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1 Feb  

The PRS has just announced the twelve UK composers who will receive funding ‘to enable them to realise projects and ambitions that may not be possible through traditional commissioning models.’ They (and their associated projects) are:

 

Ed Bennett – Researching and composing music around early phonograph field recordings of Irish traditional song, working with the Crash and Decibel ensembles.

Gary Carpenter – Recording and releasing a CD of four orchestral works with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jessica Curry – Composing new music for her unaccompanied choral music and creating a specialised keyboard.

Shiva Feshareki – Composing an orchestral commission for the London Contemporary Orchestra and curations with Eliane Radigue, Lee Gamble, Kit Downes, and Laura Marling.

Stuart MacRae – Developing a dramaturgy and libretto to be premiered at the Lammermuir Festival, East Lothian in 2019.

John McLeod – Recording four orchestral works, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra including one featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Hilda Paredes – Researching a monodrama on the life of Harriet Tubman.

Lynne Plowman – International promotion for four operas and other key pieces.

Gwyn Pritchard – Researching and composing an orchestral work for the German orchestra: Jenaer Philharmonie,

Philip Venables – Developing techniques to combine spoken word, visual text, song and music for a theatre project.

James Weeks – Researching and composing a substantial piece for solo violin with the violinist Mira Benjamin

Elizabeth Winters – Composing a number of chamber works, working with Rarescale chamber ensemble, Estrilda Trio, and violinist Marie Schreer.

 

See here for more information.





27 Jan  

Robert Matthew-Walker

Robert Matthew-Walker is a fascinating figure. In the 60s he served in the army, including in North Africa, studied in Paris with Darius Milhaud and founded the Tunnel Club rock venue in Greenwich. In the 70s he worked for CBS records and subsequently founded several record labels of his own. He is also prolific as a broadcaster, author, critic and editor.

 

He is less well-known, however, as a composer, even though he has achieved considerable success in the field (listen to this fine recording of his Piano Sonata No.3, Op 34, for example). Matthew-Walker’s composing output, with some 150 numbered works to his name, is borne of formidable self-discipline—in a recent interview he described being inspired by Hans Keller, who worked from 1.30am–4.30, before starting a full day at 7.30am. 

 

Matthew-Walker’s approach to composition owes much to his varied biography. His latest work A Bad Night in Los Angeles, for example, was inspired by a club experience in L.A.: 

 

Following his outstanding recording of my fantasy-sonata Hamlet, Mark Bebbington asked me for a short solo concert work lasting about five or six minutes. I wanted to write something completely different and decided on a piece in modern disco-style, taking the essence of present-day dance music and transferring it to the recital room.

 

The title comes from a time, many years ago, when I was working in Los Angeles. One evening, I wandered into a nightclub to hear a new driving rock band, Azteca. I was astonished when they began their set with a modern-dance version of the opening sequence of the French composer Darius Milhaud’s Concerto for Percussion and Small Orchestra of 1930.

 

As I had studied in Paris with Milhaud, and knew the concerto well, I was taken aback. At first, it was a bad night for me in Los Angeles, but it turned out well in the end. I hope my piece does, too!

 

You can hear the premiere of Matthew-Walker’s A Bad Night in Los Angeles, his Fantasy-Sonata: Hamlet together with works by Schubert, Bliss and Beethoven at Bromsgrove’s Atrix on 3rd February.

 

Source:

 

Birmingham Post, LA club experience inspired composer's disco-style piece, interview by Christopher Morley





25 Jan  

Hamburg’s stunning new Elbphilharmonie Hall opened earlier this month with a programme designed to show off the possibilities of the building’s near-perfect acoustics. The main auditorium is lined with 10,000 gypsum panels, each of which has a unique acoustic property but which cumulatively give the hall its distinct reverberative properties. 

 

As well as being a tour de force in acoustics and design the hall will act as a focal point for new music. Conductor composer Matthias Pintscher has been appointed composer-in-residence, with the first three seasons focusing on his works and also music by Peter Eötvös and George Benjamin. 

 

The success of the new concert hall has raised comparisons with London’s foot-dragging over Rattle’s proposed venue, a comparison that Norman Lebrecht calls ‘A False Equation’, listing 10 reasons why. They are worth reading, if only because they raise questions about relative attitudes to culture in Germany and the U.K.

 

It’s not the same as being there, of course, but to get a feel for the look and sound of the new Elbphilharmonie, here are videos from the opening concert:

 

 





18 Jan  

February night not be the best time of year for festivals, but there are two decent events this month. The first, in Paris, is Festival PrésencesKaija Saariaho, Un Portrait, which runs from 10th–19th. Whilst the Finnish-born French composer’s work is the main focus, there is also a lot else to enjoy. One of the strands, indeed, focuses on other composers that have chosen France, and Paris in particular, as their place to live and work, including figures such as Ramon Lazkano, Hèctor Parra and Martin Matalon. There are also performances of music by well-known figures of the previous generation, such as Messiaen, Xenakis, Dutilleux and Grisey. In total there are 18 concerts, 40 composers, 78 works and 31 world premieres.

In UK from Friday 24th–Sunday 26th, Plymouth University will hold its annual Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival. Titled ‘Voice 2.0’ the festival ‘offers a glimpse of how musicians, scientists and linguists are re-inventing voice through an ambitious programme exploring new means, forms and usages of voice in communication and musical creativity.’ Not all of the events are musical, but all are fascinating. 

 

The first, for example, is a lecture by David J. Peterson, the world-famous language creator whose inventions include Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones. He will talk about the experience of creating new languages and specifically that used in Eduardo R. Miranda’s vocal work Vōv. That will be premiered the following day with new works by Linas Baltas, Butterscotch and Nuria Bonet. 

 

Other highlights include Nuria Bonet’s The Voice of the Sea, a collaboration with the Marine Institute and the Plymouth Coastal Observatory that uses information from a marine buoy to determine compositional choices; Alexix Kike’s Come Together: The Sonification of Lennon and McCartney, which analyses the emotions of their lyrics, the results being turned into a classical duet; and Marcelo Gimenes’s Silicon Voices, which draws upon the composer’s research into music and Artificial Intelligence.

 

Significant premieres next month include Michael Zev Gordon’s Violin Concerto at the Barbican, London on 3rd; Wolfgang Rihm’s Gruß-Moment 2 – in memoriam Pierre Boulez at the Philharmonie, Berlin on 10th; Timo Andres’s Steady Hand for two pianos and orchestra at the Barbican London on 25th; and Ryan Wigglesworth’s The Winter’s Tale, a new opera that begins its run at ENO, London on 27th. Astonishingly, Birtwistle’s Earth Dances receives it’s French premiere at the Philharmonie de Paris on 1st conducted by Daniel Harding.

 

Another event that promises to be a real treat is the chance to hear Jonny Greenwood’s magnificent score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, played live with a screening of the film at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 5th February





15 Jan  

Chilean composer José Vicente Asuar died on 11th January. He was 83. Asuar studied in his native Chile and subsequently in Germany, later taking charge of electronic studios in both countries. He is best known as a composer of electronic music. Works include Guararia repano, for Indian instruments and tape (1968); Formas I (1970) and II (1972), orchestra (computer-generated scores); Imagen de Caracas, voices, instruments, tape (1968); and a number of works for tape alone (Catedral, 1967; Buffalo 71, 1971).

(Source: The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music)





10 Jan  

This second part to my Dorico diary has been a long time coming, so perhaps I should start by explaining why. When I took a first look at the software back in November, I was impressed by its potential, especially feeling that the typesetting algorithms were better than those in Sibelius. Unfortunately, whilst this made a firm foundation, it did not alter the fact that the software lacked so many features that I was unable to adopt it into my daily workflow. 

 

The team at Steinberg have always made it clear, however, that their aim is to keep iterating Dorico until it is as powerful as its rivals. Two new releases, Dorico 10.0.10 on November 25th and 10.0.20 on December 20th, start to make good on these promises.

 

One of the headline features is the introduction of VST Expression Maps support, so that Dorico now recognises expression marks. Back in November I did a comparison of the playback of a simple arrangement for string quartet on Sibelius and on Dorico, the result being a hands-down win for Sibelius. Using the same example, however, Dorico has now closed the gap considerably. Here is the original playback on Dorico 1.0:

With the recording from Sibelius 7.1.3:

And now here is the new recording, on Dorico 1.0.20:

 

You can hear that the addition of articulation recognition makes a big difference, especially after the introduction, where there is extensive use of staccato. 

 

Despite this, however, in terms of raw sound file quality, Sibelius remains, in my opinion, the more convincing. And there are also more fundamental problems. In the above extract Dorico responds to dynamic changes, though this appears to be because the file was imported via mxl (i.e. it wasn't created in Dorico). Actually the program still appears not to support intensity markings—any changes I make within the program do not affect the playback, the same being true when I experiment with dynamics on a new score.

 

Selection tools have improved a great deal. In version 1.0, you had to drag a marquee selection box over anything you wanted to edit. Now, however, it is possible to select all of the music in a bar, several individual bars and whole sections. In some ways these basic editing tools are implemented more logically than in Sibelius, for example in that selections also include any music tied over to another bar. Whilst there are editing situations where that could be a nuisance, I like the fact that Dorico tries to implement things in a way that is musically logical.

 

Also new is transposition. The dialogue (see picture, left) is accessed on the Write menu, but surprisingly doesn't have a keyboard shortcut, an irritation for a feature that I use all of the time. Implementation is fine, though it lacks the intuitive elegance of Sibelius, concentrating on intervallic transposition rather than by key signature. If you select a whole score, however, Dorico will offer you the option to alter key signatures too. Also, I quite like the way that Dorico helps those who might not understand the whole business of major vs. minor/augmented vs. diminished intervals—it provides a little box where you enter the starting pitch and target pitch, translating that into musical intervals without you having to think about it.

 

Dorico is supposedly faster than before, not just in note input and editing, but ‘all across the application.’ Working on individual scores, I think this is probably correct. I also tend, however, to move between multiple open scores in my work. In doing this I experienced unacceptable levels of interruption from Mac’s spinning rainbow beachball. Sometimes this only lasted a split second as I began work in a different window, but for someone who spends long periods working at their computer, this kind of interruption can make the difference between a good and a bad day. Also I had some eccentric playback moments when flipping between scores, suddenly being presented with a comically wrong instrumental sound instead of the one I was actually working with.

 

Apart from a new scissors tool, note input is essentially the same as before. Computer keyboard input is in my opinion better than Sibelius. All the tools one needs are arranged around the edge of the screen and the keyboard shortcuts are sensible. I also appreciate the ability to be able to insert notes into a musical texture without having to delete anything first or renotate the surrounding notes myself. Step input with a MIDI keyboard also works fine, but it remains a big disappointment that there is still no real-time input. This means getting notes into the system is a rather laborious process. 

 

Other marquee improvements include support for arpeggio signs, playback for grace notes and improved handling of rests when using multiple voices on one stave. The most disappointing omission at this stage is that there is still no support for repeat markings, something that needs rectifying quickly. 

 

Given the improvements, am I any closer to adopting the program in my everyday workflow? Yes, I am. Will I be? No, I won’t. The fact is, there is still too much missing from this program for me to rely upon it. That may not be the case for you, however, and a glance around Dorico’s forums proves that, even where some are keen to criticise, there are many happy users leaping to its defence. This is because that, once you get beyond the shock of a new interface and different ways of doing things, the fundamentals are strong. As such, I will continue dropping in on Dorico from time to time. It might win me over yet.


EDIT: 12th January
 
Some responses from Daniel Spreadbury at Steinberg (via Twitter):




7 Jan  

Belgian composer Tristan Clais died on 4th January aged 87. He studied music and theatre at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles and from 1958 presented musical programmes on Belgium television, at the same time following a parallel career as a baritone. After receiving a grant in 1962 he continued his musical studies at the Academia Belgica de Rome, where he decided to dedicate himself to composition. 

 

He was involved with the surrealist group ‘Phases’, writing texts and participating in ‘happenings.’ His works are written for a diverse range of ensembles, the most well known including the Cygnus series, le Clavecin libéré, le Regard de l’orgue and la Montagne, l’écriture et la soie.

 

Summarised from this fuller obituary, in French. 

 

For further information see the Tristan Clais official site.





31 Dec  

© Nick Seluk theawkwardyeti.com

Even after my roundup of a tumultuous year, 2016 had more bad news in store. December saw the deaths of George Michael and actress Carrie Fisher and a tragic Russian plane crash that included the loss of 62 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble. 

 

As in 2016, 2017 promises to be a year of political change. In the US Donald Trump will take up his duties as President on January 20th, the Brexit negotiations will begin and there will be a round of crucial elections in Europe. 

 

However we feel about events in the world, however, one thing is certain: just as in 2016, the arts scene will remain as vibrant as ever. There is much to look forward to, as my little preview, below, shows. There are the birthday celebrations of two of minimalism’s founding fathers, John Adams and Philip Glass; the usual round of festivals; and some notable premieres, including major new commissions from Harrison Birtwistle, Wolfgang Rihm, Simon Holt, Ryan Wigglesworth and Brett Dean.

 

In a world that seems ever more insecure, we forget that, in many cases, things continue to get better. Certainly I think it is fair to say that opportunities for artists have never been more prevalent. 

 

I wish you and all C:T members a happy, peaceful and musically productive New Year!

 

January

 

5th–7th HK Gruber, Piano Concerto (world premiere). New York Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall, NYC. 

11th Friday Night is Music Night: John Williams's 85th Birthday. Watford Colosseum, Watford.

14th Hear and Now: Birtwistle’s The Last Supper. City Halls, Glasgow.

14–15th Ligeti, Le grand macabre Rattle/Sellars/London Symphony Orchestra (semi-staged performance), Barbican, London.

20th Philip Cashian, The Book of Ingenious Devices (BBC commission, world premiere). Barbican, London.

28th BBC Total Immersion Day: Philip Glass at 80. Barbican, London. 

30th Composition: Wales - Open Workshop. Hear the latest in composition in Wales, as composers worthy of wider exposure have the opportunity to hear their works performed by the BBCNOW.

 

February

 

1st Thomas Adès, In Seven Days. Royal Festival Hall, London. 

1st Harrison Birtwistle, Earth Dances (French premiere). Philharmonie de Paris.

3rd Michael Zev Gordon, Violin Concerto (BBC commission, world premiere). Barbican, London.

4th Composing in America, Ives, Cage, Carter and Feldman. BCMG, St. David’s Hall, Cardiff. 

10th–19th Festival Présences. Paris, France.

10th Wolfgang Rihm, Gruß-Moment 2 – in memoriam Pierre Boulez (world premiere). Berlin Philharmonic, Philharmonie, Berlin.

24th–26th Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival, Voice 2.0.

15th Mark-Anthony Turnage, Håkan (UK premiere). LSO, Barbican, London. 

25th Timo Andres, Steady Hand for two pianos and orchestra (world premiere), part of John Adams at 70: Grand Pianola Music, Barbican, London.

27th–14th March Ryan Wigglesworth, The Winter's Tale (opera world premiere). ENO, London.

 

March

 

2nd Huang Ruo, New Work (world premiere). Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. 

3rd Helen Grime, Piano Concerto (world premiere). Wigmore Hall, London.  

3rd Composition: Wales. Culmination concert.

5th Helen Grime, Piano Concerto. CBSO Centre, Birmingham.  

19th New London Children’s Choir 25th Anniversary Concert. Multiple premieres. Barbican, London.

25th Turning Points: Works by Ligeti. London Sinfonietta, Kings Place, London. 

30th Afternoon Performance: MacMillan Conducts MacMillan. City Halls, Glasgow.

30th Genesis, seven new works to mark the fortieth anniversary of Ensemble Intercontemporain. Philharmonie de Paris.

 

Also in March (details not available):

 

LONDON EAR festival of contemporary music.

 

April

 

1st–9th Lucerne Festival at Easter.

19th Brian Elias, Oboe Quintet (world premiere). Britten Sinfonia, Wigmore Hall. 

20th Panufnik Composers Scheme Workshop. LSO St Luke's, London.

22nd Gavin Higgins, Dark Arteries, National Youth Brass Band, Barbican, London

24th Thomas Adès, The Exterminating Angel. ROH, London. 

25th John Adams conducts Doctor Atomic. Barbican, London.

27th Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain. London Sinfonietta, Royal Festival Hall, London.

 

May

 

5th Simon Holt, Surcos (world premiere). Berlin Philharmonic, Philharmonie, Berlin.

6th BBC Total Immersion Day: Edgard Varèse. Barbican, London.

11th Ryan Wigglesworth, New Work Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. 

12th–28th Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

19th–26th Vale of Glamorgan Festival 

22nd David Fulmer, New Work (world premiere), Sam Pluta binary/momentary: flow state/joy state ii (world premiere). New York Philharmonic, National Sawdust, NYC.

26th–4th June St. Davids Cathedral Festival.

28th Philipp Maintz, New Work. Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Philharmonie, Berlin.

 

Also in May (details tbc)

 

Prague Spring International Music Festival.

Bath International Music Festival.

Northern Chords Festival.

The English Music Festival.

York Spring Festival of New Music.

 

June

 

2nd Nordic Nights. Eivind Buene, New Work (2016) (world premiere); Rolf Wallin, New Work (2016) (world premiere). London Sinfonietta, Håkon's Hall, Bergen, Norway.

5th Harrison Birtwistle, Deep Time. Staatskapelle Berlin, Philharmonie, Berlin.

9th–17th Charlie Parker, YARDBIRD (opera, European premiere). ENO, London.

9th–25th Aldeburgh Festival

11th–6th Brett Dean, Hamlet (opera, world premiere). Glyndebourne, UK. 

25th-–8th July Soundscape. Maccagno, Italian Alps.

 

Other June festivals (dates tbc):

 

Munich Opera Festival Nationaltheater and other venues in Munich.

St Magnus International Festival.

 

July

 

2nd&9th Philip Venables, Illusions. Hull and London, UK.

7th ALIVE Choral music by Eric Whitacre and Contemporaries. Milton Court Concert Hall, London.

7th–23rd Buxton Festival. A marriage of opera, books and music, including some by contemporary composers. Buxton, Derbyshire.

14th-9th September BBC Proms. Programme not currently available, but there will be premières aplenty. Royal Albert Hall, London.

21st–30st August Salzburg Festival. Salzburg, Austria.

22nd Kit Armstrong, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra. Konzerthausorchester, Berlin. 

 

Other July festivals (dates tbc):

 

Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. Various venues, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Tête à Tête Opera Festival. Described as ‘our most imaginative opera laboratory’, the festival focuses entirely on new music. 

‘Aix en Provence Festival. ‘Aix en Provence, France. 

 

August

 

4th–28th Edinburgh International Festival. Programme not yet available, but there is usually a good selection of new music.

24th–29th Presteigne Festival. Artistic innovation, musical discovery and, of course, new works in the Welsh Marches. Presteigne, Powys. 

 

Other August festivals (dates tbc):

 

High Score Festival. Contemporary music festival and classes. Pavia, Italy.

 

September

 

Also in September (date tbc):

 

Oslo Contemporary Music Festival.

Beethovenfest, Bonn.

Warsaw International Festival of Contemporary Music. Not clear if there will be a festival in 2016.

 

October

 

Dates not yet available:

 

Sound. North East Scotland’s Festival of New Music. Various venues.

Wien Modern. Festival that focuses on contemporary music. Still showing 2015 programme. Vienna, Austria.

 

November

 

18th–26th Lucerne Festival at the Piano.

 

Dates not yet available:

 

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

 

December

 

Date not yet available:

 

Spitalfields Winter Festival.





27 Dec  

I very much enjoy writing posts here at C:T. Inevitably, however, I do not always have the time to cover every news story. Often, I don't have the expertise. There are probably writers capable of turning their hand to anything. I am not one of them. Which leads me to wonder whether anyone who passes this way might be interested in doing some writing? 

 

Contrary to appearances, the C:T blog is open to all and I would be thoroughly delighted if anyone else were to post here. Especially I’d be interested to read some posts with a different geographical perspective to my own, which tends to be European and British. It would be great if we could get a more international feel here.

 

If you’d rather, you could always get in touch with with any ideas you have before posting. At the same time, if you have something to say, you certainly don't need my permission to say it!





23 Dec  

This splendid arrangement of We Wish You a Merry Christmas recently appeared in my Facebook feed, with a greeting from its creator, Jim Aitchison. Jim is a composer who cultivates links with the visual arts, both through interaction with figures such as Gerhard Richter, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, and in his own explorations of the art form, for example in his visual score work

 

Jim has very kindly allowed me repost this arrangement here as a means of wishing all C:T members a happy and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy!







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