The EMC in Oxford!

To avoid disappointing fans of sturdy footwear….it’s the EMC in Oxford, not the EMC in Oxfords.

To everyone else, yes, you heard it right: The Experimental Music Catalogue folk are going to be in Oxford at the Oxford Improvisers meet in the Loft Room at the Old Fire Station, on 18 September.

Virginia Anderson and Chris Hobbs are going to make beautiful music—and perhaps some ugly-but-interesting music—in their first free duo improv in years and years. And the Oxford Improvisers will be playing on the evening, so it’s all good!

Tickets £9, £6 concessions…..

John White performs his sonatas

New on the experimusic YouTube channel! John White’s performance of five of his sonatas at the Keyboard Experiments concert at De Montfort University, Leicester, 25 March 2017. This was the Saturday afternoon recital of the CoMA East Midlands EMC² Festival, celebrating nearly 50 years of the Experimental Music Catalogue.

On this set, John White plays the following sonatas:

Sonata 159 (2007) “Waiting for Batman”
Sonata 116 (1987) “Underwater Rhumba”
Sonata 140 (2003) “The Well-Tempered Cyclist”
Sonata 165 (2008) “Pensive Noctambulism”
Sonata 156 “A Boogie for Jonathan Powell”

There is a slight cut-out during Sonata 140 due to a cut in video files, but this should only slightly inconvenience what is a rare video performance by John White, as brilliant a pianist as he is a composer. Filmed by Connor McCormack.

Programme note: “John White has been writing piano sonatas since 1956 as a form of diary documenting his musical thinking at the time. Most of these sonatas reflect the short-form sonata from Scarlatti, and the musical thinking of Satie, with a dizzying range of individual concerns including experimental, systems and minimal, and popular musical language, and a consistent fascination for the musical thinking of piano composers from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, from Alkan to Medtner. This set of sonatas provides a taste of his post-millennial style, with one classic from the 1980s” [Virginia Anderson].

New review on Jems

Kyle Gann’s new book, Charles Ives’s Concord: Essays after a Sonata (University of Illinois Press), is out and is no doubt of great interest to all Ives fans, scholars, and pianists. On Jems, the peer-review journal hosted by the EMC, Chris Hobbs checks out this book, using fifty years of familiarity with the piece.* You can find his findings here in the review section of Jems.

*(A funny story: Hobbs performed the “Thoreau” movement for his entrance audition to the Royal Academy of Music in 1967. One of the examiners was the composer Alan Bush, who looked at the score and said something like, “Don’t know this piece. How am I going to know if you play a wrong note?” For the exact anecdote, buy Chris a beer and he’ll tell you…).

New to you! Sudoku 82!

Third time’s even more charming…. Announcing the release of the solo piano score of Christopher Hobbs’ Sudoku 82. How we got there is a tale….

Some years ago Chris Hobbs wrote Sudoku 82, a sparse, gentle, jazz-tinged piece for Apple GarageBand using mega sudoku systems processes. When Chris played it to me, I said, hey, that sudoku piece sounds like music from our favourite LA-based record label, Cold Blue Music. Cold Blue Music (, run by the composer Jim Fox, presents some of the best music in what is commonly known as “West Coast” or “the new California school”. The music is cool, often sentimental, with composers such as Fox, Daniel Lentz, Michael Byron and Peter Garland, Rick Cox, and others. So with this hesitant, laid back quality, Sudoku 82 became known jovially around Hobbs Manor as the “Cold Blue Sudoku”. Then Jim Fox got involved….

As Chris tells it:

This piece has evolved over quite a long time. It began, as most of my Sudoku series do, as a GarageBand sound file, in May 2008. I used fragments of pre-existing jazz piano loops which I slowed down from their original tempo of around 126bpm to a very slow 20bpm. The chosen loops were arranged according to random means, deployed over eight tracks.  Hearing the piece, the composer Jim Fox suggested the possibility of playing it live. I liked the idea, so this meant my notating the piece, transcribing the loops as they sounded when played at a very slow speed (chords which sound pristine at 126 can be quite ragged at 20!).  Having done the work I sent it to Fox, who recorded it on his Cold Blue label, using the excellent pianist Bryan Pezzone to overdub all eight tracks. It appeared (as CB0033) in 2009.

Earlier this year I looked at the score and considered the possibility of reducing it to a single piano line; although it is nominally for eight pianos there is not too much going on; many of the chords contain the same notes and the slow tempo gives plenty of time to roll chords which have too many notes to be played at once.  Every differing note in the original is present in the new version. While one has to forgo the stereo effect  it is at least playable, and one piano is rather easier to obtain than eight!

Chris premiered this solo version at the EMC² Festival in March, as part of the “Keyboard Experiments” concert, an amazing afternoon recital with music by Howard Skempton, Chris Hobbs, John White, Hugh Shrapnel and Terry Jennings, played by Antony Clare and Mick Peake, Chris Hobbs, John White, and Hugh Shrapnel and Sarah Walker. We’re going to put up the concert footage on the experimusic YouTube channel as we can (we’ve just recently got the videos!), but here’s Chris, premiering Sudoku 82:

The score is great for study, for trying out at home (like a lot of slow post-minimalism, the physical technique is pretty simple, while the musicality is complex), and is much simpler to programme for live performance than the version with eight pianos. Sudoku 82 is available in PDF format for only £5, payable through PayPal—you’ll receive it by email for printing out. For ordering details, see here.

Alex Ross and the EMC!

We received a message from our good friend at Irritable Hedgehog, David McIntire, that Alex Ross, critic of the New Yorker, had a blog post about Erik Satie’s Le Fils des Étoiles. David McIntire informed Ross about Chris Hobbs’s work on the whole version of this piece, and Ross has added a note about Chris’s work and that the EMC has released not only the first ur text of Fils (Hobbs created an edition from the manuscript, correcting many errors in the Salabert published score), but also the first recording of the corrected edition.

Most recordings of this incidental music to the pageant/play by Joséphin Péladan consist just of Satie’s three Preludes to the play’s acts. These Preludes are pretty well-known and performed frequently by most pianists who specialise in Satie. However, Satie wrote continuous music to accompany the play’s acts, forming Satie’s longest piece of through-composed music. Chris Hobbs played the first modern performance of the entire piece (i.e., after Satie premiered it), and its first recording, on London Hall Records, in 1989. However, that first performance used the published score, with its various errors. After Chris finished the new edition (published some years before the Bärenreiter Urtext Edition), he recorded the corrected edition for the EMC.

You can read Ross’s blog post here. The score is available (with a preface by the Satie scholar Robert Orledge) on the EMC Piano Catalogue and the CD (EMC 103) can be found here. There is a discount if you order both the CD and score together.

Lewis and Smith

Oh, this is a special event. In the history of British systems music piano composer/performer duos, one of the finest was the duo of Dave Smith and John Lewis. They appear prominently in Michael Parsons’ ‘Systems in Art and Music,’ The Musical Times, 117/1604 (1976), 815, and in Virginia Anderson’s ‘Systems and Other Minimalism in Britain’, in The Ashgate Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, ed. Potter, ap Siôn, and Gann (Ashgate, 2013), 87–109. So to have the two of them performing not only their duo work—the second half is a duo piece they have not performed in forty years—but also solo music by great American experimental composers and their own music. This is definitely one to attend!

Friday 2nd June 2017 6.30 pm
Schotts Recital Room
48 Great Marlborough Street
London W1F 7BB

John Lewis and Dave Smith (2 pianos)

The first half consists of a number of solos and duets including

Ives – The Alcotts
Stockhausen – Klavierstück 1
Cowell – The Snows of Fuji-Yama
Feldman – Intermission 6
Lewis – MercuryManganeseMagnesium
Smith – 3 Kerala song arrangementsEthical Libertarian Scholars

The second half consists of Continuum (1970), an extended piece of early minimalism co-composed by the performers who will be performing it for the first time since 1977.


Hobbs and Infernal Machines

This is turning into a Christopher Hobbs spring: Second Doomsday Machine is on a set, Infernal Machines, with Julius Eastman’s Evil Nigger, and some guy named Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (oh, yeah—him!), on Occupy the Pianos, at St John’s Smith Square. Saturday 6 May. The whole day (with loads of goodies by Ives, Nancarrow, J.L. Adams and more) begins at 11.00 (for the great price of £15!); Infernal Machines starts at 7 pm.

Hay-on-Wye Festival

Hobbs in Hay-on-Wye! Literary music for Britain’s literature capital!

Sara Stowe and Chris Brannick (pictured above) are performing new music for voice and percussion as part of the Hay Music series, at St Mary’s Church, Hay-on-Wye, Saturday 22 April, at 7 pm. Included will be a brand new premiere by Chris Hobbs, Three Views of Anna, with texts from James Joyce, Finnegans Wake.

To be there, rather than being square, tickets and info here:

EMC2 Programmes, pt. 2


The EMC² Weekend at De Montfort University, Leicester, was a great success, with talks, concerts, and a chance for all to perform great music in the tradition of the Experimental Music Catalogue. This weekend was the brainchild of Kieran O’Riordan, with Anna Claydon of CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), and performed with energy and much skill by the members of East Midlands CoMA, the improvisation groups CHA (Bruce Coates, Chris Hobbs, Virginia Anderson) and the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble (Lee Allatson, Rick Nance, Virginia Anderson, Bruce Coates and Chris Hobbs), guest expert composers and performers including John White, Hugh Shrapnel, Sarah Walker, Chris Hobbs, Virginia Anderson, and Bruce Coates. Papers were given on related subjects from Virginia Anderson, Hilary Bracefield and Tim Bausch. Much material has been created from this event; much needs to be sifted, edited, and collated for publication. The highlights of Friday and daytime Saturday appear in the previous post. But we would like to share a little more of the event as it went on:

Saturday, 25 March:

At 7.30 pm, came the second concert, Continuing Experiments:

Not all of these pieces are available yet on video, but here are two from the second half:

First, Carole Finer, Magic Carpet, and Cornelius Cardew, “Little Flower of the North” (from Schooltime Compositions), performed by the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble (Lee Allatson, drums, Virginia Anderson, clarinets, Bruce Coates, saxes, Chris Hobbs, piano, Rick Nance Tibetan bowl and other instruments).


Then Christopher Hobbs, The Friesian Cow, part 2, performed by members of SLIE and the EMC All*Stars (including John Richards, electronics, and John White, helicon):

Sunday, 26 March:

After a welcome and rehearsals in the morning, there was the Experimental Frontiers concert, consisting of performers from all the events through the weekend.

This is the first half:

Публикувахте от Experimental Music Catalogue в Неделя, 26 март 2017 г.

and the second half, which includes a video greeting from former EMC committee chair, Gavin Bryars, which wrapped up the approach and ethos for the festival, as Virginia Anderson’s talk began it.

Публикувахте от Experimental Music Catalogue в Неделя, 26 март 2017 г.

Thanks to Kieran O’Riordan, Anna Claydon for putting the EMC² Festival on; to James Thompson and his team of technicians at DMU for fantastic lighting and sound (check out the final piece, Chris Hobbs’ CoMA Units, for an example of their work); to Rui and Conner at the University of Leicester for their roving and fixed video work; and to Lee Allatson for HD video on Saturday night. And, of course CoMA, and everyone who took part. It was an amazing weekend.