Presentation night: looking to the future

May 10, 2013

Last night, Friends and supporters of, and visitors to, Sounds New festival gathered in the towering atrium of Augustine Hall in order to witness the passing on of the festival flame.

Peter Bolton, Chair of the Board

Peter Bolton, Chair of the Board

New Chair of the Festival, Peter Bolton, welcomed and paid tribute to the achievements of Ian Odgers, former Chair, and to the outgoing Artistic Director, Paul Max Edlin.

Edlin responded in a speech reflecting on Sounds New’s long list of achievements, mentioning that, through its being broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Sounds New has reached around the world  – ”there are people around the world who know of Canterbury through Sounds New” – and reflected on some of its highlights; visits from Penderecki, the London Sinfonietta, and last year’s performance in the Cathedral of Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple, attended by the composer himself.

Former Artistic Director, Paul Max Edlin

Former Artistic Director, Paul Max Edlin

Edlin then formally handed over to  the new Artistic Director, Matthew Wright, who will lead the plans into next year’s festival – more about which, later.

James Williams of the Philharmonia then thanked all the partner organisations – including Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Kent, the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury City Council – who have come together to bring the Universe of Sound installation to Canterbury over the past two weeks.

Peter Bolton (l) with the new Artistic Director, Matthew Wright

Peter Bolton (l) with the new Artistic Director, Matthew Wright

The installation was then switched on, and visitors moved into the exhibition. As James said, it’s attracted thousands of visitors since opening and many daily school visits, 80% of whom have not been to a classical concert or seen an orchestra before.

There’s still Saturday’s live big band jazz in Whitefriars to look forward, and the Curious Curator exhibition until the end of the week at the Beaney Front Room.

Images © Sounds New / Peter Cook

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Gallery: the opening of the Universe of Sound in Canterbury

May 1, 2013

All images © Sounds New / Peter Cook


Immersed in music: visiting the Universe of Sound

April 27, 2013

And with the sound of the orchestral instruments tuning, the Universe of Sound was launched in Canterbury last night. Welcoming speeches from various dignitaries, including Richard Slaney, head of digital at the Philharmonia, and the Mayor of Canterbury gave way to a dimming of the lights and the familiar sound of the orchestra tuning up, before launching into the ominous ostinato with which ‘Mars’ from The Planets suite stirs into life.

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Screen time

Watching the efforts of the different sections of the orchestra on large screens around the hall, you gain a real sense of the physical effort involved in playing as part of the orchestra. Standing in the violin section during ‘Mercury,’ you really felt the hardship of the instrumentalists working away at those scurrying passages. At various stages, the installation will have members of the orchestra playing live as part of their virtual orchestral section; bring your instrument, and you can also sit at an unoccupied orchestral desk and play along too.

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Desk job…

As you walk round the installation, you also experience the sonic nature of what it means to play amidst the different orchestral sections from carefully laid-out speakers; fragmented, exposed, not always able clearly to hear the solo line that might be occurring over in the flute; the brittleness of the reed instruments, the weighty chords of the brass, the rasp of bow on string; it makes you appreciate anew that magical alchemy that occurs when a good acoustic environment transforms all these disparate sections, moulding them as if magically into an homogenous sound. From your comfortable seat in the audience, the ensemble appears a perfectly-unified Rolls Royce; up close, it’s hard work, yet delivered with consummate skill by these professional musicians. An oboe solo line arcs lyrically and effortlessly overhead; from out of nowhere, a nerveless principal horn delivers exquisitely-crafted phrases.

Strings on screen

Strings on screen

There are also some wonderfully human touches that display the humanity of instrumental playing; brass players empty the water out of their instruments, or blow silently through their instrument shortly before playing; woodwind players check their mouthpiece. It’s a reminder of the fact that music like this is a profoundly human experience, performed by real people demonstrating consummate skill and craft on their instruments.

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Making it look effortless:principal bassoon

The percussion section, relegated to a Portakabin outside the hall, offers the most fun, the opportunity to try your hand at playing a variety of instruments, including a tam-tam, bass drum or mark tree, under the guidance of members of the Philharmonia. This is the part of the installation that children are really going to enjoy… There’s also a conducting pod, where you can try your hand at directing the performance, guided by on-screen diagrams of the beat-patterns which monitor your performance in a sort of ‘Just Dance’ experience.

This is only the second outing for the whole project outside of London. After its Canterbury residence, the installation moves to Birmingham. The experience offers insights into, and an appreciation of, orchestral playing and the act of music-making, both to seasoned musical visitors as well as to those coming to orchestral music for the first time, to adults and to children alike. The installation at Augustine House is free, and runs until 12 May.

You can watch the footage from BBC South East’s coverage online here.


Universe of Sound: step behind the scenes

April 12, 2013

Follow the making of the Universe of Sound in the Philharmonia’s April video podcast, which explores the creation of the project from January 2012; click here.

universe_of_soundSounds New is delighted to be a partner in bringing this exciting project to Canterbury; lift-off on Saturday 27 April.


Universe of Sound starts to arrive

April 11, 2013

With the Universe of Sound installation due to open in just over two weeks’ time, signs of its arrival are beginning to appear in Canterbury; seen yesterday in the foyer of the Marlowe Theatre is the Conductor Pod.

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The bringer of jollity…

Exciting times!

Image via Laura Callaghan (@lauracallaspam)


Seeing stars: composition day next week

April 10, 2013

Ahead of the composition day at Sounds New next week, I caught up with Education manager, Peter Cook, to find out what’s in store.

So, Sounds New starts next week: what’s happening next Wednesday ?

PC: It’s the secondary school composition day, called Star Compositions and Darker Matters.

And what does this involve ?

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Captain Cook…

PC: Well, we’ll be exploring the extraordinary exhibition installation called the Universe of Sound, which is on show as part of Sounds New this year and features a ‘walk-in orchestra’ viewable from wild and wonderful angles, performing Holst’s The Planets and a new piece by Joby Talbot.

Ah, yes: the composer of the recently successful ballet-score to Alice in Wonderland at Covent Garden ?

PC: That’s right! And the Head of Digital from the Philharmonic, Richard Slaney, will be at the composition day and will be talking about how he put the installation together and why it is a ‘must-see’ exhibition.

And how will you be exploring composing that day ?

PC: Paul Edlin, a former President of the ISM and a composer himself will be talking about Gustav Holst, as well as his own compositional technique. After listening and watching aspects of the installation on video, we will break into smaller groups to explore new sounds ourselves. I’ll be exploring improvisations connected to the theme of the day. We’re very excited to hear from both speakers and to work with young musicians to create something really special. And the day will end with a recording of what we achieve and a discussion about the relevance of new music.

We’ll bring you pictures (and maybe even some of the compositions) from the day. Find out more about the Universe of Sound, which comes to Canterbury on 27 April, here.


Universe of Sound: video

April 6, 2013

With exactly three weeks until the Universe of Sound installation comes to Canterbury, here’s a short video from the Science Museum about what’s in store.

universe_of_soundSounds New is delighted to be a partner in bringing this unique project to Canterbury. The odyssey begins on Saturday 27 April.


Sounds New educational events in May

March 27, 2013

As usual, education is a key aspect of Sounds New’s mission to help introduce audiences – particularly younger ones! – to today’s music, and this year is based around the Universe of Sound project which the Philharmonia is bringing to Canterbury next month. Once again, Sounds New is pleased to be making many of these events free, as we inspire and enthuse younger minds and take them to the stars – and maybe even beyond!

sn_educationThe education arm opens with Star Compositions And Darker Matters on Wednesday 17 April, from 9:15 till 3pm at Canterbury Christ Church University. This will be an interactive composition day for 13-18 year olds, at which Richard Slaney from the Philharmonia, who made the installation, will introduce ideas behind the the Universe of Sound. Sounds New composers will also explore new composing techniques and the music of one of the key British composers of the twentieth century, Gustav Holst. This is a practical day too, so we encourage people to bring their instruments!

Returning this year will be the Sounds New Roadshow, for which you can book a performance of new music at your school or community venue, given by students from Canterbury Christchurch University, led by our Education Manager, Peter Cook. Performances last about fifty minutes and will be tailored to suit each age-group, including primary and secondary schools and community groups. The roadshow will be ‘on the road’ from May onwards! Visits are free but organised on a first-come, first-served basis so booking is essential.

Our popular series of All for One concerts for any school or community group together with their relatives and friends will also be returning to Sounds New, taking place at 11am on May 7 and May 9 at St Peter’s Methodist Church in Canterbury. On May 7, musicians from both the Philharmonia and Sounds New will perform new works plus a new piece, Aim Straight For The Starlight. The concert on May 9 will showcase new music, including a performance by members of the Philharmonia. Admission for these concerts is £1 (discretionary)

Lift-off!

Lift-off!

Families can enjoy A Musical Guide To The Galaxy on Sunday May 5 at the Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury, between  11am-5pm; an action-packed family day of extraordinary musical happenings with workshops and dance too. Sample bite-sized concerts in the Gulbenkian Theatre and the new-Colyer Fergusson Concert Hall (next to the Gulbenkian Theatre) as well as hands-on arts activities in the foyer. Admission is free for children and £5 for adults. More on the Gulbenkian webpage here.

Curious Curator, an exhibition of artwork, poetry and sound installations inspired by our theme of the Universe of Sound, will be at the Front Room at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, in the heart of Canterbury. The exhibition runs from May 4 – 12, showcasing work from students from Langton School and the University of Kent: admission is free.

For more information about any of these events or to book, please e-mail the Education Manager, Peter Cook. we look forward to welcoming the young (and the young-at-heart) to the exploration of new music with Sounds New once more this year.


The Universe of Sound in Canterbury

March 27, 2013

Sounds New is delighted to be a partner in the Philharmonia’s exciting Universe of Sound project, which comes to Canterbury from 27 April to 12 May, at Augustine Hall, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Find out more online here.

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Posted by Daniel Harding