Decontamination #11: New, reimagined and modified instruments

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Instruments/speakers from David Pocknee’s String Trio No.1

Decontamination #11: New, reimagined and modified instruments

12 December 2017, 2000, CNRR, RNCM – TICKETS HERE

One for Solo Violin – Nam June Paik
Callum Coomber (violin)

la roche mère moutonne – Kelly Jayne Jones
Gavin Osborn (flute), Kelly Jayne Jones (rocks)

Taasian – Amir Sadeghi Konjani
Jacob Barns (prepared cello)

String Trio No.1 – David Pocknee
Shoal (Callum Coomber, Rosalind Ridout & Lucy Nolan)

Booklet: visual-audio-thing – Claudia Molitor
Video with soundtrack

offset ii – Nocturne !@#$% – Bofan Ma
Eldad Diamant – accordion and score objects

Fixations – Eleanor Cully
Shoal (Callum Coomber, Rosalind Ridout & Lucy Nolan)

Soundspace: Wonder Inn 30/10/2017 – Carmel Smickersgill, Stephen Morris, Adrian Wong and Johnathan Heyes
Ottis Enokido Lineham (conductor), Wei Ling Thong, Will McGahon, Izzy Baker (violins), Elizabeth Elliott (cello), Aidan Marsden, Callum Coomber (wine glasses)

Claudia Molitor from Booklet
From Booklet: visual-audio-thing – Claudia Molitor

 

Amir by MM
Amir Sadeghi Konjani (by MM)

Nam June Paik’s iconic 1962 Fluxus performance One for Solo Violin may be a reactionay destructive event (the sudden smashing of a violin), but it also hints at the possibilities of a creative and  performance practice untethered from restrictive instrumental tradition. Each of the pieces in this concert address Paik’s implied question by inventing or modifying instruments or their performance practice. Amir Sadeghi Konjani’s prepared cello connects tubes to the strings with springs and creates a natural spatialised delay (for him, instrumental shadowing). Claudia Molitor’s installation (here as a short audio/video presentation) and Bofan Ma’s new work employ the score itself as an instrument, in both cases playing games with the

Bofan Ma
Bofan Ma

position of the score and the resultant sound. Artist and improviser Kelly Jayne Jones shares a new piece she has devised in collaboration with Gavin Osborn; ‘a partially structured interaction between amplified rocks and flute. A counterbalance between bedrock and breath and an investigation into the fragile yet monstrous power of the human animal’ . David Pocknee’s playful response to a string trio is to design new instruments with strings and plastic cups. Carmel Smickersgill collaborates with architects Stephen Morris, Adrian Wong and Johnathan Heyes to create a piece of music in which a building is a compositional agent. Eleanor Cully’s Fixations brings us full circle. As with the Paik these pieces address/undermine traditional performance practice and, also like the Paik, they are defined by their brevity; these are pieces that hint at elusive possibilities.

kjj
Kelly Jayne Jones

The questions raised by Fluxus artists about traditionalism and conservatism were not limited to compositional/performance/artistic practice. Questions relating to commercialism, elitism, sex, gender and race (to scratch the surface) were also confronted. It’s an easy provocation to raise this in the context of a concert at a British conservatoire. I don’t want to trivialise these issues through a token gesture but do want to explore work that aspires to greater equality as well as reflect on my own commitments for the Decontamination series. I’m happy that these issues seem so central to the conversation around new music at the moment and, happily, increasingly at the RNCM as well.

For me it is entirely humbling that such a diverse range of artists from all over the world (including experienced professionals and RNCM students) have given their time and energy just for the love of doing somethign worthwhile. I can’t wait.

Carmel Smickersgill
Carmel Smickersgill

 

 

 

 

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A worthy cause (and a text score)

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.

a6 flyer

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:

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Extracts from South Korea and Japan 2002

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.

A little sketch (kind of)

sketch

I’m in the process of starting a new work commissioned by the kick-ass saxophonist Meriel Price (for saxophone, cello and piano). I don’t usually post sketches but I thought I’d share this as it’s a little difference (for me).

The project is a kind of chain reaction starting with a piece I wrote back in 2006 for saxophone and piano. Meriel (who is a saxophonist, artist, improviser and composer herself) has made a film in response to my original piece and then has commissioned different practitioners to respond to each preceding piece in the chain. I’m now in the process of making a new piece to round the process off. You can read more about her project, Stimuli, here.

In the spirit of this multi-disciplinary approach I thought I’d have a go at making a little visual sketch. This is somewhat cathartic in itself. When I was 14 I was taken aside and gently told that despite my wide-eyed enthusiasm, extra time spent in the relevant part of the school, love of the subject, and saved pocket money to unnecessarily buy high quality materials (I could go on); that it would be in my best interest if I did not apply to take GCSE art. I believe that an unintentionally abstract expressionist interpretation of a still life pencil drawing is ultimately to blame. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m still not entirely over this.

I’ve also been thinking about an approach relevant to two recent(ish)pieces; the first movement of the orchestral work The Rules and the first movement of the ensemble work The Devotions. In both cases musical material is confined to specific instrumental groups and gradually transforms and overlaps (in the former case against a borrowed chorale and in the latter far more starkly). In the sketch above the three layers are these three instruments/instrumental groupings. The fixed element is the darkening blue squares that are initially separated and, in groups of three, gradually overlap. All the other shapes and colours are what emerges naturally from this pattern; pairs from left to right that reduce in size (red/brown and green); a pair that seems like it might behave in the same way but vanishes half way through (pale blue); and two ‘solos’ that increase and decrease in size in the right hand two-thirds of the sketch.

I haven’t decided how I’m going to employ this. It has really just been a way or organising my thoughts at the start of a new piece. However in my own naive way I think it looks kinda pretty (although the colours look very different here to how they look in the original software, a fitting testament to my monumental lack of knowledge of web colours etc.) however much it may vindicate the opinion of a GCSE art teacher two decades ago.

Towards the blessed islands.

Oliver_Coates_-_Towards_the_blessed_islands_1385999455_crop_550x550

I’m completely delighted that my piece the clouds flew round with the clouds is now out on Oliver Coates wonderful new records Towards the blessed islands on the PRAH label.

You can buy the records from amazon here (LP) and here (CD) or at Norman Records here. You can also get it on iTunes here.

There is also a download of the booklet available on Oliver Coates’ website here. He has also linked to album reviews from The Wire and Fluid Radio.

I wrote this piece for Olly’s 30th birthday and I’m really happy that it has been released and been broadcast more extensively than anything I’ve ever written.

You can hear my track here.