What you’re into if you’re into sound and music
sound and the environment
KURT SCHWERTSIK KILL YOUR TIMID NOTION HOW TO
Parallel lives Ongoing investigations Extend percussion with electronics The magazine of
Welcome to the February issue of INTO For many, the mind-boggling prospect of climate change and the exhaustion of existing sources of energy is today’s dominant world issue. In the arts, this raises the perennial question: how to respond? In our cover story, Earth Works, Cecilia Wee investigates the responses of sound artists and finds that rather than conveying didactic warnings of impending doom, artists are in many cases producing works of subtle beauty that “resensitise” us to the different elements that make up our environments. The strength of modernist aesthetics in the twentieth century produced a huge raft of composers interested in alternative paths, who are lumped together as “renegades”. At 75, Viennese composer Kurt Schwertsik has lived with this label for a long time, having studied with Stockhausen but gone on to embrace tonality and pop influences. Ahead of a mini-festival of Schwertsik’s music in Manchester this month, John Fallas takes a fresh look at his work. Meanwhile if you are on the lookout for new music festivals that embody the spirit of the twenty-first century, this month’s Kill Your Timid Published by Sound and Music www.soundandmusic.org Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notion in Dundee is a fine specimen. Offering a compelling cocktail of challenging work and highly accessible presentation, this year’s festival aims to remove the boundaries between artists and audiences and invites us all to participate in collaborative investigations. What kind of investigations? Read on to find out... How To... this month focuses on working with percussion and electronics, while What We’re Into features work by Henri Dutilleux, Vladislav Delay, Jack Rose and much more. And finally, I’d like to introduce you to Frances Morgan, the new Editor of INTO. Frances is an experienced editor, publisher and writer on music, who previously edited and ran the acclaimed alternative music magazine Plan B. She’s a fantastic addition to our team and we’re looking forward to INTO flourishing under her guidance. She will take up the baton in this slot next month. I hope you enjoy! Shoël Stadlen Managing Editor
Managing Editor: Shoël Stadlen Editor: Frances Morgan Designed by: James Morrison jimpmorrison.com Original Design: PostParis, www.postparis.com
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Cover image of Jana Winderen’s recording for Rivers, to be performed at the AV Festival 2010. Photograph by Jana Winderen The opinions expressed in INTO are those of the authors and not necessarily those of INTO or Sound and Music. Copyright of all articles is held jointly by Sound and Music and the authors. Unauthorised reproduction of any item is forbidden.
Contents What we’re INT . Pages 6–7
NEWS. Pages 8–11
Earth works: sound and the environment. Pages 12-19
kurth schwertsik: parallel lives pages 20-26
kill your timid notion: ongoing investigations. pages 28-33
HOW TO...EXTEND PERCUSSION WITH ELECTRONICS. pages 34-38
from the blogs pages 39-42
OPPORTUNITIES. Pages 43-46
What We’re into
What we’re INT What we’re INTO is a small monthly round-up of some of the new music and sound that we’ve been enjoying at Sound and Music. Follow the links to see and hear our audio, video and interactive selections. To submit your work for consideration, see the open call on our website.
H V I
Jack Rose: Woodpiles On The Side Of The Road
Download compilation of sele artists from this year’s Club Transmediale, Berlin
What We’re into
Vladislav Delay: ‘Toive’ video
Henri Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, Isaac Stern
Podcast series on sampling from Ràdio Web MACBA
Mattin’s downloadable book, Noise and Capitalism
NEW FLORIAN HECKER AT THE CHISENHALE GALLERy
Florian hecker, dark energy (2007), galerie neu, berlin
A solo exhibition by composer and sound artist Florian Hecker, his first in a UK public institution, opens at the Chisenhale Gallery, London on 12 February. Heckerâ€™s work might be more familiar to British audiences through his recordings on Editions Mego and an intense performance at the 2007 Faster Than Sound festival with regular collaborator Russell Haswell; this exhibition is a chance to experience his installation work, which explores the relationships between sound, the body, architecture and perceived space. At Chisenhale, four independent sound works will generate over time, creating various configurations that coalesce into a single overall sonic environment, and creating a parcours that leads the visitor around the gallery space. www.chisenhale.org.uk
DEAN CLOUGH GALLERIES’ FIRST SOUND ART SHOW
Three new installations are on show at Room Mode, Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax, from 7 February to 7 March. In Angie Atmadjaja’s Intrinsic, sound-responsive light tubes react to standing waves from a loudspeaker; Theo Burt’s Four consists of four light and sound emitting panels, generating patterns of synchronised noise and colour; and Material by Peter Worth uses two-channel synthesised audio and diffused projections. www.roommode.org
YOUR NEW MUSIC OPINIONS There are a couple of interesting surveys out this month in which you can give your thoughts on new music. Roddy Hawkins, a doctoral student at the University of Leeds, is looking for people with opinions on the post-war scene as part of a PhD on contemporary music in Britain. The title of his thesis is (Mis) understanding complexity from Transit to Toop (1977-88): a critical interpretation of New Music and its discourse in 1980s Britain. He is particularly interested in the label “new complexity”, which was coined to link together the practices of various British composers, but is interested in more general perspectives as well. If you’re interested in giving your opinion, email email@example.com to express interest in taking part. Meanwhile Netaudio, an offline festival of online music, is running a survey to find out how people create and consume music online. You can complete the survey here: bit.ly/netaudio-survey
NEW NEWCASTLE NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL AND I3 PROJECT PERFORMANCE Taking place at Newcastle University’s ICMuS (International Centre for Music Studies) between 17 and 21 February, this mini-festival of new music features performances and workshops by composer Kent Olofsson, guitarist Stefan Östersjö, flautist Terje Thiwång and guitarist Christoph Jäggin, with four days focusing on the guitar in contemporary music and a symposium on teaching composition. The festival comes straight after the concluding concert of Newcastle and Durham Universities’ CETL composition project, I3, which takes place at Sage Gateshead on 16 February and includes works by Agustín Fernández, Richard Rijnvos, visiting composer and conductor David Lang, and two students from the composition project. www.newcastlenewmusic.blogspot.com www.thesagegateshead.org
MATTHEW SHIPP LONDON RESIDENCY WITH LEADING BRITISH IMPROVISERS Free jazz pianist Matthew Shipp begins a three-day residency at Cafe Oto, London, on 12 February, playing with leading British musicians including John Edwards (bass), Mark Sanders (drums), John Butcher (saxophone) and John Coxon (guitar). New York-based Shipp is acclaimed as one of the most inventive pianists in his field, often drawing comparisons with Cecil Taylor, and this is a rare opportunity to catch him live in the UK. www.cafeoto.co.uk
photography: Mark Sullo
SUN CITY GIRLS GUITARIST SIR RICHARD BISHOP ON TOUR
SIR RICHARD BISHOP
The maverick guitarist and member of longstanding experimental group Sun City Girls takes to the road this month for an extensive solo tour of the UK and Europe. Bishop’s electric and acoustic guitar work synthesises influences from many traditions, from blues and jazz to North African, Indian and Flamenco music, with a live presence far removed from polite ‘world music’ convention; this tour sees him exploring the outer limits of the electric guitar with tracks from new album on Drag City, The Freak Of Araby. www.sirrichardbishop.net
EARTH CLUI Sound Emitting Device, Owens Lake,
WORKS As environmental issues become more urgent, Cecilia Wee charts how sound can be used by artists to respond to and interact with the environment, from recording rivers to using renewable energy, and looks ahead to this month’s AV Festival, where a number of artists are exploring the local landscape through sound.
The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in December 2009 saw an intensification of awareness about the environmental challenges we face, with many sections of society, including artists and cultural organisations, integrating green politics into everyday discourse. Art that deals with sound and the environment is perhaps uniquely placed in its ability to both reveal to and inform its audience as well as exploring the environment in subtle and discursive ways; indeed, artist and natural sound recordist Chris Watson has remarked on sound’s ability to “strike directly to your heart… sounds strike your imagination”. Remote or sensitive spaces might, therefore, seem the obvious choice for artists who use sound to explore their environment. However, American sound artist Bill Fontana also notes in his essay ‘The Environment as a Natural Resource’ (1990) that meaningful sound patterns are constantly going on around us, even in urban public space. Fontana’s sound sculptures and his conception of environmental music
– music that appreciates the networked simultaneity of an environment’s diverse components – have been hugely influential in inviting people to aesthetically consider sound design within urban public space. River Soundings, Fontana’s forthcoming commission for Sound and Music, is a sound sculpture for the lightwells surrounding the courtyard of Somerset House, London, which will lead the listener on a sonic journey along the Thames. Fontana will also be creating a new sound and video sculpture, Wind Phase, for AV Festival 2010, the biennial festival of electronic arts taking place across the North-East of England this spring. Norwegian artist and sound recordist Jana Winderen has been collaborating with artist Laura Harrington (the Environment Agency’s Artist in Residence 2009), to make a new work for AV’s closing weekend. Winderen investigated the River Coquet on the English/Scottish borders, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a popular spot for salmon and trout fishing. Although the relatively tranquil
photography: Laura Harington
â€˜The fantastic sound of the waves crashing against endless sandy beaches, and a crow eagerly cracking open a shellâ€™
Kaffe Matthews (top) and Jana Winderen recording the River Coquet
CLUI Sound Emitting Device, Northern Maine
Coquet is less overtly dramatic than some of the other spaces in which Winderen has recorded, the artist was drawn to the unique sounds she heard that result from the river’s specific physical attributes: “Together with Chris Watson, I searched and found [the source of the Coquet] by the moss-covered hills near to Coquet Head on the Scottish side of the border. To understand the capability of this particular moss to hold water was amazing – like huge sponges. I recorded this hole, almost like a plug hole, with four hydrophones, then we followed the river down through the hills and through great historic sites like Holystone, several medieval sites, through Coquet Dale and Rothbury, as it grew larger and larger towards its mouth by Amble, where it met the North Sea with the fantastic sound of the waves crashing against the endless sandy beaches, and a crow eagerly cracking open a
shell, using gravity as its tool.” Winderen’s interest in hidden sounds and marine biology has led her to make recordings of inaccessible places such as ice in Greenland, crevasses of Norwegian glaciers and the sounds of a dragon fish in a river in Thailand. Like Fontana, Winderen is fascinated by the existing composition of sounds in environments she encounters, and how the act of listening brings our attention to natural relationships that we might not otherwise notice: “When cod or herring are communicating, what do cod hear when they sense land is close by? This is more about the context of the place than the sound removed from its environment.” A growing number of artists have worked with and been inspired by the planet’s extreme locations, enabled by organisations like Cape Farewell, who have brought scientists and artists including visual artist Sophie Calle, and musicians ranging from Jarvis Cocker to composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jonathan Dove on expeditions to the Arctic since 2003. Sound artist Max Eastley, who has been working in the area of sound and the environment since the 1970s, went to Norwegian Arctic in September 2004. On this 17-day trip, Eastley was able to record the sound of an estimated 40,000-tonne piece of ice falling into the sea, producing “a deep, cavernous, terrifying roar like a great beast.” The proximity and (unintentional) intervention of artists into vulnerable environments clearly raises cause for concern: for instance, the airport at Disko Bay, Greenland, has had to be enlarged to accommodate the increasing numbers of people wanting to experience the melting
Bill Fontana, Wind Turbine at Chelker Reservoir, 2005
glaciers. While field trips can sonically preserve an environment and facilitate transmission to a wider audience, they also affect it in a potentially damaging way. Questioning such literal engagement with endangered environments is part of the continued work of the Centre for Land Use Interpretation, based in California. CLUI assess the interactions of humans with the Earth’s surface through projects involving fences, underground land use and The Sound Emitting Device Program, consisting of an “on-going series of outdoor site installations that alter the landscape by the infusion of a sonic element”. Installed at remote sites across America since 1994, the sounds emanating from these simple solar-powered Sound Emitting Devices are specially created to reflect the history and context of each site: the sound of running water at a drained lake in California, a tree falling in a Maine forest. Each device runs on tape loop, small amplifier and speaker, cased in a waterproof steel container. Once installed they are added to CLUI’s map and only sporadically retrieved when they stop functioning. In this way, the devices are left to become part of the environment they were designed to reflect. CLUI’s approach to the environment reflects America’s large land mass. By contrast, the British interdisciplinary project Positive Soundscapes evaluates sound within the context of built-up, urban environments. Including research and sound art works by Peter Cusack and Angus Carlyle, Positive Soundscapes attempted to shift awareness and policy of ambient sounds from the negatively labelled ‘noise’ towards a practice of planning and appreciating soundscapes in a positive manner. Meanwhile, interdisciplinarity is at the heart of Dubai-based competition Land Art Generator Initiative. The brainchild of American artists Robert Ferry and Elizabeth
Monoian, LAGI invites interdisciplinary teams of artists and engineers to design renewable energy public artworks. Ferry, an architect, imagines that renewable energy aesthetic installations will “incorporate sound intentionally in their design”, going so far as to propose that sound itself could be an energy-generating tool. In addition to overcoming the aesthetic and social challenges of persuading the public to embrace renewable energy technologies, LAGI suggests that sound artists could also have an important role to play in furthering research and development of sound’s relationship to energy creation. As well as potentially designing our ecological futures, art has a crucial role to play in inspiring and stimulating discussion. RSA Arts and Ecology curator Emma Ridgway states the potential of art to “resensitise” us to everyday life, by amplifying particular elements of it. By highlighting the effects of human intervention on the world around us, art embodies our present situation and challenges us to take responsibility for change. The AV Festival takes place between 5 and 14 March at venues and locations in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Rivers, three new works by Lee Patterson, Kaffe Matthews and Jana Winderen, will be performed at The Sage, Gateshead, on the afternoon of 14 March. www.avfestival.co.uk
Listening Post Jana Winderen’s recordings of Utver Light, Norway
Bill Fontana’s sound sculptures, with audio clips
Max Eastley at Cape Farewell
John Fallas celebrates the idiosyncratic work of Kurt Schwertsik, whose 75th birthday is marked this month by a series of concerts at the Royal Northern College of Music, and talks to long-time associate HK Gruber. The history of style in twentieth-century music often looks like a history of simultaneous and successive contradictions. There’s a tendency among both writers on music and composers themselves to define their creative space in terms of ‘difference from X ...’, so that composers of different stylistic hues are presented as working in either conscious antagonism or blithe indifference to one another. Following this model, it would be easy to see the musical language of Kurt Schwertsik, from the eccentric yet defiantly triadic language of his Liebesträume (composed in the early
1960s when he was just 27 years old) to the recent works of his prolific maturity, as a simple reaction against his former teacher Karlheinz Stockhausen. But underneath music history’s polemical or pigeonholing impulses lie always the unexpected affiliations and secret connections, to tease out which is often more rewarding than to accept the model of unyielding oppositions or parallel, untouching worlds. Here, too, is a story of both succession and simultaneity: of the multiple and sometimes contradictory pulls underlying any given aesthetic choice but also of the different
hotography: Karl Kleemayr
lights in which such choices may be viewed once one perceives the historical path which led to them. History allows us to see how a composer became who he is, but in Schwertsik’s case history also nearly hid him from our view entirely. And yet it is by a twist of history that we have arrived in the different aesthetic climate which prompts the Royal Northern College of Music to mark Schwertsik’s seventy-fifth birthday this year with a two-day festival at the end of February. The leading player in this particular history was David Drew, publishing director at Boosey & Hawkes from 1975 to 1992. Drew was responsible for the expansion of Boosey’s composer list to include both Schwertsik and his friend and compatriot HK Gruber, as well as younger British composers such as Robin Holloway and Jonathan Lloyd. All four were renegades who had broken with the modernist mainstream of the previous two decades in favour of various forms of reconciliation with tonality and – in the case of Schwertsik, Gruber and Lloyd – popular music. It’s no accident that among the older composers on Boosey’s list were Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, as well as that other extraordinary American reinven-
tor of tonality David del Tredici. Indeed, the story as Gruber told it when I telephoned to ask him about this time and about his relationship with Schwertsik before and since was of Drew as a saving angel, rescuing them from a neglectful Central European scene and setting Gruber on a path which would lead through a series of Anglo-American alignments. These would include the premiere of his landmark Frankenstein!! in Liverpool in the late 1970s, with Gruber himself as actorsinger in the cabaret-like soloist’s role; an invitation by Bernstein to Tanglewood in 1980; and his contract with a London agent for his performing activities from the mid-1990s on, going right up to his recent appointment to succeed James MacMillan and Peter Maxwell Davies as associate Composer-Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester. But from Drew’s perspective the Central European pedigree of his new protégés was highly relevant – albeit not
A stran politics wordpl fantasy reality, throug Schwe work to presen
that pedigree conferred by the post-war avant-garde. In the background were two German composers of the first half of the century: Kurt Weill, whose reputation as a serious composer had been restored almost singlehandedly by Drew in his earlier (and parallel) career as a musicologist and repertoire adviser, and Hanns Eisler, a Schoenberg pupil who had found his way back from serialism to a style in which a re-emergent tonality met left-wing politics and an openness to popular idioms. All of this fed into the nascent musical identities of Schwertsik and Gruber, and linked in to a strand of politics and wordplay, fantasy and reality, that runs through Schwertsik’s work to the present day, from the verbal-theatrical landscapes of his opera and ballet works (in several of whose narratives Central Europe meets America, as it did in real life in the careers of both Weill and Eisler) to the wistful nostalgia of the fragmentary tonal phrases in a recent ensemble piece such as The Longest 10 Minutes (composed for the Liverpool-
nd of s and lay, y and , runs gh ertsik’s o the nt day
based Ensemble 10/10 and performed by RNCM students on v23 February). Gruber conducts an orchestral concert devoted to Schwertsik’s music in Manchester, continuing a career-long association which began back in Austria in the 1960s when the two were fellow instrumentalists (Schwertsik on French horn, Gruber on double bass) in the Tonkünstler Orchestra. Both men were also leading members of the ensemble die reihe, which Schwertsik had founded with Friedrich Cerha in 1958. With the latter ensemble Schwertsik was responsible for introducing much American contemporary music to Austria – Feldman, Sessions, Cage (Schwertsik conducted the Austrian premiere of Cage’s Piano Concerto with David Tudor) – and it was through the influence of Cage that he first began to move away from that of Darmstadt and Stockhausen. Cage led him back to a rediscovery of Satie, and it may have been as a result of this that he began to experiment with tonality in the early 1960s. But there were other, quite different stylistic currents too, to whose flow his music was opened once liberated from what he had come to perceive as the restrictive orthodoxies of the European avant-garde. Gruber
Gruber remembers Schwertsik as one of the first classical musicians to recognise the importance of the Beatles
remembers Schwertsik as one of the first classical musicians to recognise the importance of the Beatles, something else he had in common with Bernstein. By the time Schwertsik returned to Austria in 1965 from a teaching stint at the University of California at Riverside, these various influences and stylistic currents – the popular tonality of the Beatles, the politically oriented tonality of Weill and Eisler, the experimental tonality of Satie or of Stockhausen’s English pupil Cornelius Cardew, which whom Schwertsik was also friendly – had come together in Schwertsik’s concept of ‘MOB art and tone ART’, the name of the ensemble he co-founded with Gruber and Otto M Zykan in 1966. Situated as it is between these different but not incompatible versions of
tonality rediscovered or modernism sidestepped, Schwertsik’s output since that time has been widely various, in both genre and effect. If the tonal and stylistically referential elements of The Longest 10 Minutes seem nostalgic and wistful, that is certainly not the only or even the predominant expressive effect of such materials in his work. The orchestral cycle Irdische Klänge, positioned as the climax of this month’s festival, ranges widely in an extended plea for environmental awareness that passes through stylistic points of reference as diverse as Messiaen and (possibly unintended) John Adams, as well as that other great Viennese eclectic Gustav Mahler. In the same concert you can hear the amazingly varied and inventive textures (as well as the deeply impressive virtuoso
Photography: Jon Super
solo part!) of the trumpet concerto Divertimento Macchiato. If you’re tempted to explore further after the festival, try also to hear the comparatively modest marimba concerto Now you hear me, now you don’t, in which the solo instrument weaves in and out of the accompanying small string group in music whose uncluttered freshness doesn’t preclude a certain enigmatic quality. Now that history has made Schwertsik visible, his work can repay the favour by standing as an exemplar of how history is never single; of how several roads lead to any one destination; of how nothing is necessary but everything is possible, if only you sing well and an angel is listening somewhere. The success of Schwertsik didn’t need to preclude that of Stockhausen – and
in any case, while Schwertsik was busy finding his own voice, Stockhausen’s voice changed too, so that the gulf between a Schwertsikian musical language and that of Stockhausen’s late Tierkreis orchestrations, for instance, may turn out not to be so wide after all. Parallel stylistic worlds co-exist and sometimes pass almost within touching distance. Schwertsik’s success comes not as a vanquishing of the stylistic opposition – this quirky, eclectic, quietly compelling music isn’t the type to shout others down – but as a sympathetic vibration in the universe, audible at last. Couldn’t you hear me? Now you can!
Listening post overleaf
Vienna: Lost and Found – The Music of Kurt Schwertsik, in association with BBC Philharmonic, will take place at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 February. www.rncm.ac.uk
On 13 February, HK Gruber will conduct the world premiere of Like A Tragicomedy by Friedrich Cerha as part of the BBC Philharmonic’s Mahler festival. 27 February sees Gruber’s full debut in his new role as Composer/ Conductor conducting Håkan Hardenberger in the UK premiere of Busking. Check the BBC Philharmonic website www.bbc.co.uk for details of both concerts at Bridgewater Hall.
Listening Post Schrumpf-Symphonie (1999)
Now you hear me, now you don’t (2009)
How does the Internet influence your music habits? Netaudio London has compiled a short online questionnaire aimed at musicians as well as audiences of new music. As a reward for completing the questionnaire by the deadline of 24 February, we have a number of prizes to give away.
Hear & Now
Saturday nights at 10.30pm on BBC Radio 3
6 February: BBC NOW
Ed McKeon introduces a concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Jac van Steen. On the bill: David Sawer’s deft exercise in orchestral camouflage, Byrnan Wood, Arlene Sierra’s prize-winning orchestral showpiece Aquilo, Huw Watkins’ Piano Concerto - with the composer as soloist, and, following last December’s Christian Jost feature, another major work by him to close: Cocoonsymphonie.
13 February: George Benjamin at Fifty Piano Figures; Viola Viola; At First Light; A Mind of Winter; Palilmpsests performed by London Sinfonietta, George Benjamin (conductor/piano), Claire Booth (soprano) Paul Silverthorne (viola), Eniko Magyar (viola), Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble.
20 February: Borealis Festival in London
A slice of Bergen’s new music festival, featuring Gerhard Stäbler: Von Branntwein und Finsternissen; Internet 1.1; Internet 1.5; Kunsu Shim: 33 things; Bryn Harrison: Quietly Rising performed by Mark Knoop (piano); Baltazar&Habbestad: New Work For Flute & Live Electronics; Jennifer Walshe: This is why people O.D. on pills performed by Rolf Borch (clarinet) and a performance by MoHa!
27 February: Kings Place Out Hear concerts - Graham Fitkin Band
A virtuoso line-up exploring the pulse, energy and minimalism of Graham Fitkin’s music performed by percussionists Joby Burgess & Aidy Spillett, Simon Haram & Nick Moss (saxophones), Noel Langley (trumpet), Alan Thomas (guitar), Ruth Wall (Harp) and John Lunn (bass).
The magazine of
STILL FROM HIT PARADE (MONTREAL 2008) BY CHRISTOF MIGONE
ongoing investigations The second Kill Your Timid Notion festival takes place at Dundee Contemporary Arts this month, with a whole week of activity building up to a final weekend of performances by Jarrod Fowler, Taku Unami,Christof Migone, Mattin and others – all of which will be shaped by the week’s discussions, workshops and explorations. This year, Sound and Music will be managing the artist investigations programme, with artist-led workshops, sound investigations and community projects. Barry Esson of Arika explains why process and participation are central to KYTN, and how the spirit of inquiry powers the festival
What are the main themes and concerns of this year’s festival? “Objects – films, performances, musicians – do not incarnate art, they are examples of possible outcomes from an artistic process; so I think we should be focused on the process of art, not simply the objects or outcomes. Everything at the festival will be a simple proposal to be tested, either by the artist, participants in investigations, the audience, or some mix of the three. “Our engagement with sound – music, sound art, our environment – should be re-informed. It’s currently too dependent on a phenomenology which insists on the mysticism of the ‘soundin-itself’ and an hierarchical respect for the refined artist of taste and craft-based skill, an auto-authoritative structure that places the artist’s ‘aura’ transcendentally above both immanent reality and those of less refined taste, creating a self-centred tautological sound art of Greenbergian medium-specificity, one which abdicates the artist from a responsibility to think about their social, ethical, political or geographic context. If we want to re-inform our engagement with sound, we could start by stripping back the systems of music and listening to their core, radical concepts and building those systems up again from scratch. “Deep concerns about the nature of our engagement with art need not be exclusive, elitist or off-putting. Our programme is open, friendly and aimed at the reinvigoration of sound, music and film’s connection to the everyday.
Sound, music, art, film are too individualistic: they each establish conditions that reflect the status quo and produce artists who see themselves as having an individual practice that they refine while turning themselves into objects. This could do with a kick up the arse. Art for art’s sake is useless, just as theory for theory’s sake is. But informed action, where we undertake action for a specific progressive goal, is useful.” What do you think practitioners will get from being involved in the festival in this way, rather than just performing for an audience? “I’d like to answer your question by refuting it: I don’t think we should see any distinction between artists and audiences, between practitioners and participants. It’s hierarchical and outdated. It places artists above us, gives them special status and encourages very old-fashioned ideas of individual creativity, an artist’s aura and refined taste. We want to encourage a move towards sharing of ideas, and two-way learning via making and doing. Yes, our artists are suggesting some proposals or ideas for testing, but we hope that those ideas will be transformed by the testing and that over time we will remove the need for already established artists to be solely making these propositions.” Would it be accurate to say that “process” is itself a theme, and that it will be explored on a number of levels, practical and conceptual?
Still from the film: Standard Guage (1984) by Morgan Fisher
“Yes. We’re interested in asking people to make axiomatic statements, at the minimum of what they could do. To think about what is the minimal gesture they can make and still call what they do artistic, and to make that minimal gesture in a way or about a topic that needs to be considered in its extended context: political, ethical, social.” Were there any other festivals or events that inspired you to take that approach? “We are interested in and inspired by Latin American popular education and philosophy of immanence. I’m not really sure that we look at any other existing events for inspiration. We’re more con-
cerned by trying to be useful and to think about what a meaningful action on our part might be.” What’s Ultra-red’s involvement in this year’s KYTN going to consist of? “Ultra-red propose a radical reimagining of our engagement with sound. Instead of music being organised sounds, they propose an idea of organised listening: a way of mixing up the tools of community organising and activism with sound and listening, and artistic tools. In Dundee we’re spending a lot of time with Ultrared, thinking about the tools they have developed and how we could offer them to communities in Dundee, on a two-
way basis, so that we all learn from the experience. Specifically, we’re interested in how Ultra-red’s tool of collective, organised listening allows for community organising and sound art/music to crossfertilize each other. Ultra-red will run a series of invited investigations with local communities – of community groups, women’s groups, arts education projects, arts collectives – that explore this boundary and how it could prove a focal point or tool for people in Dundee coming and working together.” How do you encourage involvement from people who might not have participated in something like this before, especially given the challenging nature of the art and ideas? What links need to be made within the community for this to happen? “We have spent lots of time presenting what we’re doing to people, spending time with them to find out what they are doing, thinking about how we could do something together, building relationships and waiting for those communities to invite us to work with them. We are not interested in some kind of artistic intellectual patronage; we are interested in the fact that communities have welldeveloped analyses of their situation locally and nationally or globally, and a healthy criticality of artistic practice. We are interested in being able to suggest useful processes or tools from artistic practice to communities on their terms and to ends defined by them.”
Bearing in mind the changing meaning of “community” in the digital age, do you think that a festival such as KYTN has an important role in bringing together an actual, physical group of people in real time, to create work together? “We think it is important to slow down, take time, spend it with each other and create spaces outwith of our everyday lives where we can reflect on our situation and what we might do to improve it. This need not happen face to face, but it helps.” Mattin will close the festival with a work that’s been generated by, or uses materials from, workshops and discussions, is that correct? If so, do you feel that such a performance will in some way epitomise what the festival is about? “I don’t know what will happen – I don’t want to know, I want to find out. I think Mattin, Emma [Hedditch], Howard [Slater] and Anthony [Iles] are suggesting a useful investigation of how to provoke each other and people who want to take part in a collective artistic investigation, rather than an individualistic set, and dialogue. It remains to be seen what is produced, but that is the point. I think the ideas and propositions of the festival are just a start, really, and that we will aim to refine them and work more collaboratively in the future.” How do you think the relationships formed in the course of the week might be sustained and developed?
“It is meaningless to run experimental music or film festivals in a standard way: to invite people to come and do what they always do; to simply present objects for passive contemplation; to create only an intense burst of activity without accepting the responsibility or accountability of engaging over a longer duration. So we are committed to using KYTN as a testing ground for ways of working and areas and subjects of investigation. We don’t know what the outcomes of those investigations will be, or whether they require us to do other things on our own, with others, to be part of much bigger things or to invite others to be part of what we do – or all of the above. But we are committed to finding out what interests and concerns communities of artists, activists, thinkers, doers, community groups and projects have, and then doing what we can to be a productive part of the investigation of those concerns over time.” Kill Your Timid Notion takes place between Sunday 21 and Sunday 28 February at Dundee Contemporary Arts www.arika.org.uk
Listening Post Assorted videos from KYTN 2008 Ultra Red’s Audio Archives
Sound and Music and Arika have been working together since 2008 to develop major learning and participation interpretation programmes around Arika’s INSTAL and Kill Your Timid Notion festivals. The workshops, investigations and projects at this year’s KYTN have been designed for audiences to question an artist’s creative process and outcomes and also their own understanding of what sound, music and art can be.
Filmmaker Emily Wardill discusses her influences Mattin & Taku Unami: Distributing Vulnerability to The Affective Classes, Live in Paris 2009 (Wire exclusive) Christof Migone MP3s
H W T ...
Extend percussion with electronics by Joby Burgess How To is our section dedicated to sharing specific knowledge and skills. From how to write for clarinet, to how to hack electronic devices, to how to find funding, we try to help you go further.
As a percussionist, I get to play, learn, make and find hundreds of instruments, discovering new combinations to use them in and new things to make them sound. But well before I ever picked up a pair of sticks, I also had a keen interest in recording music, playing with computers and hanging out in studios. As I began to extend my on stage percussion set-up with electronics, I founded the multimedia group Powerplant in 2005 to explore percussion-led music with a strong electronic sound. This has led to extensive research into developing a reliable and tour-able electronic percussion set-up, alongside a range of collaborations, commissions, remixes and recording projects. This article will give some starting points for further investigation into percussion and electronics, within the context of my own work.
Signal processing The simplest way to alter your sound with an electronic device is to amplify it, and then use a stomp box, a small effect pedal that many electric guitarists employ to process their sound – think U2’s Edge. This can be can be done fairly cheaply, and by stringing a few boxes together – delay, flanger, chorus, pitch-shifter – you can quickly transform your acoustic instrument into something altogether different. Although the quality is not amazing, I like using stomp boxes because you can quickly get a good feel for combining different effects, while discovering which parameters each effect works within. These days I tend to use plug-ins from the laptop to process my sound, because I can pre-programme every effect and it’s less to carry! When working live I often travel with my own sound designer; in Powerplant this is Matthew Fairclough, a composer and sound engineer with whom I have worked with for nearly 10 years. Matthew processes my instruments for each specific venue, while also balancing the front of house sound; his presence means the level of complexity and precision achieved with the electronics is far greater.
MIDI instruments In 2001 I was involved in some concerts with drummer Stewart Copeland
(importantly, one of the loudest drummers on earth), which required fast moving ostinati to be played in the lowest register of a five octave marimba. With a large rubber stick you get this great contact ‘slap’ sound, but even amplified the instrument was lost in the mix. Our solution was to use a MIDI mallet instrument with a good marimba sample, which could compete with the rest of the ensemble. The xylosynth is a relatively simple but extremely reliable midi mallet instrument with wooden keys similar to those of a xylophone, but laid out flat identical to a vibraphone.
Designed and built in England by Wernick Musical Instruments, the xylosynth sends MIDI information and allows simple operations such as sustain, transpose and sensitivity to be handled with ease. However, as with most MIDI instruments you need to ‘learn’ the instrument, and this will mean adapting the way you might usually play. In general I have to use smaller physical gestures on the synth than I would play-
ing a regular vibes or marimba in order to achieve a full dynamic range. Once you’ve found and learnt the point where you are triggering sounds at the maximum velocity (127 on the scale of 0-127), you should start to feel comfortable.
Soft samplers In order to make a sound my xylosynth needs to trigger either a sound module or, more creatively, a sampler, and I use a soft (software) sampler, running on a laptop to do this. The EXS24 in Logic Pro is really easy to use, and I either receive samples to upload from composers, or make my own by cutting up old recordings or searching out interesting sound effects. I also use soft synths in some of my work, usually Sculpture (also Logic Pro) – this is a very powerful tool, which lets you sculpt wave forms in many interesting ways.
which I select with foot pedals while I play. Graham Fitkin’s Chain of Command uses the voices of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld as the only sound sources, and during a performance I’ll step through eight different sets of carefully edited and processed samples.
It’s worth making sure you have plenty of RAM in your laptop (my MacBook Pro has 4GB), closing all non-associated programmes, including Airport (tweet before the gig) and if your programmes have a ‘Live’ mode, use it. This should help your laptop focus its full processing power on your music, and reduce the risk of crashes, which will leave you on stage alone and wishing there was no audience!
Counterpoint and looping
For performing I create one song containing all the various samplers, synths and vocoders I’ll need for a gig,
As a soloist I often use either a sequencer or more often a looper – see www.loopers-delight.com – to perform multilayered music, effectively playing live on top of myself. The sequencer comes
in really useful for performing Steve Reich, because you can carefully craft and produce layers of yourself in the studio before adding a solo part. It can be a time-consuming business, recording and mixing dozens of interlocking parts, but the result is worth it and you’ll have a fantastic piece with many layers of ‘your’ playing in it. Unless your using a software looper such as Ableton, one built in Max/MSP or a more sophisticated hardware device, you can get stuck quite quickly both rhythmically and harmonically when looping. However, live looping is incredibly powerful and I use a Boss RC-50 to perform compositions with ‘classical’ structures, developing melodic material and starting/stopping different rhythmical phrases independently of one another. I use this looper throughout Gabriel Prokofiev’s Import/Export, and because it has several outputs, we were able to process the live instrument and the three loops independently, further enhancing the raw sounds of the metal, plastic, glass and wooden junk objects.
Joby Burgess will lead a workshop exploring extended percussion and electronics at RNCM’s Day Of Percussion on 7 February. One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby is the leader of the multimedia trio Powerplant and co-artistic director of the chamber groups New Noise and Ensemble Bash. Joby will be performing Martin Parker’s Songs For An Airless Room at various cinema venues around the UK between 19 and 22 February, with vocalist Phil Minton. www.jobyburgess.com www.myspace.com/jobyburgess www.airless.tinpark.com www.rncm.ac.uk for dates and details.
16/01/2010 Caging the tiger Music, like all performed arts, relies on an unspoken contract between performer and audience that pretends everything is happening spontaneously. In the theatre we have to be persuaded that dialogue is the characters’ immediate response to the on-stage events, even though we know that the words were written down by a playwright, committed to memory by the actors during rehearsals and spoken more or less the same way every evening. Nonetheless as an audience we are complicit participants in the myth; the actors do not deny that they rehearse and we in the audience do not claim to be there by accident. The theatre of a musical concert is also charged with suggestions of the spontaneous: the pianist who sits alone at a piano and starts to play, apparently prompted only by a sudden thought, or – even more magically – the conductor who looks up and with a wave of his arms conjures music into being.
From the blogs
FROM THE BLOGS To read more blogs, visit the Sound and Music blog. Classical musicians walk a tightrope. Audiences and critics alike are unhappy if performers play wrong notes, but also castigate them if their interpretation is too predictable. But where baroque continuo and classical concertos require improvisation, modern composers have become ever more precise – even tyrannical – about everything in their scores. Some composers, though, manage to compose a spontaneity into the music. Andriessen and Schönberger wrote of Stravinsky that “even though the musical thought is fixed and every performance will sound more or less the same, the thought itself can nonetheless give the impression of being improvised – as if arising out of the playing itself.”
What is it that gives this quality to the music? There are some delightful answers – and games with those answers – in Piers Hellawell’s Cors de Chasse, a double-concerto for trumpet, trombone and orchestra from 2004. Improvisation (or quasi-improvisation) is unpredictable, asymmetric, quixotic, rich in diversions and dead-ends, liberal, pragmatic, imaginative and unsystematic. Hellawell’s piece has all these attributes and more. There are nods to bebop jazz, specifically in jagged, lightning-fast figuration, piercing rips and flickering licks, and ornamentation of slower melodic lines. The music often feels like it doesn’t know where it’s going, but is enjoying the ride; the wealth of invention carries the music forward. Hellawell’s twist is to have two instruments share the improvisation. The tension in the myth of spontaneity is stretched by having two instruments improvise together in duet. The soloists’ first entry is a hectic hocket; at other times they pass a single melodic line, alternating freely. At other times there is a Stravinskian “heterophony gone wrong” – the lines shadowing each other, diverging occasionally.
From the blogs
But the most exhilarating moments are when the trumpet and trombone double each other exactly, matching each other phrase for phrase, flourish for flourish, like synchronised tightrope-walkers throwing handstands in perfect co-ordination – worth at least 6.0 in style marks from the Russian judge. Improvisation is provisional, notating music is definitive. The two are apparently incompatible. Locking the precious freedom of an improvisation into notes in black-and-white feels wrong, like caging a tiger in a zoo. But when it works it is magical, giving you that ‘just-picked’ freshness, out of a tin. It is so difficult to do: sitting down, carefully working out music to sound carefree but not careless, painstakingly crafted to sound anything but. Schubert could do it. Mendelssohn could do it. Stravinsky specialised in it. And in Cors de Chasse, Piers Hellawell gives voice to an improvisation at once glorious and gleaming, restless and resplendent, ingenious but nonchalant, impossible but irresistible. The Earwig
From the blogs
Talking and not talking: is classical music marginalised in the cultural conversation?
Something I’m trying out as a pilot scheme is a series of professional development workshops. The sort of things I’m looking at covering are practical skills and techniques: using software, hardware etc; more general professional advice such as promotion, fundraising and management of finance; and also looking at the work of specific artists. I’m starting off with an introduction to Sibelius notation software – for full details see the opportunity in the network. If you’re interested in this course, or have any ideas for things you might be interested in learning – please get in touch: richard.thomas@soundandmusic. org Richard Thomas
This was written as a ‘guest polemic’ – hence the assertive tone – in London Harmony, the magazine of the London branch of Making Music, which is a charity representing and supporting over 2,800 voluntary and amateur music groups throughout the UK, including choirs, orchestras, music promoters, festivals and much more. I am not going to waste any space arguing that classical music is sidelined in the mainstream media. It is too obviously true, and no the less true for being over-familiar. Rather, I want to make a more specific complaint about the way music is talked about (or not talked about) in the ‘cultural conversation’ in the media. I feel that music alone of mainstream art forms has, as result of some neglect, come to be seen as ‘out of bounds’ for non-musicians. Culturally literate people who will confidently assert an opinion on a new novel or art exhibition feel unable to say anything intelligent about music. But this nervousness sends the message
that music is beyond the realm of the general audience. I don’t want to get sidetracked into an argument about musical education which leaves intelligent nonmusicians apparently unequipped to talk about music. That is not the point. Well-educated and informed people I know would, with no training, in art appreciation feel able to express an opinion about a gallery exhibition but find music, for some reason, more forbidding. The other side of this coin is the notable absence of musicians or music critics reviewing other art forms. This can be seen in the profile of guest reviewers on Radio 4’s Saturday Review. Between 12 September and 21 November 2009 the programme reviewed 43 items, including 10 books, 8 plays, 7 films, 6 gallery exhibitions and two operas. Of the 27 guest critics, 16 were writers: five historians, five novelists and six ‘others’. Of the 11 non-writer critics just one was a musician, Pat Kane, formerly of 1980s pop combo Hue and Cry. Are there really so many more eloquent, perceptive novelists than musicians or music critics? Really? Although some guests are clearly there for their specialism (comedian Danny Robins reported on Comedians) for the most part the point is that reviewers are non-
From blogs From thethe blogs
specialists. So I am not complaining about opera being discussed by novelists and journalists – but I would also like to hear musicians talking about novels and plays. Their absence reinforces the idea of music as esoteric, ‘difficult’, beyond the ordinary Radio 4 listener. Are there people who could fill this role? Yes, lots. Perhaps they are exdirectory. Here are some suggestions: how about music critic Ivan Hewett, composer and presenter Howard Goodall, conductor Mark Elder, critic Edward Seckerson, Times critic Richard Morrison or Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian? I am not someone who despairs about the future of classical music. Concert audiences have increased in the last 15 years. Yes, classical audiences are older, but that is perhaps because classical music is a mature art for mature people. I’m OK with that. But I am disturbed by the marginalisation of serious music as a part of the cultural mix; disturbed that non-music critics feel unable to offer a opinion about music; and disturbed by the implication that those who know about classical music don’t know about anything else. These attitudes are insidious and damaging to the status of classical music in British cultural life. The Earwig
Opportunitie Call for scores
Deadline: 30 June 2010
3rd European competition for live-electronic music projects Deadline: Mon, 01/03/2010
For my next song recital project in 2011, I am looking for groups of songs (duration up to 20 minutes) written after the year 2000 with texts in English, preferably from living poets, for any combination of high voice/tenor, piano and double bass. Music as PDF-file may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or as hard-copy to: Gregory Wiest, Tuerkenstsr. 45, 80799 Munich, Germany. International submissions cannot be returned. No fees.
West-Midland based composer and sound artist seeks collaboration Deadline: 19 March 2010
If you are interested in collaborating with a sound/glitch artist then please get in touch. I am interested in many aspects of digital media, including: audio visual media, bioacoustics, interactivity, composition, sound design and general music. You can contact me or gain more info about me through the following: www.myspace.com/natasharoberts000 email@example.com
The ECPNM - European Conference of Promoters of New Music - hosts the third European competition for the composition and interpretation of live-electronic music projects. Entries are possible into 2 categories: works involving violin or electric violin (5 strings: C-G-D-A-E) or viola and live-electronics, and works for live-electronics only or with any traditional instrument and live-electronics, in which composer and performer are the same person. www.ecpnm.com
SAM Workshop: Introduction to Sibelius computer notation software Deadline: 16 February 2010 Sound and Music will be piloting some workshops at Somerset House, in order to share experience, knowledge and techniques. Our first is an introduction to notation using Sibelius computer-based notation software covering the following: Features and functions overview Setting up score templates Note inputting methods: keyboard, step-time, flexi-time Keypad menu The create menu: system objects Advanced inputting: experimental notation Parts/dynamic parts Playback/Sibelius as a MIDI sequencer Sibelius Plugins Using Sibelius in conjunction with other programs/video The course tutor is Neil Luck, who lectures on Sibelius notation at the University of Hertfordshire and both editing and typesetting work for Faber music. Venue: Sound and Music, Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA. Map Date: Tuesday 16th February, 2-6pm Cost: ÂŁ25 per person Attendees will be required to bring a laptop computer with a copy of Sibelius 4 or above (student or trial versions can be used). A trial version of Sibelius 6 may be downloaded here (Windows XP SP2 or Mac OS 10.4.11 or above required) Please contact Richard Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020877591800 to register, or for further information. If you are interested in the course but there is a problem with times/dates/ equipment please get in touch â€“ it may be possible to accommodate you at a later date.
Borealis call for scores Deadline: 5 February 2010
Project ‘COLLABORATION for composers’ of the Borealis Festival in March 2010, Bergen, Norway. All works submitted will be rearranged in a certain form (the original will be not touched!) as one collaboration´s work and will be performed by the ensemble Apartment House, London during the Borealis Festival in Bergen. You can send any number of solo compositions for the following instruments: voice (soprano), trumpet, bass-clarinet (B-flat), piano/keyboard, violin, viola, cello, double-bass and percussion (percussion: if possible, please choose a small set of instruments and do not fix the instruments). All compositions or fragments of compostions should be not longer than one minute. You may write new pieces or may choose any extracts or parts of already existing works; for example, it can be just one minute from the cello part of a string quartet. All compositions or fragments could be notated in traditional way, as a graphic score, verbal, conceptual or with performance elements etc. Compositions without fixed instruments are also welcome. Address: Kunsu Shim, Philosophenweg 17a, 47051 Duisburg, Germany email: email@example.com
Call for works: GLEAM (University of Glasgow Music Department) Deadline: 5 February 2010 The University of Glasgow Music Department is pleased to announce a call for works for the first GLEAM electroacoustic music event to take place on Saturday 20th March 2010. On this occasion we would like to invite submission of fixed medium and live, interactive works that incorporate the human voice. Please submit works by post to: GLEAM, University of Glasgow Music Department, 14 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QQ. Please include details of your technical requirements, a brief programme note and your contact details. For more information and inquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project 50 - vocal workshop Deadline: 6 February 2010
Screen Deva – opportunities for artists Deadline: 11 February 2010 Building on the success of the previous two years, Screen Deva 2010 will be a festival of film screenings, digital media events, interactive artworks and participatory activity taking from Friday 28 May to Sunday 6 June 2010. The festival offers a range of opportunities for artists, filmmakers, community groups, individuals and schools to get involved. Chester Performs is seeking submissions of work by artists across a range of digital practices for a number of opportunities as part of Screen Deva. A submission form and further details can be found online at www.chesterperforms.com. Alternatively call 01244 409113 or email info@chesterperforms. com. Screen Deva is produced by Chester Performs, a leading producer and promoter of diverse arts events in and around Chester. www.chesterperforms.com
Electric Voice Theatre (EVT) is pleased to announce the arrival of Project 50, a vocal workshop taking place on 6 February 2010 at The Old Crown, Highgate. The session will be led by EVT’s artistic director, Frances M Lynch and composer, Paul Burnell, both of whom will guide participants through a process of vocal exploration while using microphone technique, exploring the use and manipulation of sound, and working on sections of Burnell’s new 50 module piece, Clouden. At the end of the day, participants will be premiering this work to the public. This is a fantastic opportunity to be coached by established professionals and to be among the first to perform an incredible new work, and will enable students to explore and challenge the parameters of their voices. Project 50 is suitable both for both amateur and professional singers, and for those wanting to move beyond standard repertoire and to do something a bit different... For further information and details about the piece itself, please go to www.project50online.co.uk or email email@example.com