Next week Kathryn Williams is performing her concert Coming up for air. This concert, preoccupied with breathing and breath, is being put on to raise some money for Help Musicians UK.
Last year Kathryn was in serious risk of having to rethink her career. A long-standing sinus problem aggravated by allergy and infection was making it increasingly painful and impractical to play the flute. She required an operation and had been on an NHS waiting list for over 18 months.
Help Musicians UK acted within a fortnight of Kathryn contacting them. They were warm, understanding and completely helpful. They paid for the operation which was done within a month. I am in awe of the efficiency of their system. I’m also aware that Kathryn’s is one story amongst many. In the music profession, where even relatively minor injury or illness can prove career damaging or ending, this charity is so important. In this uncertain political climate, an efficiently run charity that prioritises the wellbeing of musicians, regardless of genre, is essential.
You can make a donation to Help Musicians UK through Kathryn’s Coming up for air JustGiving page here. Please donate; they do good things.
The concert is at 1900 on the 7th of June at Islington Mill. Info here.
Rather excitingly the concert includes new pieces by a diverse bunch of composer friends including:
Michael Baldwin, Megan Grace Beugger, CHAINES, Oliver Coates with chrysanthemum bear, Eleanor Cully, Vitalija Glovackyte, Mauricio Pauly, Michael Perrett, Jack Sheen, Laurie Tompkins, John Webb and Nina Whiteman.
She is also playing Brian Ferneyhough’s megawork Unity Capsule and Alvin Lucier’s Self portrait for flute & wind anemometer (the anemometer is pictured in the flyer).
I’ve made a text score for the concert. Here it is:
Monday 8th May, Royal Northern College of Music Concert Hall
Kleine Trommel und UKW-Rauschen (“Conceptio”)  – Peter Ablinger
Piccolo und Rauchen [1996/97] – Peter Ablinger
Rest (extracts) – Emily Hall & Toby Litt
Weiss/Weisslich 17 (extracts) – Peter Ablinger
Weiss/Weisslich 17b: Violine und Rauschen 
Weiss/Weisslich 17g: Gitarre und Rauschen [1997/2011]
Weiss/Weisslich 17d: Flöte und Rauchen 
Weiss/Weisslich 17c: Kleine Trommel und Rauschen [1994/2017]
Rest (extracts) – Emily Hall
Violine und Rauchen “Veronica” [1995/96] – Peter Ablinger
Rest (extracts) – Emily Hall
Olivia Carrell, Anna McLuckie & Eleanore Cockerham (voices)
Aiden Marsden (snare drum), Callum Coomber (guitar/FM radio), Henry Rankin (violin), Meera Maharaj (piccolo/flute)
Decontamination continues on Monday with a concert of characteristically stark contrasts. Here the ‘pop up secular requiem’ Rest, by Emily Hall & Toby Litt is punctuated by music for instruments and noise by Peter Ablinger.
Emily and Toby’s Rest emerged as the third in a cycle of pieces dealing with love, birth and death. Toby talks about the sequence eloquently in this short trailer which also includes some extracts from the music (performed by Lady Maisery for whom it was written).
I was seduced by the trajectory of this sequence of songs. The first is conventional, beautiful and folk-like. The second retains all these qualities and crafts them into a large scale narrative. This third cycle, designed to be sung by professionals, amateurs or friends, is true chamber music. I’ve been hearing about the rehearsals in the singers’ house; this is as appropriate a platform for this music as any concert hall. When I first heard these songs I could hear how they might be comforting at times of loss.
I have chosen two selections of piece for instruments and noise by Peter Ablinger; some from Weiss/Weisslich 17 and the rest from the Instruments und Rauchen series. These two collections engage with elusive features of looking at and listening to music with the sound of the instruments embedded in, behind or alongside a veil of electronically produced noise; a kind of strange take on a live instrumental acousmatic music. Ablinger writes about Violine und Rauchen “Veronica”:
The first in the series of pieces for instruments and noise. A piece about complementary noise, about disappearing, about audibility.
The language of form in this pieces the composer sometimes decribes as “suprematistic” (after Melewitch), because of its use of “geometric” elements, like the surface, the line, the dot, which appear in sequences of a kind of “abstract” narration.
Here is the new version of a fairly recent piece Extracts from South Korea and Japan 2002 – a ‘setting’ for solo flute and projected text of extracts of Matthew Welton’s long poem responding to fixtures from the 2002 World Cup. It is played extremely well by Kathryn Williams in a live recording from Café OTO last December (performing as part of the #ddmmyy series).
This was originally written in 2015 in response to a commission from The London Sinfonietta. That version had a rather demur projection and was scored for oboe. This update is definitely an improvement. This was the first piece I wrote with projected text, something I’m still exploring. I’m fascinated by how, as I read the text, the sounds are coloured. This goes further in The book of Matthew (performed in the same concert) and I have more experiments planned.
This is also part of an ongoing set of pieces with Kathryn. The first one in the set The dance along the artery is being revised now and I’m adding a small projected part.
Decontamination 9 – CNRR, Royal Northern College of Music, 8pm
Morton Feldman – Three Voices
Juliet Fraser – soprano
The final Decontamination of 2016 happens tomorrow I am entirely chuffed that the RNCM welcomes Juliet Fraser to perform her new interpretation of this classic late Feldman work.
There is a sense of loss elusively embedded in Morton Feldman’s Three Voices, a spectacularly unusual setting of Frank O’Hara’s short poem Wind. Written, in part, as a response to the deaths of Philip Guston and O’Hara himself, Feldman consider this in the music. He later said:
Frank O’Hara had died several years before. I saw the piece with Joan in front and these two loudspeakers behind her. There is something kind of tombstoney about the look of loudspeakers. I thought of the piece as an exchange of the live voice with the dead ones – a mixture of the living and the dead.
Like much of his late work this is long (55-minute) and in this case inspired by the pattern and weave of fabric. It’s a particularly surprising setting given that O’Hara is a poet who’s work is often associated with the pithy, scenester and urban. Characteristically small motifs are repeated irregularly to create asymmetrical patterns and intricate permutations; a weave of sound.
Juliet has recently recorded this work. You should buy one if you haven’t already and if you haven’t then, well, the perfect Christmas gift for all your friends and relatives… Buy it direct from Juliet here.
Next Tuesday Decontamination continues with:
Tuesday 22 November, 8pm, Carol Nash Recital Room, RNCM
Artificial Environment No.8 – Joanna Bailie
1. …and the dreams that you dare to dream…
Receiving the Approaching Memory – Bryn Harrison
Joanna Bailie‘s Artificial Landscape No 8 is one in a sequence of fantasy landscapes that places instruments within field recordings both modified and literal. In this beautiful piece for piano and soundtrack, the instrument becomes a mediator between the real and the imagined. Bryn Harrison‘s recent long work for violin and piano explores the idea of non-goal orientated structures by (as he writes) dealing directly with the opposition of static and mobile structures. He explores the juxtaposition of near and exact repetition in close proximity dealing with issues of duration, memory and disorientation.
This is music by composers whose work I love by two of the most daring and committed interpreters of new music in the world. Worth, I think, a detour.
Extracts from the three new pieces recorded in Aldeburgh workshops earlier in the year.
The House of Bedlam are playing at Café OTO on 5 December 2016 as part of the #ddmmyy concert series. I’m chuffed to be taking the group to this great venue and particularly that we will be playing the three new pieces developed in Aldeburgh earlier this year. These are all piece which started with conversation about projected text with live music and ended up as three pieces gradually unravelling narrative. They are:
Disappointment and Small Relief, Hospital Scenes – Joe Snape
The book of Matthew – Larry Goves & Matthew Welton
Joe’s piece is a oddball tale of two lovers – one prone to photosensitive seizures, the other with a smile like a strobe, – from the perspective on an infirmary-bound protagonist. Mine and Matt’s is a ‘setting’ of his long set of poetic variations. The book of Matthew is a hauntingly beautiful collection of poems arranged according to Roget’s Thesaurus. Laurie and Sam’s Tithonus, drunk is a short soap about life on the sauce for four instrumentalists, electronics, and projected drinker.
We owe a great deal to the RVW Trust (who contributed to Laurie’s and Joe’s commission fees) and Aldeburgh Music who provided us with luxurious space to workshop and prepare the music.
Matthew Welton will also be reading at the start of the evening. This coincides with the release of his third collection The Number Poems so expect some new poems. The book is formal severity and gorgeous language. Here is a short extract:
Exactly what I’m saying is: the sunset comes,
and, in it, something anaesthetic mutes my mind.
The flock of flies doubles in size; the blackberries bloom.
A budgie in the sludge begins a song so long
a heap of people hear it in the year it takes
and none of them remembers where they heard it first.
The seriously delirious kid lets out his breath
and stipulates the apples which he’ll polish up
and juggle with the plums and crimson damsons at
the middle of my mind. The light grows alluvial;
a gust of hasty melody measures the air.
The mind is modulation. It’s a short haul home.
From ‘Construction with Stencil’, The Number Poems, Matthew Welton, Carcanet (2016).
And as is increasingly the case #ddmmyy lay on an embarrassment of riches; there is also an installation from Laurence Crane and Dori Deng.