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18 Jul  

Olly Knussen’s marvellous Flourish With Fireworks, performed as an opener at the First Night of the Proms, was a seemly way to mark the sad news of his death. 

 

In other respects it was a concert where it might have been better to be outside rather than inside the Albert Hall. Not because of any lack in musical quality, but because of the effective projections that accompanied Anna Meredith’s Five Telegrams—though there was a half-hearted attempt to reproduce them inside the auditorium, they worked far better on the outer shell of the building. 

 

Meredith’s score is inspired by impersonal multiple choice postcards sent by soldiers on the front in the Great War (see The Guardian for a fuller account). Her response to them was both monumental and moving, the massed forces deployed effectively (if sometimes a little mechanistically) in the brutal climaxes and with hypnotic tenderness elsewhere.

 

The work was a co-commission by the BBC and the Edinburgh International Festival, so there will be another chance to hear it in the opening concert in Scotland on 3rd August. As well as all the other delights offered by the Edinburgh Festival, there is also a fair bit of other new(ish) music to be found there, including works by Thea Musgrave, Eric Whitacre, John Estacio, Arvo Pärt, Toru Takemitsu, Esa-Pekka Salonen and a world premiere from Peder Barratt-Due. EIF will also be making a contribution to the ongoing Bernstein festivities, with performances of his Piano Trio, Arias and Bacarolles, Symphony No 2 The Age of Anxiety, Serenade, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Three Dance Episodes from On the Town.

 

To return to the Proms briefly. As I often say, do keep popping back to this blog post, here, to see C:T’s summary of the rest of the new music available there. Like last year the BBC does seem to be adding video content at these links (just click on the date) so you can also catch up on what you’ve missed. The first night is already there though the three premieres on 15th are so far only available on BBC iPlayer.

 

If you are taking time to catch up on that concert, may I heartily recommend you listen to the splendid Sidechaining, a new work by C:T’s very own David Bruce, available directly, here



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11 Jul  

Christian Morris talks to composer Kenneth Hesketh, who, in his 50th birthday year, reflects upon his work to date, current inspirations, mortality and the things he wished he’d known when starting out...
 

Kenneth Hesketh (photo: E.Thornton)

You crowned 2017 with a British Composer Award for your wind ensemble piece In Ictu Oculi. Now that work will form part of the programme for a new CD with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, to be released around your fiftieth birthday. Tell us about this new version of the work and the CD.

In Ictu Oculi - Three Meditations was originally commissioned and premiered by the National Youth Wind Ensemble, conducted by the marvellous Phillip Scott in April 2016. I've worked with Phillip for over ten years, but with this commission I really felt it was the first time I had the chance to write something authentic to myself in this medium. 

It's a special piece for me (dedicated to the memory of my grandmother) and of course, being awarded a British Composer Award not only felt good, it felt right that it should be this piece that precipitated it. I'd been shortlisted twice before in this category with lighter pieces and felt that if I wasn't getting anywhere with them I didn't have a chance with this. It's good that one can still be surprised! 

As this piece fits into an ever-enlarging cycle of works that cluster around ideas of momento mori, vanitas and memorial, I felt it should be more widely available and so prepared the orchestral version. From the moment I knew the disc would be recorded I felt the orchestral version should be present, but it was only until much later that I decided to make it the title work for the disc. In approaching the work in orchestral terms, certain other aspects had to be addressed as well. In order to allow the strings an equal part and not simply be an additional gloss, the structure of the work had to be adapted; for example, the orchestral introduction is notably longer than the wind version as are other transitional sections. Keeping the 4 saxes in the orchestral context, rather than rescore or absorb them, was a first for me and certainly added a colour I had never utilised before. The superimposition of new material not only added density and detail it also appealed to my love of the labyrinthine. The result is not a bifurcation into two different works, but rather a single work that occasionally phases in and out of perspective with itself.

 

>> Click here to read the rest of the interview



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9 Jul  

The musical world today mourns the loss of one of the outstanding figures in contemporary British music, composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, CBE. He was just 66.

 

Ever self-critical his compositional output was not large, each piece instead being marked by a crystalline perfection and marvellous ear for orchestration. Always generous with his time, he was also a crucial figure in supporting the development of the younger generation of composers. He will be sorely missed.

 

Tributes have been pouring in from his many friends and colleagues.

 

The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with whom Knussen had a long-running association as conductor and Artist-in-Association have put up a personal tribute page, including the following words:

 

‘Birmingham Contemporary Music Group are devastated to learn of the passing of our dearest friend and Artist-in-Association, Oliver Knussen….We cannot begin to process the loss of this wonderful man to both the musical community and the wider world.’

 

The Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, where Knussen was an honorary member of staff, released this statement

 

‘The news of Olly Knussen’s death comes as a huge shock to all of us. He was a deeply loved teacher and friend. Olly’s years of regular visits here as Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music will remain amongst the most memorable and treasured for all of us who worked with him.’

 

The BBC Proms tweeted:

 

‘We are deeply saddened by the death of Oliver Knussen, a dear friend and colleague to the Proms. Olly performed at more than 30 Proms across 4 decades, memorably marking his 60th birthday in 2012 (article below) when he conducted the @bbcso in a performance of his 3rd Symphony.’

 

Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage remarked:

 

‘He was like my dad really, he was just so generous and kind apart from being an amazing musician. He was a great teacher as well. He used to say to me: just get on with it, don't listen to other people, you will be played by orchestras.’

 

Full obituaries are already available here:

 

The Guardian

The Telegraph

 

There will surely be many more.



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6 Jul  

Tête à Tête director Bill-Bankes Jones describes opera as ‘the most visceral of art forms. Unless its driver is something that forces a raw primal cri de coeur, it makes no sense.’ Hence some of last year’s themes: ‘the moment of childbirth, an all-consuming frustration at Trump's Immigration ban, knife-throwing, and Brexit.’ This year, being equally troubled, promises more such rage and frustration. 

 

The festival opens with Cubitt Sessions, small free performances given in the King’s Cross area. These include Errollyn Wallen and her band performing selections from The Errollyn Wallen Songbook; Nightshade: Aubergine, a kind of culinary ‘music theatre road movie’; and Toscatastrophe, the festival’s attempt to ‘massacre’ (their word) a classic opera.

 

Whilst the main programme defies categorisation it is possible to discern the cri de coeur to which Bankes refers—operas include: The Good Immigrant, an exploration of race & identity in contemporary Britain; Blue Electric, which features ‘Cafés and nightclubs, shifty boyfriends and broken friendships’; Nibiru, a ‘techno tone-poem musing on the end of the world, estate agents, social networking, internet conspiracy theories, and large, invasive, tap-dancing happeee-celestial bodies’; and Earth Makes No Sound, a ‘provocation about our planet and how we look after it.’ 

 

There’s a lot else besides, most of it not nearly so angsty, so have a rummage round in the programme before deciding whether you want to attend. I can only say that I spent a splendid few days at Tête à Tête last year—so whatever you see it will provoke and entertain (and maybe infuriate just a tiny bit too…).




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1 Jul  

In addition to the excellent new Andrew Hamilton disc, NMC, in association with the PRS Foundation, has released two more recordings in its New Music Biennial series: Eliza Carthy’s Rivers and Railways, a collaboration with Moulettes; and Sam Lee’s Vocals, a collection of songs from in and around the city of Hull. Onyx Brass have also released Onyx Noir (see video, bottom), a collection of contemporary jazz music for brass quintet featuring 12 composers. 

 

On Nonesuch, Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly collaborate on a collection of 9 songs entitled Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music. They are inspired by three Colin McPhee gamelan transcriptions, also featured on the disk. June also sees their release of a new recording of John Adams’ 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic

 

On Wergo Isolde & Tristan / Dreamdancers features two double concertos by Munich-based composer Enjott Schneider that ‘use unconventional combinations of solo instruments to make poetic contradictions audible.’ Libres en el sonido is a collection of seven works by Argentine-Uruguayan composer Graciela Paraskevaídis for Ensemble Aventure. The Philosophy of Composition, meanwhile, is a collection of pieces by South African Michael Blake that explore the period between his retirement to a village near Cape Town in 2008 and his relocation to France in 2015.

 

Toshio Hosokawa’s orchestral triptych Meditation, Nach dem Sturm and Klage is the composers response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. It is released on Naxos with Autumn Winds, a work for shakuhachi and orchestra. Also on Naxos, finally, is a collection of Hans Werner Henze works for violin and viola featuring Peter Skærved (violin and viola) and Roderick Chadwick (piano). 



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25 Jun  

Norman Lebrecht over at Slipped Disc has just posted this fascinating video of Robin Holloway in conversation with Paddy Gormley about his life and work. There are also a short section featuring Holloway working with performers.

 

Our thanks to him for making this available.

 



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22 Jun  

Andrew Hamilton‘s Music for People, a new album on NMC, contains three works by the composer: music for people who like art, for voice and ensemble; To the People for soprano and percussion; and music for roger casement, a ‘quasi-chamber concerto’ for harmonium.

 

music for people who like art sets text from 25 Lines of Words on Art: Statement by American artist Ad Reinhardt. In it the singer repeats the line ‘Art is Art’ over a gradually evolving (‘micro-modifications’, as Liam Cagney explains in his excellent liner notes) musical landscape. Hamilton’s minimalist credentials are very much on display, then, though what is most striking is how wittily he deploys his material, with long pauses, unexpected interjections (‘Yeah!’) and plenty of throwaway postmodern musical gestures. The result is not exactly lacking in seriousness, but one has the impression that Hamilton composes with a barely suppressed grin. It is infectious.

 

One could write almost exactly the same of the music for roger casement, even though the piece is inspired by a serious event—Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist who was executed by the British for treason in 1916, not before they also blackened his name with allegations of homosexuality. The humour is still here though it has most definitely turned black—there is a sense of gothic horror to the whole proceedings, with the whining sounds of the harmonium and the gradual sense of disintegration that the runs towards the frenzied final peroration.

 

To The People sets excerpts from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard's book America, the title being inspired by German artist Blinky Palermo’s abstract paintings To The People of New York City. The work is divided into seventeen movements, the longest lasting more than six minutes, the shortest just twenty seconds. It is surprisingly different in atmosphere from the other two pieces—sparse, straight-faced—even if it does share many of their stylistic fingerprints. What it lacks in immediate physical exhilaration, however, it makes up for in subtlety of inspiration. There also moments of sublime beauty, most notably in the hushed final movement.

 

Read an interview with Andrew Hamilton, here.

 



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16 Jun  

Germany’s Goethe-Insitut makes an annual award for those who ‘have performed outstanding service for the German language and for international cultural relations.’ One of this year’s prize winner is Hungarian composer and conductor Péter Eötvös. From the prize page:

 

‘With his compositions and interpretations of the works of contemporaries during and after the Cold War, the Hungarian composer and conductor Péter Eötvös advanced a common European musical culture and continues to influence it today.’

 

More on the Goethe-Insitut website.



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13 Jun  

This year's Cheltenham Music Festival packs an impressive 65 events into its two weeks, with plenty of new music to boot.

 

There’s a chance to hear Colin Riley’s ‘new kind of song-cycle’ In Place on 8th. The composer will also be there to talk about the work beforehand. The festival will play its part in the Bernstein centenary celebrations with performances of On the Town on 10th, Chichester Psalms on 11th and Candide on 12th. Choral aficionados might want to make a special effort for the Chichister Psalms performances, which will feature some of Stephen Cleobury’s last concerts directing King’s College Choir. 

 

World premieres include Gavin Higgins’ Gursky Landscapes with David Cohen and the Carducci Quartet on the 6th; new works for the Juice Vocal Ensemble written by the Cheltenham Composer Academy participants on 14th; Kenneth Hesketh’s The Singing Bone as well as a new Debussy arrangement for the Berkeley Ensemble on 14th; and Juliana, a new chamber opera by Joseph Phibbs on 15th

 

The full programme is available here.



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13 Jun  

On Monday PRS announced the latest The Open Fund and Women Make Music recipients. The Open Fund is divided into two sections, one for the development of outstanding songwriters and composers, the other to support new music projects. Women Make Music supports the development of outstanding women songwriters and composers. 

 

Congratulations to all of the recipients:

 

The Open Fund for Music Creators

 

Aidan O’Rourke

Ailie Robertson, Donald Grant, David Fennessy, Aidan O’Rourke, Alasdair Nicolson

Balladeste

Cosmism (recording as The Long Now)

Craig Armstrong and Calum Martin

David Mackenzie – Stantz

Edward Jessen

Ensemble x.y

Graham Fitkin

Greg Wanders

Iain Chambers

James Chapman (Maps)

Jenni Roditi, Toby Thompson, Candida Valentino, Haymanot Tesfa, Cassie Yukawa-McBurney

Jon Shenoy

Kitt Philippa

Lanterns on the Lake

Makola

Peaness

Polo

Ruta Vitkauskaite

The Ninth Wave

Wu-Lu

Zara Nunn

 

The Open Fund for Organisations

 

Abram Wilson Foundation for Creative Arts

Brainchild Festival

Capsule

Celtronic Derry Ltd

Chineke Foundation

Dumbworld ltd

English Folk Expo

Eye to Eye

Feral Arts

HD Arts Productions CIC T/A Hidden Door Festival

Immix Ensemble

In Place Of War

Irene Taylor Trust

Jazz re:freshed Ltd

Knockengorroch cic

Low Four

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

OneFest CIC

Severnside Composers Alliance

Showcase Scotland Expo

Small Green Shoots

Sound City (Liverpool) Ltd.

Sounds from the Other City

Streetwise Opera

Sŵn Festival Ltd

the hub arts lab CIC

The Riot Ensemble

The Stoller Hall

The Sunday Boys

Three Choirs Festival

Transgressive North

VALLEY COMMUNITY THEATRE

WITCiH

York Mediale

Z-arts

 

Women Make Music

 

Bellatrix

Caswell

Catherine Kontz

Chagall

Dorcha

Getrude Veremu

Giulia Grispino

Gwyneth Herbert

Kathryn Tickell

Laura White

Lucinda Chua

Mithila Sarma

Pink Kink

Shingai

 

More here.



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7 Jun  

Christian Morris talks to leading British composer Edward Gregson. Now ten years into retirement from a distinguished academic career, his composing work is more vigorous than ever, with his recent Four Etudes for brass band being nominated for a 2017 British Composer Award.
 

Edward Gregson

When we first started communicating by email you told me you 'had you head down orchestrating.' Would you like to let us know what you have been writing?


I've been working on a Halle commission, a large-scale piece for their Children's Choir and Orchestra. I'm delighted that they take these kinds of commissions seriously by involving the orchestra as well, because the experience for the children in the choir is so much more enhanced. They have around 80-90 voices, between 8 and 12 years of age, 'who enjoy singing and love a challenge!'

However, besides trying to write music that will both challenge and satisfy such a choir (a difficult task in itself), one of the other most demanding elements is scoring it for a full orchestra and trying to achieve a realistic balance between the forces. The work also has two narrators (male and female) that add to the overall dramatic story.

Anyway, the work is called The Salamander and the Moonraker - An Adventure Story in Music - with story and text by Susan Gregson (who also happens to be my wife!). It's around 35 minutes long (so a lot of orchestration!) and will be premiered on 1st July this year at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. So you see why I had my head down trying to finish it when you contacted me. I should add that the choir has had the vocal score since before Xmas, so they have already been working hard on it.

>> Click here to read the rest of the interview



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6 Jun  

New works seemed a bit thin on the ground at 2017’s BBC Proms, so it is good to see a healthy 19 world premieres this year. The biggest winners are: Anna Meredith, whose Five Telegrams on the first night will tap into the centenary of the end of the First World War and Roxanna Panufnik, whose Song of Darkness and Light will open the last night. 

 

That these two high-profile commission slots are given over to female composers is no coincidence—2018 also marks 100 years since the granting of the vote to women over 30. The anniversary is being celebrated through the promotion of these and other female composers, including Laura Mvula, Bushra El-Turk, Tansy Davies and Lili Boulanger.

 

Other notable premieres to look out for include, in August, Simon Holt’s Quadriga on 13th; a new Rolf Wallin Violin Concerto on 21st; Iain Bell’s Aurora on 29th and, intriguingly, two small works from Benjamin Britten on 6th. Do also check in for the three premieres on 15th July. These form part of the 40th birthday celebrations of BBC Young Musician of the Year and include the first performance of Sidechaining by C:T’s very own David Bruce.

 

The Proms will also be contributing to the Bernstein at 100 celebration with performances of West Side Story, On the Town and a tribute to his televised educational work with the event The Sound of an Orchestra. There will also be the chance to hear the first UK performance of his unfinished ballet Conch Town.

 

Here, then, is the complete list of regional, national and world premieres at this year’s Proms. As in previous years do check back to this list once the festival is in full-swing—clicking on the date should take you directly to any performances you have missed.

 

July

 

13th Anna Meredith, Five Telegrams (world premiere)

13th Georg Friedrich Haas, Concerto Grosso No. 1 (UK premiere)

15th Ben Foster, Fantasia on the Young Musician Theme, (world premiere); Iain Farrington, Gershwinicity (world premiere); David Bruce, Sidechaining (world premiere).

25th Tansy Davies, What Did We See? (orchestral suite from 'Between Worlds’) (world premiere).

30th Jessica Wells, Rhapsody for solo oud (world premiere)

 

August 

 

5th Mark-Anthony Turnage, Maya (UK premiere); Anders Hillborg, Bach Materia (UK premiere); Uri Caine, Hamsa (UK premiere)

5th Olga Neuwirth, Aello - ballet mécanomorphe (UK premiere); Steven Mackey,

Triceros (UK premiere).

6th Benjamin Britten, A Sweet Lullaby (world premiere); Benjamin Britten, Somnus (world premiere); Mark-Anthony Turnage, Farewell (world premiere); Lisa Illean, Sleeplessness ... Sails (world premiere)

13th Simon Holt, Quadriga (world premiere); Suzanne Farrin, new work (world premiere)

14th David Robert Coleman, Looking for Palestine (London premiere)

17th Philip Venables, Venables Plays Bartok (world premiere)

20th Per Nørgård, Symphony No 3 (UK premiere)

20th Laura Mvula, The Virgin of Montserrat (world premiere)

21st Rolf Wallin, Violin Concerto (world premiere)

27th Bushra El-Turk, Crème Brûlée on a Tree (world premiere); Leonard Bernstein, Conch Town (UK premiere).

29th Iain Bell, Aurora (world premiere)

 

September

 

3rd Nina Šenk, Baca (world premiere)

8th Roxanna Panufnik, Songs of Darkness (world premiere)

 

More themes and picks can be found in this interview with BBC Proms Director David Pickard

 



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6 Jun  

The BBC announced yesterday that it is to leave its Maida Vale Studios. 

 

Starting life as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace in 1909, it has since played host to BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, to many pop and classical musicians and, from 1967 to 2004, to the John Peel Sessions. It is also the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who frequently perform concerts of new music there. The BBC plans to relocate to a new ‘state-of-the-art facility in east London.’

 

In his note to staff, Director-General of the BBC, Lord Hall said:

 

"I understand how much our musical heritage at Maida Vale means to us, to artists and to audiences…We haven't taken this decision lightly. But we're determined to ensure that live music remains at the heart of the BBC and moving to this new development gives us the opportunity to do just that."

 

More information available on the BBC website, here.



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24 May  

The 2018 Aldeburgh Festival celebrates Britten’s links to America via the music of Leonard Bernstein, whose centenary it is this year.

 

Britten and Bernstein had a remarkably similar training and outlook—both conducted, were pianists and educators and shared a certain sense of unencumbered generosity in their compositions.

 

Performances of Bernstein’s music in the festival include his Symphony No. 2 The Age of Anxiety; Halil for flute and chamber orchestra; excerpts from West Side Story; Arias and Barcarolles for piano four hands; and his Chichester Psalms. There will also be several talks and a film that documents Bernstein’s conducting of the US premiere of Peter Grimes in 1946. 

 

Britten’s time in America is also reflected in performances of music by Aaron Copland and the presence of American artists-in-residence: composer Michael Hersch, flautist Claire Chase and violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

 

As always there are a number of world premieres, though these are largely from British composers: Emily Howard’s opera To See The Invisible on the opening night; Philip Cashian’s Piano Concerto The Book of Ingenious Devices on 16th; Harrison Birtwistle’s Keyboard Engine, Construction for Two Pianos, also on 18th; seven new works from young composers on 22nd; and Simon Holt’s String Quartet No. 4 on the same day. 

 

Tickets for all concerts start at £10.



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24 May  

St. Magnus International Music Festival

 

The St. Magnus International Festival runs from 22–28th June, with its usual mix of classical music, theatre, dance, poetry, bands, visual art, community participation and new work. 

 

There is plenty to enjoy, including Rachmaninov’s Vespers, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, a concert that explores ’Songs of Freedom’ and Zoé Martlew’s Review Z.  One wonders, however, if the festival has been feeling the pinch just recently. I could only locate one world premiere from an established ‘name’, Kenneth Hesketh’s Inscrizione (derivata) (A Lie to the Dying) on 27th. There is also an entirely worthy education composition project with Kirkwall Grammar School and Glaitness Primary School on 23rd. Little else, or so it seems. What, for example, happened to the composition course this year?

 

The Holland Festival

 

Amsterdam’s Holland Festival runs from 7th June–1st July. There are several regional premieres on offer plus the world premiere of Daníel Bjarnason’s We Came in Peace for All Mankind for 12 horns and 12 pianos (as resonance chambers) on 23rd. There is also a special focus on the music of George Benjamin, including performances of his Dance Figures, Sometime Voices and operas Lessons in Love and Violence and Written on Skin. 

 

There is much else besides, much of it very imaginative. The opening day, for example, contains a collaboration between Gerhard Richer the painter and Marcus Schmickler, the composer as well as a performance of Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel. On 13th the Heath Quartet perform Beethoven’s string quartet no.11 and Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 2, but under the title The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety and with four actors who ‘reconstruct the melody of melancholy in a staging full of insanity.’ Throughout the festival there is also the chance to spend half an hour listening to Longplayer, a composition for singing bowls that started playing on 31st December 1999 and will not end until the year 2999.

 

Here’s a video preview of the festival:



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16 May  

US composer and guitarist Glenn Branca died on May 13th. He was 69.

 

Branca studied theatre at Emerson College, Boston. After spending time in the UK in 1973, he returned to the city to found the experiential theatre group Bastard Theatre in 1975, for which he or his collaborator John Rehberger provided music. Further work in theatre followed, as did the forming of the bands Theoretical Girls and Static. His works for electric guitar ensemble and drums at the turn of the decade ‘introduced a visceral, high-volume, ecstatic music unknown to rock or the avant garde.’ 

 

The 80s was marked by further experiments in tuning and the construction of custom instruments, which featured in several of his numbered symphonies. From 1989, with the commission of his Symphony No. 7, he began to write for more traditional ensembles. He continued to write for the guitar, however, including for his wife and fellow experimental guitarist Reg Bloor. Paying tribute to him on social media, she said:

 

I feel grateful to have been able to live and work with such an amazing source of ideas and creativity for the past 18 1/2 years. His musical output was a fraction of the ideas he had in a given day. His influence on the music world is incalculable.

 

Despite his gruff exterior, he was a deeply caring and fiercely loyal man. We lived in our own little world together. I love him so much. I’m absolutely devastated.



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16 May  

New York-based composer Matt Marks died on May 11th. He was just 38. 

 

Not just a composer but also a mean arranger, singer and horn player, Marks was a founding member of contemporary music chamber orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, which has been described as "one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene.”

 

The announcement of the news by Marks' fiancé, composer Mary Kouyoumdjian was greeted with many tributes, including from Alarm Will Sound, who stated on Twitter: ‘Matt was a unique mix of playfulness & gravity who was integral in shaping our identity as a band. He will be deeply missed.’

 

Steve Smith in a full obituary in the New York Times, summed up Marks' style: ’he demonstrated a knack for crafting works of substantial appeal and subversive cheek, generously endowed with sharp wit and relatable pathos.’ 

 



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16 May  

Whether a recent story about proclivities of Admiral Lord Nelson is true or false, it rather proves that the sexual lives of the renowned dead provides good copy.

 

This has always been the case with composers. A theory put forward in Paul Kildea’s widely praised 2013 biography of Benjamin Britten speculated that, rather than dying of a congenital heart problem, the condition was actually a result of tertiary syphilis. It is a disease that has been linked to countless other composers, including Scott Joplin, Delius, Hugo Wolf, Smetana, Glinka, Donizetti, Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart. 

 

A new book by fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Jonathan Noble seeks to put the record straight. Interviewed about it in the Guardian he observed that “The list of composers who had syphilis is short. The list of composers said to have had syphilis is enormous.” And of Benjamin Britten’s syphilis he believes that ‘The evidence for that is scant,’ deriving as it did from ‘hearsay and an elderly doctor who “had nothing to do with Britten’s care”’. 

 

In total Noble’s book That Jealous Demon, My Wretched Health: Disease, Death and Composers examines the deaths of 70 composers, in a number of cases debunking tales of “venereal disease, alcoholism or sexual impropriety.”

 

Read the full story at the Guardian.



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9 May  

American composer, pianist and academic Donald H. Keats died on 27th April. He was 88. 

 

Keats was a graduate of Yale University, where he studied with Quincy Porter and Hindemith, and of Columbia University, where he completed an MA with Otto Luening and Henry Cowell. A period in Europe as a Fulbright Scholar was followed by a return to America and study for a PhD at University of Minnesota, completed in 1961. He held academic positions at University of Washington, Antioch College and University of Denver. He won two Guggenheim Fellowships (1964–65 and 1972–73).

 

Published by Boosey & Hawkes, Keats’ composed in most musical genres except for opera—his catalogue includes symphonies, a piano concerto, two string quartets, a piano sonata, various works for violin and piano and cello and piano, song cycles and other choral music.

 

His early works have been described as being ’often based on clearly articulated tonal centres’ but that he later moved away from tonality, instead using ‘short motivic ideas and sonorities.’



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26 Apr  

Colin Riley’s In Place is a song-cycle with a difference; 10 songs, each setting new texts and mixing live performance, field recording and electronics. It explores a sense of place in the British Isles; how it informs cultural identity; shapes language and dialects; provides both solace and stimulation, and contains histories both universal and personal. The new texts have been specially created by a set of writers for whom ‘place’ is a guiding force in their work: Robert Macfarlane, Paul Farley, Nick Papadimitrou, Selina Nwulu, Jackie Morris, Daljit Nagra, Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson.

 

Colin Riley has been commissioned by Sound Festival as part of the PRS for Music Foundation’s Beyond Borders programme which is a co-commissioning and touring programme run in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Ireland / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. In Place is also supported by Brunel University and  Arts Council England.

 

The In Place album is now available on Squeaky Kate Music. The album launch is on 11th May, for their OCM performance, at The North Wall.

 

Here’s a preview:

In Place from Sound Festival on Vimeo.



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