Announcements

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933–2020)

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i feel terribly sad to have just read the news on the Schott website that Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki has died today. Composers impact on our lives in unique and unpredictable ways, and for me, Penderecki’s music has been an omnipresence. When i was still at school, just at the point where i realised composition was the path opening up in front of me, it was with a collection of recordings and scores by Penderecki that i spent a lot of time (in hindsight, my school was absurdly blessed in terms of contemporary music). As a result, several of my earliest compositional experiments were inspired by the likes of De natura sonoris 1 and 2, Fluorescences, the first Symphony, the St Luke Passion and, of course, the Threnody. Fast forward to a few years ago while working on my PhD when, in order to elaborate on the nature and mechanics of some of my compositional techniques, there again was Penderecki, those same works (and others) now sublimated into a fundamental part of my musical language.

His music in more recent years didn’t connect with me as much as his earlier work, i have to confess – though even as i write that, i’m conscious that i’ve rather taken my eye off his output during the last decade, so it’s probably high time to explore those last compositions of his. But i will always be immeasurably grateful and thankful for the ways in which his music impacted on me at such a critical time, and continue to illuminate and invigorate me today. The way he was able to invent such radical, abstract modes of expression – much of it still sounding remarkably vital and fresh – and infuse them so effortlessly with enormous personal depth and feeling was unique and incredible. Contemporary music has lost one of its greatest and most fearless composers.

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Gigs, gigs, gigs: Riot Ensemble, Illuminate, Electric Spring, Borealis, Philharmonia Orchestra, Louth Contemporary Music Society

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Lots of ensembles and festivals have been making concert announcements recently, so here’s a whistle-stop tour through some of the more interesting on the horizon.

Most imminent, this coming Friday (14th), is Riot Ensemble at King’s Place in London. They’ll be kicking off their new concert series ReNew with a trio of works: Liza Lim‘s Extinction events and dawn chorus (which has just been released on CD; review to come soon), Laurence Osborn‘s CTRL and Like a memory of birds (ii) by Riot conductor Aaron Holloway-Nahum.

Maybe it’s just me but i can’t think of many better ways to spend Valentine’s Day. Full details here.


Also this week, also in London, is the latest Illuminate concert, which this time finds them at the Royal College of Music. The programme once again consists of an interesting blend of new and not-so-new, including Jennifer Higdon‘s Dark Wood and Kaija Saariaho‘s Mirrors alongside Amy Beach‘s Pastorale for Woodwind Quintet and Henriëtte BosmansString Quartet.

The concert starts at 3pm and there’s a pre-concert chinwag an hour beforehand with Illuminate’s Angela Slater and the RCM’s Natasha Loges; both events are FREE, but tickets are required: you can get them here (talk) and here (concert).


Next week sees the return of the Electric Spring festival in Huddersfield. Once again spread over five days from Wednesday to Sunday, this year’s concerts will feature five new works for organ and electronics performed by Lauren Redhead & Alistair Zaldua, a large-scale workout for Huddersfield’s equally large-scale HISS system from Louise Rossiter, an evening of who-knows-what from Weston Olencki and what will surely be a typically marvellous son et lumière display from Leafcutter John. There’ll also be a couple of installations running throughout by Simon Whetham (in the Richard Steinitz Building’s vast Atrium space) and Jackson Mouldycliff, plus a workshop with Pam Hulme and the usual Creative Coding Lab Symposium and geekalicious Modular Meets session on Sunday afternoon.

As ever, all events are FREE; full details here.


Beyond these shores, the programme for this year’s Borealis festival in Bergen has been announced. Borealis remains one of the most adventurous new music festivals i’ve ever attended, and this year is no exception. Trying to single out highlights is ridiculous considering pretty much everything is likely to be one, but especially interesting will be the world première of SOLD (a dog and pony show) – a new performance piece from chameleon-like vocalist Stine Janvin; assorted works by George Lewis performed by the wonderful Norwegian Naval Forces Band at the Natural History Museum; Ecstatic Material, a multimedia work from Beatrice Dillon & Keith Harrison that sounds like it will be not only sonically interesting but also downright sticky; Knut Vaage‘s new electroacoustic piece Hybrid spetakkel being premièred by BIT20 Ensemble; a three-way concert featuring John Chantler, Okkyung Lee & Nina Pixel; and a four-part evening of music celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landings featuring the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

It all promises to be outrageously fascinating and/or fascinatingly outrageous – the festival runs from 4 to 8 March, and full details can be found here.


The Philharmonia Orchestra’s next set of Music of Today concerts (curated by Unsuk Chin) is looking good. Next month there’ll be the chance to hear music by Xenakis and Aribert Reimann on 5 March (featuring pianist Nic Hodges), and two weeks later works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Helena Tulve. On 14 May, percussionist Colin Currie will be giving the first performance of Luke Bedford‘s latest piece alongside music by Philippe Hurel, while the following week’s concert features three world premières from Joel Järventausta, Jocelyn Campbell and Hollie Harding.

All four concerts are FREE; the 19th March concert (Salonen and Tulve) is at the Purcell Room and needs a pre-booked ticket, but for all of the rest, at the Royal Festival Hall, you can just turn up; full details here.


Slightly further ahead is Louth Contemporary Music Society‘s annual two-day shindig, which this year is titled ‘The Gathering’. It gets its name from a string quartet by Christos Hatzis, which will be performed by the Esposito Quartet. There’ll also be new works from Leo Brouwer, Pascale Criton and Gloria Coates, and the festival will close with one of Estonia’s finest choirs, Vox Clamantis, presenting works by Helena Tulve, Kevin Volans, Siobhán Cleary and (surprise, surprise) Arvo Pärt.

‘The Gathering’ runs from 19 to 20 June in Dundalk on the east coast of Ireland; full details can be found here, and impressively cheap early bird tickets are available now.

Fermata

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This morning i’m setting off for the Arctic Circle, to the small town of Bodø in the north of Norway, where i’ll be for the rest of the week at this year’s Nordic Music Days. Words to come about that early next week (once i’ve thawed out), after which a few days later i’ll be heading not-so-far north to catch a few days of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Radio recordings: methods and formats, past and future

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Since the inception of 5:4, nearly 12 years ago, whenever i’ve been writing about a particular composition and there’s no professional recording available, i’ve often shared a radio recording of the piece from my archive. i began making these recordings when i was still at school, and in the intervening years the method and format i’ve used have changed a lot. Originally, i recorded from analogue radio onto audio cassette – or, if the broadcast was longer than cassettes could cope with, onto videotape. Around 15 years ago, i switched from analogue to digital, recording first cable and then satellite broadcasts, which has been my approach ever since. i’ve never been entirely happy with this method, though, and at the start of the year i began to investigate whether it could be improved.

The way i’ve always archived these recordings is in FLAC format. For recordings made from an analogue broadcast onto an analogue medium, this makes sense, as it preserves the original recording without losing anything meaningful. But in the case of recordings made from digital broadcasts it doesn’t make sense, as the original broadcast is in a lossy format (AAC) whereas FLAC is of course lossless. The reason i’ve always used FLAC is simply because i’ve recorded the broadcast in real-time as a WAV file, which i’ve then edited as necessary and then, in order not to reduce the sound quality further with additional lossy compression, converted to FLAC. But the inevitable upshot is that there’s a lot of redundancy in this method, with file sizes much bigger than they need to be. Read more

Fermata

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This morning i’m off to Norway to spend a few days in Oslo catching some of the Ultima festival. So i’ll be getting to the last few Proms premières once i’m back, at the start of next week. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, make sure to have your say about each of this year’s new works by voting on the Proms premières polls page.

Fermata

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Today’s my 20th wedding anniversary, so i’m going to be away for the rest of the week enjoying a completely music-free time with my best Beloved. i’ll be catching up on all the Proms premières as soon as i’m back.

Music Beyond Airports

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In February last year, Monty Adkins and i organised Ambient@40, the first academic conference devoted to ambient music, which took place over two days at Huddersfield University. The conference was designed to explore the history and legacy of the genre forty years after the release of Brian Eno’s pivotal album Ambient 1: Music For Airports, and i’m delighted to announce that an accompanying book, Music Beyond Airports: appraising ambient music, is published today. Co-edited by Monty and me, the book features lengthy chapters by many of the contributors from the conference, approaching ambient from a host of different angles encompassing musical, psychological, societal, cultural and gender aspects, among many others.

Here’s a summary of the chapters:

  1. David Toop – How Much World Do You Want? Ambient Listening and its Questions
  2. Ambrose Field – Space In The Ambience: Is Ambient Music Socially Relevant?
  3. Ulf Holbrook – A Question of Background: Sites of Listening
  4. Richard Talbot – Three Manifestations of Spatiality in Ambient Music
  5. Simon Cummings – The Steady State Theory: Recalibrating the Quiddity of Ambient Music
  6. Monty Adkins – Fragility, Noise, and Atmosphere in Ambient Music
  7. Lisa Colton – Channelling the Ecstasy Of Hildegard Von Bingen: “O Euchari” Remixed
  8. Justin Morey – Ambient House: “Little Fluffy Clouds” and the Sampler as Time Machine
  9. Axel Berndt – Adaptive Game Scoring with Ambient Music

Taken together, i believe they provide a fascinating and provocative investigation of what ambient is, how it works, and its wider implications, connotations and meanings for composers and listeners alike.

Published by The University of Huddersfield Press, the book is available as both a print edition (£30 from Gazelle Book Services and Amazon; currently only £26.70 from Wordery) and a free ebook download (PDF/EPUB/MOBI) from the Huddersfield University website.

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Fermata

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i’m setting off this morning for the Faroe Islands, where i’ll be spending the next six days exploring some of Summartónar, their annual music festival. While i’m away, the first of this year’s series of ‘pre-première questions’ articles with composers featured at the Proms (which begins on Friday) will appear. And of course there’ll be a lot more words about both of these festivals to follow as soon as i’m back.

Fermata

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i’m setting off for Estonia this morning, to attend this year’s Estonian Music Days, which this year is not only celebrating its 40th anniversary but also hosting the ISCM World Music Days, so it’ll no doubt be an especially interesting occasion. Words to follow in due course.

Proms 2019: looking forward

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The programme for this year’s Proms season has been unveiled today. Looking at it from a contemporary music perspective, last year’s season has been revealed (as expected) to have been a one-off of surprising generosity. In 2018 we ended up with no fewer than 39 premières, whereas the usual figure is somewhere around half that. For 2019, contemporary music has been scaled back again, with a total of 30 world, European or UK premières.

The world premières dominate: there are 17 of them, from Zosha Di Castri (whose new work Long Is the Journey – Short Is the Memory gets the season up and running on the opening night), Hans Zimmer (yes, i know), Alexia Sloane, Outi Tarkiainen, Huw Watkins, Errollyn Wallen, Joanna Lee, Jonathan Dove, Dieter Ammann, Alissa Firsova, Ryan Wigglesworth, Dobrinka Tabakova, Linda Catlin Smith, Freya Waley-Cohen, Jonny Greenwood and, kicking off the last night knees-up, Daniel Kidane. There’s also a quartet of new works inspired by movements from J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suites by Stuart MacRae, Nico Muhly, Ailie Robertson and Stevie Wishart, and a joint world première birthday present for conductor Martyn Brabbins, put together by a veritable cluster of the great and the mainstream that will no doubt be the absolute epitome of a curate’s egg. The European and UK premières are by Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, Peter Eötvös, Benjamin Beckman, Detlev Glanert, John Luther Adams and Louis Andriessen. Overall, it’s hardly the most scintillatingly imaginative choice of composers, but then, it’s the Proms. The gender balance is starting to approach parity, so that’s at least something to celebrate.

Of the rest of the season, highlights include the chance to hear the Will Gregory Moog Ensemble together with the BBC Concerto Orchestra (Prom 11, 26 July), Messiaen‘s epic Des canyons aux étoiles… with pianist Nicolas Hodges (Prom 13, 28 July), James MacMillan‘s Proms favourite The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (Prom 19, 2 August), Takemitsu‘s exquisite Twill by Twilight (Prom 28, 8 August), Sofia Gubaidulina‘s Fairytale Poem (Prom 42, 18 August), Simon Rattle conducting the LSO in Varèse‘s Amériques (Prom 44, 20 August), Hugh Wood‘s Scenes from Comus (Prom 53, 29 August), and the inaugural concert of the all-new Knussen Chamber Orchestra (Proms at Cadogan Hall 8, 9 September).

The season begins in just over three months’ time, on 19 July; full details about all the concerts are available on the BBC Proms website and tickets go on sale on 11 May. Below is a summary of the premières: ** = world, † = European and * = UK. Read more

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Sound-Image Colloquium; Living Songs

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A quick announcement to say that this weekend i’ll be at the Sound-Image Colloquium, taking place at the University of Greenwich. An event exploring audiovisual practices and the relationships that exist between sound and image, on Sunday morning – at 11am, presumably following a minute’s silence – i’ll be presenting some of my own work in this area. My talk is titled Son e(s)t lumière: expanding notions of transcription and tangibility through creative sonification of visual stimuli, and in it i’ll be examining the ways sonification has been used in music, with a focus on my ongoing series of Studies.

In addition to the talks, the colloquium also includes screenings and a concert each evening, one of which is devoted to works by Denis Smalley, who is this year’s special guest. Full details can be found on the university’s website.

Also, a heads-up that soprano Jessica Summers will soon be giving another performance of my miniature song Who knows if the moon’s in her next Living Songs concert.

The concert also features songs by Nadia Boulanger, Stravinsky, Copland and Richard Whalley alongside the première of a new work by Jessica Rudman, and it takes place at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich at 1pm on 17 November. Full details here.

The Arvo Pärt Centre

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18 months ago, i was standing in a forest. It was located on the Lohusalu peninsula, near the village of Laulasmaa on the north-west Estonian coast. This is the site of Aliina, Arvo Pärt’s country retreat, as well as the enormous archive of his scores, sketches and a myriad other materials that have been collected throughout Pärt’s life and which, at the time of my visit, was still being catalogued and organised in a separate building facing Aliina. In addition to this, about 100 metres away into the forest, was a large construction site where diggers and cranes were starting to make preparations for The Arvo Pärt Centre, a hub for the composer’s complete life and work, intended not only to make the archive accessible but also to feature a museum and a concert hall.

Read more

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Gigs, gigs, gigs: Ryoji Ikeda, An Assembly, Kammer Klang, HCMF

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As of yesterday, autumn is officially here, so it’s time to take stock of some of the more interesting concerts looming on the horizon. Most imminently, Japan’s most dazzling audiovisual electronic pioneer Ryoji Ikeda is making a rare visit to the UK. His Barbican concert on Sunday night (which i’ll be reviewing), featuring datamatics [ver. 2.0] and a live performance of his recently-released Music for Percussion, (available via Ikeda’s own Codex Edition label) is sold out, but for those in the vicinity of Plymouth Ikeda will be presenting a live set of his 2013 album Supercodex at the Plymouth Guildhall on Friday night as part of The Atlantic Project. Tickets are still available – and very cheap – so it’s a great opportunity to experience Ikeda’s uniquely beautiful blending of sound and data. Aside from Ikeda, The Atlantic Project (which runs from 28 September to 1 October) promises a shedload of intriguing events including an evening of sound and film with Café Concrete, and the ‘Immersive Orchestra’, a performance at Plymouth Hoe in which swimmers ‘conduct’ an orchestra of 100 guitarists. To prove i didn’t just make that up, and to find out everything else that’s going on, visit The Atlantic Project website.

New music ensemble An Assembly are going out on the road for a small-scale autumn tour, performing three works, two of them ensemble commissions: Louis D’HeudieresLaughter Studies 6b – the title of which seems apt, since the mere description of it, involving four vocalists “describing and imitating their own private soundtracks of synthesised tunes and field recordings, transmitted to them via earphones” had me chuckling just thinking about it, Charlie Usher‘s An assembly – a 45-minute epic made up of 14-second miniatures – and a new work by Rowland Hill responding to a 1959 review of Stravinsky’s Agon. They’ll be performing these pieces at Manchester’s Anthony Burgess Centre on 1 October, at City University in London the next day (this concert is free) and finally in Birmingham’s Centrala Café on 4 October. Full details can be found on An Assembly’s website. Read more

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Fermata

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Tomorrow morning, my best beloved and i are heading off on holiday for a week, so normal service will resume once i’m back. One or two articles might just appear while i’m gone, and in the meantime, if you haven’t already, be sure to express your opinion about each of the Proms premières i’ve reviewed so far over on the Polls page.

Toodle pip!

Gigs, gigs, gigs: Night Liminal; Who knows if the moon’s

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A couple of performances of my work are coming up soon. Most imminently is the #EarBox series of art and music performances organised by the University of Kent. Their next event features my 2012 ambient work Night Liminal in conjunction with a new exhibition titled Extending the Frame. It’s taking place at 1.10pm on Thursday 24 May at Studio 3 Gallery, in the University’s Jarman Building, and admission is free. Further details can be found on the University’s music department blog, and you can read all about Night Liminal here.

To mark the occasion i’ve created a 50% discount code for the digital download of Night Liminal, valid until the end of this month. Head over to the Bandcamp page and when adding to the cart enter the code earbox to get the discount.

And next month soprano Jessica Summers will be giving the world première of my song for solo voice Who knows if the moon’s. Despite lasting a mere two minutes, this little song – a setting of E. E. Cummings’ well-known poem – is a piece i once thought i’d never complete. It dates back to my undergraduate days; i broke off working on it in May 1995 following the abrupt death of my father, and could never bring myself to return to it. It then sat around for nearly two decades until i rediscovered the sketches and finally managed to complete it during my PhD at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Partly because of how personal it’s become, i’ve not shown the piece to many people, but i’m delighted that Jessica will finally be performing it; it really is high time i let go of this music.

Accompanied by pianist Jelena Makarova, the concert is one of Jessica’s Living Songs recitals, and takes place at 1.15pm on 12 June at St Mary-at-Hill Church in London. The concert also includes music by Debussy and Stuart MacRae. More details can be found at the church’s website, and the Living Songs project can be followed on Twitter at @LivingSongs21.

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New release: ma

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In a few days’ time, my most recent cycle of electronic music will be released by the adventurous Portuguese label, Crónica. The title of the cycle is the Japanese word (ma), which is difficult easily to translate into English. The concept it embodies is a spatial one, specifically the gap between two discrete structural parts or elements, with associated connotations of an interval or pause. In his book Silence in Philosophy, Literature, and Art, Steven Bindeman has described 間 as “the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form … Ma is not created by compositional elements, but takes place in the imagination of someone who experiences these elements. Therefore it can best be defined as the experiential place that is held by an interval.” As such, 間 is often regarded as an embodiment of ‘negative space’, where the apparent absence of substance or form or sound is rendered concrete and tangible.

Those of you who have followed my work over the years may occasionally have heard or seen reference to something i was working on with a provisional title ‘TACET.’, which was originally intended to be an enormous project containing many hours of music. However, as this music was born out of and confronts a very difficult and painful period of my life, i eventually realised that it wasn’t particularly healthy to persist with the project beyond a certain point. My response to this period took shape through meditation on the concept of 間, in which silence is not a simple absence or emptiness but rather becomes a focal point, with a shape, character, and energy that all contribute to a larger whole.

The composition process began with recordings that i made during a traditional Anglican service of Evensong. Everything was then removed from the recordings with the exception of the brief silences that fall between the various sections of the service, fragments of sound capturing echoes, resonances, and glimpses of ambience. These fragments were then used as the sound palette for a series of improvisations that formed the basis for each of the pieces in the cycle. They were subjected to extensive processing and sculpting, and are only occasionally heard in their raw state.

The concept of 間 implies a certain degree of tranquillity and calm, but the emphasis in this music is focused on connotations of negativity. Put simply, this is (from my perspective, at least) angry music, veering between nervous, fretful twitching and unbridled, distorted ferocity. Rage and obsession are recurring traits throughout, manifesting in harsh, acidic, repetitive clatter and throbbing pulses, and even in the more quiet passages – of which there are very many – the music is designed to emphasise tension, unrest and a pervading sense of ominous dread. Listening through headphones or in an extremely quiet space is especially recommended due to the quiet and subtle material that features in some of the pieces.

In its final form, 間 comprises eight works, lasting around an hour, many of which take their titles from poems by E. E. Cummings:

  1. mightily forgetting all which will forget him (emptying our soul of emptiness) priming at every pore a deathless life with magic until peace outthunders silence
  2. }rest{
  3. i see thee then ponder the tinsel part they let thee play
  4. from Silence; of Nothing
  5. O visible beatitude sweet sweet intolerable!
  6. Negative Silence (detail)
  7. [ULTRA]—infra
  8. what neither is any echo of dream nor any flowering of any echo (but the echo of the flower of Dreaming)

There is, i hope, some semblance of catharsis running through the cycle, and despite my above description of the nature of the music, there’s also a great deal of beauty – and, at the last, peace – to be found along the way.

Crónica are releasing 間 as a limited edition cassette (containing a miniature bonus track hidden at the very end of side B, which encapsulates the essence of the entire cycle) as well as a digital download. Further details and information can be found on the Crónica website as well as their Bandcamp page. i also have a small supply of the cassettes, so if you’d prefer to buy them directly from me (£7 plus postage), then just send me a message either from here or here.

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Electric Spring/Ambient@40

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A quick, last-minute heads-up about Huddersfield University’s annual blow-out celebrating all things electronic, Electric Spring, which starts this evening and runs until Sunday. This year’s programme is typically diverse: Philip Thomas and Colin Frank will be performing works for piano, percussion and electronics, Freida Abtan will present a 21-minute audiovisual work “inspired by the logic of dream narrative”, while Rodrigo Costanzo, Brian Crabtree and Angela Guyton will explore improvised pieces, some of which involve dynamic lighting and video. The concerts are once again supplemented with opening acts, from Aaron Cassidy, Sam Gillies, Katy Gray and Owen Green, plus a couple of late-evening shindigs from the BaconJam collective and Sebastien Lavoie. As usual, it’s a mix of names i know and plenty i don’t, so it promises to be an exciting and unpredictable adventure. All concerts are free, and start at 7:30pm in Phipps Hall, in the Creative Arts Building. Full details on the Electric Spring website.

The Saturday evening concert ties in with the Ambient@40 conference, which runs from Friday to Saturday. The conference promises to be a fascinating investigation, with a multifaceted collection of papers and performances exploring ambient from aesthetic, strategic, influential and many other angles, topped off with a keynote from none other than Ocean of Sound author and Brian Eno collaborator David Toop. The Saturday evening concert features a variety of music connected in different ways to ambient, by Robert Mackay, Rupert Till, Kristina Wolfe, Szafranski duo, Tim Howle and myself. i’ll be presenting new live versions of two of my indeterminate works, February 12, 2013, which has not been heard before, and February 24, 2013, originally created for the Imperfect Forms Kenneth Kirschner ebook project. The full programme for the conference, including abstracts for all the papers and presentations, can be viewed on the Ambient@40 website.

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5:4 on Patreon

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i’m taking a short breather from this week’s concerts and reviews from the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to announce the launch of 5:4 on Patreon. It was in January 2008, almost ten years ago, that I started this blog, devoted to the most interesting, innovative and impressive contemporary and avant-garde music of our time. It all began in a pretty understated way with this article, simply sharing some recent sounds that had been catching my ear.

Since then, the blog has grown enormously, both in terms of the scope of my coverage and readership. I’ve written nearly 800 articles, including reviews of concerts and new releases, comprehensive critiques of new works, conversations with composers and performers, thematic explorations of new music, podcasts and mixtapes, retrospectives of composers and specific works/albums, and annual lists of the best music of the year.

A decade on, 5:4 is one of the very few websites committed to in-depth coverage and critique of new music. Alex Ross – music critic and author of The Rest Is Noise – has described the blog as “a powerful and uncompromising voice in the international new-music world”. My articles have been re-published in print periodicals, and are regularly quoted and cited in academic papers, articles, essays, and programme notes. The blog has therefore come to occupy a rare and important position in the discussion and outreach of contemporary music.

Personally speaking, 5:4 is now one of the most significant parts of my musical life, sitting equally alongside my activities as a composer and researcher. I love writing it; love the opportunity to introduce and explore new and unfamiliar music to a much wider audience; love being able to discover and share landmarks and pointers that help navigate a coherent way through new works; love being able to demonstrate how exciting and ground-breaking contemporary music can be, and how it can transform our understanding and preconceptions of the art.

Writing and maintaining 5:4 requires a lot of time and energy. A typical article takes anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day or more. I regard such a considered approach as this to be vital for a meaningful engagement with music. As a composer myself, I know just how much goes into the creation of even a single bar or a few seconds of sound. It deserves and needs respect and attention.

5:4 is free to read. There’s no paywall, no charges for reading certain articles, and this is how I want it to remain. And I want to take the blog much further, review a wider range of concerts and releases, record long-form dialogues with many more composers and performers, make in-depth explorations of individual pieces and albums, and create more podcasts. All of these things will expand further the contribution 5:4 makes to the discussion and understanding of contemporary music.

To do this, I need your help. With even a small donation each month, I’ll be able to bring a lot more time and ambition to the blog, and ultimately explore an even greater range of music in even more depth. So if you have found 5:4 an interesting, entertaining, useful or valuable resource over the last ten years, please do consider becoming a patron.

Thank you for your support!

Ambient@40 conference

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Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports, an album that established a manifesto, an aesthetic, an ideology and an archetype for ambient music. This is something i’m intending to celebrate and explore on 5:4 throughout 2018, but beyond this, i’m delighted to announce that at the end of next February there will be a conference devoted to ambient music, hosted by Huddersfield University, organised and chaired by Monty Adkins, Rupert Till and myself. The call for proposals was released yesterday, and the details are summarised below:


Ambient@40

Deadline: 17.00 (GMT), Friday 12th January 2018.

In the forty years since the release of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports the concept and aesthetics of ambient music have proliferated, influencing artists as diverse as Taylor Deupree, Steven Wilson, David Lynch and The Orb, infusing drone, microsound, minimalism and experimental electronic music as well as aspects of contemporary instrumental music. The aim of this two-day conference is to re-appraise ambient music in relation to Eno’s milestone release.

Ambient@40 will be hosted in the newly opened Oastler Building at the University of Huddersfield from Friday 23rd to Saturday 24th February. The programme committee invites proposals for:

a. individual papers (20 minute presentation with 10 minutes for questions and discussion);
b. performance and paper (10 minute per performance, 10 minute presentation with 10 minutes for questions).

The committee welcomes proposals from academics, independent scholars, research students and practitioners.

The conference will run alongside the Electric Spring Festival (www.electricspring.co.uk) and an evening concert on Saturday 24th February at the Festival will close the conference.

The program committee will also invite a selection of those giving papers to write them up in the months following the conference (deadline June 2018) as book chapters for publication in late 2018 / early 2019.

Submission and selection process

All proposals should be submitted to Prof. Monty Adkins (m.adkins@hud.ac.uk) by the deadline, Friday 12th January 2018 (17.00, GMT). Individual paper submissions should include an abstract (350 words) and an author biography (200 words). Performance and paper submissions should include a brief overview of the audio presentation including technical resources required (300 words), links to online samples of audio work, an abstract (350 words) and an author biography (200 words).

The committee aims to notify proposal authors of its decision by Friday 19th January 2018. Those selected will be asked to confirm their acceptance and technical setup. The full programme will be announced online and booking opened on Monday 22nd January 2018. The Ambient@40 conference registration fee will be £50 (£30 for students/concessions).

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Wandelweiser deals and mentoring

Posted on by 5:4 in Announcements | Leave a comment

Some Wandelweiser news. First, the label has set up a couple of juicy pre-order deals for their next round of releases, featuring works by Cyril Bondi, Hermann Meier, Eva-Maria Houben and Michael Winter: three CDs for €30, or all six for €50 (that’s £26 and £44 in real money). The deals are available until 3 December; details on the Wandelweiser website.

Second, the collective’s next ‘Composers Meet Composers’ mentoring project has just been announced. It’ll be taking place in Austria from 9–15 July 2018, with mentors Antoine Beuger, Joachim Eckl, Radu Malfatti, Michael Pisaro and Emmanuelle Waeckerle, and apparently “each participant spends one full day with each of the mentors”, which i guess implies there’ll only be space for a handful of people to take part. The fee is €800 (£714) all in; more info is here.

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