Announcements

Commemorating Milton

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Last week saw the centenary of the birth of American composer Milton Babbitt. Babbitt continues to be a neglected figure, and personally speaking, the anniversary served to remind how little i know of his music and how rarely i’ve encountered it over the years. Those in a similar situation will no doubt be interested in the Babbitt Centenary Concert taking place tomorrow evening at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space in New York. The concert, which will also be video-streamed live, is being given by the NY-based Cygnus Ensemble, and features two works of Babbitt’s – including Swan Song No. 1, written specifically for Cygnus in 2003 – alongside music by students and colleagues of Babbitt, all world premières. There’ll also be a pre-concert interview with soprano Bethany Beardslee-Winham, for whom Babbitt composed numerous works, including Philomel, Vision and Prayer (also being performed in the concert), Du, and A Solo Requiem.

The complete programme is listed below; more details can be found at the Cygnus website and the live stream (which is free) will be available at livamp.com/cygnus. The concert starts at 7:30pm local time, which means a late night for those outside the US who want to catch it as it happens, but for everyone else it’ll be available to stream afterwards at a more congenial hour.

Milton Babbitt – Swan Song No. 1 / Vision and Prayer
Charles Wuorinen – Cygnus
Paul Lansky – Just Once
Konrad Kaczmarek – Toggles and Triggers
Jonathan Dawe – Glass Harmonica
Frank Brickle – Ab nou cor / Piazza Piece / City of Orgies
David Claman – To the Master of the Meteor

 

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HCMF 2016: looking forward – Georg Friedrich Haas

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It’s been announced this morning that the Composer in Residence at this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival will be Georg Friedrich Haas. His work has been an occasional feature at HCMF in the past, nowhere more spectacularly than in the 2013 UK première of in vain, a piece concerning itself with endless states of transition, with an added air of theatricality through having all of the lights in the performance space extinguished at various points.

HCMF 2016 will include three UK premières: Klangforum Wien will present The Hyena for ensemble and narrator (featuring the composer’s wife, Mollena Williams-Haas), the Ardittis – who else? – will be performing the Ninth String Quartet, while the Hannover Trombone Unit will take on Haas’ Octet for Eight Trombones, composed last year. All three of these performances will be taking place in the opening weekend, ensuring the festival begins with a hefty wallop.

Tickets for these events will go on sale later this month. With this year’s Proms promising little more than lumbering predictability and blandness, it’s encouraging to have a much more exciting prospect on the horizon. More info about HCMF in due course.

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HCMF 2015: looking forward

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It’s November, which of course means that the annual pilgrimage to the UK’s new music mecca is only a few weeks’ away. The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival has this year opted for a demonstrably reflective tone, building on the remarkable performances of music by, in particular, Jakob Ullmann and Antoine Beuger a couple of years ago, which to my mind at least constituted an interesting departure from HCMF’s more conventional fare. Jakob Ullmann is this year represented by a pair of substantial new works—a half-hour solo double bass piece premièred by Dominic Lash and the 90-minute la segunda canción del ángel desaparecido—and while Beuger is absent, the festival’s composer-in-residence is Jürg Frey, who has long been associated with Beuger’s Wandelweiser Group. Five concerts provide an extensive opportunity to become immersed in Frey’s music, with major explorations being presented by Quatuor Bozzini, Ensemble Grizzana and Philip Thomas. Read more

Imperfect Forms: The Music of Kenneth Kirschner

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On various occasions in the past, i’ve written about the music of American experimental composer Kenneth Kirschner. His work, all electronic and available free via his website, is endlessly fascinating, exploring a wide and unexpected variety of sonic shapes and timbres within formal contexts that take a radical approach (informed in part by the music of Feldman) to notions of narrative and development, with a tendency toward indeterminate—or at least, perceptually indeterminate—structures. Kirschner’s considerable output deserves much greater exposure and engagement than it has hitherto received, which makes yesterday’s release of Imperfect Forms: The Music of Kenneth Kirschner, a multimedia project celebrating and exploring his music, extremely welcome.

There is a 188-page ebook comprising a selection of essays, articles and interviews (two contributed by me), with an accompanying 4½-hour digital album containing responses to and remixes of Kirschner’s music by an eclectic cluster of composers—Tom Hodge, Ambrose Field, Maps and Diagrams, Christoph Berg, Marco Oppedisano, Adam Barringer, Orphax, Yukitomo Hamasaki, Monty Adkins, Erdem Helvacioglu, Billy Gomberg, Tomas Phillips, Shinkei, Stefan Goldmann, Anne Guthrie, Dirk Serries, L’Eix, Stephen Vitiello, Tobias Reber, Steinbrüchel—plus an additional software-based indeterminate composition created by myself. Further to this are a small number of videos by Sawako, Monty Adkins & Julio D’Escrivan, Josh Ott, Andy Graydon and Molly Sheridan.

The project is published by Tokafi, and in keeping with Kirschner’s own approach to releasing his work, the entire kit and kaboodle are available free of charge via the Tokafi bandcamp page (of course, feel free to pay something if you can).

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New digital release: Could you not watch one hour with me?

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Available today for free download is Could you not watch one hour with me?, a conceptual work i created a couple of years ago. Inspired by an act of worship that takes place today, Maundy Thursday, the material heard in the work comprises a one-hour recording made during The Watch, a night vigil that has no formal liturgy or structure, consisting solely of the silent thought, meditation, worship and prayer of the faithful. Presented in this context, my intention is to confront the connotations of that question, exploring notions of substance and absence, silence and sound, focus and lassitude, emptiness and the sacred. The work revisits from a fresh perspective the well-established idea that there is no such thing as silence. It also throws down a challenge in its title, asking, even daring the listener to sacrifice an hour to an end that may appear futile or meaningless. It is my sincerest hope that, in rising to that challenge, one might discover a depth and richness that transcends the silence, and perhaps even a glimpse of the holy.

The work is dedicated to the memory of Rudolf Otto.

For more information and to download, click here.

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New CD coming soon: Dither • Pother • Roil

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In a week’s time, a new CD of my electronic music will be released, titled Dither • Pother • Roil. It contains three distinct but related pieces, which began life in a series of improvisations made in early 2008. Somewhat inexplicably, i promptly lost the recordings and forgot all about them until the start of this year; between February and October i then extensively reworked and developed them into their final, very elaborate forms, which together last around 49 minutes. Here’s a smidgeon from the blurb-spiel:

There are ways in which this trio of works relates to and draws upon both the techniques and sentiments of my earlier electronic music. There are echoes of the shifting abstractions of the Simulated Music cycle, as well as the large-scale sculptural elementalism heard in the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars and ‘Icon’, the central panel in Triptych, May/July 2009. But above all, Dither, Pother and Roil explore (for me) new methods and an expanded mode of expression.

Dither was finished first, and is concerned primarily with material that writhes and roars at its own prevarication. Here’s part II:

Pother continues the thread established in Dither, becoming increasingly fraught and portentous. This is part I:

Roil was the last to be completed, and is the longest and most complex of the three. A multi-layered noisescape, Roil is by far the most unrestrained piece i have ever composed, whipping up elements of Dither and Pother into a clamorous torrent of frenzied outrage. Here’s part IV:

The accompanying artwork explores details from a recent painting by the young American artist Claire Uhle. Titled ‘Well, everything’s moving so slow in this life time.’, the painting goes a long way to capturing everything that Dither, Pother and Roil are seeking to convey (click for high-res).

The CD comes out on 20 November in a numbered limited edition of 50 copies. For more information and to order a copy, click here. A digital download version will also be available.

In other news, my previous CD Night Liminal is now available as a digital download as well. There are also a few CDs left; details about both can be found here and here.

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Coming soon: Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch

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In one of the most exciting teasers i’ve seen in a long while, Scott Walker has released a video of snippets from his forthcoming album, Bish Bosch. It includes clips from a number of tracks, bearing such tantalising titles as ‘See You Don’t Bump His Head’, ‘Tar’, ‘Dimple’, ‘Corps de Blah’, ‘Phrasing’ and ‘Epizootics!’ (the complete tracklist is here). The 4-minute video brings to mind scenes from the film 30 Century Man, showing something of the bewildering array of instruments and techniques integral to Walker’s painstaking compositional process. There aren’t many musicians who can bring together such extremes of acoustic and electronic phenomena and make them seem not just suited to each other but downright necessary, but on the strength of this all-too-brief trailer, Bish Bosch is going to do just that. The question one couldn’t help thinking in the devastating wake of 2006’s The Drift was “What on earth will Scott Walker be able to come up with to follow this?”. On 3 December, we’ll all get to find out.

In the meantime, there’s a Bish Bosch mini-site to keep an eye on, and some additional info on the 4AD website.

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