Decontamination #7 – Boulez/Bowie

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I’m a fan of Pierre Boulez and David Bowie and both have had a formative impact on me. This is part of the reason to put on this modest tribute. Furthermore, if the thread running through Decontamination is unusual or surprising connections between different starting points, territories, lines of enquiry and sounds, then the coincidence of these two artists passing away so close together is cause for reflection. Both of these men were icons in their field, made new music of significance and had extremely complex relationships with mainstream classical and pop music culture respectively.

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Opening of Pierre Boulez’s ‘Sonatine’ for flute and piano (1946)

The concert is music of Boulez and Bowie’s or new music inspired by their practice and lives and is performed and (where relevant) written or arranged by RNCM students.  The concert opens with a performance of Boulez’s Sonatine for flute and piano. I’m grateful that Meera Maharaj and Aaron Breeze have agreed to take on this monumentally demanding work.

Ellen Lewis, James Davis, Sean Rogan & George Garside, RNCM Popular Music degree students, are going to play following James, Sean and Anna Mcluckie’s (unable to perform on this occasion but has contributed to the writing) amazing set in New Music North West last year where they made new and imaginative versions of songs from Manchester bands. This time they are responding to Bowie songs with covers and originals as well as interludes inspired by Boulez.

Finally two RNCM composers have written new pieces for the occasion for string quartet and electronics. Grace Evangeline-Mason has written …by the atmosphere of a room – the title a quote from Francis Bacon (who had a documented influence on Boulez)  – and the piece seeks to define a dense and complex musical space employing some of the compositional techniques used by Boulez. Grace write:

Inspired by the interests and piano works of Pierre Boulez, who has been referred to as ‘An Eternal Musical Icon’ and an ‘Eternal Enigma’, the piece is an immersive, and seemingly eternal, harmonic soundworld.

John Uren has written a new work responding to Bowie; Her own dying moments. He writes:

For my piece I was particularly inspired by a letter I found online written by Dr Mark Taubert. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Mark who has been incredibly helpful in providing me with a recording of himself reading his own letter, which forms the basis for the electronic part of my piece. 

This reading, alongside subtle electronic sounds and an understated string quartet part which plays with the opening pitches of Bowie’s Lazarus – is part thank you to Bowie and part exploration of palliative care in the UK. This makes for a desperately moving short new work.

Come along. Tickets here. It’ll be a goodun.

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