Feature

Edwin HillierEdwin Hillier

Setting out at the beginning of the Next Wave project, I had no idea what to expect; 12 composers squashed in black cabs at Bushey Station, heading into the Hertfordshire wilderness. But the next few days provided us all with so many opportunities: the chance to work with first rate musicians and soloists, to try out new ideas and to forge relationships with fellow composers (with much of this being done after hours at the quirky Bushey Policeman's Bar across the way!)

The initial workshop of my piece (hibeh – for mezzo-soprano and instrumental ensemble), proved to be an inspiring experience. I greatly appreciated the honesty of Garry Walker and the London Sinfonietta players, and their professionalism in discussing my music – what worked (and what didn’t), and especially how I might achieve the same effect with far less effort, on both my part and theirs!

Working with Loré Lixenberg – something I’d been really excited about since submitting my proposal almost a year ago – was really important in shaping hibeh. I was lucky during the Purcell course to be timetabled a session, just myself and Loré alone with a microphone, for a potential electronic aspect of the work. Although I ultimately chose not to pursue this pre-recorded material (deciding the music was more effective as a purely acoustic piece), this session went on to influence my final composition.

Listening back recently to this recording, I was surprised by just how many of the musical features of the quasi-improvised material Loré sang that day found their way, however loosely or abstractly, into the final vocal material of hibeh. This opportunity to collaborate so closely with an artist – and to keep such an aural record of material – had really gone on to shape my final piece noticeably.

I also worked throughout the course with David Horne, who was assigned as my Next Wave scheme mentor, and it was a real privilege to receive his insight (mixing together both his expertise as performer and composer). Following on from the first workshop, David helped me lots in refining and shaping my initial ideas (I ultimately kept only 10 bars of the original music – consigning many more notes to the scrap drawer! – which then went on to form the basis of the final 9 minute piece).

Fast-forward to August, and more squashed composers and performers pulled up in black cabs outside the studios at Guildford University. The chance to have a piece recorded in such facilities, with an ensemble as expert as the Sinfonietta doesn’t come around too often – and I really have to offer at this point my most sincere thanks to all at NMC, SAM and of course to Gary, Loré and the performers for making it all happen. The day was a great insight into the rehearsal and recording process, and we composers were all hugely blessed to have the chance of working with producer David Lefeber, who’s captured so vividly and truthfully each of our pieces.  I’m now looking forward immensely to the release of the recordings on 24th November, and of course to meeting up with the whole Next Wave community at Huddersfield (hcmf//).

 

Listen to an extract from Edwin's hibeh

Interview with Edwin

Edwin's Top 10 Tracks

 

1. Sciarrino: Luci mie traditrici 

Sciarrino’s music has undoubtedly been my biggest influence over the past few years. I caught Luci mie traditrici almost by chance –  performed by Music Theatre Wales at the Linbury last October – and was blown away. The vocal writing in Luci  – like much of Sciarrino’s vast vocal output – is spun out in intricate, almost Monteverdian webs of notes, yet the meaning and drama of the words is never lost (and all this amidst an orchestral backdrop that teeters on the edge of audibility, as if on the cusp of the unknown).

 

2. Gesualdo / Victoria: Tenebrae – Responsories And Lamentations For Holy Saturday       

3. Sciarrino, Gesualdo, Fedele: Tre canti senza pietre: I. Mormorando

Luci (whose plot is inspired by the life of 17th-Century composer, Carlo Gesualdo) is a good segue into my second choice – the Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday, written by Gesualdo in 1611. I discovered these pieces some years back now, and have long been moved by their disturbing – and often perplexing – harmonic language and dissonance. (Following on from this is a piece by Neu Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, featuring music of both of the above composers – I’m especially fond here of Sciarrino’s mischievous retelling of a selection of Gesualdo madrigals.)

 

4. Nigel Osborne: I am Goya

5. Rebecca Saunders: Quartet for accordion, clarinet, double-bass and piano

I came across Nigel Osborne and his I am Goya – a setting of a Andrei Voznesensky text for Baritone and ensemble (1977) – once again rather fortuitously, whilst researching the music of Rebecca Saunders (see track 5). Osborne was Saunders’ teacher at Edinburgh University, and you can hear an immediate connection in their – albeit very different – writing; an ear for subtle timbre and fine detail of sound. The opening of I am Goya is really memorable for me – with the baritone only entering proceedings after a whole two minutes (and even then, disembodied and oddly impotent in his falsetto register, before slowly descending and emerging at the forefront of the instrumental texture).

 

6. Wolfgang Rihm: Ricercare – Musik in memoriam Luigi Nono

Rihm also links back to Rebecca Saunders, as another of her former teachers. Ricercare is a piece that I’ve come to admire greatly, principally owing the stark simplicity of the music; essentially blocks of bare harmonic material, which effervesce and fade into silence, yet maintaining a strong sense of kinesis to their dying breath. I remember on first hearing the peculiar feeling of having no sense of time of time at all, yet feeling completely drawn in and part of the music.

 

7. Thomas Weelkes: When David Heard (Second)

Thomas Weelkes’ When David Heard (1612) might seem an odd choice at this point! But it’s a work from my secret choral past which I revisit frequently, and never fails to move me. There’s a real simplicity and serenity to the music, which seems completely at odds with the highly charged and emotive text, resulting in something really special. He’s not a well-known figure outside the cathedrals and chapels of this county, but I hope you’ll have a listen! Perfectly performed here by Gallicantus.

 

8. Corrado Canonici: A Roaring Flame

Corrado Canonici’s album of double bass music, A Roaring Flame is perhaps one of my favourite discs on NMC’s catalogue. I can’t quite remember how I came across it, but it’s been saved on my Spotify playlists for some time now – and for two tracks in particular. Firstly, Oliver Knussen’s Turba for solo double bass: a rugged and earthy piece, very much in the same vein as his Ocean de Terre (written one year later). Second is James Dillon’s title track, A Roaring Flame, a setting of gaelic poetry for mezzo-soprano and double bass – a piece bursting with rich exoticism and murky, coiling beauty.

 

9. Fausto Romitelli: Domeniche alla periferia dell impero: Domeniche alla periferia dell impero

I heard Romitelli’s haunting Domeniche performed earlier this year by the fabulous explorensemble, in a concert featuring my own piece, Sumac. I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know Romitelli’s music at the moment having – rather shamefully – missed out on it up till now. There’s something incredibly intoxicating about this piece especially, and a soundworld and harmonic language quite unlike any other (listen out for doubling pitch pipes and kazoos throughout).

 

10. George Frideric Handel: As pants the hart, HWV 251b

My final choice is one of Handel’s Chandos anthems, As pants the hart, composed in 1713. The music of George Frideric Handel is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, having recently been appointed Composer in Residence at Handel House Museum for 2014-15 (which will see me over the next year writing a series of new commissions, as well as leading on education and composition workshops). I’ve thoroughly loved revisiting Handel’s music over the past few months, drawing inspiration from his music, and breaking it down to its essentials for my schools programme. As pants the hart is one of the many pieces I’ve been enjoying of late – performed here by the Sixteen.

 

Explore Edwin's Music Map

 

 

hibeh is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.

Tracklisting:

1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick

Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker

Download the album here.

 

 

Photo: Stuart Leech

Related Recordings

Next Wave
Feature

Georgia RodgersGeorgia Rodgers

Being part of the Next Wave project has been a great experience and overwhelmingly positive. I feel like I’ve learnt about the process of composition from lots of different points of view, and it’s definitely going to be useful in the future.

I composed a piece called partial filter for solo tuba and electronics. I like to work by processing instrumental sounds on my laptop, to really delve into the grain and texture of that instrument’s soundworld. From here I develop a palette of different sounds and processes, which then inform the shape and structure of the final composition.

The way I work involves a lot of improvisation and exploration at the beginning of the project; investigating different instrumental and electronic sounds is really important. Happily everyone involved in the project was very supportive of this approach and helped me get the most out of the workshop sessions. I’m really glad that I got to work with Oren Marshall because his background in tuba improvisation is perfect for this style of working.

Recording the piece with Oren and David Lefeber (NMC's producer/engineer) was really fun! It was a privilege to be able to work with them, the top quality equipment and wealth of experience.

The only thing I would mention as negative is that I think I am the only part-time student involved in the project – I also have a day job! Sometimes it was hard to be available for all the workshops and events. As much advanced warning as possible regarding dates is appreciated by part-time students.

I’ve really gained a lot from this project and I’m so grateful to everyone involved, especially: Sound and Music, NMC Recordings, my mentor David Horne, Oren Marshall, the other composers and City University who supported me throughout.

 
Listen to an extract from Georgia's partial filter

Interview with Georgia

 

Georgia's Top 10 Tracks

The playlist below includes some tuba pieces which helped me while I was composing this piece, as well as some other tracks which have influenced me more generally.

 

 

1. Luigi Nono, Post-praeludium Per Donau (solo tuba and tape)

This is a haunting track by Nono, a master of space. It really broadens your idea of what a tuba sounds like. Nono’s use of spatialisation and reverb was so ahead of his time.

 

2. William Kraft, Encounters II (solo tuba)

There are lots of extended techniques in this piece written for tuba virtuoso Roger Bobo. It helped me understand what’s possible when playing a tuba.

 

3. Christian Wolff, Tuba Song (solo tuba)

A beautifully paced solo work. It really shows off the tuba sound.

 

4. Robin Hayward, Plateau Squared (microtonal tuba and live electronics)

A slowly evolving piece which Hayward performs on his specially designed microtonal tuba. Eventually it envelops you inside a huge and complex layered cloud of tuba sound.

 

5. Jonty Harrison Klang (electroacoustic) (NMC D035)

One of the first electroacoustic pieces I heard. It showed me how deep you can delve into a single sound using electronic processing techniques.

 

6. Jonathan Harvey Bhakti (chamber ensemble and tape) (NMC D001)

A wonderful piece. Harvey was so quick to adopt new technologies and use them in his work in such subtle and imaginative ways.

 

7. Michael Pisaro Ricefall (ensemble)

I took part in a performance of this a couple of years ago. The way your listening develops as the piece unfolds is astounding.

 

8. Peter Ablinger Voices and Piano (piano and tape)

I love the way Ablinger uses noise in his work. The different grains of each recording and voice really come through here, picked out by the live piano.

 

9. Morton Feldman Patterns in a Chromatic Field (piano and cello)

I heard Mark Knoop and Séverine Ballon perform this at City University last year. I couldn’t believe eighty minutes had passed when they finished. Something about the shifting repetitions makes your hearing become so acute, and you don’t really think about time anymore, you just listen.

 

10. Chet Faker Drop the Game (electronic)

I really like this track. As ever, the use of electronics in pop music is way ahead of the game – see also Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Amon Tobin, Little Dragon, Poliça, James Blake, Caribou, Adult Jazz. It sounds great, it’s progressive and it gets my imagination going.

 

Explore Georgia's Music Map

 

partial filter is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.

Tracklisting:

1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick

Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker

Download the album here.

 

Photo: Stuart Leech

Related Recordings

Next Wave
Feature

Paul McGuirePaul McGuire

It has been a privilege to take part in Sound and Music and NMC's Next Wave. This generous programme afforded each of the composers the opportunity to write a new work for members of the London Sinfonietta and leading soloists, have it recorded and released by NMC, and then premiered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2014. It was also a great chance to get to know the eleven other composers involved on a personal and professional level.
 
My mentor for this project was the acclaimed Dutch composer, Richard Rijnvos, and I chose to write for Oren Marshall (tuba), Sarah Nicolls (inside-out piano), Loré Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano), as well as the percussionist and the string players of the London Sinfonietta, with Garry Walker conducting. As a composer, I am interested in the grain of sound, and, in particular, sounds that are compositionally underused and considered incidental. I re-imagine the way in which performers of my music should approach their instruments, beyond a use of extended techniques, in order to hone in on sounds that are often unrecognisable from their sources. This scheme presented an ideal opportunity to apply these ideas to a larger and more instrumentally-varied chamber group than what I usually write for.
 
As with the majority of my pieces, I began by locating budget versions of almost all of the instruments used in the piece, and then spent weeks messing around and inventing new techniques and modifying old ones until I had assembled what I felt was a coherent portfolio of interesting sounds. I recorded and even filmed some of the individual techniques as I went along, just in case I forgot how to produce any of them – colourful adjectives can only describe so much. I then categorised these recordings and layered them in various ways using my DAW (Logic 9). I ended up with demos of eight or nine individual textures (some of which can be heard in the audio clip below).
 

 
Note that all of the sounds heard in the above clip were performed by myself. The performers involved in this project played no part in this recording.
 
As useful as it is to record multi-tracked audio demos of any piece before it’s played, you can never be fully prepared for how the sounds work when played live in a room together, and so the early stage workshop with the musicians in April allowed me to properly audition each of these textures. Although I found that some of the textures, when played live, sounded quite close to their demo recording counterparts, one texture in particular which I was quite confident would work (the first texture heard in the above recording), didn’t quite come together. This had nothing to do with the performers’ ability, it’s just that certain left-of-centre sounds can only be produced on one particular instrument, due to any number of unforeseen unique attributes the instrument might possess. At the same time, some lower frequency textures that I almost skipped over because I thought they probably wouldn’t work, really surprised me in how effective they were. This workshop was recorded in full, and I was then able to compose Panels in my DAW using a combination of these live recordings, some home-recorded demos and recordings made in an afternoon session with Sarah Nicolls and her incredible inside-out piano.
 
Having met and heard the musicians play my music in the workshop, and having essentially composed the piece from their performances, I was fairly prepared when it came to the recording session in August. I had an mp3 player with the final demo of the piece on stand-by for referencing certain performance aspects that notation and text can only partly describe, though there was little need for this in the end. Thankfully the recording went well. I'm proud of the end result and I'm excited to hear it in concert alongside the other composers' pieces at the hcmf// showcase.
 
Listen to an extract from Paul's Panels

Interview with Paul

Paul's Top 10 Tracks

Explore Paul's Music Map

Panels is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.

Tracklisting:

1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick

Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker

Download the album here.

Related Recordings

Next Wave
Feature

Ben GauntBen Gaunt

The Next Wave project has been an incredible experience, especially the first workshop. I was so excited leading up to it I’d had trouble sleeping, and so arrived in London in a confused, dream-like state. The whole experience was pretty surreal; the performers were incredible, and it was great to meet such a diverse, exciting group of composers. I travelled back to Sheffield dazed, inspired, and utterly exhausted.

My mentor, Alwynne, has been incredibly supportive. Her advice (which encompassed all aspects of the composition, performance, and recording) was not only invaluable at the time, but will also help me as I continue my career.

Filling Rubin’s Vase is the final piece of my PhD, the final piece before I turn 30, the final piece using a particular structural process I have been experimenting with, and the final piece before I take an intentional and much-needed break from composing.  It is wonderful, then, that this end-of-chapter work has received such an excellent performance and recording. When I do return to composing (early 2015, I think) the Next Wave experience will doubtless inspire me to work harder, think clearer, and write better.

 

 

 
Listen to an extract from Ben's Filling Rubin's Vase

 
Interview with Ben

 
Ben's Top 10 Tracks

 

1. Dorothy Ker, Water Fountain
Dorothy Ker is my doctoral supervisor, and Water Mountain is my favourite piece from her album  Diffracted Terrains. I love the florid,  diaphanous writing interspersed with moments of repose that hint at a harmonic structure. 
 
2. Screaming Maldini, Abyssnia
Screaming Maldini are an excellent up-and-coming band from Sheffield (where I live and study). Abyssnia is a dangerously addictive song; I must have played it at least 20 times in a single day, when I first encountered it!
 
3. Gérard Grisey, Partiels
Partiels is one of the best pieces of music ever written. I strive to emulate Grisey's structural clarity. 
 
4. McCoy Tyner, Stella by Starlight
McCoy Tyner's performance of Stella by Starlight is full of energy, and power – I love the moment, 2 minutes in, when the tune finally appears. Good things come to those who wait. 
 
5. Harrison Birtwistle, Punch & Judy - Prologue
The Prologue from Punch & Judy was the first Birtwistle I heard on CD, and later, the first Birtwistle I heard live. My ears have never been the same since. On NMC
 
6. GoGo Penguin, Garden Dog Barbecue
GoGo Penguin are a trio from Manchester, who I know from my days at the RNCM. Actually, two of them (Chris and Rob) have had the misfortune of playing some of my undergraduate music. Garden Dog Barbecue is from their second album, v2.0  which was recently shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize. 
 
7. David Horne, Chime
Chime is a mystifying piece; I can't always tell exactly what instrument is making what sound, I don't really understand the form... actually, next time I speak to David I'm going to ask him about this. I find myself drawn to Chime, and have listened to it many times.  On NMC
 
8. Ravel, String Quartet in F
I used to work as a peripatetic keyboard teacher for Hampshire Music Service, and would listen to the Ravel's String Quartet whilst driving through indescribably beautiful scenery; a perfect marriage of music and moment. 
 
9. Nick Drake, River Man
I get stressed quite easily. River Man helps me calm down.
 
10. Richard Barrett, Vanity: Residua
Whenever I listen to a new piece, I like playing a game with myself where I try and predict the ending. I certainly didn't see this one coming! 
 
 
Explore Ben's Music Map

 

Filling Rubin's Vase is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.

Tracklisting:

1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick

Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker

Download the album here.

Related Recordings

Next Wave
Feature

On 25th September we celebrated our 25th Anniversary at the new Rambert Dance Studios with a gathering of Patrons, leading composers, artists and supporters. The drink flowed, the canapes were particuarly tasty (especially the lavender and goats cheese blinis!), the speeches impassioned and the guests on fine form.

 

The event was hosted by NMC’s recently appointed Chair, Andrew Ward who said: "We are blessed in the UK in having an extraordinarily exciting, diverse and high quality new music landscape. For 25 years NMC has played a crucial and distinctive role in preserving and promoting the work of the composers and performers who populate this landscape. All of us involved in NMC are clear that the charity is a unique national asset, which will continue to be as important to the next quarter-of-a-century as it has been to the one we celebrate today."

 

It  was a delight to see so many faces both old and new including Vladimir Jurowski, Dame Mitsuko Uchida, Thomas Adès (see photo), Gerald Barry and Judith Weir whilst every major publisher was represented. We were joined by numerous composers and performers from our 25th anniversary releases and Friends and supporters of NMC. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Skempton

 

 

 

 

 

Interspersing speeches which reflected on the last 25 years and included announcements on projects to kick start the next 25, we enjoyed performances from composer/pianist Martin Butler (Rhumba Machine), Richard Watkins (Maxwell Davies' Sea Eagle for solo horn) and composer/accordionist Howard Skempton (Cakes & Ale followed by Happy Birthday).

 

Howard Skempton wishing NMC a Happy Birthday

 

 

The composers involved in our Higher Education project Next Wave all wanted their photo taken with Gerald Barry and were delighted to catch up on their recording session experiences with their fellow young composers as well as their mentors. We had three 'generations' of composers in attendance: Anthony Gilbert who taught Martin Butler who taught Barnaby Hollington.

 

 

Next Wave composers Barnaby Hollington, Ji Sun Yang and Weiwei Jin

 

 

Gerald Barry and Colin Matthews

 

Barry achieved celebrity status the following day when he took over NMC's twitter feed to mark the release of his Importance of Being Earnest, answering questions for nearly two hours in a highly amusing and engaging exchange which reached 186,000 twitter users. Browse our Storify and read Barry's tweets!

 

 

 

 

Gerald Barry, Colin Matthews and Michael Greenwald

 

 

All the guests left with an NMC goodie bag, which included this little fellow. To find out the origins of the NMC Blue Sheep visit our FAQ page.

 

If you'd like to win one of our party goodie bags, enter our competition here (offer ends 10 October). You can also read the NMC Story here, retracing 25 years of NMC (request a hard copy by emailing us at press@nmcrec.co.uk). Find out more about our 25th Anniversary celebrations on our Anniversary page: NMC25Celebrate. You can also read about our plans for the future, including our exciting collaborative project with the Science Museum and Aurora Orchestra, in our press release (pdf at the bottom of page).

 

 

 

Thanks to Rambert Dance Company for use of the Marie Rambert Studio and to Neil Whittle, Contact Director at Sodexo for donating the drinks.

 

 

Photos: Jamie Campbell and Eleanor Wilson

News

Win 25th Anniversary Goodie Bags

Download our Anniversary Sampler and get 8 FREE tracks from the NMC catalogue plus be automatically entered into a PRIZE DRAW for a chance to win one of our Anniversary Goodie Bags! (Offer ends 30 September.)





 

 

 

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