Speak, Be Silent: A Testament to Riot Ensemble’s Vision and Artistry

Jarret Goodchild reviewed our latest album Speak, Be Silent for the new music blog I Care If You Listen, declaring it “a testament to Riot Ensemble’s vision and artistry.” Read the review below or check out it out here.

Since 2012, the London-based Riot Ensemble has given over 200 world and UK premieres and has become a spearhead at the forefront of new music. Forward thinking and creative, their Artistic Board members are also some of the top musicians and soloists in Europe. They are in constant motion, acting as curators, composers, performers, and commissioners for Riot Ensemble. The group’s latest album, Speak, Be Silent (HCR), is a collection of pieces that shows off the outstanding capabilities of the ensemble as well as the powerful voices of the composers they help to promote.

The album borrows its name from Liza Lim’s Speak, Be Silent. The piece features violinist Sarah Saviet, one of Riot Ensemble’s principal artists and Artistic Directors. Throughout the work, there are multiple moments where the instruments of the ensemble cascade over each other like waves. The effect is like the aural version of colored lights gradually changing hues, while at other times, it is like fireworks outshining each other. Frenetic bursts give way to feelings of melancholy, and eventually, Lim takes the listener to a new, more sparse sonic landscape. During these exposed moments, the solo violin is predominantly featured with long swaths of color, emerging intermittently from the rest of the ensemble. Saviet’s performance is fantastic–Lim’s writing demands extreme agility and precision, and Saviet delivers.

Liza Lim--Photo by Jim Rolon
Liza Lim–Photo by Jim Rolon

Chaya Czernowin’s Ayre: Towed through plumes, thicket, asphalt, sawdust and hazardous air I shall not forget the sound of opens the album. The poetic title is an excellent reflection of the music. The sounds Czernowin creates seem familiar and foreign at the same time. The repeated musical material seems to be dragged through the different hazards of the title. All movement is slow and compressed down to a miniscule range for much of the piece, with tones climbing over each other like rungs on a ladder.

In contrast, Baby Magnify/Lilith’s New Toy is fun, playful, and often erratic. Mirela Ivičevićachieves this feeling with percussive notes and sliding gestures across the ensemble. As this piece progresses, the tension mounts with an explosive texture. The sounds Ivičević is able to pull out of the ensemble are marvelous!

 by Anna Thorvaldsdóttir takes the listener in the opposite direction with long, dark, undulating tones that support eerie motives. The music is slow, methodical, and phrased in one long, gentle arc. Everything feels very carefully placed and deliberately moves through its paces. The interwoven rhythmic intricacy in Baby Magnify/Lilith’s New Toy coupled with the care to tone, nuance, and balance in  exemplifies the caliber of the performers and displays what makes Riot Ensemble so special.

Riot Ensemble
Riot Ensemble

The last track on the album is not an exclamation point, but rather more like a question mark. Rebecca Saunders’ Stirrings Still II slinks along in a similar way to , but is more sparse and extremely intimate. The dialogues Saunders has created sound either like whispers or guttural growls. The string effects give this sonic construction a silvery exterior, and the mood is a reflective one. Saunders does an amazing job of pulling the listener in and suspending all sense of time.

You can order the album here

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic: Close Up Concert

Date: Mon 25th Nov, 2019
Time: 8pm
Venue: Music Room, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (L1 9BP)

Riot Ensemble feature in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Close Up Concerts series, giving you the chance to experience works by Kaija Saariaho, Lee Hyla, Bernhard Gander, Marc Mellits, and Matthias Pintscher in an intimate and relaxed setting in the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room.

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November Music: Saunders & Osborn

Date: Sun 3rd Nov, 2019
Venue: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

From their new album Speak, Be Silent, Riot Ensemble perform Rebecca Saunders’ Stirring Still II which continues her longstanding fascination with the writings of Samuel Beckett, sharing its title with Beckett’s final work of prose. Through its fragile and haunting soundworld, the piece’s brittle textures and distant keening explore minute musical activities on the edge of extinction.

Alongside this Laurence Osborn’s Ctrl which was premiered by Riot Ensemble at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2017. Ctrl is a three movement song-cycle about masculinity written from the fragmented perspective of a male character and sung by a female singer.  

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November Music: Solstices

Date: Sat 2nd Nov, 4.00pm
Venue: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Solstices is a 70-minute piece from Georg Friedrich Haas, which takes place entirely in darkness. For 10 musicians, including a completely re-tuned grand piano, Solstices opens with a passage of taut, energetic and precise music.  From here the piece turns to a process of deep-listening by the musicians who, led by a totally re-tuned grand piano, play and tune a series of overtone chords.  Soon Haas introduces a variety of musical ‘games’ and elements that play upon the surface of this slowly moving texture.  Building to an intense climax, the final chord is held by the musicians for more than four minutes.  Haas writes:

very gradually the light comes back
the brighter the light, the softer the music
decrescendo al niente

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Composition Workshops: Ben Oliver

Date: Mon 16th & Tue 17th Sep, 2019
Venue: University of Southampton (SO16 7PP)

Riot Ensemble travels to Southampton University to work with composer Ben Oliver on a new piece in development with poet Luke Wright.  These workshops will lead to a major new work in 2020.

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Voyages of Discovery

Date: Fri 2nd Aug, 2019
Venue: Petworth, UK

A new work for violin, cello, piano and percussion by renowned Petworth composer Terence Allbright provides the centrepiece for a concert of audacious contemporary works given by the Riot Ensemble at the Petworth Festival.

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Composition Workshop: Music Biennale Zagreb

Date: Thu 11th & Fri 12th Apr, 2019
Venue: Zagreb, Croatia

Riot Ensemble make their first ever trip to Croatia to take part in the Music Biennale Zagreb – an international festival of contemporary music. We will be working with composers from all across Europe in a series of workshops of new pieces written specially for the festival.

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Speak, Be Silent: CD Release Concert

Date: Mon 8th Apr, 2019
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Crypt on the Green, Saint James Church (EC1R 0EA)

Join us the evening of April 8th to celebrate the release of Speak, be Silent, our latest CD, out on HCR/NMC Recordings. Riot Ensemble artists will play solo works by each of the composers represented on the CD: Rebecca Saunders, Liza Lim, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Mirela Ivičevič, and Chaya Czernowin. In lieu of tickets we will collect funds to support Play for Progress, a charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for traumatised and socially isolated unaccompanied minor refugees.

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