Sunday in Leicester with the EMC

Sunday afternoon, 26 March, on the EMC² Festival, is shaping up very well indeed. Included will be a new work by John White: “Ten Minutes in Leicester”. And a new commission from Hugh Shrapnel: “Something’s in the Air”. Plus Michael Nyman’s Bell Set No. 1 and Gavin Bryars’ classic piece “1, 2, 1-2-3-4”. Here’s more about it from Gavin Bryars:

My piece starts with the bandleader saying “1, 2, 1-2-3-4”, and at that moment everyone presses the start button on a cassette recorder. Each cassette recorder has a copy of the same recording that is listened to on headphones, and each player “shadows” his own instrument trying to play exactly the part played by his own instrument. The recording was not multi-copied – each was done separately, so the first sound after the leader tape was not in exactly the same place on each cassette. At that time too, 1971, portable cassette machines were not particularly accurate – running speeds could fluctuate and batteries would run down. No one reproduces the song itself: everyone just plays the accompaniment.

It’s an example of “private music” – a kind of philosophical concept that informed a number of my pieces at that time. Here, each individual player hears the music on the headphones as well as his own playing (but not that of the other players); the audience hears everyone’s live music (but not the music on the headphones); and nobody has access to everything.

Plus CoMA Units, a new commission from Christopher Hobbs. About the piece:

Units for CoMA was composed for [Sunday’s] concert. The performers divide themselves into various units (battery, air, wind, string, vocal) and the (quite unspecific) instructions are intended to allow them to freely research, devise and explore the nature of their respective units, either in solo or in group realization. The inspiration for the piece comes from the “battery unit” of percussionists in the final movement of Charles Ives’ Fourth Symphony, who provide a constant background to the rest of the orchestra, while remaining independent of it.

Also by Hobbs, The Castle Keep and part 1 of The Friesian Cow (part 2 is being played on Saturday night).

All in all, this is shaping up to be the festival of the year for experimental music fans, if not festival of the decade. Contacts to know more, be there, or be square (available on our welcome page as well):

For information on how to attend and book (though the information on the programme right now—17 March—is months old), see the CoMA website: http://www.coma.org/whats-on/events/emc²/ CoMA East Midlands has a Facebook page, with occasional news: https://www.facebook.com/groups/105499836160596/

For some idea of the schedule, see our Blog. Two posts already deal with its progress: EMC2: On the way! and the update: EMC2: Remembering the Experimental Music Catalogue (schedule) . We will try to put up information, as we hear of them, as blog announcements.

And for the De Montfort link on Facebook, see their page: DMU Music Facebook page

Events keep developing: we’ll keep you informed, here on our home page, on our blog, and on our Facebook page.

 

Practice Diary for EMC2, pt. 1

Just as I posted a practice diary for Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning in two parts when we performed it in London in 2015, I thought I’d write down some musings about a set I am playing for the “Continuing Experiments” concert in the EMC²: Remembering the Experimental Music Catalogue weekend at De Montfort University, on 25 March (the whole festival runs from 24–26 March). My set includes pieces by Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons, and just as my diary for The Great Learning showed that indeterminate music using text notation took care and preparation, I hope to show that the so-called “New Simplicity” is not so very simple. In fact, this music demands what I have called elsewhere “virtuoso in miniature.”

I have been working some weeks on these pieces, which include Call (1983), Melody for a First Christmas (1979), and A Card for Lucy (1984)—all by Howard Skempton— and Two Landscapes (1982; 1988) and Kucinata (1988) by Michael Parsons. All of the Skempton pieces are for solo instrument; Two Landscapes was written in its 1988 version for two clarinets (but is being played as a duo for soprano saxophone and B-flat clarinet), and Kucinata is for clarinet and drum. This Monday I rehearsed Two Landscapes with the saxophonist Bruce Coates and last night Chris Hobbs and I obtained a bata drum for Kucinata (kindly lent by Lee Allatson, who runs the Dye House Drum Works in Leicester). Thus this first diary entry finds us well along the way toward performance.

The issues that arise in playing this music are specific to each piece, and in this entry I shall deal with a description of the first piece and its challenges. Call consists of a number of phrased events ending with fermatas and separated by one-beat rests with fermatas. Many of the events are repeated—eight different events, followed by a repeat of the first seven, with an extended version of the eighth, and concluding with even events of related, though mainly different, material. The dynamic is piano throughout with a musical instruction of “gently flowing”. The events are all primarily disjunct, mainly arpeggiated. There is no tempo marking.

I asked Howard Skempton about the tempo on all three of these pieces. I had thought that, though it was an excellent performance, John Corbett’s tempo on Call (on the album Surface Tension, Mode Records Mode 61, 1998) was slower than I would like. The composer’s answer was simultaneously helpful (in that it was clear) and unhelpful (in that it did not provide a solution): “There is no fixed tempo. If I’m ever asked about tempo, I always say that the right tempo is the tempo that allows for the possibility of rubato. Which doesn’t mean that I’m encouraging the use of rubato. I’m just welcoming it where it seems natural. And it will seem natural if the tempo is right.” Thus I had to find the tempo and durations of the pauses for myself.

The solution essentially is to study, play and think. The title, Call, originally suggested to me a kind of trumpet or bugle call, or perhaps something like the “Scène aux champs” of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, in which shepherds, represented by a cor anglais and offstage oboe trade melodic calls (ranz des vaches) in the evening at some distance. Skempton’s Call certainly has the flavour of the crepuscular: of taps, perhaps. But then I was listening one early morning to birdsong, just after the dawn chorus had died away. In particular, the blackbirds shaped their calls of motives separated by short pauses. Each repetition was exactly, or almost exactly the same; the motives varied before a repetition would begin. This turned the idea of the crepuscular call into a new area for me: instead of the military or lonely shepherds, the call was birdsong; the twilight was dawn, not dusk; and the musical sound world, although remaining clearly in Skempton-land, tilted away from Berlioz and closer to the territory of Olivier Messiaen.

This dramatic “note” on which to approach the piece gives me a way into the restraint that Skempton’s music always needs, and the tenderness that commonly exists in the pieces. Like the blackbird, I could state the repeated motives almost exactly the same way each time (though I am already stepping away from a literal repetition as I understand the piece’s semantics), while I can work the emotional content into the new material, which, beginning a little past the two-thirds mark of the piece, acts as a kind of conclusion to the piece’s “argument”. The first event that really concerned me was the third one, a set of quaver and semiquaver triplets. These cannot be played in any other way than as swung, jazzy quavers. Philip Clarke, in Gramophone, focuses on this event:

Carefully placed around Call’s largely open-ended, downriver rhythmic currents is a motif knitted together from “swung” quavers, which right away evokes Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, and reminds you how often English composers of a certain generation and aesthetic persuasion, writing their generic fast-slow-fast wind concertos and sonatas, try to sex up their pallid rhythmic oom-pahs with a jazzy shot in the arm.

Skempton – clever him – manages to have it both ways, though. That momentary sense of swing is like a wry slap on the wrist, delivered entirely without rancour or hectoring, towards such transatlantic tendencies. But he also wants listeners to derive pleasure from those peaks of rhythmic exhilaration, and so gives them prominence in the structure like a punctuating semi-quote, a knowing reference to material from outside his orbit. You hear, you enjoy, and then think about how more cavalier composers freeload off the gestural surface of jazz. [http://www.moderecords.com/catalog/061skempton.html]

As much as Clarke likes Skempton, I cannot see how his description tallies with my experience of Call. The swung-quaver event could sound like parody jazz and that approach would knock the piece right out of its soundworld. Yet to try to work against the jazz reference is pointless. Here the even-handed performance of the blackbird provides a guide. When I first moved to my present house, we had a blackbird resident in our garden that Chris Hobbs and I called the “St Louis Blues Bird”. Like all blackbirds, this blackbird had a wide repertoire of short songs, one of which sounded exactly like the opening four notes of “St. Louis Blues” in exactly the right rhythm and nearly the right pitches, although the last note of was more of a croak than a pitch. This bird sang his blues call in the exactly way—within the same dynamic range and the same shape—that he sang his other calls, only with proper swung rhythm.

I am therefore working to play these calls within a consistent character throughout. Not that they will be identical, as there is a progression of argument, a passage of time and thought that moves through the piece as a whole. But the swung quavers, still carrying its “jazz” signifiers in the shape of its notes and durations, are to be played using the same calm, considered rhetoric of the other, non-jazzy, events. And this is what I mean by “virtuosity in miniature”: with Skempton, you are out on the tightrope. Having so few notes, there is no way to fudge or elide or hide errors. If I rise to an altissimo note (which happens in many of the events) and squeak or hit a harmonic, if I don’t slip smoothly from one note to the next without a break, I might as well wear clown pants and drop them at that moment. A scary thought, indeed.

This diary will continue as I have time to write it.

Christian Wolff in Interview

In 2015, Virginia Anderson gave an invited paper for the conference Christian Wolff at Orpheus, 28 and 29 September, a conference celebrating the work of the New York School composer Christian Wolff, with Wolff in attendance. You can read reports of the event here: http://experimentalmusic.co.uk/wp/news-from-ghent/

Today, Virginia Anderson has uploaded that paper, as read, on her Academia.edu page, here: https://www.academia.edu/31737395/Christian_Wolff_in_Interview

In this paper Virginia discusses an interview the American composer Barney Childs took with Wolff in 1972, especially about his then-new piece, Burdocks (1971), and the Scratch Orchestra performance he saw in London at Cecil Sharp House that year.

 

CHA: Live From Wigmore Hall

CHA—Bruce Coates, Chris Hobbs, and Virginia Anderson—is the trio from the Midlands of England devoted to new sounds and combination of sounds, and a fun, fresh approach to non-tonal (or part-tonal) free improvisation. This NEW album, available on the EMC Bandcamp page, finds these adventurers recording at Wigmore Hall….

Well, maybe not THE Wigmore Hall, London home of classical chamber music, but a Wigmore Hall. Wigmore Village Hall, Herefordshire, in fact.

This album of three sets is laid down unedited, as played by CHA live. The three sets include:

Interruption: refers to the ending, when a man entered to say that he and his friends would be using the other room in the hall for a conversation.

Resumption: is self-explanatory.

Consumption: refers to liquid contents of the CHA picnic basket.

So, get a nice cup o’ CHA now on Bandcamp: http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk/album/cha-live-from-wigmore-hall £6 or more for the album and cool pdf liner notes, or £2 a track!

(Thanks to Bruce Coates for the cool cover design!)

sudoWHO!

A new EMC Recording single release for this grey Sunday. Christopher Hobbs’ SudoWho (EMC-118). Chris writes of this piece:

SudoWho was made in November 2007. In its original DVD version it mixed audio and visuals from the outtakes of early Dr Who episodes with audio taken from NASA and GarageBand space sound effects using chance operations to determine placement of the clips.  This version presents the sound-track only, but it is my belief that it stands on its own well enough.

You can get this SudoWho from the EMC Bandcamp page for only £1 (or what you will!): http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk

Bandcamp

The EMC has never been so happy to have our recordings on Bandcamp, who have made the decision to donate all their profits to the ACLU as a protest against the current U.S. government’s bans and walls. And over 200 Bandcamp labels are donating their profits to the ACLU and other human rights groups. Today, we suggest that you look at these other labels, and buy their goods. This offer lasts today, 3 February, from 12am Pacific time for 24 hours. Their statement is here: https://daily.bandcamp.com/2017/01/31/bandcamp-human-rights/

New Extended deadline for EMC2 conference

NOTICE: DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS EXTENDED TO 20 JANUARY 2017

CALL FOR PAPERS: EMC2 – Remembering the Experimental Music Catalogue

De Montfort University 24-26th March 2017

The Experimental Music Catalogue (EMC) is a unique publication project, founded by the composer Christopher Hobbs in 1968 and shortly thereafter joined by Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman, to disseminate experimental music (which used indeterminate, Cagean processes, often presented in text or graphic notation) and minimalism. Many of these works were “for all”, requiring performers to be interested and diligent, but not requiring an ability to read common-practice music notation. From its founding until it was closed in the early 1980s, the EMC released works by important international experimental and minimalist composers (including Cornelius Cardew, Terry Jennings, Howard Skempton, Jon Gibson, Christian Wolff, and the open-ended London experimental group the Scratch Orchestra) as individual scores and thematic anthologies (such as the Verbal Anthology, Rhythmic Anthology, Scratch Anthology of Compositions). As a publisher, the EMC was unusual in that all composers kept copyright of their work, and as part of a larger wave in independent published collections (in the US, Soundings and SOURCE magazines, Dick Higgins’ “something else press”; in the UK, Contact magazine), the EMC imprint appears in library holdings throughout the UK, Europe, the Americas and Asia. Although Bryars operated the EMC from his London home, many of the EMC composers and associated performers worked at Leicester Polytechnic, where Bryars was head of music. Leicester Polytechnic became a crucible for new works and classic performances of old works, thus ensuring the East Midlands’ central place in the development of new music in Britain. Christopher Hobbs and Virginia Anderson revived the Experimental Music Catalogue in 1999 as a web-based not-for-profit resource, bringing out classic anthologies, new scores, and more recently, CDs and downloads. The modern EMC is based in Leicester.

In conjunction with De Montfort University, the University of Leicester and Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) East Midlands, we invite paper proposals on the topic of the Experimental Music Catalogue as part of the Arts Council funded festival of practice and analysis, EMC2. Composers within the East Midlands played a huge role in shaping experimental music tropes and strategies of the 1960s and ‘70s both in the UK and beyond. As part of CoMA East Midlands’ 20th anniversary celebrations we are hosting a festival of practice, reflection and research centred upon the Catalogue and its impact. Conference attendees can attend in one of two modes: as conference participants only (talks, plenaries (for both speakers and players) and concert attendance represent an enjoyable package of events) or as speakers and players, participating in the all-comers’ rehearsal events on Saturday and the concert on Sunday afternoon.

The conference will begin on Friday at 12.30pm with registration and first panels at 1.45pm (the all-comers’ taking part all weekend begin rehearsals at 2pm). Concert number one (curated by DMU staff and students) will take place that evening. On Saturday, speakers’ panels are in the morning followed by a plenary with people associated with the EMC (including Christopher Hobbs, Virginia Anderson, Dave Smith and Hugh Shrapnel) and a piano repertoire concert. Speakers’ panels continue in the afternoon followed by an evening concert curated by Christopher Hobbs. If you decide to play with the all-comers’ (this will need to be booked in advance with your conference booking) we will be working on Gavin Bryars’ 1, 2, 1-2-3-4 (1975) and new commissions from the EMC composers.  On Sunday, the final speakers’ panels will take place in the morning with rehearsals in parallel and the day concluding after lunch with the final last presenting the new commissions and Bryars’ work. The day will conclude by 4pm.

What we are aiming for is a fun and enlightening integration of activities for all. We also aim to have a publication outlet for academics participating and more information about this will follow in advance of the conference.

Consequently, we invite proposals both broadly on the EMC and its impact but also on specific areas including:

Underground music publication and experimental music
The influence of EMC publications on subsequent composers
The role that indeterminate compositions played in opening music performance to all (to musicians of abilities, all artistic backgrounds, and relevant gender and class balance)
The Scratch Orchestra
The intersection between experimental and minimal music
Performance parameters
How indeterminate (text) scores are used today
Proposals should be sent in Word or rtf (NOT PDF) format, 250 words long, plus 100 words bio (affiliation, recent work etc…) and ensure your contact details are on the document. Please also indicate if you would wish to play an instrument, what that instrument is and how you would rate your abilities (e.g. Grade or years of experience). If you wish to play, please indicate if you have a preference for the day on which you deliver your paper (i.e. Friday or Sunday). The deadline is January 16th 2017. Proposers will hear back in late January. Send your proposal to Virginia Anderson at emcsystems@me.comand Anna Claydon at coma.east.midlands@gmail.com

The conference fees (payable electronically or by cheque via the booking form available from coma.east.midlands@gmail.com) are:

Conference only (includes conference pack, conference plenary and concert tickets)

Salaried CoMA Member £45
Salaried Non-CoMA Member £50
Student, Non-salaried CoMA Member £25
Student, Non-salaried Non-CoMA Member £30

Partial Conference and Partial Playing (i.e. playing on Saturday, conferencing Friday and Sunday there are extra costs associated with this)

Salaried CoMA Member £55
Salaried Non-CoMA Member £60
Student, Non-salaried CoMA Member £35
Student, Non-salaried Non-CoMA Member £40

Call for Papers and Participation: EMC2 Festival and Conference

CALL FOR PAPERS: EMC² – Remembering the Experimental Music Catalogue

De Montfort University 24-26th March 2017

The Experimental Music Catalogue (EMC) is a unique publication project, founded by the composer Christopher Hobbs in 1968 and shortly thereafter joined by Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman, to disseminate experimental music (which used indeterminate, Cagean processes, often presented in text or graphic notation) and minimalism. Many of these works were “for all”, requiring performers to be interested and diligent, but not requiring an ability to read common-practice music notation. From its founding until it was closed in the early 1980s, the EMC released works by important international experimental and minimalist composers (including Cornelius Cardew, Terry Jennings, Howard Skempton, Jon Gibson, Christian Wolff, and the open-ended London experimental group the Scratch Orchestra) as individual scores and thematic anthologies (such as the Verbal Anthology, Rhythmic Anthology, Scratch Anthology of Compositions). As a publisher, the EMC was unusual in that all composers kept copyright of their work, and as part of a larger wave in independent published collections (in the US, Soundings and SOURCE magazines, Dick Higgins’ “something else press”; in the UK, Contact magazine), the EMC imprint appears in library holdings throughout the UK, Europe, the Americas and Asia. Although Bryars operated the EMC from his London home, many of the EMC composers and associated performers worked at Leicester Polytechnic, where Bryars was head of music. Leicester Polytechnic became a crucible for new works and classic performances of old works, thus ensuring the East Midlands’ central place in the development of new music in Britain. Christopher Hobbs and Virginia Anderson revived the Experimental Music Catalogue in 1999 as a web-based not-for-profit resource, bringing out classic anthologies, new scores, and more recently, CDs and downloads. The modern EMC is based in Leicester.

In conjunction with De Montfort University, the University of Leicester and Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) East Midlands, we invite paper proposals on the topic of the Experimental Music Catalogue as part of the Arts Council funded festival of practice and analysis, EMC2. Composers within the East Midlands played a huge role in shaping experimental music tropes and strategies of the 1960s and ‘70s both in the UK and beyond. As part of CoMA East Midlands’ 20th anniversary celebrations we are hosting a festival of practice, reflection and research centred upon the Catalogue and its impact. Conference attendees can attend in one of two modes: as conference participants only (talks, plenaries (for both speakers and players) and concert attendance represent an enjoyable package of events) or as speakers and players, participating in the all-comers’ rehearsal events on Saturday and the concert on Sunday afternoon.

The conference will begin on Friday at 12.30pm with registration and first panels at 1.45pm (the all-comers’ taking part all weekend begin rehearsals at 2pm). Concert number one (curated by DMU staff and students) will take place that evening. On Saturday, speakers’ panels are in the morning followed by a plenary with people associated with the EMC (including Christopher Hobbs, Virginia Anderson, Dave Smith and Hugh Shrapnel) and a piano repertoire concert. Speakers’ panels continue in the afternoon followed by an evening concert curated by Christopher Hobbs. If you decide to play with the all-comers’ (this will need to be booked in advance with your conference booking) we will be working on Gavin Bryars’ 1, 2, 1-2-3-4 (1975) and new commissions from the EMC composers.  On Sunday, the final speakers’ panels will take place in the morning with rehearsals in parallel and the day concluding after lunch with the final last presenting the new commissions and Bryars’ work. The day will conclude by 4pm.

What we are aiming for is a fun and enlightening integration of activities for all. We also aim to have a publication outlet for academics participating and more information about this will follow in advance of the conference.

Consequently, we invite proposals both broadly on the EMC and its impact but also on specific areas including:

  • Underground music publication and experimental music
  • The influence of EMC publications on subsequent composers
  • The role that indeterminate compositions played in opening music performance to all (to musicians of abilities, all artistic backgrounds, and relevant gender and class balance)
  • The Scratch Orchestra
  • The intersection between experimental and minimal music
  • Performance parameters
  • How indeterminate (text) scores are used today

Proposals should be sent in Word or rtf (NOT PDF) format, 250 words long, plus 100 words bio (affiliation, recent work etc…) and ensure your contact details are on the document. Please also indicate if you would wish to play an instrument, what that instrument is and how you would rate your abilities (e.g. Grade or years of experience). If you wish to play, please indicate if you have a preference for the day on which you deliver your paper (i.e. Friday or Sunday). The deadline is January 16th 2017. Proposers will hear back in late January. Send your proposal to Virginia Anderson at emcsystems@me.com and Anna Claydon at coma.east.midlands@gmail.com

The conference fees (payable electronically or by cheque via the booking form available from coma.east.midlands@gmail.com) are:

Conference only (includes conference pack, conference plenary and concert tickets)

Salaried CoMA Member £45

Salaried Non-CoMA Member £50

Student, Non-salaried CoMA Member £25

Student, Non-salaried Non-CoMA Member £30

Partial Conference and Partial Playing (i.e. playing on Saturday, conferencing Friday and Sunday there are extra costs associated with this)

Salaried CoMA Member £55

Salaried Non-CoMA Member £60

Student, Non-salaried CoMA Member £35

Student, Non-salaried Non-CoMA Member £40

For a pdf version of this announcement, download here: CALL FOR PAPERS EMC2 Conference and Festival

Announcing the return of the EMC Rhythmic Anthology

rhythmicantcover
New on the EMC:

The re-release of the original EMC Rhythmic Anthology, originally from 1973.

OEMC0040. Hugh Shrapnel/Gavin Bryars/Jon Gibson/Christopher Hobbs/Michael Nyman/Michael Parsons. Rhythmic Anthology.

Pdf facsimile of the original document. 40 pp. £8.50.

One of the great Anthologies from the Experimental Music Catalogue’s first incarnation. Rhythmic Anthology includes Bells, by Hugh Shrapnel (a large page that formed the inside cover of the original),  The Squirrel and the Ricketty-Racketty Bridge and Pre-Mediaeval Metrics by Gavin Bryars, 30’s by Jon Gibson, Exercises for Percussionists by Christopher Hobbs, Bell Set 1 by Michael Nyman, and Rhythm Studies I and II for piano and Rhythm Studies for percussion by Michael Parsons. This Anthology includes important—indeed, essential—scores in experimental and minimalist music history (including the must-have works by Bryars, Gibson, Nyman, and Parsons). All produced with the full permission of all composers and their publishers, with a facsimile of the original cover, an iconic design by Angela Bryars.

For how to order, go here, and punch the link to the Classic EMC Anthologies page: http://experimentalmusic.co.uk/wp/emc-catalogue-list/

South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble on Bandcamp

14883668_1773712919547667_3839027680785784714_o
L-R: Trevor Lines, bass; Virginia Anderson, clarinets; Chris Hobbs, piano; Rick Nance, flugelhorn; Lee Allatson, drums; Bruce Coates, saxes

The monthly meeting of the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble, affectionately known as SLIE, at Quad Studios, Leicester, on 3 November 2016, was very special. Normally each session features a guest artist, but this core-group session came up with some lovely sounds. Rick Nance recorded the session using some high-quality portable recording equipment and has released it on his bandcamp page, the wonderfully titled “The Avant God”. There’s a track called From Arrival, which shows the slow movement from friends greeting each other verbally to greeting each other musically, and then three tracks, including some chamber SLIE, in which members sat out to watch others perform.

For the moment you can download SLIE from The Avant God and name your price, including nothing! But, as we say with the EMC Bandcamp page, do think about a donation above and beyond the price if you can manage it: donations will keep Rick’s webpage afloat so he can bring you these wonderfully recorded snapshots.

https://theavantgod.bandcamp.com/album/s-l-i-e