Three Questions: Brodsky Quartet

April 2, 2014

Ahead of their appearance at Sounds New next month, I put Three Questions to cellist with the Brodsky Quartet, Jacqueline Thomas.


Tell us about your ensemble

JT: The Brodsky Quartet has been in existence for over 40 years – we started when we were children – and we’ve travelled the world performing and recording some of the most beautiful music ever written: the incredibly rich string quartet repertoire. However, we grew up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and grew to appreciate all genres of music through the decades since we began. We’ve always had an open mind to all types of music and we started at a young age making arrangements of pop and jazz songs so we could play those too. This stood us in good stead much later when we worked with the likes of Elvis Costello, Björk, Sting and Paul McCartney. We did ground-breaking work with these fantastic musicians and others, paving the way for what is now a universally accepted merging of styles and genres between classical musicians and artists from all disciplines.

Image: Eric Richmond

Image: Eric Richmond

What excites you about contemporary music ?

JT: In our world, the term Contemporary Music tends to frighten audiences who may be more comfortable with classical and romantic works. But let’s remember that Contemporary simply means current, now… so Mozart wrote contemporary music too! For me, the exciting thing about music of the 21st century is that literally anything goes. There are no rules or creative movements that simply must be adhered to in order to avoid commercial suicide – these days writers and performers mix it up shamelessly and joyfully and audiences seem open to everything. Especially young people, which is something to be celebrated – in my experience they will listen to anything with an open mind, thanks to the influence of people like John Tavener, Florence Welch, Rufus Wainwright, Plan B, Errollyn Wallen, and many others.

What can we expect from your performance at Sounds New in May ?

JT: It’s a work in progress at time of writing, so I’m still discovering it for myself. It’s a really fascinating re-working of some of the music of Robert Wyatt, merging styles across string quartet and electro-acoustic ambient textures. It should be a very beautiful, exciting and moving experience for us all. I’m very much looking forward to it myself!

Find out more about the Brodsky Quartet’s concert at Sounds New here.

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The Wright Stuff: a look ahead to this year’s festival with Guest Artistic Director

March 7, 2014

Amidst the whirwind preparations for Sounds New 2014, I caught up with Guest Artistic Director of this year’s festival, Matt Wright, to find out more about what’s coming to Canterbury in May.


What’s in store from SN this year ?

Everything's all Wright...

Everything’s all Wright…

MW: This year, Sounds New is featuring the very best names associated with contemporary European and Indian classical traditions, cutting edge jazz and African groove, improvised and experimental music, poetry, dance, interactive installations, sonic art and laptop sets in gallery spaces, on the high street and on the web!

Phew: I’m exhausted just thinking about it all! ‘Connections’ seem to be an important facet of the programme this year; tell us about them.

MW: We’re exploring connections between performers working in different traditions as a big part of Sounds New. We’re bringing a large-scale multimedia event, within which contemporary ensemble Icebreaker will perform Apollo: For All Mankind with music by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno and film footage from NASA. We’ll be celebrating the music of Canterbury Scene legend Robert Wyatt, in both a new exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery (featuring a new work by sound artist Janek Schaefer) and a unique recomposition of Wyatt’s ‘Cuckooland’ album, bringing together the Brodsky Quartet, radical vocalist Elaine Mitchener, arranger Tony Hymas and my own live laptop sampling. Contemporary jazz also features too, in the work of Robert Stillman and Mercury Music prize-nominees Led Bib.

Connecting with local composers is also a feature this year.

MW: That’s right; we’re so lucky that so many musicians linked with Kent also have international reputations, so the brilliant vocal group Exaudi will be exploring the innovative work of composers such as Claudia Molitor, and Lauren Redhead and Thomas Oehler also present their own works. I mentioned Robert Stillman earlier: he will fuse together influences of Americana, the avant-garde and jazz in a fantastic record launch event. Saxophonist John Harle, well known to Kent audiences, will also perform high-quality new repertoire composed for him by CCCU students.

And are there some new connections being explored this year ?

MW: Yes; we make new connections with the Free Range experimental concert series (including ‘Eating Sound’, which focuses on the connections between music and high-end local cuisine) and two unique Equator Festival events: Congolese band Kasai Masai  (5th May) and North-Indian sarod virtuoso Wajahat Kahn (9th May). There are also events focussing on innovative connections between dance, film and light.

And birthdays are being celebrated too, I notice ?!

MW: Indeed! We continue our strong association with the London Sinfonietta in a unique five-day residency, supported by Canterbury Christ Church University, culminating on 5th May with a performance of Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union to celebrate his 75th birthday. …and we’re celebrating another internationally-renowned, Kent-based musician with a rare solo concert from Evan Parker to celebrate his 70th birthday.

And we’re continuing to develop our relationship with poetry ?

MW: Yes; the brilliant Sounds New Poetry will return, featuring site-specific readings (3rd-5th May) and writers-in-residence at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge (6th-9th May).

There’s a synergy between audiences for new music and new poetry, isn’t there ?

MW: Yes, ‘Sounds’ and ‘New’ are terms that shouldn’t just be reserved for music, I feel, and the live performance of poetry is very strong in Canterbury: it is something that Free Range and the ZONE poets at the University of Kent have really helped to bring closer to ‘music’ audiences. I’m looking forward to further connections between music, sound and the spoken word right across the festival.

Inspiring musicians and audiences of tomorrow continues to be important, reflected in the educational aspect of Sounds New; what’s happening this year ?

MW: Building performers and listeners of the future is very important for us; all of our programming has education at its heart. This year our programme of events for young people culminate in the ‘All for One’ event at St Peter’s Methodist Church; there’s also the ‘Curious Curator’ exhibition and ‘the Black Box’ project (which grows out of our innovative ‘Big Brand New’ ensemble).

So, to sum it up: a vibrant, eclectic and innovative festival this year with plenty to look forward to ?

MW: in short, the festival is as packed as ever and we hope to see you there! Early bird tickets will be available soon from: www.soundsnew.org.uk so make sure you’re keeping an eye out…


New website, and new vision for Sounds New

November 7, 2013

We’re looking forward to bringing a dynamic new mix of music to Canterbury next May, drawing on Sounds New’s well-established reputation in developing new work for the concert-hall and beyond.

Next year we hope to broaden out the scope of what the festival can offer, embracing the fact that innovation is happening across the entire spectrum of music and sound: in contemporary chamber and multimedia work, in improvisation, in jazz and progressive rock, in world music, in electronic music and sonic art, in poetry, in site-specific installations, in gallery spaces, on the web and within the streets of the city itself. It promises to be quite a mix!

With this in mind, our new-look website aims to reflect a respect for the past, for the medieval roots of the city, whilst also reflecting a progressive, digital stance. We hope that the site will grow over the next few months, hosting new audio, art and poetry as we countdown to the festival itself next May.

New vision for the Festival

New vision for the Festival

We hope to see you there!


Image Gallery: jazz at Whitefriars

May 13, 2013

Images from last Saturday’s live jazz at Whitefriars, Canterbury, with Big Brand New, CCCU Big Band and the OrbiPLAYA Big Band.

Images © Sounds New / Peter Cook


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


Gallery: Family Day at Sounds New

May 7, 2013

A selection of images from Sunday’s family day, A Musical Guide to the Galaxy, including Wide-Eyed Theatre, live jazz, dancers from Canterbury College and Dance Warehouse,  Solar Sounds workshop with members of the Philharmonia, art activities, and the Scratch Orchestra.

Images © Sounds New / Peter Cook


Seeing stars: family day with Sounds New

May 5, 2013

It’s five o’clock, and I’ve just got home after a riotous day exploring themes of music and space at the Gulbenkian Theatre and its neighbour the Colyer-Fergusson building, as a Musical Guide to the Galaxy unfurled throughout the day.

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Dance Warehouse exploring Turnage’s ‘Ceres’

Artistic activities included the making of various planets and stars at the activity tables, whilst in the theatre members of Wide-Eyed Theatre provided drama-based ideas; a performance from a six-piece close-harmony group in a capella songs; dancers from Dance Warehouse and Canterbury College explored music by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Brett Dean; in the concert-hall, families were treated to an open rehearsal from members of the Philharmonia and young instrumentalists experimenting with non-notated music, minimalist-style ostinato and swooping electric keyboard glissandi in Solar Sounds.

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Philharmonia musicians and young players explore ‘Solar Sounds’

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Scratch Orchestra, cond, Danny Glavin

The day concluded with a scratch orchestra, comprising students from both Christchurch University and the University of Kent under the able baton of former Masters student, Danny Glavin, in themes from ET, Star Wars, Fnug (not wholly congruent with the themes of space and the universe, but, as Danny said before the piece, “some of it does sound pretty alien!”) before concluding with the equally-tenuous but crowd-pleasing theme from Wallace & Gromit (Glavin; “well, they did go to the moon in ‘A Grand Day Out!”).

A lively day, bringing together professional musicians, young players, families and toddlers to explore new music in highly creative ways.

The festival continues with the first ‘All for One’ concert on Tuesday at 11am in St Peter’s Methodist Church in town.


At the art of it all: Curious Curator opens tomorrow at the Beaney Front Room

May 3, 2013

Preparations have been underway today at the Beaney Front Room, in the heart of Canterbury, for the opening of our Curious Curator exhibition.

The exhibition features a number of creative responses to the theme of the Universe of Sound, the Philharmonia’s digital installation at Augustine House, which explores Holst’s The Planets suite. Embracing two- and three-dimensional art, sound and poetry, the exhibition is free and runs until Sunday 12 May.

And for those who can’t wait, here’s a teaser snapshot of what’s in store.

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Sounds New: the new blog

March 27, 2013

Hot on the heels of last season’s successful blogging, we’re re-inventing Sounds New’s blog: and this is the result!

Sounds New logoHere you’ll find all the familiar content from before: features, interviews, podcasts, composer profiles, audio extracts and more; the new facility will offer enhanced functionality, improved navigation and archiving, and a whole host of new features.

In conjunction with the Sounds New website, we will guide you through some of the most cutting-edge music of our time.

Based in the historic and beautiful city of Canterbury, Sounds New is an essential platform for the music of our time.

Welcome aboard!

Posted by Daniel Harding