Decontamination #15 – the unassessables

Andy Ingamells

Very excited to be welcoming the wonderful composer and performer Andy Ingamells to the RNCM tomorrow. He’ll be performing four short pieces (one made in collaboration with Ana Ribeiro) alongside music by Charlotte Marlow, Sarah Hennies, Laurence Crane, and Erwin Schulhoff as well as three short poems by Matthew Welton  performed by RNCM students and staff.

There is a rich history of maverick musical performance problematising the nature of music.  I’ve never felt much of a compulsion to worry about this. However I’m saddened at the stories from Andy and others where his work has been dismissed because it’s too far removed from a listeners’ usual musical experience. This collection of music and text pieces are all examples of adventurous practices that might, in some circumstances, cause problems in assessment.

Not at Decontamination however. The programme will be:

Decontamination #15 – the unassessables
Royal Northern College of Music Carole Nash Recital Room, 1930, tickets here.

Green Gauge – Matthew Welton
The Sound of a Marathon – Andy Ingamells & Ana Ribeiro
Three pieces for guitar – Laurence Crane
Blues Scale – Matthew Welton
In Futurum – Erwin Schulhoff
Psalm 2 – Sarah Hennies
Black List – Matthew Welton
Strip Polka – Charlotte Marlow
Waschen – Andy Ingamells
worse than nothing – Andy Ingamells

Performed by:
Aaron Breeze
Fiona Finsbury
Martin Harlow
Thomas Hillary
Andy Ingamells
Mark Reid


Being Human – Embodied Sounds

Screenshot 2018-11-11 at 12.12.22   HouseOfBedlamLogo   Screenshot 2018-11-11 at 12.14.17

On the 24th of November there is a fantastic afternoon of new music. This event is part of the national Being Human festival of the humanities, which will be taking place in around 50 towns and cities across the UK between 15-24 November.

Being Human is the only national festival dedicated entirely to celebrating research across the humanities – from archaeology, history, languages, philosophy and more. This year the festival explore the theme of ‘Origins and Endings’. Being Human aims to make the humanities accessible and fun for all, and is run by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

Our take on this these is to explore a range of compositions, performance and research projects that focus on the fundamentals of the body in producing sounds and musical interactions. This includes music by researchers Larry Goves, Mark Dyer and Bofan Ma (RNCM); Claudia Molitor (City University London); James Saunders (Bath Spa); Annie Hui Hsin Hsieh (Carnegie Mellon University) and; Kathryn Williams (University of Huddersfield). This event also launches a new book from Peeters Publishers edited by Rebecca Thumpston and Nicholas Reyland (RNCM), Music, analysis and the body: Experiments, explorations and embodiments. This will include a new half hour film with three of the contributors talking about their chapters.

Extract from my new film AIR PRESSURE 2 performed by Kathryn Williams

As well as three concerts showcasing a variety of compositional and performance research we also have an interactive exhibition dedicated to music and body. This will include a new installation from Bofan Ma; new music to perform by James Saunders exploring group behaviour; a personal trainer who has worked with Kathryn Williams on PIXERCISE; an exhibition of films from Coming up for air (Kathryn Williams’ commissioning research project of pieces restricted to a single breath) as well as pieces for you to try; and a chance to try out happy/boomf/fat (sing the score while eating marshmallows) or devise you own visual or audio version of Claudia Molitor’s happy/boomf/fat.

Concert One – Embodied Sounds
1200 – Carole Nash Recital Room – Royal Northern College of Music
Coming up for air – various composers
I decide what it is I’m going to do – James Saunders
To go along, however, is to thread one’s way – Mark Dyer
Voice Box – Claudia Molitor
Music for virtual airports – Larry Goves
Performed by The House of Bedlam

Films Showing One – Music, analysis and the body: Experiments, explorations and embodiments 
1300 – Carole Nash Recital Room – Royal Northern College of Music

Concert Two – Embodied Sounds
1400 – Carole Nash Recital Room – Royal Northern College of Music
PIXERCISE – Kathryn Williams & Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh
I tell you what to do – James Saunders
happy/boomf/fat – Larry Goves
Performed by The House of Bedlam

Films Showing Two – Music, analysis and the body: Experiments, explorations and embodiments 
1500 – Carole Nash Recital Room – Royal Northern College of Music

Concert Three – Embodied Sounds
1600 – Carole Nash Recital Room – Royal Northern College of Music
Coming up for air – various composers
choose who tells you what to do – James Saunders
To go along, however, is to thread one’s way – Mark Dyer
Voice Box – Claudia Molitor
for Jess and Anna (2) – Larry Goves
Performed by The House of Bedlam

New piece

Looking forward to our House of Bedlam concert this Saturday at LSO St Luke’s. I thought I’d share the score to a new piece hot off the press for this concert.

I’m trying to work out what’s led me to a (partially) open scored piece where half the performers are playing objects. Sort of just the right tools for the job I think. However I don’t think I can deny the influence of the new creative practice course (CAPPA) I ran at Snape Maltings over the summer – especially when the participants were so open, James Saunders and Tim Parkinson gave such a great performance, and Hanna Harman and Amber Priestley spoke so beguilingly about their work. I think I just kinda want in.

I’ve also been mainlining Sarah Hennies’ pieces though Spotify, Soundcloud and vinyl for over a few months now. Guest lecturing at the Manchester School of Fine Art last week I was bowled over to the students’ performance of her Everything Else (not least becuase of the objects they chose) and her new Blume record Embedded Environment just haemorrhages class from start to finish. Decontamination is featuring her extraordinary long film/documentary/video art/live performance piece Contralto next March. More on that soon but you heard it here first (unless you’re one of the billion people I’ve already told becuase I’m pretty excited about this).

So this new piece is for melody instruments that can play in unison – at least two and an even number – and two objects performers (again at least two etc.). It’s a kind of arrangement of hollow yellow willow, an orchestral piece from last year, but pared down to bare bones and with plenty of choices for the players to make. The electronics can be chosen by the players (although I’m happy to make suggestions) and the objects are ideally metal balls swirled in metal bowls and corks swirled in wooden or plastic bowls (but I’m open to suggestions). It’s 4-5 minutes long and weirdly slightly but dense. I’m looking forward to hearing the first rehearsal this week.

The two from Rastibon could start a hailstorm

I have a new piece on the 2nd of May. I can’t wait. It’s for two alto saxophones and electronic sounds. It was commissioned by Anthony Brown and he’ll be performing it with Carl Raven as part of The House of Bedlam’s  Decontamination concert.

At the forefront of my mind when writing this was the way the players coordinate, interact and communicate. The opening requires constant communication between the duo then, as the piece progresses, the players gradually appear less and less coordinated. However this is sometimes at odds with the sound of the music. There are three kinds of notation to emphasise/play-with this: conventional, time-space and ‘speech’. The speech notation informs the rhythm and the quality of sound and moves through chant (i.e. unison), conversation, argument and soliloquy. The text is from Lars Von Trier’s extraordinary film Antichrist responding to the breakdown of the relationship of the two protagonists and the mix of different natural and stylised filming techniques (not, in this case, the sensationalised sexual and violent imagery). The title, also from the film, originates in Malleus Maleficarum, the fifteenth-century treatise on witches, in which there is a description of the hailstorms alleged to have been caused by two women in Ratisbon, Germany.

From Antichrist, Lars Von Trier, 2009

In my mind my last three pieces (hollow yellow willowhappy/boomf/fat and this one) are three very different approaches to comparable ideas leading to radically different sounds. In each case they are concerned with antiphonal movement, duo relationships and sharing materials. This piece is, in some respects, the most elaborate (and I suspect the most difficult to play).

I’m so grateful to Anthony and Carl for learning it; it’s a commitment.

Decontamination #14 – material things

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 19.49.22Decontamination #14 – Material things

02/05/2018, Carole Nash Recital Room, Royal Northern College of Music, 20.00

Tickets here.

Rainbirds* – Hanna Hartman
for amplified flute and two water sprinklers

The two from Rastibon could start a hailstorm** – Larry Goves
for two alto saxophones and electronics

The Grand Tour – Joanna Baillie

Horizontal cracking on concrete pavements – Hanna Hartman
for two alto saxophones and electronics

Meeting the Universe Halfway** – Matthew Sergeant
for flute, soprano saxophone, electric guitar and cello (both with preparations) and three apparatuses

*Pending final logistical confirmation.
** First performance

The House of Bedlam
Kathryn Williams (flutes)
Carl Raven (saxophones)
Anthony Brown (alto saxophone)
Tom McKinney (electric guitar)
Paul Grennan (cello)
Larry Goves (director)

Great news that The House of Bedlam are returning to the RNCM with a new programme of excellent pieces. Also exciting that two of the featured composers will be giving presentations on the day; Hanna Hartman will be talking to the RNCM composers as part of their regular Wednesday seminar series and Matthew Sergeant will be presenting as part of the RNCM’s public research forum series.

These pieces are all connected by idiosyncratic approaches to material. In Hanna Hartman’s Rainbirds the sounds of the flute intermingle and blend with the sound of two water sprinklers spraying into and filling two large buckets. In her Horizontal Cracking in Concrete Pavements electronically prepared sounds of body and environment blend, are enhanced, confused and contradicted by two saxophones.

Matthew Sergeant has kindly written us a new piece. In his Meeting the Universe Halfway (inspired by Karen Barad’s extraordinary book of the same name), three new apparatuses (each made of a specific material (i.e. wood, metal etc.)) behave as analogues for compositional behaviours within the piece except with little/minimal human involvement. So cascading nails behaves like canon, an irregular pendulum like hocket and descending wooden balls on bamboo like organum. Read more about it on Matt’s website. Here is a film of the first apparatus in action and images of the other two.

In Joanna Bailie’s short film The Grand Tour the starting material is a box of old photographs from her late’s father’s various trips abroad. The piece explores themes of memory, loss and love through an entanglement of this source material with techniques typical to the sampling and manipulation found in her compositional work. Joanna writes:

The box of photos goes far beyond a traditionally captured film, or even a time-lapse film in terms of its gappiness, and we might imagine that the irregular spans of time that lie between each photo are filled with whole undocumented chunks of my father’s story. Much of the film is concerned with a kind of futile attempt at reconstituting a whole from this sparse set of samples.

Still from The Grand Tour

Finally I’ve written a new piece, The two from Rasiton could start a hailstorm, commissioned by saxophonist Anthony Brown and premiered here ahead of his planned recording project. This new work is, in my mind, the partner piece to hollow yellow willow in that it deals with antiphonal communication. However the paths these two pieces have taken could not by more different. The piece gradually moves from complex and problematised communication between the two players to straightforward communication and independence; for me the communication between the players is the primary material. As this instrumental theatre drives the piece the sonic interactions don’t always fall into line. The notation is partially conventional, partially time-space and partially based on speech (starting with chant and going, via conversation and argument to speech/soliloquy). This text (and the title) is borrowed from Lars Von Trier’s script for Antichrist; this is for the intensity and clarity with which the two protagonists’ relationship falls apart rather than the violent and controversial imagery.

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 23.29.59

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 23.30.22
Extracts from The Two from Rastibon could start a hailstorm – the first two systems are about a quarter of the way through the piece and the latter approximately three quarters through.

One great shame about this concert is the decision to postpone the second performance of Mauricio Pauly’s  Fold Explain Fold Leave revisited (backdoor). Freshly revised and now with two electronics operators I have exciting plans for this piece later in the year and will be posting about this soon.



hollow yellow willow

Two new(ish) tracks. The first is hollow yellow willow a piece written in the autumn for the BBC Philharmonic. The second is a very simple little remix of it that puts the electronic sounds centre stage (as I like them and they’re a little masked in the orchestral version).



Decontamination #12 & #13

Two decontamination concerts tomorrow evening in the RNCM Carole Nash Recital Room starting at 8pm featuring excellent performers and music. They’re going to be awesome and you should get your tickets here and come along.

I’m delighted to welcome back Aisha Orazbayeva to Decontamination after her performance of Bryn Harrison’s Receiving the approaching memory last year with Mark Knoop. I’m particularly happy that she’s sharing performances of these two composers; I have enjoyed the daring and debate of her interpretation of Telemann as well as vivid performances of Sciarrino. This is not the first time Kathryn Williams has performed Sciarrino at the RNCM however these two pieces, originally designed as a pair, are rarely performed as such because of the extraordinary physical demands of the former. For a performer obsessed with breath control and physical exercise with performance these form the perfect challenge. I’m delighted that she is including two pieces from her Coming up for air project, a creative and commissioning project of pieces limited to a single breath. Both have special connections to the RNCM; Josh Mock is a former Junior RNCM Student and current composer with the National Youth Orchesta of Great Britain. His piece was developed with Kathryn on their most recent residency. Mark Dyer is a current RNCM PhD student and his work on musical ruin, in this case off well known early 20th Century music for flute, fits perfectly into this short concert.

It’s always a little strange to have a concert of a single piece in a series that, for the most parts, looks at different musical/performance outcomes from comparable ideas and starting points. However in this case the juxtapositions seems built in; happy music, sad dance and a collaborative triangle of three performers (Matthew Shlomowitz, Aisha Orazbayeve and Shila Anaraki)  in distinct roles asking and answering questions through music, speech and movement. I enjoy the unpretentious immediacy of pieces that wear their questions on their sleeves and the pieces that I know that take the form of lectures (for example pieces by Johannes Kreidler or Trond Reinholdtsen as well as others by/with Matthew) tend towards the exploratory, strange, approachable and fun.

Here is related, unnecessary and joyous little extra; a link to Mark Dyer performing Matthew Shlomowitz’s Letter Piece 1 with Elizabeth Ditmanson. I really like this performance.


Salvatore Sciarrino

Decontamination #12: Fragmentation and Distortion 

In this short concert, violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and flautist Kathryn Williams perform solo music by Salvatore Sciarrino alongside radical interpretations of early music. Sciarrino’s often fleeting, fragmentary, inherently exploratory music that pushes instrumentalists to their limits is matched with early music imagined through extended techniques and maverick performance practice.

Let it all out – Joshua Mock
Come vengono prodotti gli incantesimi? – Salvatore Sciarrino
Canzona di Ringraziamento – Salvatore Sciarrino
Momento – Mark Dyer
1-3 from Six Caprices for violin – Salvatore Sciarrino
1 & 6 from 12 Fantasias for violin without bass – Georg Philipp Telemann

Aisha Orazbayeva (violin)
Kathryn Williams (flute)



Decontamination #13: Lecture about sad music and happy dance

The third of Matthew Shlomowitz’s provocative lecture pieces, Lecture About Sad Music and Happy Dance, is a collaboration between himself, dancer-choreographer Shila Anaraki and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva. He asks: How can abstract music and dance elicit emotional responses from audiences? What can evolutionary biology tell us about emotional reactions to art? Do the sonic qualities of sad music relate to the physical qualities of sad dance? How does the happy dance of France compare with the happy dance of Indonesia? What emotion does sadness plus surprise combine to make? Why do we want to see art that makes us feel sad, and why does sad art sometimes make us happy?