An Assembly play Feldman and Lukoszevieze

This Thursday, 22 February at Hackney Round Chapel, 7.30pm:

Jack Sheen’s An Assembly present a rare performance of one of Morton Feldman’s final works, Words and Music, a collaboration with one of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Samuel Beckett. Originally conceived as a radio-play, this 40-minute piece exhibits two of the 20th century’s greatest artists at their creative peak. Haunting fragments of text and sound gently discourse and overlap in an intimate meditation on themes such as love, age, and truth.

Alongside this will be the world premiere of Opéret OPERA Operec by the composer, cellist and multi-disciplinary artist Anton Lukoszevieze. Intended as a flexible, yet possibly unstable ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, Opéret OPERA Operec makes use of speaking, sounds, dance, music, recordings and singing to explore the poems and essays by Benjamin Péret and George Perec.

Tickets £10 / £8
Facebook event


Walshe, Hartman, Takasugi, Distractfold, Kammerklang

I’m not finding time to plug as many concerts as I would like at the moment, but this one looks pretty special: the next installment of Kammerklang‘s 2017/18 season at Café Oto. Manchester’s brilliant Distractfold Ensemble play works by Hanna Hartman (pictured) and Steven Kazuo Takasugi; and Jennifer Walshe performs her There Was a Visitor. The evening begins, in the usual fashion, with a ‘fresh Klang’, this time Barblina Meierhans‘ May I ask you something? Not one to miss.

Full details here and here.

Borough New Music in 2018


One of the more intriguing developments in London’s new music scene in 2017 was the founding of the Borough New Music series by pianist Clare Simmonds. These lunchtime concerts take place every Tuesday now at St George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street, near the famous market, in the shadow of the Shard and across the river from the City. (Also the church where Dickens’ Little Dorrit was christened and married.) I haven’t been able to make my way yet, but that’s something I plan to rectify in the coming weeks.


Lunchtime concerts are a feature of the City’s churches – but these are typically touristy pops selections, or organ recitals. Both have their place of course, but it’s nice to see the offering widening in Borough to include new music as well. Here’s hoping the series grows in strength through the year.

Programmes have been announced right up to June now and full listings can be found here. Interesting things I spotted in the next couple of months include:

23 January
Miloš Milivojević (accordion) playing music by Astor Piazzolla, Franck AngelisRobert PercyViaceslav Semenov and Victor Vlasov.

6 February
Ben Smith (piano), Kirsty Clark (viola) and Patricia Auchterlonie (soprano) playing music by Helmut Lachenmann, Richard Melkonian and Martin Lodge.

6 March
Chris Brannick (percussion) and Sara Stowe (soprano) playing music by Jorge VidalesGiacinto ScelsiAdrian SutcliffeChris Hobbs, Julie Sharpe, Mauricio Kagel, Paul Burnell, and John Cage/Erik Satie.

20 March
A toy piano special in collaboration with World Toy Piano Week – Kate Ryder plays music by Cage, Stace Constantinou, Christian BanasikJulia WolfeBrian Inglis, Yumi Hara, Katharine Norman, Meredith Monk, and Stephen Montague.

27 March
A portrait of composer Gregory Rose by Loré Lixenberg (voice), Chris Brannick (marimba) and Clare Simmonds.

All concerts start at 1pm, and all are free admission.

#promsnewmusic 2017

Iiiit’s Proms time! For the definitive list of new music in this year’s festival see below, or follow  #promsnewmusic on Twitter.

A few quick observations: women composers: 11 (down from 12 in 2015 (did I not do this list last year?)) 12 (edit: I’d missed Andrea Tarrodi in Prom 61). Non-white composers: 2. Birtwistle, Hillborg, Larcher, Adès, MacMillan and Dusapin: all present and correct. Nothing against any of them especially (and I’ve written the BBC’s Larcher bio, so it will be nice for that to have another outing), but it seems at least at three of those six are in every Proms series these days. The Proms are capable of looking further afield – witness the inclusion of new pieces by Tom Coult, Laurent Durupt, Lotta Wennäkoski and others – but it does feel like the core is hardening at the same time. A John Adams focus in his 70th birthday year is probably inevitable, but again here’s a composer amply represented in previous seasons. Probably the most attractive Adams event will be Harmonielehre at Peckham Car Park, a piece I can imagine really working well in that tricky space.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to pieces by Gerald Barry (Prom 50), Durupt (PCM 2), Mark Simpson (Prom 17) and Christina Lamb (Proms at Tanks Tate Modern). What I know of Julian Anderson’s Piano Concerto (Prom 16) intrigues me too, and the concerts at Wilton’s Music Hall and Tanks Tate Modern, staged by BCMG and London Contemporary Orchestra, respectively, can’t be overlooked. Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s performance of 1964’s Passages (Prom 41) could also be quite something.

For those who can’t be in London, every Prom will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and online in HD sound. Proms marked ** in the list below will also be broadcast on TV, either live or at a later date. (As past experience has shown, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the new music component will be broadcast.)

Here’s the full list (click the bold to go to the BBC’s listing page). As usual, I may have missed something; please let me know in the comments if I have. And here’s Simon’s alternative take.

Prom 1 **

Tom Coult: new work

John Adams: Harmonium

Prom 4 **

Harrison Birtwistle: Deep Time

Proms Chamber Music 1

Roderick Williams: Là ci darem la mano

Prom 7

Pascal Dusapin: Outscape

Prom 8 **

John Williams celebration

Proms Chamber Music 2

Laurent Durupt: Grids for Greed

Prom 16

Julian Anderson: Piano Concerto

Prom 17

Mark Simpson: The Immortal

Prom 18

Anders Hillborg: Sirens

Prom 20

David Sawer: The Greatest Happiness Principle

Prom 21 **

James MacMillan: A European Requiem

Prom 24

John Adams: Naive and Sentimental Music

Prom 28 **

Francisco Coll: Mural

Thomas Adès: Polaris

Prom 32

Brian Elias: Cello Concerto

Proms at … Southwark Cathedral

Judith Weir: In the Land of Uz

Prom 39

Mark-Anthony Turnage: Hibiki

Prom 40

Thomas Larcher: Nocturne – Insomnia

Prom 41 **

Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar: Passages

Prom 44

Michael Gordon: Big Space

David Lang: Sunray

Julia Wolfe: Big Beautiful Dark and Scary

Philip Glass: Glassworks (closing)

Louis Andriessen: Worker’s Union

Prom 47

Cheryl Frances-Hoad: Chorale Prelude ‘Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’

Jonathan Dove: Chorale Prelude ‘Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam’

Daniel Saleeb: Chorale Prelude ‘Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort’

Two Three chorale preludes based on unrealised plans in Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. (edit: I’d somehow missed Saleeb’s piece first time around; sorry)

Prom 48

Includes excerpts from Passion settings by Gubaidulina and MacMillan.

Prom 50 **

Gerald Barry: Canada

Prom 51

Edward Elgar/Anthony Payne: Symphony No 3

Proms at … Multi-Story Car Park, Peckham

Kate Whitley: I am I say

John Adams: Harmonielehre

Two shows for this one: see also here.

Prom 61

Andrea Tarrodi: Liguria

Prom 62 **

Hannah Kendall: The Spark Catchers

Prom 64

Wolfgang Rihm: In-Schrift

Proms at … Wilton’s Music Hall

John Luther Adams: songbirdsongs (excerpts)

Olivier Messiaen: Le merle noir

Rebecca Saunders: Molly’s Song

Peter Maxwell Davies: Eight Songs for a Mad King

Two shows for this one too: see also here.

Prom 69

John Adams: Lollapalooza

Prom 70 **

Missy Mazzoli: Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)

Proms at … Tanks Tate Modern

Catherine Lamb: new work

Cassandra Miller: Guide

Rodrigo Constanzo: light and sound performance

London Contemporary Orchestra and Actress: collaboration

Prom 75 (Last Night) **

Lotta Wennäkoski: Flounce

John Adams: Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance

Riot Ensemble: Celia’s Toyshop at Brixton East 1871

37123-9977866-page8_jpgStill looking for something to do tomorrow evening? You could do much worse than get down to the funky Brixton East 1871 to see the Riot Ensemble’s first concert of 2017. The programme features an array of UK and world premieres by some outstanding young compositional talent:

Utku AsurogluHayirli Olsun (UK premiere)
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Shades of Silence (UK premiere)

Kerry Andrew: Hammock
Michael Cryne: Celia’s Toyshop  (world premiere)
Evan Johnson: Wolke über Bäumen  (UK premiere)

Jack Sheen: Television Continuity Poses

Tickets, just £10 (£5 for students), are available online. I’m told this one is selling well, so you may not want to rely on the door.

Last night: Julius Eastman at LCMF

Off to Holland Park for the first night of LCMF’s four-day Julius Eastman retrospective. There’s a biting cold in the air tonight, and the top deck of the bus is all steamed up. My chest is tight.

I’m nervously excited about this gig. I’ve admired Eastman’s work from afar, but this will be my first real engagement with it. And it has such a formidable reputation – anything might happen. Femenine’s 70+ minutes are underpinned by a non-stop pulse of mechanised sleigh bells. What will the 40th, 50th, 70th minutes be like? Will I get it? What if I don’t? There’s a real aura of FOMO around Eastman’s music, performances of it are so rare, his reputation so esteemed.

No such fears with Coming Together, one of my all-time favourite pieces. If I ever become a boxer (could happen!) this will be my walk-out music. This I am really looking forward to.


Warehouse. Ex-industrial space. Featured in Antonioni’s Blow-up. The usual LCMF benches. (Do they own these now, or just hire them every time?) The streets around contain picturesque mews, architect-designed houses, the Turkmen embassy. Inside is peeling brickwork and an array of industrial heaters to make things habitable. Of two types, they fill the space with a bloody orange glow and a roar like small jet engines. The crowd is mostly but not exclusively young, male, hip. ‘I didn’t expect so many whiteys’, I overhear one lady in the interval.

(I was never hip, and I may no longer qualify as young. White and male, though, in I guess what must be a banner year for my kind.)

Fuck. Coming Together was absolutely electric. Elaine Mitchener gives it everything, yet still has enough for a sublime (and unadvertised) performance of Attica to follow. [UpdateI’ve since been told that although it’s common now to hear Coming Together on its own, the two pieces were originally composed as two parts of a whole.] It’s a classic pairing, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful here, but actually I’d have liked a couple of minutes to get my breath back after CT. Something about those words sends shivers down my spine: ‘I can act with clarity and meaning’. I listened with heart bursting, eyes moist, hands clenched into tight fists. Rzewski is here; I hope he enjoyed it just as much.

And so to Femenine. On the wall at the back of the stage is something that looks like a mechanised sleigh-bell contraption. But the interval bell itself is a taped loop instead.

In fact that’s the bells for the piece too. Apparently the mechanised system worked well but was too noisy to be practical, so a 13-bar loop of chinking bells was used instead (two sets, it sounded like, phasing back and forth against each other).

The bells are a curious component. At first they sound like an In C-ish pulse marker. Except that their sound is much fizzier than Riley’s chiming keyboard. It’s as much tinnitus hum as it is pulse.

And then there’s the fact that they’re deliberately running at a slightly faster tempo to the players themselves. So if they are a pulse, they’re locked to a completely different grid. This is very disconcerting to listen to and must a huge challenge to play against. In the end, the bells become a kind of noise backdrop, related to the rest of the music by association more than syntax. I found myself tuning in and out, going for minutes at a stretch without hearing them.

And the rest? Honestly, it didn’t grip me as tightly as some of my first encounters with other so-called minimalist so-called masterpieces. Compared to Rzewski’s precision rage it felt unfocussed – half-finished, even, although this was probably a consequence of the score’s incomplete existence. But it itched and troubled in very good ways more than anything I’ve ever heard by the supposed masters of this game. Its looseness produced some of its best moments, when Eastman and the players injected elements of jazz and blues that lie outside the familiar minimalist gamut but are in fact embedded deep within its DNA. It had a forthrightness and honesty in that way – and offered a profound challenge too, which the following day I am still working my way through. In some ways, Femenine is exactly what you would expect, in its steady accumulation of added-note tonal harmonies and motifs, sweet and beguiling. In other, more lasting ways, however, it is strange and slippery, and calls you urgently back for more.


LCMF returns for more Eastman this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets here. If that’s not enough Eastman for you for one weekend, coincidentally and simultaneously, Mr Mineshaft, a play about Eastman’s life, is playing until Sunday evening at Theatre Utopia, Matthews Yard, Croydon. Tickets for that may be bought here.

Something experimental for the weekend

News of two tasty treats in London this weekend, organised by John Lely and featuring US West Coast composers Laura Steenberge and Michael Winter:

7.30pm Friday 7 October 2016 @ IKLECTIK
JOHN LELY – All About the Piano
MICHAEL WINTER – room and seams
TIM PARKINSON – No.3, No.4, No.5 (2016)
JÜRG FREY – Circular Music No. 6
Performed by Mira Benjamin, Angharad Davies, Anton Lukoszevieze, Tim Parkinson, Laura Steenberge, Michael Winter.
Tickets £7/£5
Old Paradise Yard
20 Carlisle Lane (Royal Street corner) next to Archbishop’s Park
London SE1 7LG
3.30pm Sunday 9 October 2016 @ Hundred Years Gallery
MICHAEL WINTER – tergiversate
JOHN LELY – Second Symphony
MICHAEL WINTER – necklaces
Performed by Mira Benjamin, Angharad Davies, Dominic Lash, Anton Lukoszevieze, Tim Parkinson, Laura Steenberge, Michael Winter.
Tickets £5
13 Pearson Street
London E2 8JD