Radio Rambler – International Women’s Day 2015


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


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


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


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.

Radio Rambler – first update for 2012

Hey everyone, DJ Rambler here. It’s been a few months, I know, but I have finally got around to updating the Radio Rambler playlist. Thanks to those of you who wrote to me and asked when I was going to get around to adding some new tracks. In my defence, we did have our second baby at the end of October, but even that excuse can’t last forever.

So, here it is: your first new Radio Rambler playlist for 2012. Enjoy!

… auf … III – Mark André; SWR Orchestra – Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 (Neos)
hermés unbound – Marc Yeats; Marc Yeats and Dirk Amrein – Cerberus (in house music)
Wald, from Mit Dank an Mendelssohn – Urs Peter Schneider; Ensemble Neue Horizonte – Historische Aufnahme 1968–1998 (Musikszene Schweiz)
La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura – Luigi Nono; Gidon Kremer and Tatjana Grindenko (Deutsche Grammophon)
face à face – Hans Otte; Hans Otte (Celestial Harmonies)
String Quartet no.1 – Benedict Mason; Arditti String Quartet – Music of Benedict Mason (Bridge)
Intimate Rituals – Horatiu Radulescu; Vincent Royer (Sub Rosa)
Veils – Joshua Fineberg; Ensemble Fa (Mode)
Estratos – Tato Taborda; Orquestra Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos de la Paz – Donaueschinger Musiktage 1999 (col legno)
Lightness – Arturo Fuentes; Ensemble Intégrales (Neos)
Valentine – Jacob Druckman; Stefano Scodanibbio – From the New World (Stradivarius)
Inward – Richard Barrett; Richard Craig: Inward (Métier)

Lots of great stuff. The Yeats and Fineberg are nods to the music of two composers I heard for the first time in Cyprus last summer. The Druckman is a nod to its performer, the legendary bassist Stefano Scodanibbio, who passed away recently. The Nono … well, you’ll see one day.

Look out in a few weeks for a special all-female playlist to commemorate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Radio Rambler: the Autumn playlist

Autumn’s here, although you wouldn’t know it by the weather in London at the moment. Time for a new Radio Rambler playlist … here are some notes on some of the pieces to help you along the way.

Francis Dhomont – Chambre des enfants

Dhomont is a pioneer and massively overlooked – you won’t find his name in Baker’s, Griffiths, Kennedy, Morton or Vinton. (Although you have my word that he will be in the forthcoming new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Music.) Anyway, his music is far too good for neglect, and is generously documented by empreintes DIGITALES. This track, which totally owns the disturbing/cute interface from which Richard James has built a career, comes from the all-excellent Forêt profonde cycle of 1996. Why Dhomont isn’t the name to drop, I don’t know. Perhaps he shouldn’t have moved to Canada in 1979.

Franco Donatoni – Duo pour Bruno

Timo Korhonen – Tutte le corde

I don’t often get on with new music for guitar – is there any other instrument that struggles so much to shake off its folk origins? – but this piece for guitar and tape by Finnish composer Olli Koskelin does pretty well I think by embracing that background rather than pretending it’s not there at all. You can find it on this recital disc by Timo Korhonen.

Stefano Scodanibbio – Ritorno a cartagena

Philippe Manoury – Jupiter

Two pieces for flute (plus …)

Misato Mochizuki – Intermezzi I

I wasn’t much taken with Mochizuki’s music when I first heard it, and filed it under generic post-Lachenmann, post-spectral mainstream modernism. On closer listening that wasn’t really fair, and her best pieces are rather more than that. The solo flute part in Intermezzi I contains enough cues from shakuhachi music to make me believe that its clichéd gestures of Western modernism are equally borrowed – the dialogue between the two is delicately, but not too comfortably, poised. This track comes from an intriguing Ensemble Intégrales CD that I found while putting together the playlist for International Women’s Day; I can also recommend Klangforum Wien’s disc on Kairos.

Luca Francesconi – Terre del rimorso

Peter Eötvös – Two Poems to Polly

Eötvös is frustrating, isn’t he? At his best he is capable of some very striking music (Windsequenzen, Psychokosmos, Atlantis). At other times, meh. Two Poems to Polly isn’t a major work, but it is an example of the spare that serves him better than the sumptious.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen – Triptykon

Because Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen rools.

Zygmunt Krauze – Aus aller Welt stammende

Because Zygmunt Krauze rools.

Karel Goeyvaerts – Zum Kern hin

This is a great album of historical new music recordings made by Ensemble Neue Horizone. Unfortunately, it’s let down by poor ID3 tags. See the album’s page on allmusic if you need full info.

Evan Johnson – L’art de toucher le Clavecin, 2

John Croft – … ne l’aura che trema 

Two more pieces for flute plus, this time from the Richard Craig CD I raved about earlier this year. Here’s what I said then:

The two best new works, however, are those by Johnson and Croft. Coming after the Sciarrino, which ends with a flat, focussed stream of tongue slaps and breath noises, Croft’s fantasia for alto flute and electronics is like stepping onto another world. The title alludes to ‘the air that trembles’ that Dante encounters in the first circle of hell, inhabited the ancient poets and philosophers, before crossing into the second circle, the realm of the excessively passionate and, rather like the Barrett, there is a sense of both withdrawing and projecting, an almost erotic play with a threshold. In its own way, Johnson’s L’art de toucher le clavecin for piccolo and violin similarly toys with boundaries. But here the path is more tentatively trodden; at times even the border itself seems to evaporate. The dialogue – hence the reference to Couperin’s instructional pamphlet – is between ground and ornament, but everything is ultra-cautiously proposed, bundled under fantastic layers of contingencies and securities. It sounds like the recipe for a health and safety nightmare, but Johnson’s skill is for extracting something rare and precious from out of such pressure.

Erdem Helvacıoğlu and Per Boysen – Metal Sky

I’ve reviewed Helvacıoğlu’s music a couple of times before. Here’s a track from an album I’ve not written about, to give you a flavour.

Mauricio Kagel – Divertimento

Finally, a ‘farce for orchestra’ from Kagel. This comes from the documentation CDs from the 2006 Donaueschinger Musiktage, on Neos. Thankfully a lot of the Neos catalogue is now making it onto Spotify (at least it is in the UK). It’s worth searching by label for this one, and Neos will likely feature in many future playlists.

Previous tracks played on Radio Rambler may be found in the archiveprevious playlists are all here.

Radio Rambler: US special

To mark the arrival of Spotify in America, a new playlist for Radio Rambler: a collection of some of the best, rarest and oddest US new music available to stream. No Adams, no Daugherty, all American.

James Tenney: Essay (After A Sonata)
Arnold Dreyblatt: Point Rotation
David Tudor: Pulsers
William Duckworth: The Time Curve Preludes, Book I, no.11
Paul Lanksky: Still Time
Tom Johnson: Kientzy Loops
Roger Reynolds: Ping
David Lang/Velvet Underground: Heroin
Chas Smith: Uncovered the Nest
John Cage: Ryoanji
Alvin Lucier: Bird and Person Dyning
Charlemagne Palestine: Negative Sound Study
Pauline Oliveros: Lear
‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny: Somewhere in Arizona 1970
Morton Feldman: Coptic Light

Fours hours, nineteen tracks. Get it here.

Previous tracks played on Radio Rambler may be found in the archive; previous playlists are all here.