Portsmouth Sinfonia at the Royal Albert Hall

One of our favourite British experimental groups was the Portsmouth Sinfonia, aka ‘the world’s worst orchestra’. This is a short documentary about their performance at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 May 1974, with Sally Binding, pianist on Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, and the Portsmouth Sinfonia Choir, singing The ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. It’s in three parts on YouTube, to be found by clicking the links below. Thanks to the musicologist and theorist Kevin Holm-Hudson for making us aware of this historic film.

Further Duo Percussion things

We’ve shifted our collective bottoms and have done more on the EMC Duo Percussion Anthology page that we announced earlier this week. The new things include a picture of the cover, a list of the pieces in the Anthology, links to relevant recordings on the EMC Recorded Music Archive, and more. For more information, go to the Experimental Music Classic Catalogue: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/Classic_EMC_Catalogue.html


Hobbs-White Duo concert on Soundcloud

New to the EMC Soundcloud offerings is an archive performance of Christopher Hobbs and John White at the Whitechapel Gallery, 10 June 1973. These are the early ‘strict’ systems and readymades for unpitched percussion. More on this type of music, and how to get the score of the Hobbs-White Duo Percussion Anthology can be found on the EMC website, here: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/Classic_EMC_Catalogue.html . The Soundcloud recording is here: https://soundcloud.com/dr-virginia-anderson/sets/hobbs-white-duo-at-whitechapel-gallery-10-june-1973 .

Ives, Essays, and the ‘Strange Artist’

For those of you who follow Kyle Gann’s PostClassic blog, you will have found a real treat today in his entry, ‘Justifying the Strange Artist’, in which Gann looks at the work of Henry Cecil Sturt’s ‘Art and Personality’ essay. Charles Ives wrote his famous Essays before a Sonata, partly in response to Sturt’s essay. Here Gann reproduces a long passage from his upcoming book, giving us a good idea of what Sturt thought and why Ives wrote his response. Gann begins by stating how much the Essays influenced him as a teen, and how the reception of Ives’ writings have been increasingly seen as confused: ‘a jumble of pseudo-intellectual blovations’. There seems to be a trend toward a revision of Ives reception in recent years, with writers seeing him as homophobic and sexist, and returning to the early view of Ives as a kind of ‘outsider’ amateur, whose innovations come mainly from his inability to write music competently. Having spent a lot of time reading Ives (and Cage) from the age of thirteen and having my mind well and truly ‘blown’ by the ideas of these composers, I find the modern response to be curious. I can only imagine that the lack of understanding of the Essays and the condemnation of his ideas by modern writers to be a problem with their understanding of music and of history. Gann’s blog post is here: http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2015/01/justifying-the-strange-artist.html . It’s well worth close reading.

EMC scores and the Internet

Happy New Year! And how nice of many of you to have sent us news, views and greetings over the winter holiday. Following one of these nice notes, we thought it would be nice if we explained more about what we put on the EMC site and how you can trust what you find here.

There are a wide variety of sources for experimental scores on the Internet. Some of them are pure gold — direct copies of a composer’s work, often uploaded by the composer or their estates. On other sites, score incipits are uploaded as examples and although very useful for an introduction, they may not be complete. Some scores are uploaded by people who like the music but may not know anything about it, so it might be mislabelled or badly described. A few may be poor quality or ‘copyleft’ (rhyming slang for theft) and pirated — put up without the composer’s permission.

When you get a score from the Experimental Music Catalogue website, you will know that the composer has given her/his permission for it to be there. Sometimes the composer or rights holder will ask for the score to be sold. If so, the score will be either published under the EMC ball imprint, and the composer will receive a straight 10% of the purchase price, or it will be produced by the composer and distributed by the EMC, in which case the EMC gets a straight percentage of the price. Increasingly, though, we have approached composers to give their permission for us to reproduce some of the more iconic text and graphic notation pieces as pdfs that you can download FOR FREE. The score will be sensitively reproduced; it is handled and uploaded by two real people, Virginia Anderson (me) and/or Christopher Hobbs, who will have sent the pdf for the composer’s approval before upload. It will often be accompanied by a short note on the website, or this blog, explaining what the piece is and how it fits into the history of British experimental music. It will be a score that is meant for performance, usually, or at least is approved for research purposes. We make this clear on each piece. And with this score you can always contact the EMC if you have any questions about performance or other issues.

And do keep sending in suggestions, comments and such. We spent some time last year in adding material to the website and hope to do so again soon. And we’ll let you know what we know about cool concerts and other things on this Blog and on our Facebook page as we get them.