A few moments with Laurence Osborn

We come to new music in a lot of ways here.  You’ve already been introduced to Yukiko and Lee, the two winners of our 2016 Call for Scores competition.  This Saturday’s concert will also feature more than a dozen World Premieres from New Music Brighton composers – whom we collaborate with in Brighton annually.  Laurence Osborn is a composer we got to know, in large part, because we saw him at a lot of concerts – ours and lots of other people’s, too.  As soon as we heard his music we knew he was somebody we’d like to work with and so we’re thrilled to have commissioned a new piece from him and poet Joseph MindenMicrographia.  

In this interview Laurence discusses his life and music with our artistic director Aaron Holloway-Nahum. Both Laurence and Aaron will be at the concert this Saturday at 5pm – and the afterparty – so do come say hello if you make it down!

headshot

1. What’s happening in your life?

This evening I got back from Sainsbury’s just in time to see a mouse emerge from a box of cornflakes on the kitchen counter, so at the moment, mouse problems.

2. What’s happening in your music?

I’m writing a 90-minute opera for Mahogany Opera Group. The opera is called The Mother and it’s based on the work of a Polish playwright, painter, and prolific substance abuser called Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. Witkiewicz’s work has had a huge influence on my music – particularly his theory of dramatic form, which he calls pure form. I’m interested in creating music-dramatic forms from apparently disparate or unconnected elements that hang together in the same space, so that the story of a piece or a scene is revealed in its overall composition rather than observed through linear narrative. The third act of the opera is made in this way: it comprises twenty-four very short sections intermingled with a standalone choral piece that has been cut up arbitrarily and superimposed on top of it all.

I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of things that work with this principle – Kurtag’s chamber music, and some of Peter Greenaway’s films from the ’80s. And I’m reading Infinite Jest, which does similar things. I’m also obsessed with the new Danny Brown album, Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown is amazing at juxtaposing different voices and sound-worlds in order to create an overarching narrative, I think. He’s a total genius.

3. Your piece is inspired by magnified images of tiny particles in substances including blue mould and urine. Are you at heart a true romantic?

Yes, I’m very soppy. But to be honest, it’s possible to get sentimental about virtually anything when it’s viewed through a microscope. The piece is based on Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, which was written in 1665, and details the author’s observations of various things through the microscope. The book contains lots of beautiful observational drawings. 

laurenceexample

Drawing of frozen wee!

Joe’s text really gets to the heart of Hooke’s love for the tiny worlds contained within everyday things, I think. The poetry is so colourful and evocative in itself that the composition of this piece came very naturally to me. Micrographia is much gentler and hazier than the stuff I usually write.

4. So what’s the first note?

It’s a chord! A cheeky little four-note chord on piano and vibes!

5. And what’s the last note?

An F natural. Not very interesting. But the last word of Joe’s poem is ‘hunger’.

6. What happens in between?

The piece is in six small movements, and each movement focusses on a different phenomenon viewed through the microscope – the point of a needle, salt crystals, urine, and so on. For me, the composition of each movement was a little game of magnification and/or reflection. So material is often magnified during a movement either through rhythmic augmentation, or the proportional widening of the intervals in particular chords, or sometimes both.

Microsoft Word - micrographia_final.docx

Micrographia by Joseph Minden

But (depending on the movement) you also find material reflected in various ways, in retrograde, inversion, and so on. There is no discernible system for this in movements 2–5. Movement 6, however, is a direct inversion of the magnification process used for movement 1. These two would probably make more sense sat next to one another, rather than at opposite sides of the piece. But also, each movement has its own specific sound-world that relates to the physical qualities of the phenomenon represented – I think the audience will be able to hear this when it’s performed.

We can’t wait to perform it!  Thank you very much Laurence!

A few moments with Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood is one of two winners of our 2016 Call for Scores competition. We are excited to perform his latest work at our Brighton concert at 5pm on Saturday October 29th. Lee needn’t make extensive travel plans to attend this concert as he has made Bohemia-by-Sea his home for well over a decade. He is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Sussex with Martin Butler and is a member of the composers’ collective New Music Brighton whose members are contributing twelve exciting and distinctive new miniatures to the concert.

In this interview Lee discusses his life and music with our co-principal pianist and fellow Brightonian Adam Swayne. What’s the betting they’ll be enjoying last orders in the pub after the concert while we are hauling all the equipment back to London …?

Join us for a splendid Saturday 29th at 5pm at St Nicholas Church!

photoshoot2-008-copy

What’s happening in your life?

For a couple of years now, I’ve been working on a stream of commissions without a break. I’m not complaining, because it’s been a fantastic way to learn a lot fast, and to work with loads of brilliant people. It is exhausting though, and the last few weeks of a write really take it out of me, so I’ve been trying to recover a little from the Riot Ensemble commission before I begin my second piece for the LSO Soundhub.

Outside of music, as a part-time house-dad for the second time round, I’m spending a lot of my day telling my son not to eat my CDs or ham the keys of my laptop with his gooey hands. Oh, and I just bought my first car in 15 years, which has been a brilliant excuse to trawl through my CD collection and get deep into all the albums I used to spend so much of my time listening to – currently my car has metamorphosed into a mobile Alice In Chains capsule.

What’s happening in your music?

Lots of wind instruments, that’s what’s happening. Instrumental timbre has been increasingly taking the foreground in my music, so I’ve been having lessons on a load of different instruments in an attempt to better my understanding of them. This has also involved spending days and days recording me making weird noises on each one. Basically, really fun.

Your piece is called Fluorescence. Are you hoping for glowing reviews?

My piece is called Florescence, and I am hoping it will allow your mind to blossom.

Oh dear, Lee! Well, if I can’t get the title right then how can I be expected to play your new piece?! Help me out – what’s the first note?

I’m not sure – it depends what comes out of the flute … an upper partial of G, hopefully …

Well, if you don’t even know the first note …

What’s the last note?

Again, I’m not really sure – it depends where the viola ends up … fingers crossed, it’ll be an upper partial of G …

Hmmph. So what happens in between?

Mostly G … the reckless abuse of an expensive piano … then some arpeggios.

No pianos will be harmed in the execution of this piece! All the effects are astonishingly gentle. Thank you very much Lee, we are all really excited to perform your new piece ‘Fluoridification’ on October 29th!

A few moments with Yukiko Watanabe

Yukiko Watanabe is one of two winners of our 2016 Call for Scores competition. She studied with Beat Furrer in Austria and now lives in Berlin. Her music is truly adventurous, embracing the dramatic and the bizarre alongside truly heartfelt sensitivity. We are excited to perform her new work In My Room at our Brighton concert at 5pm on October 29th. Yukiko has kindly given us a window into her life, ideas and compositional methods – read the interview below!
Don’t miss Yukiko’s piece on the 29th! The venue is a short walk from Brighton station, and the concert starts at 5pm, allowing plenty of time for dinner, drinks and travel after it finishes. So why not plan a bracing autumnal day at the seaside with a terrific concert to boot? There’s even an extra hour to pack with enjoyment before the clocks go back that evening.
yukiko
What’s happening in your life, and in your music?
Life is full of unexpected things. There are many happy accidents that give me a chance to know and change myself. Likewise in my music I expect that something new will happen to me.

Do you feel like you have a ‘personal style’ in your composing?  Could you describe your own style to us?

It’s a very interesting question. Though it may seem paradoxical, but to think about my own style equates to the assumption that I don’t have any original style. Our music exists in different contexts and background of cultural history, so my music also can’t consist only of itself, but it is created always with some contexts. So it seems to me that to know the context rather than thinking about my own style is important. But perhaps we believe too much our own history and context without questioning. Composition is nothing more than the accumulation of the question for oneself; not to accept everything as common sense, but to try to think through everything again personally.

Your piece is called In My Room. So, what is actually in your room?
Currently, my small room is occupied by a lot of instruments and also small toys for my daughter.
When I started to compose, my daughter came to me with her toys and showed me new techniques for making music. So she provided inspiration and even guidance for the beginning of the piece!
I imagine the piece is like a kindergarten, there should be some serious fun with these toys. The piece should be played like inquisitive child!
Do you conceive of your pieces with drama in mind?  

Drama in my music is actually not easy to define. Because it is not always same, and mostly it depends on the idea of the piece. Each idea has an appropriate duration, and I just follow what the ideas or musical material wants to do. One more thing I can say about the shape is that compositional blank space is very important. For the imagination of the listener, they will always need blank space to fantasize.

How does the piece end?
Music always tells me the end of the piece.

Could you tell us a bit about other projects you have going on in 2016/2017?

I have two big projects in 2016/2017 other than the piece for Riot Ensemble. Firstly, I will compose a new piece for AsianArt Ensemble in Berlin. The ensemble is very unique, it’s mixed instrumentation with European and Asian instruments. I will take particular note of the difference between the physicality of both of them and I’m sure it will be a challenging piece for me, because it is related to my own origin deeply.

And the second one is also a very challenging project. In the project, I deal with the possibility of using sign language in contemporary music. For this project, I’m studying the language and I’m already totally fascinated with it. Learning a new language is not only fun but it will also be a first step to understanding an unknown world!

2015-08-10_02-59-50_20269347098_o

Meeting Sarah Saviet

America-born, Germany-based violinist Sarah Saviet is a new member of our artistic board. Hear her live performances of Liza Lim’s solo violin piece Philtre and Jack Sheen’s work for solo violin and ensemble Television continuity poses on Radio 3’s Hear and Now (recording available until October 28th). Sarah has a pretty intense schedule of travel and concerts, so we’re really grateful to her for taking the time to answer a few questions …

riot_sarah2

In which ways have you Rioted so far?

We had a blast last week playing on BBC3’s Hear and Now. Also, I really enjoyed our concert last April with works by Evan Johnson, Nina Young, and Djuro Zivkovic

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

I guess I was pretty nerdy, although not in the ‘note-learning’ sense. I didn’t practise a lot, but read books all the time.

Favourite musician?

Here are several in no particular order: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Arthur Grumiaux, Björk, Nina Simone, Iván Fischer, Olly Knussen.

Favourite performance venue?

A friend’s loft in Berlin, where I like to give house concerts. The last time I played there it got a bit noisy – in addition to my friends, there were two babies and a massive dog in attendance.

People have said this about me …

Sarah has way too many stuffed hedgehogs.

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

I really dislike mayonnaise.

I would most like to Riot about …

If we’re talking about Rioting with the Ensemble, I’m very much looking forward to playing Liza Lim’s Speak, be Silent with the ensemble as well as bringing David Bird’s new violin + electronics piece to London in February.

Rioting in general … well, let’s see what happens with the US election in November. I just sent in my absentee ballot.

Many thanks Sarah! We’ll order some salad cream in for your next visit!

Breathe AHR: Charcoal

Date: Wednesday 9th November 1pm
Venue: Guys Hospital – Atrium 1
A ‘Remembrance’ themed concert, with live artist Marcus Stefanelli.  Music by John Garner, A world premiere of Giovanni Cacioppo’s The Immigrant Suite, a selection of Bartok’s 44 Duos For Two Violins and Kate Williams Suite for Two Violins.

Continue reading