’ is full of detail and mechanism, and while Markus is particularly open about that, much of its devicery is camouflaged: the piece does not anxiously assert its complexity and importance. Instead, I found it subtle and confident in its own intelligence, like the workings of a brain; not the chaotic, nervy dramatisation of an unbalanced mind, but something more Apollonian, with a matter-of-fact humanity. On this particular pass I didn’t feel skilled enough to analyse everything in it, but from the off I felt the structures and the processes… and also felt that I was somehow sharing in them.

This might not be a purely rational conclusion (and a different week might produce a different flexion of the imagination) but for now I’m sticking to it. Perhaps, beyond its number processes, ‘Heartland’ is a self-contained flexible map for an inner journey; perhaps, for me, it works as a set of complex mental debugging routines generated and given impetus by the chug of bow on string and the singing self-contained musicality that’s propelled string quartets in common for three centuries (and which has built a proportion of my own responses for about a sixth of that time). To these ears, this mind, ‘Heartland’ is a generous piece. It inspires a kind of serenity, even a kind of hope.

‘Heartland’ is out on Solaire Records on 12th April, and can be pre-ordered here and here.


 

January 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – Marin Allsop and the LPO bring a batch of premieres to ‘Here and Now’ (16th January); Philip Thomas, Richard Craig and Damien Harron perform Morton Feldman’s ‘Crippled Symmetry’ (22nd January); Phaedra Ensemble and friends play Meredith Monk, Caroline Shaw, Jamie Hamilton and Fred Thomas (29th January)

11 Jan
Marin Allsop, 2018

Marin Allsop, 2018

As well as interlocking with the Southbank’s SoundState festival, next Thursday’s ‘Here and Now’ concert, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Marin Allsop, is part of the orchestra’s year-long ‘Isle of Noises’ series featuring three hundred and thirty years worth of “landmark classics inspired by the British Isles.”

While other concerts in the series are likely to feature Handel, Purcell, Vaughan Williams and other longstanding canon composers influenced (in some cases) by their migration to the islands or (in others) by their responses to its landscapes, this early-stages concert is packed with – read, entirely composed of – premieres of brand new pieces. On offer are the world premieres of Arne Gieshoff’s ‘Burr’, Helen Grime’s ‘Percussion Concerto’ (with Colin Currie as soloist) and Anders Hillborg’s new twenty-minute concerto-for-orchestra ‘Sound Atlas’ (also including a battery of percussion, from the more familiar timpani and tubular bells to Chinese opera gong, vibraslap and paint tin).

In addition, there’s the British premiere of Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür’s ‘Solastalgia for piccolo and orchestra’ (featuring piccoloist Stewart McIlwham). There’s also the European premiere of Louis Andriessen’s ‘Agamemnon’, a kind of actorless, wordless instrumental opera composed by Andriessen for his own 80th birthday celebration concerts in New York last autumn, and described by him as “a war-like piece, full of fast music and nervous terror” constructed (as mythology usually is) by a babble of competing voices. Here’s a little snatch of it from the New York rehearsals…


 
Earlier in the evening, Marin Allsop will provide a free “Behind the Baton” discussion on the evening’s music and on her thoughts on classical music’s future.

Isle Of Noises, 2019

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Over the next couple of weeks, there are two interesting free concerts in the City, University of London Concert Series at the City campus in Finsbury.

Morton Feldman

Morton Feldman

The first, on the evening of the 22nd, is a performance of Morton Feldman’s ‘Crippled Symmetry’ by percussionist Damien Harron, flautist Richard Craig and Philip Thomas on piano and celesta. One of the composer’s late works (from 1983), it’s “a haunting exploration of stillness, tonal and temporal ambiguities, and musical patterning.” As presented to players, it’s a slightly disassociated triple-part score: each individual part fully notated but deliberately not synchronized with the others (leading to fascinating opportunities for uncertainty and chance).

As with many Feldman pieces, ‘Crippled Symmetry’ is also a long, attenuated listening challenge, lasting an entire hour-and-a-half. Here’s the 1991 version recorded by Eberhard Blum, Jan Williams and Nils Vigeland from Feldman’s original ensemble:


 
The second concert – a week later on the 29th – features string-quartet-plus-collaborators Phaedra Ensemble. In this case, they’re performing a programme of New York- or London-composed string-based pieces inspired by the human voice.

Phaedra Ensemble, 29th January 2019

From the American side, Roomful Of Teeth member, composer-violinist and sometime hip hop collaborator Caroline Shaw provides 2011’s ‘Entr’acte’: in part, a humorous deconstruction and reconstruction of Haydn in which his sublime classical-era tone shifts struggle to place and reassert themselves within the unruliness of twenty-first century music.

In parallel, NYC loft music veteran and intuitive voice music doyen Meredith Monk contributes her 2005 piece String Songs. Originally premiered in London by the Kronos Quartet almost exactly thirteen years ago, it’s the piece which she transposed and translated her idiosyncratic and individual vocal ideas into string quartet context for the first time. Examples below:



 
The first of the pieces from the British side – the crinkling, conversational ‘Taking a nap, I pound the rice’ (with its quinpartite nods to the compositions and thoughts of composers from the aforementioned Feldman and John Cage to Anton Webern and Thelonious Monk, and of transformative British nature writer/‘Peregrine’ author J.A. Baker – comes from Fred Thomas, one of F-IRE Collective’s multi-instrumentalist composers. Fred himself joins Phaedra for the piece on prepared piano, accompanied by percussionist Maurizio Ravalico. As with the previous performance of the piece – listen below – narration is provided on tape by rising black British actress Ronke Adekoleujo.

 
The last piece, ‘Remainder for vocalising string quartet’ is a world premiere from composer/mixed-media artist/Phaedra co-director Jamie Hamilton. It explores “the many techniques that were developed with him incorporating speech, singing and vocalisations with instrumental playing” and continues to pursue his interest in how humans use sound as a measuring medium.

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Dates:

London Philharmonic Orchestra presents:
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Marin Alsop: ‘Here and Now: Isle of Noises’
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Wednesday 16th January 2019, 7.30pm
– information here (‘Behind the Baton’ talk info here)

City, University of London Concert Series presents:
Philip Thomas + Richard Craig + Damien Harron perform Morton Feldman: Crippled Symmetry
Performance Space @ City, University of London, College Building, St John Street, Finsbury, London, EC1V 4PB, England
Tuesday 22nd January 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

City, University of London Concert Series presents:
Phaedra Ensemble: Monk, Shaw, Hamilton, Thomas
Performance Space @ City, University of London, College Building, St John Street, Finsbury, London, EC1V 4PB, England
Tuesday 29th January 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

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

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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).

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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:



 

October 2017 – London classical gigs – Olga Stezhko’s Paris flash (10th & 19th October); Billroth Quartet play Mozart and a Paul Barnes premiere (15th October)

30 Sep

Olga Stezhko, 2015It’s always good to hear about new concerts by Olga Stezhko. In addition to her dazzling piano technique, Olga’s enquiring mind, her intellectual rigour and her urge to communicate ideas always ensures that she sets up interesting programmes and juxtapositions.

Her latest London appearances are no exception, as she focusses on music created during a particularly animated period of cultural shift. As she comments, “all the pieces… (Debussy, Poulenc, Prokofiev and Ravel) were composed in Paris at a time when Europe was undergoing a seismic cultural and socio-political shift. I will explore the dynamics that drove the creativity of four complex personalities in the fast-paced environment of the City of Lights…”

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Suite bergamasque; Children’s Corner (Wigmore Hall only); Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (from ‘Images, Series 2’ – Wigmore Hall only)
Francis Poulenc – Trois pièces
Maurice Ravel – Oiseaux tristes and Alborada del gracioso (from ‘Miroirs’)
Sergei Prokofiev – Pensées Op. 62 (Wigmore Hall only)

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Billroth Quartet, 15th October 2017

In between the two Stezhko dates, the Billroth Quartet (violinists Thomas Leate and Christian Halstead, viola player Simon Ballard and cellist Heidi Parsons, whose performance gamut runs from contemporary classical to jazz, tango and world recordings) are premiering a debut piece by composer and crystallographer Paul Barnes, in programme with a Mozart favourite.

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Duo for Violin & Viola (K423)
Paul Barnes – Layers of Life (for string quartet)

Regarding his piece, Paul Barnes writes:

“…’Layers of Life’ is a commemoration of all lives that fulfil some aspect of their potential, whether small or large, recognised or hidden… This composition is very unusual in that the styles of its four movements contain aspects of the four basic musical styles (respectively: baroque, classical, Romantic, and modern) thereby illustrating the passage of time, from cradle to grave, of its subject. The story ends with a passage where the subject enters a dreamy phase which becomes strongly agitated when its status, as a life finale, is realised.

“However, the dream then reforms into a vision in which the subject’s whole life flashes quickly past, as represented by the distorted re-appearance of several themes from its earlier movements, and by the final harmony which signals an ambiguous ending indicative of the varying beliefs concerning an afterlife.”

Billroth Quartet
Platform Theatre @ Platform Islington, Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place (off Hornsey Road), Holloway, London, N7 7EE, England
Sunday October 15th, 3.00 pm
information (tickets available on the door, or reservable by emailing the composer)

This low-key concert (you won’t currently find it mentioned on the Platform website) is the debut live event from a new North London recording and performance initiative, aiming to find and carry out effective micro-budget strategies for classical musicians and composers. They’ll be producing a limited-edition CD-R of the Barnes piece for the evening, with hopes of further concerts and releases later on. I’ll post up more info on all of this, as and when I get it.
 

January 2016 – upcoming gigs – Kiran Leonard’s UK mini-tour; Laura Cannell plays Liverpool, Glasgow and Bradford (with In Atoms, Jozef van Wissem, Magpahi and Stephanie Hladowski); in London, a Julian Dawes fundraiser at The Forge and an Ichi show at the Harrison; in New York, Legs play the Manhattan Inn and Rough Trade NYC with Blank Paper, Tropic Of Pisces and SKP (Lip Talk, Cosmicide). And Tom Slatter doesn’t play Brighton, yet…

10 Jan

Born in Oldham, currently Saddleworth-based, but occupying a wayward and exciting multi-instrumental/multi-genre orbit (which takes in, among many others, Todd Rundgren, spangled electronica, Dirty Projectors, Van Morrison and Nancy Chodorow) teenage wunderkind turned twenty-year-old psych-pop pioneer Kiran Leonard embarks on a quick British tour this coming week. For a sampling of what’s on offer, have a listen to Kiran’s most recent single, which examines the panicked, unwilling misogyny of pubescent boys and uses it as a launchpad for sixteen minutes of charging, spontaneous-sounding twist-and-turn musical quest. Spattered with snippets of radio, cut’n’paste ADHD changes and lo-fi turnarounds, it sounds like Lou Reed and Jim O’Rourke grappling over the steering wheel of a gawky teenage Yes.

For the tour, Kiran’s four-piece band features three other flexible Manchester music luminaries. Guitarist Dan Bridgewood Hill also plays as dbh and with NASDAQ, Irma Vep Band and Seatoller), bass player Dave Rowe is from Plank and Andrew Cheetham drums with acts including Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Easter, Butcher The Bar, the Birchall/Cheetham Duo and experimental rock duo Yerba Mansa. Support across the dates comes, variously, from Yerba Mansa, introverted Manchester singer-songwriter Tom Settle, Marc Rooney (taking a solo break from his usual band, Glaswegian “past post-modern bug-eyed beatniks” Pronto Mama), Edinburgh rock juveniles Redolent and inventive Sussex girl duo Let’s Eat Grandma.

Something of what to expect from the support bands is below:




This gig info was added to the top of this post at the last minute, and these gigs are selling out fast, so move quickly.

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The past week’s death of Pierre Boulez cast an overwhelming shadow over the classical and avant-garde worlds. Under that pall, it’s easy to forget that breed of composers that the post-war work of Boulez and his acolytes sometimes eclipsed – working at a humbler altitude, often inclined to traditional tonalism and craftsmanship and generally writing for the vast and undersung body of working musicians and small regional music groups, their work’s left out of the big conversations. It may break fewer boundaries, or no boundaries at all, but (to my mind, at least) it doesn’t necessarily have a lesser value. Not only does it often demonstrate an empathy for the musician over the concept, it demonstrates music’s quality of constant giving, showing that the older schemes which a younger and more intemperate Boulez once dismissed as being played out are anything but: revealing an ever-renewing, ever-fertile grain to be worked with and against even in well-mined territories.

To my ears, the work of Julian Dawes fits into this category. Five decades of his composing has produced chamber and keyboard music, theatre compositions, youth pieces, assorted works on Jewish themes (including Kaddish songs, Exodus cantatas and Holocaust pieces) plus an acclaimed mandolin concerto. All of it displays a lambent, empathetic feel for subject, performer and musician; and this coming Wednesday sees some of it compiled for a dedicated concert in London.

A Concert of Commemorative Music by Julian Dawes  (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 13th January 2016, 7.30pm) – £9.00 to £12.00 – information & tickets

This is an evening of music which Julian has written to celebrate people and events. The night is also in memory of Emma Daly, and the proceeds of the concert will go to the Rosewood Chemo Ward at the Darenth Valley Hospital.

Programme:

Love Life and Lyric (for soprano and piano)
Reflection on Psalm 43 (for piano) – first concert performance
Homage (for string quartet)
Wedding Song (Louisa) (for soprano, violin & piano) – world premiere
Piano Sonata – world premiere
Bagatelle for a Wedding (for string quartet)
Songs from ‘The Song of Solomon’ (for mezzo soprano, tenor & piano)
String Quartet (slow movement)
Sonata for Violin and Piano

Performers:

The Holywell String Quartet
Vivienne Bellos, Helena Massip (sopranos)
Camille Maalawy (mezzo soprano)
Cantor Jason Green (tenor)
Sophie Lockett, Louisa Stuber (violins)
Mitra Alice Tham, Stephen Dickinson, Andrew Gellert, Alex Knapp, Julian Dawes (piano)

Soundclips of Julian Dawes’ music on the web are few and far between, but I’ve managed to dredge up these two videos – one of Cantor Jason Green performing one of Julian’s vocal pieces, and a low-key one of Julian talking about his work (on behalf of the publishing service Tutti). You can also listen to soundclips of some of his work at the page for Omnibus Classics’ release of his ‘Chamber Music’ CD.


Julian’s most recently completed project is ‘Pesach Cantata’ with a libretto by Roderick Young telling the story of Passover. This will be premiered at the New London Synagogue in April 2016: I’ll post about that closer to the time.

* * * * * * * *

There are a series of concerts coming up featuring East Anglian musician Laura Cannell. Playing a variety of instruments (predominantly straight or overbowed fiddle and double recorders, but also percussion and “other rarified wind instruments”, Laura fuses early and mediaeval music with a mixed ancient-and-modern approach to improvisation and to transcendent musical ceremony, taking fragments or inspirations from earlier sounds and melodies as the basis for exploration, illustration and linkages.


Laura will be playing up and down the country over the next few months at a variety of different events and locations, Each one has different musicians on the bill – Brooklyn-based Dutch lutenist and composer Josef van Wissem, who’s bringing the baroque lute out towards the worlds of experimental rock, folk and film; Liverpudlian tape-loop composer In Atoms whose “blissful and evocative” soundscapes and tones mix heath music and throbbing clubby sub-bass with the industrial and reveal him straddling Anglo-pastoralism and the European electronic grandeur of the Schultzes and Jarres; and two Yorkshire singers, Stephanie Hladowski (whose work stretches from reggae to traditional folk) and Magpahi (a.k.a. Todmorden based multi-instrumentalist Alison Cooper, who assembles a collage of folk song, fairy tale, Elizabethan poetry and dreamworld sonics from a variety of instruments and is inspired by “sepia stories, stray animals and recurring dreams of migration”).

Here’s the gig list, and something from each of Laura’s gigmates (including something quite rare from Magpani via the Was Is Das clubnight and promotions):





Laura has further gigs coming up later in the year, which I’ll also be posting about in due course.

* * * * * * * *

Born in Nagoya, (but now based in Bristol with his wife and collaborator, alt.folk singer Rachael Dadd) Ichi is paying London another visit with his truckload of invented instruments and mind-snagging riffs, digging a dayglo-lined tunnel between the avant-garde and a children’s playroom.

Ichi (The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, London, WC1H 8JF, UK, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 8.00pm) – £11.00 – informationtickets

From the Harrison’s blurb:

Ichi takes the notion of a one-man band to new limits, combining his quirky handmade instrument inventions (stilt-bass, kalilaphone, balloon-pipes, hatbox-pedal-drum, tapumpet, percussion-shoes & hat-trick-hat) with steel-drum, ping-pong balls, toys & everyday objects all in the space of one short set. Somehow there’s an ancient, ritualistic feel to his performances – he’s like the misplaced leader of a tribe. To see Ichi live is to witness something so playful and unusual you know that you’re experiencing something entirely new. It`s fun, it`s danceable, it`s exciting…. Also a practicing and exhibiting artist and film-maker, Ichi is usually seen with a cine camera in his hand, or his hands rooting through Bristol skips for materials for his musical and sculptural inventions, or his hands in the earth making human sized interactive earth xylophones as he did at Bristol`s Forage Festival.

And where words fail, there’s always the video to Ichi’s recent single Go Gagambo, “a song about mistaken identity (gagambo is an insect unfortunate enough to be mistaken as a big mosquito, resulting in probable death by angry clapping hands)”.


* * * * * * * *

I’d been hoping to bring you news of London acoustic steampunk-prog hero Tom Slatter playing Britain’s first actual steampunk bar (the recently opened Yellow Book, which is squirreled away in the Lanes of Brighton and claims to have been founded by time-travelling Victorians). Sadly not. Message just in – “This gig has been postponed. Don’t go there expecting to see me on the 23rd! Do go there if you want to see the venue, which is lovely. I will be playing at the Yellow Book in the near future. Watch this space.”

* * * * * * * *

Lastly, there are a couple of New York gigs (this week and towards the end of the month) by a ‘Misfit City’ favourite of recent years, Brooklyn-based groove-pop band Legs, who mix irresistible New Wave dance grooves with twitchy emotional neurosis and a verbose, occasional waspish Steely Dan-esque approach to songcraft under the double-keyboard licks.

Legs + SKP (Hypnocraft @ The Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11222, USA, Monday 11th January 2016, 8.30pm) – free event (suggested $5.00-$10.00- information

This pay-what-you-like gig is a Legs headliner, at which they’re supported by SKP – a.k.a. Sarah Kyle, frontwoman of Brooklyn psychedelic pop band Lip Talk. Sarah is also a member of recent Interpol tourmates Cosmicide, which features most of Lip Talk plus ex-Secret Machines leader Brandon Curtis.


Blank Paper + Tropic Of Pisces + Legs (Rough Trade NYC, 64 N 9th Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11249, USA, Friday 22nd January 2016, 8.00pm) – information here and heretickets

This latter one’s a bottom-of-the-bill show for Legs. Swings and roundabouts, but they can play on both. At least they get to perform at Rough Trade (should be a natural audience booster) and they also get to act as warm-up and gig primer for two other stylish and eminently compatible Brooklyn acts. Keytar-wielding Blank Paper mix up classic hip hop rhythms, distant glimmering-city synthpop tones and vocals with just the right degree of hauteur for detached explorations of love and obsession sheathed in immaculate tunes. Tropic Of Pisces is the new project from Mon Khmer/Oberhofer sideman Mathew Scheiner – his geeky white-boy solo funk seems to be inspired equally by glam, hip hop and South African township jive, though he himself describes it as “a warm, magical place that you must be special enough to have found.” Judge for yourselves below via the videos, with their ninja noir and tinfoil chic.


* * * * * * * *

More gig news next time, including shows by Of Arrowe Hill and Earl Zinger with the Emanative & Collocutor Duo; plus an appearance by Sealionwoman.

Through the feed – Lucy Claire ‘Collaborations No 1’ EP and London launch gig, plus ‘Tim Smith’s Extra-Special OceanLand World’ reissue

3 Jun

Lucy Claire, dishing it out (photo courtesy of This Is It Forever Records)

Lucy Claire, dishing it out
(photo courtesy of This Is It Forever Records)

Lucy Claire Thornton – currently better known as “Lucy Claire” – is a contemporary classical/ambient electronic crossover composer who counts Erik Satie, Peter Broderick and Bjork as influences, and whose work has been hailed as “brilliant, delicately-wrought sketches” by ‘The Quietus‘ and as “immersive and slightly disorienting” by New Music webcast station ‘Amazing Radio‘. She’s releasing her newest release ‘Collaborations EP No 1’ on This Is It Forever Records on June 15th: the same week features a launch concert in London promoted by Chaos Theory (the inspired crew who put on that Sweet Niche/Macchiana del Tiempo/What?! triple bill of fusion jazz which I reviewed last summer). Here’s what they have to say about this gig:

“(We are) excited to host this launch party for the first in a series of collaborations EPs from Lucy Claire, along with many guest performers. ‘Collaborations EP No 1’ will be available with unique handmade packaging at a reduced price at this event only, along with two download codes for remixes by worriedaboutsatan and Message To Bears…. This evening we will see Lucy perform works from ‘Collaborations No 1’, featuring (contributions from German singer/songwriter/producer) Alev Lenz and producer Bruised Skies.

Support will come from electronic classical composers Leah Kardos and Jim Perkins. Almost three years after we worked with Leah on the launch of her debut album ‘Feather Hammer’, we’re delighted to be back together. Tonight we will see bigo & twigetti label-mates Leah and Jim performing new collaborative material… as well as selected works from Leah’s second album ‘Machines’, a concept album with lyrics made up from cut up spam emails, which will feature singer Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz. We will also hear them perform new material by Jim (which will be released later in the year on bigo & twigetti) and re-workings of material from ‘Feather Hammer’.”

All three acts will be basing their performance around piano, electronics, and string quartet. The concert takes place on Thursday 19th June at 7.30pm, at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston, and advance tickets can be bought here for under a tenner. For various frustrating reasons, I suspect that I won’t be able to attend this gig myself. Perhaps someone who’s reading this could go, and then tell me what it was like? (Not that I want to make you feel like interns…)

* * *

Considering that he’s still cruelly immobilised by the after-effects of the strokes that felled him six years ago (see ‘Misfit City’ posts passim, here and here), the voice of Tim Smith has rarely been heard in the land so loudly. The profile of his band Cardiacs has been stealthily growing (albeit through YouTube and nostalgic webchat rather than their much-missed live shows) and we’ve recently had or will have new or imminent releases from self-confessed Smith acolytes Arch Garrison, Knifeworld and Stars In Battledress.

Tim Smith: 'Tim Smith's Extra Special OceanLandWorld'

Tim Smith: ‘Tim Smith’s Extra Special OceanLandWorld’

Meanwhile, the core Smith-eries just keep on coming – this year’s already seen reissues of relatively rare Smithwork (Mr & Mrs Smith & Mr Drake or Spratleys Japs) and a deluxe double vinyl reissue of key Cardiacs album ‘Sing To God’ is due for July). At the end of last month, Tim’s mysterious label The Alphabet Business Concern also sneaked out a CD re-release of his obscure 1995 solo album ‘Tim Smith’s Extra-Special OceanLand World’. A typically arch and sinister ABC press release reveals all (well, not really… and all capitals are deliberate, or at least deliberately annoying):

“AN ANNOUNCEMENT! PLUCKY? PERHAPS. GIFTED? PERHAPS NOT. Nonetheless Tim Smith, in an unforeseen spat of hubris, took it upon himself to exclude his so-called friends (acquaintances at best) to perform a collection of songs in isolation. Foolhardily believeing it may raise enough capital to barter his way from the labyrinthine clutches of obligation to which HE had previously agreed and to which, thankfully, he is bound to this day, in 1995 this solo album was release. Circumstance , of both design and fate have since rendered this ‘offering’ unavailable. UNTIL NOW. As if to mock his feeble attempt at emancipation THE ALPHABET BUSINESS CONCERN once again make available ‘OceanLandWorld’ with the proviso that the covenant can never be broken.”

Ducking under Alphabet’s theatre-of-cruelty bombast, the following actual facts can be dug up. The OceanLandWorld album was recorded by Tim on his own between 1989 and 1990, during a time of upheaval in the entangled world of Cardiacs. Three of the band’s key instrumentalists – Sarah Smith, William D. Drake and Tim Quy – had all either left or were about to leave, and at the same time Tim’s marriage to Sarah had ended. Next to nothing’s been said about this last event, and the other departures have always been described in a matter-of-fact way. In the long term, it seems that the baggy, unlikely, familial mass of Cardiacs-people (with their collective love of music and their sense of common adversity and purpose) managed to accommodate and contain the various splits and departures without lasting bitterness.

Still, although the suggestion in the sleeve-notes that Tim recorded and performed the ‘OceanLandWorld’ songs alone “by way of a penance” is a typically Alphabettian joke, there’s a certain rue to the tone of the album (not least when, behind a bouncy pop march, Tim sings cryptically about tears and about worms chewing on wooden people). Previously wrung happily through the efforts of other people, Tim’s songs are now being filtered through machines: check out those cascading sequencers and springy synth-bass whacks behind his reedy squawk and bustling guitars. Hardly surprisingly, there’s a slight pre-fab feel to the album. If previous Cardiacs albums sometimes felt like the scruffy, well-lived-in old houses in the band’s south-west London suburbs, then ‘OceanLandWorld’ feels like a race around a new satellite town: thin slivers of post-war history, new bricks and formica, a Toytown street plan.

That sense of uneasy rootlessness plays a part in this picture. Tim stutters out an album of faux-jaunty pop songs, without his musical family to push against and to be held by (even if Sarah does briefly return on one song for a gracing of saxophone). The familiar staggering, stumbling embrace of Cardiacs songs is replaced by a Scalextric skid. It’s to Tim’s credit that he somehow turns this into an asset: to these ears, ‘OceanlandWorld’ captures the giddy weightless of post-traumatic sensation, the impression that everything you are has been tossed up into the air like streamers and comes down spread-out and thinned-out, but still recognisably you. In the same way, familiar Cardiacs tics and inspirations work their way through the fabric of the album, with epic punky chorales and proggy vistas opening up like a junkyard requiem.

The album also features one of Tim’s most breathtakingly beautiful songs, Swimming With The Snake. The man rarely, if ever, even starts to explain what his songs are about, but this particular song communicates mysterious undercurrents of pain, loss and love with a rare and stunning magic.

If what you’ve seen, heard, and read here intrigues you, you can order the reissued ‘OceanLandWorld’ from here.

Lucy Claire online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Vimeo

Tim Smith online:
Facebook

Leah Kardos online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp YouTube

Jim Perkins online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Last FM

Alev Lenz online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Tumblr YouTube

Chaos Theory Promotions online:
Homepage FacebookTwitter Soundcloud

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