A few moments with Utku Asuroglu

We give the U.K. première of Utku’s Hayirli Olsun at our concert on February 16th at Brixton East 1871, 7.30pm. Find out more about him on his website, and read his thoughts on composing, conducting and his Turkish heritage in our interview below!

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Your musical studies and career have taken you from Turkey all across Europe. Did anywhere in particular steal your artistic heart?
The years I spent in Graz, Austria were the most valuable and important in my artistic life as a composer. The rich culture of Austria and my professor, Clemens Gadenstätter had a huge impact on me.
Does your conducting work inform the way you compose music?
Of course. My experiences in conducting greatly developed my inner hearing, my understanding of orchestration, and understanding of the psychology of the performers behind the music.
This piece features a prominent part for harpsichord (performed by our very own Goska Isphording). What attracted you to this particular instrument together with the unusual combination of piano, percussion and trombone?
The harpsichord is an instrument whose presence I truly miss in contemporary music. When used creatively, harpsichord adds extremely unique colours and expressive possibilities to any instrumentation. Dutillieux’s Les Citations [performed by Riot Ensemble in 2014!] or Carter’s Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord are wonderful works that prove my point. I wanted to contrast harpsichord with another keyboard instrument, and I tried to underline their percussive quality with percussion and their expressive ability using the trombone.
Your programme note mentions the Sivas Massacre of 1993. Have you addressed these horrific events in music, and if so then how?
My music mostly lacks any programmatic content. However, non-musical influences have always proven to be strong points of departure for my compositions. The word non-musical sounds very unjust to me, for I can’t isolate music from literature or architecture.
The Sivas Massacre was a horrible hate crime against critical and creative minds of Turkey. Even though I was just a kid in 1993, I have read a lot about it ever since and its impact is still present in my life. I don’t think it’s possible to address how I used these impressions in this particular piece, and I believe this is the very unique thing about music; it defies being described with words.
Can you tell us more about your future plans?
I’m working on an ensemble piece that’s going to be premiered by International Ensemble Modern Academy in the Gaudeamus Music Week 2017. I will also be busy with a chamber opera project with Marcel Beekman in the Netherlands. We are still working on the libretto. Working with artists from different disciplines motivates and inspires me. I am very much looking forward to hearing and seeing the resulting work on the stage.
Many thanks, Utku!

A few moments with Michael Cryne

We are hugely looking forward to giving the premiere of Michael Cryne‘s five-movement work Celia’s Toyshop at our concert on February 16th at Brixton East 1871, 7.30pm.

Michael lives and works in London and is currently pursuing doctoral study in composition under the supervision of Mark Bowden and Helen Grime at Royal Holloway, University of London, having previously studied composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

In this short interview Michael discusses his work with Adam and whets all of our appetites. We hope to see a great crowd on February 16th!

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Welcome Michael, and thank you for giving Riot Ensemble the premiere of your piece ‘Celia’s Toyshop’. I believe there’s a special dedicatee in the title?!

 

Thanks Adam, I’m hugely excited. This will be a really special one for me. As you’ve mentioned, the collection of pieces were written for my daughter Celia. I’ve been writing them on and off in between other things. She won’t make it to the premiere, she’s only 2, and generally prefers youtube videos of people opening shiny things.

 

Your piece is for ‘Pierrot ensemble plus percussion’. Has Schoenberg influenced any other aspects other than the instrumentation? 

 

Oh, I use post-serial techniques all the time, so in that sense absolutely. ‘Puzzle Book’ uses a ciphered version of Celia’s full name as a tone-row, for example.

 

There are five movements with really imaginative titles such as ‘Clockwork Nightingale’ and ‘Neon Butterflies’. Are you telling some (famous) stories in your piece, or are you just encouraging imaginative listening?

 

Well, ‘Clockwork Nightingale’ is a combination of a birdsong transcription and a mechanistic rhythmic pattern, so the title in that instance shaped elements of the piece. Whereas ‘Neon Butterflies’ was just a youtube video we were watching together. But yeah, ‘imaginative listening’  is a nice way of putting it. I don’t think any of the pieces tell stories in a programmatic sense.

 

So what’s the first note?

 

 

What’s the last note?

 

A

 

And what’s the best bit?!

 

I really like ‘Marionettes’. It’s a quirky little dance, inspired by the jerky movements of puppets.

 

In 2017 Michael Cryne is also …

 

… currently working on a piece for Manchester-based ensemble Psappha, for solo alto flute and electronics. We’re recording that in April.

And if you happen to be coming to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s composers day on Saturday 18th Febraury, I’ll be presenting Celia’s Toyshop there with Kokoro, their new music ensemble. 

 

Many thanks Michael!

 

Meeting Ausiàs Garrigós Morant

It’s been quite a year at Riot HQ. Aaron had to buy a new sofa in order to squeeze in all our new members of the artistic board. (Maybe I’ll pop a picture of the sofa up on instagram.) Our final ‘unveiling’ of the year is the astonishing clarinetist Ausiàs Garrigós Morant. Ausiàs will be joining us at Cardiff University for our second performance of wonderful text scores by the late Pauline Oliveros on Tuesday April 4th at 7.30pm. You have to think quickly on your feet for those, and the same goes for these interview questions below (although don’t ask Ausiàs how long it took to answer them …).

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Welcome Ausiàs! Tell the ways in which you have Rioted so far …

Every day. Every morning. Against my alarm.

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

Tearaway. 100% impulsive.

Favourite musician?

Paquito d’Rivera has always been my musical (and clarinetist) hero and I would say one of the reasons why I play clarinet, too.

Favourite performance venue?

A half-improvised stage lost in the mountains of Sierra de Segura (Spain), a beautiful natural reserve that hosts a beautiful music festival – Musica en Segura.

People have said this about me …

‘Being as clumsy as you are, how is it possible that you have not dropped or broken your clarinets a thousand times?’ (By my mum – I still don’t know how!)

Strictly or X Factor?

Sorry, but this year, La Voz, the Spanish edition of The Voice, only because one of my best friends was in the final.

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

Mayonnaise (and french fries, and a touch of mustard, please).

I would most like to Riot about …

Climate change, and common sense – should they both not come together?

Meeting Louise McMonagle

Don’t double-take- this is not a magical christmas movie! It’s actually the amazing (and much more magical) Louise McMonagle. We’re so pleased to have Louise and her magnificent cello playing on our artistic board! Louise will be joining us at the recording sessions for our second album A Chest of Toys, which will be released in 2017. Take a peek at Louise’s website here, and find out where she stands on all the big issues of the day in our quick-fire interview below.

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In what ways have you Rioted so far?

In my first Riot Ensemble concert I had to play my cello with an electric razor. That was a riot.

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

Definitely the tearaway I’m afraid. Just ask any of my school teachers …

Favourite musician?

Impossible question but I’ll go with Truls Mork, due to the sheer hours I clocked up listening to him when I was getting into the cello.

Favourite performance venue?

Royal Opera House – I love the theatre atmosphere.

People have said this about me …

“She wears a lot of yellow.”

Strictly or X Factor?

Neither … but at a push, Strictly.

The best 007 is …

Daniel Craig!

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

Both are food hell for me.

I would most like to Riot about …

… where to start …

Meeting Andy Connington

We’re chuffed to bits to welcome fabulous trombonist Andy to our artistic board. Our first concert of 2017 features Andy playing alongside Goska Isphording (harpsichord), Sarah Mason (percussion) and Adam Swayne (piano) in the UK Premiere of Utku Asuroglu’s Hayirli Olsun. Come along to Brixton East 1871 at 7.30pm on Thursday February 16th! In the meantime, find out more about Andy in our quick question/answer below, and visit his website for more …riot_andy

In what ways have you Rioted so far?

I have Rioted a few times – the first time at The Forge playing trombone quartets, then a few scenes from Aaron’s new opera ‘The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst‘ and then last April in Djuro Zivkovic’s On the Guarding of the Heart.

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

I want to say teenage tearaway but nerdy note-learner would be more correct! At school I always practised when I felt like it, which meant quite often neglecting the homework …

Favourite musician?

I don’t have a favourite musician, but I have some favourite orchestras amongst the usual suspects – Berlin Phil, Vienna Phil, Chicago SO, LSO …

Favourite performance venue?

I spend quite a lot of time working in pits, so I’m normally very happy when I get to play anywhere with some space and a nice acoustic! In the UK, my favourite halls are Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and Symphony Hall in Birmingham. I’m a huge fan of the continental rectangular halls, but unfortunately I’ve only had a chance to play in the Herkulessaal in Munich. The Kölner Philharmonie is also quite an interesting hall.

People have said this about me …

I’m not sure anyone has really talked much about me! Trombonists don’t usually get noticed, but I have had the following mentions in reviews:

“the trombone solo – heroically executed by Andrew Connington …”

“special mention must go to trombonist Andrew Connington for his frolics in the paddling pool …”

“Andrew Connington’s plummy, rasping gusto was infectious …”

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

Neither! Would rather make my own vinaigrette!

As long as it’s not plummy or infectious (or in a paddling pool) that sounds delicious. Thank you Andy, and we look forward to seeing/hearing you in February!

Meeting Stephen Upshaw

Stephen is a brilliant viola player and a fantastic new addition to our artistic board. Come and hear him play alongside Sarah Mason (percussion) and Claudia Maria Racovicean (piano) at The Forge, Camden on Monday November 21st at 8pm. The programme includes Morton Feldman’s ‘The Viola In My Life’ alongside new works for viola by Mark Simpson, Tigran Mansurian and Jack Sheen, and works for percussion by Anna Meredith and Mark Bowden. Find out more about Stephen in our quick question/ answer below, and visit his website for more…

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So far I have Rioted in the following ways …

Moving thousands of miles away from home to start a career in a place where I knew no one, I suppose?

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

Both note-learner and tearaway depending on the day and when the exams were. :)

Favourite musician?

Joseph Szigeti.

Favourite performance venue?

Two way tie between 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA USA and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

People have said this about me …

‘Supercharged viola players used to be an oxymoron but they aren’t now!’ – I’m very happy to hopefully debunk boring viola jokes!

Strictly or X Factor?

X Factor for sure! Having played on it once (shh), I suppose my allegiances would have to lie there?

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

As an American it took me quite some time to even figure out what salad cream is (I still don’t fully understand what it is, if anyone would like to help clarify …), so I will say mayonnaise!

The best 007 is …

Sean Connery of course.

I would most like to Riot about …

Brexit and how it was allowed to happen.

Many thanks Stephen. You may be interested to know that salad cream is a creamy, pale yellow condiment based on an emulsion of about 25–50% oil in water, emulsified by egg yolk and acidulated by spirit vinegar, and it is delicious in sandwiches or with chips.

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!

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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!

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