Some recent CDs

726708696122-front-coverSelf Portrait by Brooklyn composer and multimedia artist Grant Cutler (innova 961) is composed of artists improvising to recordings of themselves, the results heavy with loops, delays and textures. innova’s press release dresses this up as ‘an act of memoir, an active reimagining of the self’. I think that’s stretching a point: if that’s what these tracks are, they’re cosy, untroubled imaginings that rarely stray far from their original path. (Not what I see in my mirror, certainly.) Nevertheless, set that aside and Cutler and his musicians have made an attractive, not always predictable work of instrumental/electronic ambiance. Requires a sweet tooth, but I have one.

726708697327-front-coverIf you like this, you might also like Listening Beam Five by Crystal Mooncone (Stephen Rush, Chris Peck and Jon Moniaci; innova 973). More of a 60s, West Coast psychedelia vibe here, although washed out, exhausted, like the fade-outs to a Bitches Brew session at full scale. The instrumentarium includes Phase Maracas, Foil-o-tron, Distant Echo Flute, Float Tank Rhodes and Cistern Singing, so that should give some idea (or not).

ewr1601-03Manfred Werder’s 2003/1–3 arrive on a triple-disc set from Edition Wandelweiser Records (EWR 1601-03). 70 minutes per disc, two (performed) sounds per disc. (I emphasise performed: these seem to be studio recordings, so the huge silences in between aren’t completely silent; they’re live, not digital.) It’s a colossal, utopian extravagance, of the sort I’d rather started to miss from EWR. There is undoubtedly something ridiculous about firing up the CD player for more than hour of almost nothing (in three different versions, no less), but at the same time, there’s nothing else quite like doing so. Which is one underlying message of Werder’s work, at least: that experience trumps thought. I doubt I’ll be returning to these discs very often, but I’m absolutely certain that I will, so unique is that feeling – not something one can always say.

ewr1607-08Eva-Maria Houben’s livres d’heures, a two-disc set this time from EWR (1607/08), goes into the less abstract territory that I feel has characterised many Wandelweiser recordings of the last year or two. In particular, it foregrounds the Christian/spiritual dimension that appears to underlie the aesthetic of several Wandelweiser composers. A book of hours is an obvious choice for a style preoccupied with periodicity and the articulation of very large spans of time – see Werder, above. The difference in his case is that the periodicity is intuitive and unpredictable: thus it holds its time in a state of heightened tension; whereas Houben’s meticulously steady bell chimes and violin drones mark out a structured, and hence contemplative time. It reminds me of other large-scale religious settings, most notably Knaifel’s Agnus Dei, or even (although its language is much less bombastic) Radulescu’s Cinerum.

51zbr3xyy8l-_ss500Pick of the listening at the moment, though, is EXAUDI’s recording of Mala punica composed by their director James Weeks (Winter & Winter 910 239-2). I’ve said this a few times recently about other composers’ works, and I find myself saying it again, but this may be the best thing I’ve heard from Weeks so far. Making use of the little canonic and fan-like games that populate a lot of his music, Mala punica – interleaved on this recording with the three-part Walled Garden for instrumental ensemble – is a stunningly subtle, disarmingly simple achievement; a crystallisation of basic ideas down to the point that they transform into something else entirely. Combining the metaphor of the hortus conclusus with a setting of Song of Songs, Weeks’s piece models an exquisite tension between chaste procedure and order, and over-tumbling sensuality.

Further to these short pocket reviews, I’ve recently written a much longer consideration of Richard Barrett’s album Music for cello and electronics, with Arne Deforce and recorded for aeon. You can read that here at Music & Literature.


Resilient Music


Listening to James Weeks’s recent CD Signs of Occupation (métier msv 28559) against the backdrop of the last few days, I find myself drawn to its sheer robustness as much as anything else. In sombre moments, I sometimes imagine what art, what music, would be left in the instance of a Station Eleven-type apocaplyse, and I take great comfort in the fact that much of what I love would or could survive, more or less indefinitely. Not everything, of course. All music recorded on electronic media would – ironically – become ephemeral, as the fuel ran out and the generators wound down, or were conserved for light and heat. Orchestral and large ensemble music – and opera – also fade through impracticality, or become radically transformed. In Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven a travelling band of actors and musicians cross a plague-ravaged North America, putting on scratch performances of Shakespeare at settlements on the road, and I can imagine versions of Don Giovanni or The Magic Flute surviving in such circumstances.

But the music with the most fighting chance would be that which made the least demands on resources: small ensembles, simple, portable instruments (no pianos!), all acoustic, flexible with regard to performance space, accommodating of untrained musicians, rewarding to play as to listen to, and in tune with its environment. Music that was, in these respects at least, close to folk music, and that addressed itself to a similar set of performance conditions.

There is a particular strand of experimental music that meets these criteria – a lot of it being composed in the UK, but far from exclusive to this country – and that I have begun to think of as resilient music. Weeks’s chamber pieces, several of them represented on Signs of Occupation, as well as vocal works like The World in tune are exemplary. Looping Busker Music (2013) on the métier CD, for example, is for a quartet of clarinet, violin, guitar and accordion and, apart from the inclusion of a tape of sampled field recordings, sounds truly resilient: simple, artless, imbued with the joy of its own existence. Furthermore, pieces like this, and the soprano solo Nakedness (2012, recorded on this disc) thematise within them their own material conditions, the way in which they come into being only because people have chosen to perform them and bring them to life.

Michael Finnissy (Weeks’s teacher) is an important influence on James’s compositional outlook, but while it can be extraordinarily muscular and materially self-aware, I wouldn’t always describe Finnissy’s music as resilient – it relies too much on expert performers (although there are notable exceptions, This Church being one). And while Weeks’s music is far from easy, I don’t believe its successful realisation depends upon expertise (and specialisation) – a product of a carefully managed, nurturing environment; so much as dedication – a product of desire and time, a very different proposition.

I suggested that a lot of resilient music can be found in the UK – and I would include Stephen Chase, Laurence Crane, Claudia Molitor and others in this group (what are we more worried about?). Rather than Finnissy, I would suggest Christopher Fox as a wellspring for this particular marriage of practicality and aesthetics. I’m going to write more about Fox’s music in another post soon, but works like Catalogue irraisoné (recorded by Weeks’s EXAUDI vocal ensemble; reviewed here) – indeed the whole of Everything You Need to Know (1999–2001) – or hearing not thinking (2006–8) seem to perfectly describe the conditions of a resilient music. The best of these pieces seem to grow from Cage’s inadvertent manifesto for a post-apocalyptic composition: that one should destroy all of one’s records; only then will one be forced to write music for oneself.

James Weeks: TIDE (CD review)


James Weeks: TIDE | Anton Lukoszevieze, Christopher Redgate, Andrew Sparling | Métier MSV 28532

There’s obviously something procedural going on in this music, probably more than two or three things at once, but I’m buggered if I can tell you what they are.

Although only 30 minutes long, TIDE is split over two discs. That’s because it sort of exists in two separate versions: one as a trio for oboe d’amore, clarinet and cello (TIDE proper); and secondly as three separate solos, Burnham Air for oboe d’amore, Tide for cello, and Sky for clarinet and electronics. Disc B contains the three solos, disc A the composite trio. The piece is composed as series of waves, of dynamic, of pitch, of rhythm, of tessitura, of density, and so on. There is a sense that loops are being used, but at a level of interlocking complexity that is hard to make out. Waves of one sort or another overlap, producing cascading effects of beating patterns and interferences. If that makes it sound like Lucier, it’s not really; for all its superficial simplicity this isn’t music that is easily summarised.

I’m a contrarian, so I listened to disc B first. Burnham Air has a Finnissy-like quality about it, the hard-edges of the English pastoral; Birtwistle even, buried. Some of that is the flinty sound of the oboe d’amore, but that’s not the only factor in play – Weeks’s sequences of trills, arpeggios and runs (versions of each other viewed through different telescopes), following each other in a manner that sounds both mechanical and organic, achieve a kind of permanent impermanence, like clouds or sea, central London architecture, or the industrial North.

(When I profiled James’s music on these pages a couple of years ago, I claimed that he had a particularly English voice, and I haven’t changed my mind on that.)

Many of the qualities of Burnham Air are carried over into the other two solo pieces. Sky overlays a slowly drifting clarinet line with six recordings of itself, until a single melody becomes a waft of sine-tone like sounds. Tide for solo cello mediates, as Evan Johnson’s typically elegant liner notes describe, ‘between the swelling placidity of Sky and the penetrating insistence of Burnham Air‘. That is, it has the slow motion, but adds the abrasive timbre of a curved bow playing across four strings simultaneously. There are dimensions and dimensions here: not only the frequency of the waves, the speed of their component particles, their amplitude and their resolution (from glissando to arpeggio), but also the overtone spectrum of each sound, bright and focused for the oboe d’amore, broad and multi-coloured for the cello. The more one listens, the more one is impressed at how much variety Weeks has built in to what began as such simple inspiration.

When I listened to all three together, the musical mechanics became both more delineated and more obscure. The sense of interlocking waves – accidental, since the three parts aren’t coordinated in performance – strengthens, but at the same time the mystery of what is actually going on just gets deeper. Something that should surely by now have become familiar is lit in entirely new ways.

TIDE was released in May, and my copy has been sat on my desk since then. I listened to it then, but it seemed entirely unsuited to what turned out to be a long, hot summer. Now, as we turn definitely to autumn, its tone and construction seem right for the changing of a season.

Reviews resurrected: EXAUDI at the Warehouse, October 2009

Resurrected because it features my first encounter with a couple of pieces on EXAUDI’s forthcoming disc for HCR – Stephen Chase’s Jandl Songs, and Claudia Molitor’s lorem ipsum. Not sure why I didn’t mention the pieces by either Gwyn Pritchard or Linda Catlin Smith at the time, and now of course I can’t remember anything about them.

Originally published on Musical Pointers.

Don’t forget the launch concert and party for EXAUDI’s CD, this Saturday, 4th May, at the Only Connect Theatre, Kings Cross.


EXAUDI, dir. James Weeks

Chung Shih Hoh: mantra:imagine
Stephen Chase: from Jandl Songs
Gwyn Pritchard: Luchnos
Ignacio Agrimbau: The Humanist
Amber Priestley: Unloose to the Murmer
James Weeks: from Mala Punica
Linda Catlin Smith: Her Harbour
Claudia Molitor: lorem ipsum

The Warehouse, London, 29 October 2009

Several of the pieces in this miscellany of special commissions and ‘must do’ rarities came across as surprisingly honest to certain choral traditions. No doubt that perception is a product of my upbringing, but that tradition and the resulting pieces sound interestingly and pleasingly English to me, right down to the strings of finger pops in Molitor’s lorem ipsum, which recalled peals of change-ringing bells. But then EXAUDI and most of the composers they performed are products of similar upbringings to mine, so perhaps it’s silly to fret over context vs content and acknowledge things for how they appeared.

The obvious exception was Agrimbau, and it’s not entirely unrelated that I found his the least satisfying piece of the evening. Instead of establishing for itself a position in critical relation to tradition it preferred to dwell overlong on a series of new music tricks and treats. The dense accompanying notes didn’t help much – the music itself didn’t seem correspondingly dense. On the contrary. Perhaps the philosophical underpinnings would reveal themselves on subsequent hearings. Another puzzle was the relationship between score (described as highly graphic, and featuring emoticons) and the sounding result (which was precisely ordered and didn’t betray any aleatoric origins). Maybe EXAUDI had undertaken a substantial act of David Tudorism in translating the graphics to conventional notation, but then, one has to ask, why the graphics in the first place? All in all, a baffling piece.

The rest were much lighter in tone. The middle movement of Hoh’s mantra:imagine was a Zen-like setting of ‘Pepsi Cola’, but it was the first movement that especially struck me, a series of dense harmonic textures, interrupted by chunks of silence, rather like Ligeti cut into large panels and pegged out on a line.

Ligeti was also recalled inthe group’s director James Weeks’s three pieces from his Mala punica. Each was constructed around canonic procedures that derived great complexity from simple materials. The result was simultaneously airier than Ligeti, but more robust and unsettling. There was a sort of dark madrigalian quality to the individual part writing too, which suggested a greater interest in the Latin texts than Ligeti ever showed in his Requiem or Lux aeterna.

The two stand-out pieces for me were those by Chase and Priestley. Chase’s six Jandl Songs belong to an in-progress series of settings of the avant-garde Austrian poet. The texts themselves are curious, experimental verses, the flavour of which Chase captured perfectly in his clean, but deceptively clever settings. It was impossible to pin down why they worked so well – an explanation sat just out of view – but work they did, extremely well.

Priestley’s Unloose to the Murmer, a sort of deconstruction of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by way of Cageian Musicircus ritual, may have had loftier ambitions – and it didn’t quite reach them as satisfyingly as Chase’s songs – but it was nevertheless a successful and revealing piece. The Orfeo extracts were chopped and tossed together to form a series of choral refrains, which each degraded in turn into aleatoric passages governed by giant sheets of manuscript covered with transparencies, on which were graphic notations for more indeterminate interpretation. The performers were distributed about the space, with a sheet each. After each refrain they removed a transparency each and the cycle began again until all the transparencies were gone, leaving a slow, underlying cantus firmus. The graphic transparencies seemed to suggest movement as well as sound, so the indeterminate sections became miniature theatre pieces. It is more complicated to describe than it was to experience: the effect was actually quite direct, yet with an element of mystery, exactly like Cage. I thought Monteverdi was a good choice for such a treatment: his sectional constructions, melodic simplicity and harmonic and rhythmic robustness mean that he can be bashed around quite a lot without losing his fundamental identity. These are qualities shared, incidentally, by many British composers you might hear at the Warehouse, for whom questions of material and its malleability are central to their aesthetic – Molitor and Weeks, in different ways, might be two more. Priestley, on this evidence, sounds like she shares this interest, and I suspect she will go far with it.

With EXAUDI, exposed


I’m chuffed to be hosting a couple of composer conversations at EXAUDI‘s next concert, on 4 May at the Only Connect Theatre, Cubitt Street, King’s Cross. Before the music starts I’ll be on stage talking with Matthew Shlomowitz and EXAUDI’s director James Weeks, and about midway through I’ll be hosting a roundtable discussion with Shlomowitz, Weeks, Aaron Cassidy, Stephen Chase and Claudia Molitor. A shedload of talent, moderated by a fool.

I’m not the reason you should go. You actually want to see EXAUDI themselves, who will be singing pieces by Shlomowitz, Weeks, Cassidy, Chase and Evan Johnson. They’ll also be launching their new CD, Exposure – the sixth release from Huddersfield Contemporary Recordings. I’ve been listening to it lots over the weekend, and it’s pretty special. It features pieces by Cassidy, Weeks, Chase, Molitor, Bryn Harrison, Richard Glover and Joanna Bailie. A really diverse mix, but somehow, and thanks to EXAUDI’s alchemical powers, a coherent one. Really beautiful too.

The concert should be great as well; get down to King’s Cross if you can.

Weeks and Walshe for your Weekend

Look at that – there’s a sudden spike of new music interest from the British media today.

In the Guardian this morning, James Weeks writes about the inspiration for his new piece in the 17th-century agrarian radical group, the Diggers. Weeks quotes the Diggers’ leader Gerrard Winstanley:

“That which does incourage us to go on in this work, is this; we find the streaming out of Love in our hearts towards all; to enemies as well as friends; we would have none live in Beggery, Poverty, or Sorrow, but that everyone might enjoy the benefit of his creation: we have peace in our hearts, and quiet rejoycing in our work, and filled with sweet content, though we have but a dish of roots and bread for our food.”

before going on to examine some of the implications such a text has for any potential musical setting:

Writing such as this, finding transcendence and exaltation in the simplest, most fundamental things in life, persuaded me to try and set Winstanley to music. Could it work? There were plenty of pitfalls. First, most of his writing consists of detailed political argument, not resonant Obamaesque rhetoric. No matter how interesting I find the role of magistrate in Winstanley’s ideal society, this sort of material was not going to inspire either singers or audience in a visceral way; a great deal of filleting was needed to find the sort of spare, punchy text that would work well. Next to consider was the whole problematic relationship between music and politics that has engaged composers throughout the modern era, from Hanns Eisler to Luigi Nono, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff and Helmut Lachenmann. All music is political, because it stands in a relation to the polis, yet to use music to explicitly convey a political position surely risks reducing it to the level of an advertising prop. One solution to this dilemma is to find a way in which the work can transcend explicit political argument, using the music to deal with issues on a more fundamental, universal level (think Ode to Joy) without entirely losing the cut-and-thrust of the specific debate.

The result, The Freedom of the Earth, for chorus and ensemble, can be heard at Shoreditch Church on Monday, where it will receive its world premiere from the New London Chamber Choir and the London Sinfonietta as part of the Spitalfields Festival.

But it’s a new music double whammy because this evening, between 10pm and midnight, you can hear composer Jennifer Walshe (photo, above) talking to Claudia Winkleman on The Radio 2 Arts Show about the show she is curating for the Oxford Playhouse next week (15 June). Listen to This: The Music of What Happens asks such questions as what happens when:  a computer programme combs the Internet for clips from pop songs; or you combine wine glasses and bags of leaves; or you use the Doppler Effect to make music? Apartment House will be playing four works – Dead End by Amnon Wolman124 Milton Street Extract by Zach Seldess, Plateaux pour deux by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Dog Star by Jonathan Marmor. Some teeth-gritting might be required for the Radio 2 show as ‘quirkiness’ (‘the sounds of mechanical toys, from bags of leaves combined with wine glasses, the sounds from a New York city shower’) is likely to be emphasised over artistic content, but it may be worth catching up with on iPlayer over the weekend; and if you’re in Oxford on Wednesday the concert itself will almost certainly be worth your time.

10 for ’10: James Weeks

Anyone remotely familiar with the new music scene in Great Britain will have encountered James Weeks in one of his many guises – conductor, composer, director, writer, enabler. A cheeky part of me sees him in this way as a sort of pre-Faustian Thomas Adès. He is a brilliant conductor – his vocal group EXAUDI is widely acknowledged as one of the very best in the business – but he is not as well-known for his own music. Which is a shame, because his is one of the most distinct voices of his generation in English composition.

Moreover, I think it is a distinctly English voice, although it’s hard to explain why. Not in any crude nationalistic sense, you must understand, but in the same sense that makes ‘frost and snow fall, mingled with hail’ (‘hreosan hrim ond snaw / hagle gemenged’; The Wanderer) one of the most quintessential lines in English literature, or the sense that informs Purcell’s brutally honest passacaglias, the bleakness of the landscape in Britten’s Peter Grimes, and Finnissy’s empirical dissections of the world’s music. It’s a little bit cold, a little bit stand-offish; but, from that, capable of revealing great beauty in things.

When I listen to Weeks – and, as he says below, his pieces do often sound very different from one another – I am aware of a consistent attitude or stance that points towards a particular aesthetic. This consistency arises, I imagine, from certain technical procedures devised by the composer and adapted for successions of pieces (some of which are referred to below). But deferring the perceived aesthetic effect to the realm of technique is not to diminish its reality. If modernism taught us anything, across all the arts, it is that technique and aesthetic can very rarely be separated. (When they are, by the world’s more naive epigones, the results are invariably disastrous.)

The Catford Harmony, one of a series of ‘London Harmonies’, is from the gnarlier end of Weeks’ style: its punching rhythms and wide intervals spool out grids of sound, like a demented ticker-tape machine. The music shapes the very air around it. On one level it is quite crude music, but Weeks’ real gift lies in the construction of his canons, which never fall into the trap of sounding well most of the time, but flagging occasionally ‘but we’ll leave it because that’s what the process demands’. The energy, and thus the interrogation of the fundamental materials, never wavers. In a world of ephemera, deceptions and cynical exploitation, music of such honesty and commitment is to be cherished.

The Catford Harmony | score (pdf)

Tim Rutherford-Johnson: Composing is an anachronistic career choice for the 21st century, isn’t it? Why do you do it?

James Weeks: I honestly couldn’t imagine myself not doing it. I’ve been set on being a composer since I was nine, so clearly there is an overriding inner compulsion within me to write which I don’t question and never have. In the last few years, when my working time has been torn between doing things that earn money (mainly conducting) and writing, there has been a certain heightened urgency to the question of ‘why?’, but all I can say is that I feel lost without regular recourse to the desk: everything gets out of kilter and I get miserable. So I think I am shackled to this ‘anachronistic career choice’ for good!

TR-J: How do you think composing, being a composer, is different now than from 20–30 years ago?

JW: Well, staying with the idea of composing being anachronistic (in the way I do it, with pencils, manuscript paper, scissors and paste), I think things have changed markedly in the ten years I have been working, let alone 20 or 30. When I was studying at the beginning of the last decade (I did an MA and PhD at Southampton from 2000–05), there still seemed to me to be a basic hegemony in place of notated music, acoustic instruments, composition-as-discourse, a real sense of developing modern/post-modern/experimental traditions. It may be just that my perspective has changed since I am no longer attached to a university, but I think that recently the culture of what you might call Sound Art and extended/multi-media has much more profoundly penetrated new music, both in obvious ways (the ubiquity of electronics) and less obvious ones – there is a major aesthetic shift going on at present and I think the next ten years will be really important ones for the art-form. My impression is that a lot of what is going on in this area is very superficial, often (ironically enough) quite conceptually dated, and driven in large part by promoters who want to look cool; but beneath that there are currents which are altering both the way the composer works, technically speaking, and the idea of composing and composition. It remains to be seen just how anachronistic my rather traditional idea of a composer actually is! Being of an experimental bent, I’m very enthusiastic about the more radical things going on, but sometimes I feel a bit sad that fewer and fewer people are listening to music in the way that they did, because in my view it was more interesting.

TR-J: How important for you is it to work with performers on a new piece? And what happens when that piece is taken up by another player/group?

JW: I conduct or play in a lot of the performances of my music that take place at the moment. I don’t think that’s ideal as it looks like you’re a bit of a one-man-band, but that’s the way it is just now. I’m very happy being in charge of performances because I’ve found that the style of playing or singing I want doesn’t necessarily come naturally to many performers, so it’s good to be on hand to get that right. I find often players are expressive in the wrong way – too Romantic or rather Expressionist in the sort of standard late-20th century repertoire mode – whereas in fact if you wanted a model, Early Music style would be a lot closer (though not quite right either). When other groups or players take up pieces or I’m not on hand to work with them, I just take the attitude that I’m delighted they’re playing it at all and don’t get all Ligeti-ish about it (he was famous for his high-handed way with performers). Sometimes that ends in tears (my own) but I’m learning slowly who ‘gets’ my work and who doesn’t. It’s a process.

TR-J: What is musical material for you?

JW: I’m very materialistic about material. It’s something absolutely concrete, like bricks or mud or water. There are two different things here though: there is the sonic material, the physicality of the sound itself, and then there is the material on the page, the ‘music-stuff’, which gets shaped and played with and permutated. I keep both areas separate and then they get put together in the sounding result: what excites me is the way these two material planes act on each other in performance, often very unpredictably. Some pieces privilege one materiality over the other, the balance is always a bit different, which is one reason why my pieces often sound very different from each other, even when the basic way of working is very similar.

TR-J: A lot of composition is about ways of proceeding, extending an idea in time. What sort of decisions are you dealing with as you compose?

JW: For the last few years I have been working with the most basic or elemental of musical materials that I can. Talking of mud and bricks, these really are musical building blocks, very simple or crude. These preferences are hard-wired for me – I feel completely at home with them. My ways of proceeding are similarly basic at the moment, very simple permutations or patternings using the minimum of resources – born of the urge to see what I can get from the most barren of musical ground. As I naturally write linearly, most pieces tend to be contrapuntal layerings of these simply-permutated lines, quite often arranged into blocks which then get replaced by other blocks, and so on. Canon is another central technique for me. So the decisions I am taking are firstly to do with the selection of materials, and secondly to do with the way things are going to be permutated or extended. Most of this takes place at a pre-compositional stage. Timing and placement can also be pre-compositionally decided, though not always. In short, composition literally is ‘putting together’ for me: I write to find out what the consequences of my decisions are when everything is put together. And the decisions themselves are not primarily ones of musical efficacy, but are stringently aesthetic in character.

TR-J: What projects are on your desk at the moment?

JW: Dozens! So many ideas for pieces – no time to write them. In terms of commissions (or requests), I have a flute piece to write for the autumn for the Japanese flautist Reiko Manabe, and then the next big piece is the climax to my London Harmonies series, The Spitalfields Harmony. This will be for choir (New London Chamber Choir) and ensemble (London Sinfonietta) for next year’s Spitalfields Music Summer Festival. Beyond that I am planning a setting of Pessoa for a handful of voices and instruments for next autumn, and a series of short instrumental pieces with tape.

TR-J: Here’s a middle C. What do you do now?

JW: I think a line of minims would be nice. Then I would think of something to put on top of it.

EXAUDI at the Warehouse, this Thursday

EXAUDI makes a rare appearance in London this week with an eight-voice programme of the newest contemporary music – much of it to be premiered at this performance. EXAUDI are a staggeringly good choir and not to be missed: if you need some persuasion, here’s what I said about their performance last year at the Spitalfields Festival.

The concert is part of Sound and Music’s The Cutting Edge series and takes place at the Warehouse, next Thursday, at 7.30pm.

Chung Shih Hoh: mantra:imagine (2007, UK premiere)
Stephen Chase: from Jandl Songs (2007-)
Gwyn Pritchard: Luchnos (2007, UK premiere)
Ignacio Agrimbau: The Humanist (2009, world premiere)
Amber Priestley: Unloose to the Murmur (2009)
James Weeks: from Mala Punica (2008-9)
Linda Catlin Smith: Her Harbour (2004, UK premiere)
Claudia Molitor: Lorem ipsum (2007)

Concert details

7.30pm, Thursday 29 October 2009 The Warehouse, Theed Street, London SE1 8ST Tickets: £10 on the door or £7 online by following the ‘Book tickets’ link here:

Couple of live reviews

Some brief words on Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea at Bauer and Hieber:

They’re not terribly well-advertised, but the occasional recitals held at Bauer and Hieber (what used to be Schott’s) are well worth looking out for. The basement recital room is tiny, but there’s always a chance of catching a rarity or two.

I turned up a little late, so missed the beginning of James Weeks’s piece. This was a double shame, as what I did hear sounded ravishing. In unfolding an extremely sparse series of rocking intervals between the two instruments it recalled Feldman but – and this seems like an odd thing to say about Feldman’s music – with somehow less stodge.

Read more here.

And something slightly more substantial on Vladimir Martynov’s Vita Nuova at the Festival Hall on Wednesday:

Vladimir Martynov belongs to a generation of post-Soviet composers (a group that includes Alexander Knaifel and Valentin Silvestrov) that feels unburdened by, or at least ambivalent towards, historical responsibility. The results can seem breathtakingly nonchalant to Western European sensibilities, but they can also be imaginative and fresh.

Read more here.