Radio Rambler – International Women’s Day 2015

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Today is International Women’s Day, and once again the Radio Rambler playlist has been updated with three hours of contemporary music by women composers.

At the risk of making a massive over-generalisation, there are probably fewer women working within the usual channels of contemporary composition (writing music for others to perform, in concert halls and opera houses) than are taking their music making into their own hands, either working in the electroacoustic studio, where no third party performers are required, or acting as performers of their own music. If this is true – and it’s only a personal hunch, I don’t have hard data – there are several possible reasons for this, most of them economic/structural and none of them having to do with biology. The list below features several performer/composers (Jessica Rylan, Maja Ratkje, Agata Zubel) as well as several electroacoustic composers (Maggi Payne, Andrea Polli, Hildegard Westerkamp). I’ve made a conscious decision to balance these with works written in a more ‘conventional’ concert hall format (Joanna Bailie, Iris ter Schiphorst, Isabel Mundry, Olga Neuwirth), but there is plenty of fluidity between those divisions, as you’ll hear.

This year BBC Radio 3 is also getting in on the act with a day of music by women composers, including their own playlist of female composers, but I’m confident they and I won’t overlap much. Here’s my playlist for this year:

Maggi Payne – Airwaves (realities) (Music and Arts Programs of America)
Jessica Rylan – Please Come To Meet Me There (Ecstatic Peace!)
Isabel Mundry – Ich und du (NEOS)
Andrea Polli – Round Mountain (Gruenrekorder)
Agata Zubel – NOT I (KAIROS)
Hildegard Westerkamp – Talking Rain (Earsay)
Olga Neuwirth – Clinamen/Nodus (KAIROS)
Maja SK Ratkje – Vacuum (Rune Grammofon)
Joanna Wozny – Archipel (BR-Klassik)
Iris ter Shiphorst – Studien zu Figuren / Serie A (NEOS)
Eve Beglarian – Robin Redbreast (New World Records)
Joanna Bailie – Five Famous Adagios (Sinfonietta Productions Ltd)

I’ve been making these playlists for five years now, and they aren’t getting any easier to put together. I try to avoid repeating composers between years too much, which makes things trickier (and I don’t succeed anyway), but even so it’s clear that despite the conversations that have been going on about this for forever, women are still underrepresented within contemporary music, underrepresented in the music that then gets recorded (even though I’ve included two of their recordings here, Kairos’s catalogue is as good an indication as any), and then underrepresented on the labels that are big enough to have Spotify distribution. While that all remains true, I believe there is still a case for spotlight-shining actions like this playlist, and I will continue to put them out there. Hopefully one year I won’t have to.

Previous playlists can be found here:

Radio Rambler Celebrates International Women’s Day 2014

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Today is International Women’s Day, and as in previous years the Rambler is marking the occasion with a celebration of contemporary music by women. The Radio Rambler playlist has been updated with two and half hours of music by female composers, all of it rather fantastic. Enjoy!

Maryanne Amacher – Stain (live version) (excerpt) (Nonesuch)
Laurie Spiegel – Appalachian Grove I (Anthology of Recorded Music)
Edith Canat de Chizy – Vivere (Aeon)
Pamela Z – Declaratives in First Person (Bridge)
Ellen Fullman – Body Music (Experimental Intermedia)
Elodie Lauten – Flow (Studio 21)
Laetitia deCompeigne Sonami – What Happened (Nonesuch)
Sachiko M – Detect (Antifrost)
Shelley Hirsch – In the Basement (Bridge)
Lisa Bielawa – Kafka Songs (Tzadik) in media res (Boston Modern Orchestra Project)
Wendy Mae Chambers – Snake Dancer (Anthology of Recorded Music)
Carola Bauckholt – nein allein (Coviello)
Mary Jane Leach – Bruckstuck (Experimental Intermedia)
Meredith Monk – Phantom Waltz (Brilliant Classics)

Update: Bielawa tracks substituted for another piece, since I’d inadvertently included something that was only a local file to my machine, not on Spotify itself.

This is my fourth playlist for International Women’s Day. Previous ones can be found here:

Radio Rambler updated

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A few weeks ago I came across Hermann Keller’s 29 pieces for prepared piano. I fell in love with their disintegrating sound, the preparations used negatively – to dismantle the piano timbre, rather than surrogate a percussion ensemble – and decided to build a playlist around them. The following includes six of Keller’s pieces, distributed in sequence among a variety of other things that have caught my ear recently.

I also wanted to include Richard Barrett’s DARK MATTER, the latest of his major composite works to appear on CD (on NMC), and a piece I have been listening to a lot over the last couple of months. It’s an extraordinary work. Like so much of Richard’s music it takes me a few listens for the whole thing to snap into focus. But when it does …

Nearly everything on this playlist is either a solo or duo piece. Most of the pieces are ‘small’ in other ways too; whether in scale, or humility, or on their level of focus. The 80-minute DARK MATTER might appear something of an exception to this rule, yet it too addresses ideas of scale, from the sub-atomic to the cosmic, the human to the social. And at its heart is a solo instrument – the guitar – which contributes greatly to the timbre, structure and concept of the piece.

So guitars are another thread running through this playlist – aided greatly by Geoffrey Morris’s excellent recording of contemporary guitar music In flagranti. As is melody; almost inevitably, perhaps, for a set of mostly solo works. Stephen Montague’s After Ives …, for piano and string quartet, connect several of these threads, and serve to acknowledge his 70th birthday last month.

As always, you can listen to the whole lot here through Spotify. Previous tracks played on Radio Rambler may be found in the archiveprevious playlists are all here.

Where possible, links to the label’s website have been given for each track.

If you like what you hear, and you you think others might too, please spread the word.

Photo by puukibeach on flickr.

Radio Rambler Celebrates International Women’s Day 2013

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Today is International Women’s Day, and as in previous years the Rambler is marking the occasion with a celebration of contemporary music by women. The Radio Rambler playlist has been updated with 5 hours of music by female composers, all of it rather fantastic. Enjoy!

Liza Lim – Weaver of Fictions (ABC)
Annette Schmucki – Arbeiten/Verlieren. Die Wörter. (Musiques Suisse)
Annea Lockwood – Thousand Year Dreaming (Pogus)
Judith Weir – Michael’s Strathspey (NMC)
Ursula Mamlok – Confluences (Bridge Records)
Nurit Jugend – Bows to Brushes (innova)
Juliana Hodkinson – Fish and Fowl (Dacapo)
Carola Bauckholt – Gerauschtone (Coviello)
Jennifer Walshe – i: same person / ii: not the same person (Interval)
Elodie Lauten – Rhyme and Reason (self-released)
Julia Wolfe – East Broadway (Point Music)
Chaya Czernowin – INA (self-released)
Adriana Hölszky – Countdown (NEOS)
Hildegard Westerkamp – Into the Labyrinth (Centrediscs)
Younghi Pagh-Paan – Pa-mun (Naxos)
Kaija Saariaho – Six Japanese Gardens (Ondine)
Myung-Sun Lee – Olleh (Celestial Harmonies)
Fátima Miranda – Diapasión (52 Promociones Musicales)
Cecilie Ore – A. a shadow opera (Aurora)

This is my third playlist for International Women’s Day. Previous ones can be found here:

Radio Rambler updated

I’ve updated the Radio Rambler playlist to commemorate the deaths of three post-war masters: Emmanuel Nunes, Hans Werner Henze and Elliott Carter.

The playlist also includes nods towards a few things (EXAUDI/Cassidy, Scelsi, the JACK Quartet, David Dunn, Nicolaus A. Huber) that have been on my desk and/or mind recently. Plus some things that are just great.

  • Emmanuel Nunes – Nachtmusik I, perf. Ensemble Contrechamps (Accord, currently out of print)
  • Hans Werner Henze – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no.2, perf. Christoph Eschenbach, London Philharmonic (Deutsche Grammophon, currently out of print) (obituaries)
  • Fausto Romitelli – Chorus, perf. Les Percussions de Strasbourg (Accord, currently out of print)
  • György Ligeti – Hungarian Rock (arr. barrel organ), perf. Pierre Charial (Sony Classical, currently out of print)
  • Arne Nordheim – Collage II (Aurora)
  • Simon Steen-Andersen – In Her Frown, perf. Asamisimasa (Dacapo)
  • Aaron Cassidy – A Painter of Figures in Rooms, perf. EXAUDI (NMC)
  • Giacinto Scelsi – Xnoybis (arr. viola), perf. Vincent Royer (Mode)
  • Peter Ablinger – Der Regen, das Glas, das Lachen, perf. Klangforum Wien (Kairos)
  • György Ligeti – String Quartet no.2, perf. JACK Quartet (Wigmore Hall Live) (review)
  • David Dunn – Mimus Polyglottos (innova)
  • Louis Andriessen – De Staat, perf. Schoenberg Ensemble (Nonesuch, out of print)
  • Nicolaus A. Huber – Don’t Fence Me In, perf. Ensemble Recherche (Coviello)
  • Georg Friedrich Haas – Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich …, perf. Klangforum Wien (Kairos)
  • Elliott Carter – Sound Fields, perf. BBC Symphony Orchestra (Bridge) (obituaries)

As always, you can listen to the whole lot here through Spotify. Previous tracks played on Radio Rambler may be found in the archiveprevious playlists are all here.

If you like what you hear, and you you think others might too, please spread the word.

(Image from jogoraz.)

New on Radio Rambler: Stockhausen, Poppe, Flynt, Lang

I’ve updated the Radio Rambler Spotify playlist, my less-than regular scour through Spotify’s archives to find the best new music that might otherwise escape your attention.

Currently up are the following four delicious hours:

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mixtur 2003 (Forward Version) (NEOS)
Hermann Keller: Scene for Solo Trombone (NEOS)
François Sarhan: The Name of the Song (NEOS)
Martin Smolka: Semplice (NEOS)
Enno Poppe: Keilschrift (NEOS)
Manfred Stahnke: ImpansionExpansion (Satelita)
David Gorton: String Quartet no.1 ‘Trajectories’ (Divine Art)
Michele Dall’Ongaro: Grimoire (Milano Dischi)
Henry Flynt: Celestial Power (Henry Flynt)
Bernhard Lang: Differenz/Wiederholung 2 (Kairos)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mixtur 2003 (Retrograde Version) (NEOS)

As always, you can listen to the whole lot here through Spotify. Previous tracks played on Radio Rambler may be found in the archiveprevious playlists are all here.

If you like what you hear, and you you think others might too, please spread the word.

Image by Lauren Manning on Flickr.

No dead white guys: new music for International Women’s Day 2012

It’s international women’s day once more. So it’s also time for another Radio Rambler playlist highlighting the best new music written by women. Just like last year, I’ve tried to pick tracks by composers who aren’t so well known, or who write music that is especially original or interesting, or that challenges any preconceptions of what ‘female’ music might be.

About a month ago the debate about why there are so few female composers was reignited by Kerry Andrew in this Guardian article. For my money the short answer is a lack of female role models and teachers. As was noted during that debate (by Aaron Cassidy, I believe), Huddersfield has a higher-than-normal ratio of female to male composers in its music department … and a higher-than-normal ratio of female to male composition students. If we want change, we need to celebrate those great women composers that we do have.

And that means celebrating their diversity too. Singling out only those whose music is approachable and easy on the ear isn’t the answer: that way lies pigeonholing, stereotyping and a new wave of suppression. Also boredom. Challenging the world needs challenging music.

This playlist is my small contribution.

So to it:

Wendy Mae Chambers: Mass for Mass Trombones: Introit
Meredith Monk: Unison
Chaya Czernowin: Winter Songs III (album reviewed here)
Liza Lim: Ochred String
Cathy Berberian: Stripsody
Malin Bang: Alpha Waves (album reviewed here)
Daphne Oram: Four Aspects
Alwynne Pritchard: Matrix
Galina Ustvolskaya: Grand Duet
In-Sun Cho: Klang Aus der Ferne
Rebecca Saunders: Blue and Gray
Pauline Oliveros: Mnemonics III
Sofia Gubaidulina: Fachwerk
Unsuk Chin: Xi
Beth Anderson: Joan
Eliane Radigue: Kailasha

P.S. Another small contribution comes from composer Chris Swithinbank, who has been taking a look at female representation at IRCAM.