Woody Guthrie on Cage

A couple of months ago I gave a lecture as part of the COMA Summer Festival called Cage the melodist, harmonist and American traditionalist. This slightly contrary title was supposed to provide an introduction to a talk on the more apparently traditionally composed works of Cage and his connection with traditional American music of various kinds. At some point I’ll write the lecture up. I was delighted to find, when researching it, a letter from Woody Guthrie to the record company that released records of Cage’s prepared piano music. Tom Service has written about this in his excellent series on contemporary music in the Guardian. You can read that here. He’s kind enough to mention that I made him aware of this (when it might have been more representative to point out that I drunkly rambled on about it for ages instead – although his link certainly affected my blog traffic for a week or so though).

I particularly like the section of the letter when Guthrie describes his own piano experiments:

I remember when I was a kid, I used my grandma’s piano, a Price & Deeple, upright, to storm myself up all kinds of wars, fogs, storms, battles, courtings, growings, and love affairs.

Sounds like this could provide track titles for album.

You can read the article with this letter in the Stool Pigeon here.

The lecture was also partly inspired by a recording that intersperses the Cage 1950 Melodies for Violin and Keyboard Instrument and a 13 Harmonies for Violin and Keyboard Instrument which is a Cage endorsed 1985 Roger Zahab arrangement of 5 of  the Harmonies from Apartment House 1976 (1976) and eight of the Hymns and Variations (1979). Although not to everyone’s taste I love this recording for the beautiful playing, inevitable glitches from close mic-ing and the sound of the Fender Rhodes. It’s performed by Annelie Gahl and Klaus Lang and you can read more about it at Discogs here.


Flight of sounds – a few images

Flights of sound was great fun and was an intimate close to the Tatton Biennial. It was a pleasure to have such committed performances from Tom McKinney and Jane Chapman and I was particularly please to hear A Fire-Island Sky at its extremely delayed premiere played twice in two beautiful Tatton Rooms. I don’t have any images of that but I do have some others including Aura’s spectacular graphic score which provided the backbone to Jane’s improvisation. It was lowered and raised by means of a bespoke cast iron hand-wound contraption and was an affecting contrast with Tatton’s splendour, faded or otherwise.

Two new pieces in the last weekend of the Tatton Park biennial

This Saturday I have two new piece being premiered. This is part of the culmination of the Tatton Park biennial which is a summer long art show. You can see previous posts for information on Aura Satz’s new piece which I made a new sound track for.

The two pieces this Saturday are both premieres but on is old and one is new. The old piece is a kind of satellite from mine and Matthew Welton’s opera. The piece is for solo guitar and uses material from a significant scene towards the end of the opera. It takes its name from a line that Frank O’Hara sings while A Fire-Island sky. I wrote this piece for Tom McKinney to play in a concert we did together at the Spitalfields Festival last year but, partly because we were very late setting up because as there was no electricity were we were playing (and partly because my bag was stolen the night before with a load of my gear) we savagely cut the programme including this short piece. Actually this piece will suit the reverberation of the Tatton state rooms better and Tom is playing this alongside Elliott Carter’s Shard, Laurence Crane’s Three pieces for guitar and some music from the Tatton Library collection.

I feel very lucky that my other new piece other piece is being played by harpsichord legend Jane Chapman. This is a new set of pieces called Uninhabited islands which includes the harpsichord material from the installation film. This has been elaborated on so it now forms a set of eight miniatures (the set is no more than 7 minutes long). I enjoyed finding the movement titles which are all very remote islands around the world. I chose them because I imagine them as fantastical places and because the names seemed so delicious (the miniatures are called Erwing, Disappointment, Comprida, Pouncet, Rose, Schmidt, Zhokhov and Langenwerder). It’s great that Jane is premiering them here as it will be on the Tatton instrument that I was thinking about when I wrote the set and the installation will also be running for part of the evening so hopefully these two pieces will provide some context for each other. Jane is also playing music from the Tatton archive but, most excitingly, she has made a new piece with Aura. I cant wait to see and hear what they’ve come up with.

The other highlight for me will be Leo Grant’s new piece played by the Pleyel ensemble. We were contemporaries at Southampton University and I’ve not heard his music for too long. I can’t wait to hear this new piece and see how much his music has changed over the last few years.

With contemporary music alongside music from the Tatton collection and in the splender of this stately home I think this will be a surprising and memorable concert.

If you want some more information you will find it here.

Supporting Mark Fell on 27th June for slip discs

Going to be performing for slip discs later this month alongside Points of Light and others all supporting Mark Fell. This should be a great night out. I’m putting together a new set which I’m hoping to be entirely different from my concert music and the house of bedlam. Planning for this to be a very flexible lineup but on the 27 June I’ll be joined by Oliver Coates and Harry Percy. Expect some originals and new music incorporating snippets of David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Frédéric Chopin and others. You can buy tickets here. You can see Mark Fell play live for £5. Why wouldn’t you?



Trends in personal relationships

Very happy to have finally finished and delivered a new piece for the London Sinfonietta Academy. I’ve called it Trends in personal relationships with the slightly odd movement titles ThreesomeBenign violations, Falling in love and the Internet, Trends in personal relationships and Exhausted English landscapes. I think I’m most pleased with the second movement which is half the entire piece and has a somewhat relentless role for the pianist. I’m very much looking forward to the Sinfonietta Academy process – some gifted students from the RNCM are taking part which will be fun.

The premiere is on Thursday 12 July at the Platform Theatre conducted by Elgar Howarth alongside well known repertoire pieces including music by Elliott Carter, Oliver Knussen, Mark Anthony-Turnage and Colin Matthews. The concert is also free! Do come along – I think it will be great fun. There is some more information here:


Original animation for piano concerto second movement

I thought that as my piano concerto is being streamed at the London Sinfonietta website this month I would upload the work that became the springboard for the second movement.

This is a the first part of my remix of mira calix’s I may be over there (but my heart is over there). I made this piece during our exchange and return project – we spent over a year working together on new pieces and exchanging approaches to writing music. The animations were made by Jesse Collett and Myroslava Sayeed.

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