The second Decontamination concert is coming up. Music and films by artists I love played by great instrumentalists.
Thursday 27 November 2014 – RNCM Studio Theatre – 9pm
Melodies, harmonies, hymns, anthem and lament
Music by John Cage and films by Bill Viola
Six Melodies for violin and any keyboard instrument – John Cage
Anthem – Bill Viola
No. 5 (“The Lord Descended” – William Billings) from Apartment House 1776: 44 Harmonies arranged by Roger Zahab – John Cage
Angel’s Gate – Bill Viola
No.21 (“Heath” – William Billings), No 15 (“Bellingham” – William Billings, No.42 (“Rapture” – Supply Belcher) and No.28 (“Greenwich” – Andrew Law) from Apartment House 1776: 44 Harmonies arranged by Roger Zahab – John Cage
Lyn Fletcher – Violin
Benjamin Powell – Fender Rhodes
Two of Bill Viola’s extraordinary films: Angel’s Gates is ‘a succession of individual images focussing on mortality, decay and disintegration, are delineated by long, slow fades to black’ and Anthem ‘a post-industrial lamentation, structured on the single piercing scream of a young girl as she stands in the cast chamber of Union Station in Los Angeles’ is put alongside a selection of Roger Zahab’s beautiful arrangements of John Cage‘s Harmonies from Apartment House 1777, themselves studies in erosion of traditional hymns. Opening the concert is Cage’s early modularly constructed masterwork Six Melodies.
I heard the Roger Zahab arrangement of the 14 Harmonies from Apartment House 1776 several years ago on a CD by Annelie Gahl and Klaus Lang. I already knew the 1950 Melodies which I had discovered when studying the Quartet in Four Parts as the two pieces share composition processes (a modular approach in which different fragments of the music are separated into ‘gamuts’ for subsequent organisation). Some of the open approach to composition that features in Apartment House 1776 (as well as so many of Cage’s pieces) is prefaced in the Melodies and Quartet in Four Parts so despite Zahab’s fixed (and Cage sanctioned) arrangement of 14 of the Harmonies there is a logical progression between these pieces as well as the close relationship in sound and (in this case) instrumentation.
I have not been able to get this music our of my head. At the moment I listen to these pieces more often than anything else.
The two films and two sets of pieces examine comparable ideas of formulaic and free organisation as well as erosion/disintegration, religious music and practice.
I’ve been listening to Ben Powell play the piano since our student days when he was playing with Ensemble 11 – a new music group formed by Geth Griffith and Carl Raven which I was involved with. He is one of the finest interpreters of new music in the country, recently appointed pianist to Psappha and the 2010 British Piano Music Competition winner.
As leader of the Hallé I’ve heard Lyn Fletcher play often but a particularly memorable performance was her performance of The Quartet for the End of Time with fellow National Youth Orchestra tutors. One of the most moving performances of this piece I have ever heard. I have enjoyed talking to Lyn about new music and new ideas about music.
I can’t wait to hear her and Ben play this music.