Michael Oliva

Mixtape #44 : Spring

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For my April mixtape, i’ve gone for a seasonal theme, exploring music that references and/or alludes to aspects of spring. While all the seasons are, by their nature, in a continual state of flux, i’ve personally always tended to think of spring and autumn as being ‘transitional’, more obviously progressing between opposite poles of light and warmth. Therefore, i’ve opted for a quite polarised collection of music, some of which can be heard from a cheerful, upbeat, thank-god-it’s-not-winter-anymore angle (Syd Dale, Barbara MorgensternJohn ZornThe Bad PlusDeerhoofVeljo TormisHenry ManciniC Duncan) while others are more reflective and contemplative (Clint Mansell, Wendy CarlosGalina GrigorjevaKim CasconeGreg HeadleyAndrew LilesClara Iannotta, frostbYte, Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki & Tatsuro YamashitaHelen GrimeKeith BerryMichael OlivaShane CarruthScott WalkerPaddy Kingsland). Brian Reitzell is something of an odd one out, in full-on sinister mode, while John Oswald‘s madcap overclocked version of the Rite of Spring is one of my favourite sections from his gleefully demented Plunderphonics album.

Starting the mix, and at half-hourly intervals, i’ve indulged my love of birdsong by including some (from the British Library‘s collection) that are particularly appropriate to the season of spring in the UK, beginning with a wheatear followed by a nightingale, a swallow and finally a cuckoo, which brings the 90 minutes of seasonal sonification to an end. The mixtape can be downloaded or streamed below; here’s the tracklisting in full, including links to obtain the music. The cover artwork is a photograph i took in the early spring of 2012, at Painswick Rococo Gardens; those of you who know your flowers will recognise, carpeting the ground, a multitude of snowdrops, a long-established symbol celebrating the season of spring. Read more

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Plumbing the depths: Rarescale summer school

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It would be pretty remiss of me not to make some mention of the Rarescale summer school, which was my home and my entire focus for the entirety of last week. Rarescale is a chamber music ensemble founded by flautist Carla Rees, which specialises in new music for the deeper members of the flute family (alto, bass and, most recently, contrabass) alongside works for woodwind in general. Rarescale’s contemporary focus extends to a yearly summer school, where a small group of flautists and composers are thrown together for an intense five-day period of creation and collaboration. The composition side is overseen by Rees’ long-term collaborator (and Rarescale’s composer-in-residence) Michael Oliva, enabling composers to explore a variety of aspects of electronics alongside acoustic writing. i described the school as intense, yet the entire setup is extremely relaxed; classes are timetabled each day, but performers and composers are free to shape the week according to their needs and whatever direction seems fruitful; the only caveat being that everyone’s labours are channelled towards a Friday evening concert showcasing everyone’s work. This unavoidably leads to an acute intensity of focus, but in the best and most beneficial of ways.
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