Miscriant reviews: Led Bib at Sounds New 2014

May 13, 2014

The omni-present cultural blogger, Miscriant, has been wielding a sharpened pencil again, and reviews Led Bib’s recent gig as part of this year’s Sounds New festival.

Read it online here.


Review: Cuckooland Revisited at Sounds New 2014

May 13, 2014

Spotted on Like A Hammer in the Sink, a review of last week’s Cuckooland: Revisited performance at the Colyer-Fergusson Hall as part of this year’s Sounds New Festival. Some dynamic sketches of the performers too…

Image: Like A Hammer in the Sink

Read it here.


Music under clear skies: Songs, Chimes and Dances: chamber music of Rob Keeley

May 12, 2014

The sun-drenched opening clarion call of ‘Music for Art and Tom’ sets the scene for the whole of Songs, Chimes and Dances, a survey of chamber music written between 1994 and 2007 by British composer Rob Keeley.

The opening piece displays Keeley’s trademark lyrical melodic writing in the saxophone’s woven lines, punctuated by prismatic chordal textures in the piano. Moving in step, the two instruments chime together in the second, more sedate section, with some beautifully struck sonorities in the accompaniment. There’s a charm to the music – but this isn’t to damn it; instead it’s a robust charm, one that is assured, supported by a good bone-structure – less simplistic than it is solid in its evolving form and musical language, a characteristic that runs throughout Keeley’s music.

Song_Chimes_DancesThere’s a questing sense to the opening widely-spaced sonority of the second piece on this disc, ‘Bells of Halkis,’ a question posed that the rest of the piece endeavours to answer in the ensuing, gradually unfurling lines. In contrast, the following ‘Little Trio’ moves with a bustling character in its combination of clarinet, cello and piano.

The two-movement ‘Two Ways of Looking At A Spider’ is reminiscent of that other, great work for classical guitar, Tippett’s Blue Guitar. Filigree textures contrast with vibrant struck chords and plucked harmonics in the opening ‘A Spider Dances,’ followed by the contrasting, evocative nocturne, ‘The Spider Laments at Night’. The piece is here exquisitely performed by guitarist Jonathan Learwood.

The opening of the Andante of the ‘Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano’ employs a falling gesture enriched with the timbre of the French horn, a languorous figure which slowly draws out its colours as it repeats. A dancing scherzo pitches the piano against deftly-stepping violin and horn duo; the final movement (subtitled ‘Piccola Scena Amorosa’) explores a darker hue, drawing on the rich ochre colour of the French horn at the heart of the ensemble.

The suite which gives the disc its name is a series of six studies; lithe, agile, lyrical, Puckish, including the warm hues of no.V, or the minimalist-style exploration of a fixed set of pitches gradually evolving in no. VI. This is music under a clear sky, open, lyrical and inventive, effortlessly played by oboist Melinda Maxwell

Rob_KeeleyThe last suite, ‘Oregon Moods,’ for clarinet, alto saxophone and piano opens with a beautiful series of chords, a gestures which, in typical fashion, repeats and evolves as it explores its own potential. There’s an hommage to the quixotic Erik Satie in the lyrical yet sad third movement, ‘Gallic.’

I first heard Keeley’s music in the lithe On The Tiles (2003) for violin and piano, the brisk, energetic Concerto for Piano and Twelve Instruments (2007) and the lissom Six Inventions for Flute and Clarinet written in 2011. What struck me immediately was the vigour, the energy combined with an assured ear for textural detail and a radiant harmonic language, which this music imparted. The music on the current disc is from an earlier period, and whilst the later chamber works display a tonal language that becomes less openly Mediterranean, perhaps, in its tonal palette, Keeley’s harmonic language remains clear, full of colour; at once immediately accessible yet rich in its tonal colours. There’s a Ravelian quality to the piano writing, with occasional reminiscences of George Benjamin; there’s mischief too, alongside the sonorous landscape evoked by pieces such as Bells of Halkis. Keeley’s formal organisation seems to rely less on traditional methods than on evolving patterns, hinted ostinati that evolve, or question-and-answer exchanges between instruments, musical lines engaged in dialogue, and through-composed, singing melodies possessed of a resourceful inventiveness. Keeley writes great endings to his pieces, too; either darting, scurrying lines that conclude abruptly, inconclusively, or sonorities that are left deliberately poised, waiting to pursue harmonic avenues left unexplored; as a listener, you are left wanting more.

This disc is released on the NMC label, which in 2013 celebrated its twenty-fifth year, an age belied by the youthful vigour of its catalogue; the survey on this album shines a light through the stained-glass hues of some of Keeley’s chamber music.


Clouds from Cuckooland: film by Janek Schaefer of the festival installation

May 8, 2014

Artist Janek Schaefer’s film of his Clouds from Cuckooland installation at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, for this year’s Sounds New Festival.

Clouds from Cuckooland from Janek Schaefer on Vimeo.


Sounding the City: a psychogeographical sonic tour of Canterbury

May 1, 2014

Created for the Sounds New Festival 2014, Sonogeography: Canterbury is an audio interpretation and realisation of the map of the city; psychogeography meets sonic composition. The layout of the city is fascinating – the overspilling of the place over its own boundary walls, the broken ring of the roads surrounding it, the plethora of ancient buildings and the peaceful river split and flowing through its centre. Created from field recordings taken while walking the perimeter roads and influenced by the musical creation being explored by this our festival this year, this piece is an evolving ambient work referencing music, history, topography and human relationships.

Ben Horner is a sound artist, electronic composer, live performer and lecturer in audio technology and composition. Interested in sound for space and the psychoacoustic properties inherent in audio composition, Ben works extensively with field recordings and interview material to create pieces based on cultural and geographic reference points. These raw materials are often treated and manipulated to convey an atmosphere and a sense of ‘the where’, socially, historically and spatially. His work can also be found installed as part of the Piano in the Woods project at the Sidney Cooper Gallery from Friday 2nd May.

Find out more about Audiosphere online here.


The Gravity of the Situation: Apollo for all Mankind playlist

April 30, 2014

Take a gravity-defying trip through the ambient world of Brian Eno’s Apollo, but make sure you come back down to earth in order to come and hear it live at Sounds New this Saturday…

Saturday’s up-lifting performance by Icebreaker will feature the ensemble playing to NASA footage of the moon landing; the programme also includes a a premiere of Ed Bennett’s Suspect Device and music by Julia Wolfe.

Find out more about the concert here.


Organ and eletronics: what’s that about ? Podcast with Lauren Redhead

April 30, 2014

Ahead of her concert at Sounds New this Sunday, composer and performer Lauren Redhead explores the world of organ and electronics.

Image: Richard Lee-Hair

Image: Richard Lee-Hair

The podcast includes music by Huw Morgan, Adam Fergler and Caroline Lucas and others.

Find out more about Lauren’s concert at the festival this Sunday here.


Sounds New 2014: playlist on Spotify

April 28, 2014

Get a foretaste of some of the music coming to the festival with our Spotify playlist; music to your ears…

Find out more about the festival line-up online here. Not long to go now…


Under the gaze of the hidden God: Tippett’s ‘King Priam’ coming to Canterbury

April 12, 2014

Tippett’s second opera, King Priam, comes to the Marlowe Theatre on Wednesday 23 April, and should be required viewing both for fans of this much-eclipsed composer, as well as for operatic admirers.

20140412-195620.jpgThe opera, like its composer, has been overshadowed by that bastion of the English compositional Establishment, Benjamim Britten; Priam was premiered in Coventry Cathedral in 1962, the day before Britten’s War Requiem. But perhaps because Tippett was never quite embraced by the establishment in the same way as Britten was, his music is equally not as self-consciously bombastic, as mannered, as Britten’s; there’s a refreshingly instinctive honesty, a vibrant can’t-help-myself quality to Tippett’s music (for all the impenetrability of later works: the Knot Garden, anyone ?). The joyous Second String Quartet, the Concerto for Double String Orchestra, positively bound off the page in their exuberant, wild and positive energy.

In writing Priam, Tippett wanted to portray a timeless concept that would make his choice of subject matter, drawn from Greek tragedy, resonate in twentieth-century post-war Britain: as Tippett himself declared it, “the absolute solitude of the tragic characters under the gaze of the hidden God.” The drama explores human relationships, the wider considerations of the dilemma of choice and the ultimate truth that perhaps we cannot fully grasp the intricate web of ramifications of the choices we make. The solitude of the characters stems from their inability to see the complete web of implications woven by their decisions, which of course leads inexorably to Priam’s eventual death.

Tippett’s instrumental tapestry for the opera is always inventive, breaking up the homogeneity of the orchestra and including the use of piano and classical guitar, the latter especially effective in the aria ‘Oh, rich-soiled land’ sung by Achilles (and later distilled into the suite ‘Songs for Achilles;’)

English Touring Opera brings King Priam to Canterbury; it promises to be an unmissable experience. In a fit of giddy excitement, I bought my tickets weeks ago: make sure you get yours…


A great Deal of contemporary music

June 10, 2013

It will soon be time for this year’s Deal Festival, this year celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, and there’s a selection of contemporary musical events lined up at the seaside town between 28 June – 7 July.

deal_festival_logoSt George’s Church will host a performance of Tavener‘s mesmering The Protecting Veil, featuring cellist Matthew Sharp, on Saturday 29 June. The Aurora Orchestra brings a programme including Boulez‘s Memoriale on Sunday 30 June.

A new song cycle, Rest, by Emily Hall and Toby Litt is the late night feature on Monday 1 July.

Harpist Ruth Wall

Harpist Ruth Wall

The Fitkin-Wall duo will be at The Pines Calyx at 1pm on Tuesday 2 July to perform Lost, a mesmeric work for harps and keyboard.  Graham Fitkin is celebrating his fiftieth birthday and since 2003 has been working closely with Ruth Wall.

Later in the evening, a new commission for community performers, The Burning of the Boats by David Burridge and libretto by Martin Riley, is a dramatic re-telling of the burning of boats on Dover Beach to combat smuggling. In the evening, vocal octet Voces8 include a commission by Harvey Brough in their evening concert.

Wednesday 3 July includes a performance by pianist William Howard of a newly-commisioned work by David Matthews.

For jazz enthusiasts, the David Gordon Trio play at the Astor Theatre at 9.45pm on Thursday 4 July.

You can download the festival programme here (pdf), and follow the Festival on Twitter.

Good luck to the Deal Festival, and a happy thirtieth birthday!