Michael Oesterle: all words

I loved Michael Oesterle’s all words when I first heard EXAUDI sing it last year, so I was delighted today to chance upon a recording from that concert on Soundcloud.

Here’s what I wrote in my Tempo review at the time (no. 272, pp. 72–4):

all words by the Canadian Michael Oesterle sets, in alphabetical sequence, all 1,015 three-letter words from the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. On paper, unpromising material; in practice, anything but. The first brilliant thing Oesterle does is to draw out the inherent structural features of such a list. It will almost all (but, crucially, not entirely) consist of single-syllable words, which immediately carries a rhythmic implication. It’s also a lot of text, so the words will need to go by pretty fast. Furthermore, an alphabetical list of words contains its own internal rhythms and cycles: it will start with all the words beginning with ‘a’, then move to those beginning with ‘b’, and so on, creating 26 sections of different length, each with its own characteristic attack. Within each alphabetical section are up to 26 much shorter subsections – all the words beginning ‘ab’, ‘ac’, ‘ad’, and so on. Again, each of these has a particular sonic character. So the list is not an undifferentiated stream, but has a form and shape of its own. And then there are the words that leap out expeditiously for whatever reason: bum, CIA, emu. Finally, there are occasional moments where near-homonyms have the effect of almost pausing the flow altogether (cam, can; hem, hen; and … ant).

The music mirrors this mix of endless variety and predictable cycle with a tempo scheme that constantly fluctuates in great waves, as well as a pitch system that according to the composer is built upon triangular numbers, and that reminded me pleasantly of change-ringing. Oesterle is well-regarded in Canadian new music circles, and deserves to be here too.

840 series at St James, Islington

I was pleased to make it out last night for the first concert in 840’s 2015–16 series. Throughout this year and without much fanfare Alex Nikiporenko and Nicholas Peters have been building up this small series of small concerts of what I am tempted to call, in the least non-disparaging way possible, ‘small music’. Music by composers like Luiz Henrique Yudo or Laurence Crane. Music that doesn’t have any pretensions to be more than it is, that doesn’t seek to fill a space or a time outside of its own container, but that fills what it has just perfectly.

On this occasion all the music was for two or three cellos, played by Tre Voci, and every piece – except for Richard Glover’s Duo from 2012 – was newly written. Yudo, whose beautiful little sonic carvings are always a joy, was represented by CLARIFICATION, a polyphony of repeating pulses and sustained tones. Sergei Zagny brought another perfect miniature in his Studies on Rhythm BACH, written on the first five notes of the C minor scale. Timothy Cape’s NEED was a humorous look at the roles of advertising, self-promotion and anxiety in new music. Thematically it was the ‘biggest’ piece of the night, and in that respect slightly out of tune with its materials, but it raised and earned plenty of laughs. Eleanor Cully‘s tutto dietro il ponticello, as its title suggests, was played wholly behind the bridge of the three cellos, between it and the tailpiece – but if that suggested a Penderecki-esque noise-fest, what we got was a delicate study in bouncing bows and softly pinging pulses. Glover’s Duo is a quintessential study in ‘small music’, just a single perfect cadence zoomed in on and blown up with slow glissandi that drew out every tiny microtone or sonic ‘artefact’ that lurks beneath the most simple and foundational gesture in Western art music. Peters and Nikiporenko both wrote new pieces too, and I was especially taken by the latter, which seemed perfectly balanced in all directions.

This, by the way, is my new favourite programme note:


Secret Music: July

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Friday 4 July: Silk Street Music Hall, GSMD | Plus Minus | 7.00pm | FREE

Plus-Minus ensemble present five new works by postgraduate Guildhall composers, and a rare opportunity to hear Peter Ablinger’s experimental Amtssee bei Regen.

Friday 4 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

The 10th season of Music We’d Like to Hear gets underway, with new support from Sound and Music (as co-producers) and as always a lush programme of three concerts on three Fridays curated by three composers. First up is Tim Parkinson’s concert, Drums and Piano: pieces by Matteo Fargion, Jonathan Marmor (whose Cattle in the Woods was a memorable feature of last year’s programme), Makiko Nishikaze, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Kunsu Shim and Christian Wolff, played by Adam Morris (percussion) and Parkinson (piano).

Friday 4 July: Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham | Smith Quartet and Joby Burgess | 7.30pm | £18

Music for string quartet (with or without percussion) at the Cheltenham Music Festival: Steve Reich, Different Trains; new piece by Graham Fitkin; Steve Martland, Starry Night.

Saturday 5 July: York Unitarian Chapel | Steve Martland tribute | 7.30pm | £10/£8 concs

More Martland: York’s Late Music Ensemble (specially formed for the occasion) will perform a tribute concert to the late composer, who died last May featuring performances of his ReveilleRemembering Lennon and Kick, as well as pieces by Louis Andriessen, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Roger Marsh and James Whittle.

Sunday 6 July: Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham | Tokaido Road | 4.30pm | £20

Cheltenham again, for the premiere of Nicola LeFanu’s new multi-media chamber opera Tokaido Road, set in 19th-century Japan and following the story of the artist Hiroshige. Created and commissioned by Okeanos, with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield.

Friday 11 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Second instalment of Music We’d Like to Hear, curated by Markus Trunk. Pieces for string quartet by Joanna Bailie, Carola Bauckholt, Matteo Fargion, Jo Kondo and Luiz Henrique Yudo (another highlight from last year). All played by the Ligeti Quartet.

Sunday 13 July: Cafe Oto | Laurence Crane CD launch | 8pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Apartment House give the UK premiere of Harley Gaber’s legendary The Winds Rise in the North (1973–4) for amplified string quintet, described by Keith Fullerton Whitman as ‘one of the holy grails of early minimalism’.

Tuesday 15 July: Cafe Oto | Laurence Crane CD launch | 8pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Launch concert for Apartment House’s long anticipated double CD of Laurence Crane’s chamber music (another timbre). Concert to include several pieces from the CD, performed by Apartment House.

Review of this (very special) CD to follow soon.

Friday 18 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Third instalment of Music We’d Like to Hear, curated by John Lely. Music for viols and objects by Antoine Beuger, William Lawes, Alvin Lucier, Taylan Susam and Christian Wolff. Played by Phantasm and the MWLTH ensemble.

Friday 25 July: Schotts recital room, 48 Great Marlborough Street | Dave Smith | 6.30pm | £10/£8 concs

A pre-65th birthday concert of works by Dave Smith performed by the composer. Programme to include Ogive 1African MosaicGuarachaFrivolous and Vexatious and 8 pieces from the 1st Piano Concert.

Secret Music: June

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Bit London-based again this one: if you have a concert elsewhere in the UK that you think I should consider listing, please get in touch.

Tuesday 3 June: Cafe Oto | Kammer Klang | 8pm | £7

Neil Luck and Adam de la Cour will be performing their duo-version of Kurt Schwitters’ classic Ursonate. Expect two men, ACME duck calls and 6ft of plastic tubing. Zubin Kanga will be performing Z/K, written for him by Michael Finnissy, and there will also be Berio, Xenakis, James Saunders and some live black MIDI. Like the blurb says, schwittloads of notes.

Wednesday 4 June: The Forge, Camden | Fidelio Trio and Ensemble Matisse | 7.30pm | £12.50/£10

The Fidelio Trio and Ensemble Matisse come together in a concert of works by British and European composers. Full programme:

  • Harrison Birtwistle: Piano Trio
  • David Fennessy: Music for the Pauses in a Conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman
  • Claudia Molitor: after the strangely monumental
  • Johannes Maria Staud: Für Bálint András Varga
  • Philippe Hersant: Nachtgesang
  • Karol Beffa: La tristesse du roi (new arrangement; WP)
  • Guillaume Connesson: Adams Variations
  • Pascal Dusapin: invece

Tuesday 10 June: The Forge, Camden | New Dots | 7.30pm | £12.50/£10 on the door (£11/£9 online)

New Dots give  a programme of new music for piano and percussion by up and coming composers. Full programme:

Performed by Siwan Rhys (piano) and George Barton (percussion)

Tuesday 10 June: Hundred Years Gallery | clapTON ensemble | 7.30pm | £5

East London’s clapTON ensemble play works by Rebecca Saunders, Pierluigi Billone, Tristan Perich, Luciano Azzigotti, Santiago Díez Fischer and Anna Romashkova at the Hundred Years Gallery in Hoxton.

Thursday 12 June: City University | Mark Knoop/Gwenaëlle Rouger | 7pm | FREE

Knoop and Rouger piano duo, with added electronics from Newton Armstrong. Full programme:

  • Georg Friedrich Haas – Ein Schattenspiel
  • Ben Smith – the ineluctable modality of the audible (Water Music) (WP)
  • Georges Aperghis – Dans le mur
  • Georgia Rodgers – cut it out (WP)
  • Michael Beil – Doppel

Free to attend, but please book a place.

Sunday 15 June [NB: Date corrected]: Whitechapel Gallery | Voice and the Lens | 12pm | £12.50/£10

This brilliant festival of the human voice returns after its first incarnation at IKON gallery in 2012. Highlights include: Bill Viola’s Anthem; Bruce McLean and Adam de la Cour’s Drumstick; Anri Sala’s Answer Me; Robert Ashley’s classic Atalanta Strategy; recent work by Imogen Stidworthy, Helen Petts, Laure Prouvost, Neil Luck and Lina Lapelyte; Mikhail Karikis and specially-made new work by AMAE and Pier Giorgio De Pinto with philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy.

Monday 16 June: Deptford Town Hall | Ian Pace | 7.30pm | FREE

Ian Pace performs Goldsmiths student compositions alongside British premieres of music by Walter Zimmerman, Rebecca Saunders and Alistair Zaldua, the European premiere of some very old Ferneyhough, and more. Full programme:

  • Brian Ferneyhough: Invention (1965) (European Premiere)
  • Brian Ferneyhough: Lemma-Icon-Epigram (1981)
  • Nigel McBride: Juncture 1 (2012)
  • Alistair Zaldua: Spagyrea (2013-14)
  • Rebecca Saunders: shadow (2013)
  • Lauren Redhead: i am but one small instrument (2012)
  • Robin Haigh: Can You Hear Him Singing? (2014)
  • Natasha Prendergast: The Atonal Verses (2013)
  • Walter Zimmermann: Voces Abandonadas (Antonio Porchia), primera serie (2005)
  • Adam de la Cour: Holy Toledo (2013–14)

Tuesday 17 June: Royal Academy of Music | Zubin Kanga | 6pm | FREE

Pianist Zubin Kanga plays works written for him in collaboration with the their composers by Elo Masing, Michael Finnissy, David Gorton, David Young, Patrick Nunn and George Benjamin. Full programme:

  • Elo Masing: Studies in Resonance II
  • Michael Finnissy: Z/K
  • David Gorton: Orfordness
  • David Young: Not Music Yet
  • Patrick Nunn: Morphosis
  • George Benjamin: Piano Figures

Wednesday 25 June: Harwich Festival | Ein Brise | 6.30pm | FREE

Kagel’s famous piece for 111 cyclists receives its first outing in Scotland an outing as part of the Harwich Festival of the Arts (25 June–6 July). Free to watch; it starts on Harwich Green.

Parkinson Saunders coming to Kings Place

I haven’t decided which side of ‘secret’ concerts at Kings Place sit on, so I don’t always include them in my Secret Music listings. I know, rod for my own …

However, if you’re in London on 11 May – rather than in Glasgow for Tectonics, Leeds for the Freiburg/Leeds percussion ensembles, or Oxford for Riot Ensemble’s Zivkovic premiere – then you probably do want to know about this:

Sunday 11 May: Kings Place, London | Parkinson Saunders | 4pm | £9.50

Tim Parkinson and James Saunders bring their irreverent experimentalism to Kings Place with a concert of new pieces by Tim Parkinson, Stefan Thut, Matteo Fargion, James Saunders, John White and Travis Just.

I’ve been told there will be shouting, Brazilian rhythms, box pushing, noise guitar, story telling and even a little voluntary audience participation. Should be excellent.

Secret Music: May

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Big month this one. A lot going on at the University of Leeds in the first half of the month, including their annual contemporary music weekend, from the 9th to the 11th. On the same weekend: Glasgow’s Tectonics Festival. Plus loads elsewhere too. Now updated with details of Sounds New.

Friday 2 May – Friday 9 May: Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, Canterbury | various venues, times & prices

Argh, how did I miss including Sounds New the first time I posted? Canterbury’s new music festival is always interesting, and this year is no exception. The full week’s programme can be viewed here, but among the highlights that caught by eye are a new piece by Janek Schaefer; a concert by the London Sinfonietta of music by Cardew, Rzewski and Andriessen, and Johannes Kreidler’s Fremdarbeit (the first of at least two outings for this piece in the UK this summer); Sam Bailey doing a Ross Bolleter on a woodland piano; Lauren Redhead playing music for organ and electronics; and a Migro Records portrait.

Friday 2 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | LSTwo | 6pm | FREE

Leeds School of Music’s new music ensemble, directed by Mic Spencer, performs Birtwistle’s Tragoedia, a rare performance of James Dillon’s Zone (…de azul), and Emmanuel Nunes’ tour-de-force Improvisation I.

Saturday 3 May: Hundred Years Gallery, Hoxton | Weisslich | 7.00pm | FREE/£5 donation

Concert put together by Louis D’Heudieres of predominantly London and Huddersfield based composers, plus some Fluxus classics. Full programme:

Jammie Nicholas: Spandex and gobstoppers
Michael Baldwin: whistles whittling
Alison Knowles: shoes of your choice
David Pocknee: Pieces From @textscoreaday and Fluxus
Charlie Sdraulig between
Peter Ablinger/Louis d’Heudieres: variations on “panpiece” from WEISS/WEISSLICH 7
Louis d’Heudieres: Reconstruction #2 (some of the sounds may be replicable)
Andy Ingamells: How To Explain Songs To A Jellied Eel
George Brecht: Comb Music

Monday 5 May: Café Oto | Bryn Harrison’s Vessels | £6 adv/£8 on the door | 8pm

First London performance of the extended version of Bryn Harrison’s Vessels, recently released by another timbre. (A release that will be reviewed here soon.)

Thursday 8 – Friday 16 May: Dark Inventions: Firewheel | UK tour, various venues, times & prices

New music group Dark Inventions will be touring their show of music by Stef Connor, Benjamin Gait, Patrick John Jones, Christopher Leedham, Martin Scheuregger and Philip Cashian to Manchester, York, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool. See website for full details.

Friday 9 – Sunday 11 May: Tectonics Glasgow | various venues, times & prices

The BBC Scottish SO’s Tectonics Festival returns after its acclaimed first year. See the festival website for full details, but highlights include world premieres by John Oswald, Georg Friedrich Haas, James Weeks, Michael Finnissy, Klaus Lang and Sarah Kenchington, plus performances by EXAUDI, Christian Wolff and Thurston Moore.

Friday 9 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Heather Roche | 1.05pm | FREE

Clarinetist Heather Roche plays solo works by Martin Iddon, Pedro Alvarez, Charlie Sdraulig and Michael Baldwin.

Friday 9 May: Norfolk Music Room, Victoria and Albert Museum | Mainly Two | 6.30pm | FREE

Violin duo Mainly Two (John Garner and Marie Schreer) play pieces (many of them new) by Charlie Sdraulig, Giovanni Cacioppo, Lauri Supponen, Tomi Räisänen, Cameron Graham, Noam Faingold, Jed Backhouse and Michael Oliva.

Saturday 10 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Distractfold | 7.30pm | £8 (students + children FREE)

Distractfold presents a programme featuring a world premiere by Ben Isaacs (Distractfold Commission), the UK premiere of Spanish composer Abel Paul’s Linea de Vacío (Gaudeamus Musikweek 2010 selection), Martin Iddon’s Danaë for string trio, Distractfold co-director Sam Salem’s Dérive (Concours Luc Ferrari 2012 commission) and Canadian composer David Berezan’s acousmatic work, Thumbs.

Sunday 11 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Percussion ensembles of the Musikhochschule Freiburg and the University of Leeds | 3pm | £8 (students + children FREE)

The percussion ensembles of the Musikhochschule Freiburg (Germany) and the University of Leeds present a works inspired by diverse natural elements, culminating in Iannis Xenakis’ seminal percussion sextet, Pleiades.

Sunday 11 May: Brasenose College, Oxford, Riot Ensemble | 9pm | FREE

Concert of Bach, Crumb and Debussy that also includes the UK premiere of I Shall Contemplate by Grawemeyer award-winning composer Djuro Zivkovic.

Monday 12 May: Senate House, University of London | Christian Wolff | 5pm | FREE

Fresh from his appearances at Glasgow’s Tectonics, Christian Wolff gives a talk on his music, followed by a short concert of his pieces given by Apartment House.

Tuesday 20 May: The Forge, London | Riot Ensemble | 7.30pm | £12/£10

The Riot Ensemble marks the anniversary of Dutilleux’s death with a performance of his Les citations, plus new pieces by Jose Manuel Serrano, Jenna Lyle, Arne Gieshoff, Chris Roe, Amy Beth Kirsten and Drew Schnurr, Ken Hesketh’s transcription of Dutilleux’s piano piece Blackbird, and Arlene Sierra’s Petite Grue. Pre-concert talk at 6.30pm.

Wednesday 21 May: St. John’s College, Cambridge | Riot Ensemble | 7.30pm | £10/£5

Same programme as above.