Date: Thursday 8 June 2017
Time: 18.30 - 20.45
Venue: Rambert Dance Company, 99 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PP
Tickets: £10, available via Rambert
Journalist Jenny Gilbert chairs a panel including Rambert’s Music Director Paul Hoskins, composer (and former Music Fellow) Mark Bowden, pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam and other guests to discuss what makes good music for dance and the role dance organisations play in commissioning new music.
The evening will also feature a performance of Tempus, choreographed by Simone Damberg Würtz and featuring an original score by former Rambert Music Fellow Cheryl Frances-Hoad, played live by Yshani on piano and Commodore 64.
The evening concludes with a drinks reception and a chance to continue the conversation with panel members and performers.
Friday 21 April sees the release of two albums on NMC featuring the award-winning baritone Roderick Williams: Brian Elias' Electra Mourns and Howard Skempton's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Also becoming increasingly well-known as a composer in addition to his work as a singer, Roderick generously took the time to answer a few questions for us, covering everything from composing, singing, poetry and more.
Explore more recordings in the NMC catalogue featuring Roderick Williams, including albums by Hugh Woods, Robert Saxton and Richard Rodney Bennett.
As a singer, performing and interpreting a wide range of texts, how do you balance your own personal interpretation of the text with what the composer has written?
On occasions the way I read a poem and the way a composer has chosen to set a text don’t match; it’s sometimes a difference of emphasis, sometimes to do with layers of subtext. Then I have a simple choice; to stay true to the composer’s vision, as far as I understand it, or impose my own reading on top. Bearing in mind that a composer is already adding a layer on top of the poet’s original, I don’t always feel too bad in adding some of my own thoughts and responses into the mix. Often this can be as simple as simple as giving extra stress to a word, say on an upbeat, which the composer has chosen to down-play. But in the end, I do wish to stay as true as I can to the spirit of the composition otherwise I might just as well leave the song alone and write my own. So the balance is a fine one and that is, I suppose, what we mean by interpretation. I trust my instincts both as performer and composer to see the choices from both sides and opt for something that works.
Versatility as a performer is one of your key strengths. How important do you think it is for performers to engage with contemporary music and do recordings of new music play a role in highlighting the repertoire?
I see that it is entirely possible for performers to make a tremendous career in music, certainly in singing, and avoid any contemporary repertoire completely. I don’t think this affects their legitimacy as artists at all. My own career happens to have encompassed a lot of new music partly because I write some myself and partly because I must have earned a reputation early on as a singer who was not intimidated or overwhelmed by its demands. Once you say yes to one project and make a decent job of it, more are offered to you. I would have been sorry to have ended up singing this repertoire to the exclusion of all else and I’m glad that circumstances never forced me to make such a choice. I count myself lucky to have been offered work in a variety of classical genres from early music right through to contemporary.
If the question is less about practicalities and more about ideology, then clearly someone has to champion new music performance and recording or it will disappear from the concert hall and the studio. And I believe this to be important, not just because I compose and therefore have a vested interest in the promotion of new music, but because it is self-evident that music cannot stand still. If we venerate music of the past to the exclusion of all else, we create lifeless museums.
The recording industry has a huge part to play in this, especially with the global reach of the internet, as new music can reach target audiences wherever they are. New music, whether it be classical or pop, has never been more openly accessible and I think that is very exciting, even if it is a minefield for performing rights law.
Your choral piece Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined won a 2016 British Composer Award. How do you find time to compose around your busy performance schedule and what are you writing at the moment? Do you have any top picks from the NMC back catalogue that particularly inspire you?
A freelance career brings with it a lot of waiting, whether it be in hotel rooms, on trains, in airport lounges or wherever. When I am at home, time with my family is precious so I don’t often schedule time to write unless I have a deadline looming. But away from home I can put in the hours required to produce something solid. At the moment I have several pieces on the go, some new compositions and some orchestration too. I am working on settings of Ursula Vaughan Williams poems for the female trio Voices which premieres as the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester this summer.
My favourite NMC recording from the catalogue has to be the Songbook project which was so wonderful as a snapshot of contemporary vocal writing. I love the diversity of compositions, the sheer range of responses to quite a specific brief; three minutes of music for voice and whatever instrument. There are some real gems in that collection.
Many of the works you’ve recorded with NMC have been settings of poems, from authors spanning centuries and styles. Do you have a favourite poet or poem that you would love to set to music yourself, and if so for what voices/forces?
By now I have set a lot of my favourite poetry and poets; I keep coming back to E E Cummings, for example as he really tickled me when I first came across his work as a teenager. Likewise George Herbert. I’m finding Urusula Vaughan Williams’ poetry beautiful to set as she seems to write with a musician’s sensibilities in mind. I hugely enjoy Thomas Hardy’s poetry but I don’t imagine I have the skill to set him as deftly as Finzi did.
More often that not I take a commission and then try to find the text to fit the brief; that’s how I came to choose a selection of New England poets for my Choral Symphony, written for Schola Cantorum of Yale. The requirements of the commission dictated the source of the text.
Your route into becoming a classical singer is perhaps atypical, beginning professional training in your late twenties. Do you have any funny stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the singing world?
I used to be part of an a cappella boy band in the days before The X Factor, The Voice and so on. My brother-in-law and two other friends from choral scholar days at university joined forces to sing covers of pop songs, which we arranged for four voices. Our party piece was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and we sang that on television in the Grand Finale of Bob Says Opportunity Knocks. The programme reached about 13 million viewers, in the days when families used to sit around the TV together and watch one of the handful of terrestrial channels. We could have been famous. But our careers went their separate ways and it was not to be.
If you had unlimited free time, is there a skill you’d like to learn or hobby you’d take up – musical or otherwise!
I would have loved to have been a dancer. I don’t understand classical ballet at all but I have enormous respect for those who practice it. The regime they subject themselves to is quite astonishing, totally alien to a singer and I marvel at their sense of discipline. But I would love to have been a confident dancer of any sort.
You’re stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what do you sing to keep everyone entertained while you wait to be rescued?
The first is easy; J S Bach. I would just like to watch him work as we sit and wait for rescue. I would try to sing anything he put in front of me too.
Then, Martin Luther King; not for any political reason but because I feel my heart welling up with pride and my eyes with tears whenever I hear him recordings of him speaking. What extraordinary, electrifying charisma. If anyone could keep our spirits up in a lift, it would be him.
Finally, Monica Bellucci; does there have to be a reason? We wouldn’t even need to be rescued that quickly….
NEW ALBUM - 'A Celestial Map of the Sky' - OUT NOW!
Alyssa Aure - girl
Andrew Kwong - boy
Nate Skeen - co-director
Martin Roe - co-director, executive producer
Andrew Sachs - director of photography, producer
Katie Burris - producer
Amir Rakib - 1st AC
Ardy Fatehi - gaffer
Mike Simon - studio teacher
Michael Beaudry - casting director
Chelsea Lapka - hair/wardrobe
Hannah Carpenter - production assistant
Ayra Siddiq - production assistant
Celeste Diamos - editor
Arnold Ramm - colorist
'Fragments from Heart of Darkness' by Tarik O'Regan
Hallé Orchestra/Jamie Phillips
Producer Olugbenga Adelekan's How I learned to stop worrying and love, a remix of 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano by composer Kate Whitley, is released today. Olugbenga, best known as the bassist with Mercury-nominated electronic band Metronomy, talks us through how he produced his reworked version.
"I heard a great deal of optimism in ‘3 Pieces’ as well as a very stark beauty. I wanted to retain that whilst also creating a remix that stood very much as its own thing. It was only my second time remixing something with no vocal track or big melodic top line to hang things around. I had a lot of fun trying to get my head around that! I treated all the audio parts from Kate’s piece like a new sample library – I took some bits to create a piano pad and others to build a new string section. So the only sounds that came from elsewhere were the drums. The sun was shining through a little window into my studio while I was working on the remix and I think some of that light made its way into the music."
Born in Lagos to a Kenyan mother and Nigerian father, Olugbenga now resides by the sea in Brighton. He has travelled the world working as a bass player, vocalist and DJ, performing with groups such as Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, Paloma Faith and La Roux.
As well as touring with Metronomy, Olugbenga has lent his talents as a remixer to the likes of Laura Marling, Janelle Monae, Mew, Alt-J, Depeche Mode and the Scissor Sisters. He was flown out to New Orleans in 2016 to write music for Solange Knowles’ A Seat At The Table. His track Don’t You Wait (co-produced by Sampha, Kwes and Adam Bainbridge) garnered positive comments from fans and critics alike and the album flew to #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 off the back of 36 million streams in a single week.
Olugbenga's remix, How I learned to stop worrying and love, and Kate Whitley's album I am I say are both available now.
r:strng, NMC's new app which allows you to create your own version of Gbenga's remix, is coming soon.
NMC holds a distinctive position in the recording industry: we are both a record label and a registered charity.
At first glance, this may seem a fairly unusual business model for a record label. However, for NMC it enables us to fulfil a vitally important role in the classical music industry that traditional models would restrict. We are able to act as an advocator and promoter of high quality new music that may otherwise not be given the life it deserves due to its commercial viability.
Whilst NMC does earn income in the usual way from the sale of CDs, downloads and streaming, being a charitable organisation allows us to fundraise like other charities do. This means we can work towards our mission by taking on projects based on their artistic merit, without the overwhelming influence of sales potential and the restrictions that may come from relying solely on commercial income. NMC raises funds each year from:
- public sources, such as Arts Council England
- charitable trusts and foundations
- individual donors and supporters
Generating and supporting new audiences for contemporary music is an important aspect of our work too, and the coming year will see a raft of new education projects and resources for young people to support this. We also collaborate with artistic organisations and charitable partners on special projects, such as our 2015 project with Aurora Orchestra and the Science Museum Objects at an Exhibition, allowing us to reach new people and expand public interest in contemporary music on a wider scale.
What does being a charity mean?
All of NMC’s activities are guided by our charitable objectives, and enable us to share exceptional new music that inspires and challenges audiences. These objectives are:
- to produce high quality recordings of outstanding work by composers from the British Isles
- to work with leading artists and ensembles to promote these recordings
- to expand worldwide audiences for contemporary music
- to preserve this creativity for generations to come
What makes NMC essential?
Our charitable status enables our non-deletions policy. This means all our recordings remain permanently available in digital and physical formats, and creates a living, ever-expanding archive of new music from the British Isles that is accessible at all times. We provide the crucial link in the chain that ensures investment in commissioning and premiering new works leads to an international listenership, and a long-lasting legacy for new music.
Although the music NMC releases isn’t necessarily commercial that doesn’t mean there isn’t a growing, receptive audience. Engagement with NMC’s work grows every year, and with increasing use of digital technology we have been able to reach more ears than ever before. In 2016 alone we were able to promote the work of over 300 composers across nearly 150 territories, generating 1.5 million downloads/streams and 4,500 physical album sales, with 30% of CD sales and 70% of streams from audiences outside of the UK.
Our extensive reach and the level of active engagement with the recordings we release highlight just how important NMC is to enabling composers’ work is heard across the globe, cementing our reputation as a living archive of contemporary music. Our achievements and support for composers is made possible through our status as a charity, and with the help of our many supporters, donors, customers and advocates.
- If you are interested in supporting the charitable work of NMC, head to the Support Us section to find out more.
- Discover more about our forthcoming Education projects here.
- You can explore our back catalogue and recent releases, as well as delve into the Music Map.
- Contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
Christmas gift guide videos featuring recommendations from NMC Staff and Trustees. #christmascrackers
Steve Martland MARTLAND
Errollyn Wallen PHOTOGRAPHY
Mark-Anthony Turnage UNDANCE
Mark Simpson Night Music
Judith Weir The Welcome Arrival of Rain
Kenneth Hesketh Wunderkammer (Konzert)