Day 1: 26/04/1996
17:00 Phipps Recital Hall Masterclass with Judith Mitchell
19:30 St Paul’s Hall Concert #1

Day 2: 27/04/1996
11:30 Phipps Recital Hall Forum: Guest Lecture with Richard Barrett
13:00 St Paul’s Hall Concert #2
15:00 Phipps Recital Hall Workshop on new software
16:30 Phipps Recital Hall Guest Lecture with Javier Alvarez
19:30 St Paul’s Hall Concert #3

Concert #1

Javier Alvarez – Overture
Overture was commissioned by the Swedish Electroacoustic Music Instiute and the Skinskateberg Electronic Music Festival which in 1995 had as its focus Mexican electroacoustic music. In composing a concert opener suitable to the occasion, I thought this piece should be made of somehow easily recognisable Swedish and Mexican sound elements. I thus settled for sounds taken from a Mariachi band and from a 1956 Volvo coupe which I stretched and churned.

James Burden – Dances with Whales
The Whale’s Cry is the first of a set of three dances lamenting the persecution and decline of whales. The material in this composition is derived exclusively from a decomposition of Schoenberg’s Klavierstücke VI OP. 19. This was composed in 1911 and is an elegy “in memoria” of Mahler who died the same year. I was attracted to this p1ece by the ethereal stillness and rhythmic freedom and it was this which inspired the perpetual motion of The Whale’s Cry.

The tape part consists of a marimba tuned to the B minor mean scale, a vibraphone tuned to the F minor mean scale, a piano tuned in 1\4 notes with a reverse filter, several bell sounds (all derived from Klavierstücke VI), a guitar with a delay on the harmonic overtones, and several whale type sounds. All the sounds on tape were created by the composer using FM and AWM synthesis. The structure is designed in exact proportions and the effect intended is a series of wave-like events, both in the overall structure and its component sections.

Jo Thomas – Poem Picasso
When I first read this poem by Pablo Picasso I was struck by its potential as the ideal basis for an electroacoustic piece. Throughout the poem Picasso concentrates on gradual changes of emotion reflected in a spectrum of colour. This offered me an ideal opportunity to experiment with the relationships between colour, sound and emotion.

The first phrase of the poem forms the foundation of my composition. Firstly, with regards to many of the sounds developed I used the word “hasten” to shape their character. The sounds generally move forward, with a fast attack and long decay. Secondly, my treatment of the first phrase, “Hasten to your childhood”, reflects the atmosphere of a nursery rhyme, which one might hear being repeated over and over again in a school playground.

As this is the essence of the piece I have used the motif to connect the different sections in my composition, thereby creating a degree of musical coherence.

Bruno Maderna – Notturno
This short (a little over 3 minutes long) tape work was created in 1956 in the studios of Italian Radio and is something of an off-shoot of the much long Ritratto di Citta which Maderna had made the previous year in the same studio with Luciano Berio and Roberto Leydi. In 1956 Maderna had participated in a forum during the Darmstadt courses on the ‘Compositional possibilities of Electronic Music’ with (among others) Boulez and Stockhausen: Boulez made a lengthy contribution which dealt with conceptual difficulties rather than with compositional possibilities; Stockhausen spoke with utopian zeal of new musical resources; Maderna modestly observed that it was hard to talk about electronic music when there was still so much to find out. Notturno demonstrates that in fact he had already acquired a sophisticated and quite individual grasp of the medium.

Richard Barrett – Basalt
In Basalt, the constituent actions of sound production (breathing, embouchure, slide movement, vocalisation, use of the transposing valve and so on) are split away from one another and then reassembled. As Basalt E, the work forms the fourth part of negatives for nine instruments. In common with the rest of negatives, physical/geological images played a poetic role in the conception of the music, in this case the erosion of hard surfaces or strata into granularity.

Basalt E was first performed by Brett Kelly, trombone with Elision in Melbourne on 10/10/92. The solo version, Basalt, was premiered by Barrie Webb in Rome on 10/11/95 and receives its UK premiere on 26/04/96 at the Electric Spring Festival.

Ruth Thomas – Ochre
This was a project to demonstrate knowledge of synthesis technique. The piece begins with a continuous high pulse and is interspersed with small explosive sounds. This is the basic environment on which various sounds are added, creating different moods. A gentle atmosphere is created by adding minimalist chords; this mood is gradually destroyed until it is replaced by a wash of sound; the separate elements are pitched at different rates. This is followed by a fusion of soft and explosive sounds before the composition loops, ending as it began.

John Warhurst – In Dreams
This composition was inspired by a John Adams piece, Harmonielehre. Adams based this work on a dream in which he saw a huge tanker rise out of the San Francisco Bay and take off like a rocket into the stratosphere. In Dreams is my re-interpretation of this vision.

The piece is in three main sections. The first re-creates the energy required to propel the tanker skywards. I have used the opening of Harmonielehre as a starting point, which the listener is then pulled from the Adams piece into the dream. The middle section starts as the tanker breaks free of the atmosphere and floats, as if weightless, through space. This part is the deepest, most relaxed part of the journey. As with all dreams, they eventually come to an end and the third section realises this. Eventually, the mood becomes more restless as noises from the outside world intrude on the dream, dragging the listener back to the conscious world.

Ian Willcock – Face
(Noun) I. 1. The front part of the head, from the forehead to the chin. II. 1. External appearance, look; also semblance of. (Verb) I. 1. To show a bold or a false face. 2. To confront with assurance or confidence. 3. To meet face to face; .. ; to stand fronting. (From The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). The tape for this piece was made on the UPIC music computer system (conceived and overseen by lannis Xenakis) in Paris and London during early January 1989. The piece was first performed at the Barbican Centre London with narration by the composer.

Javier Alvarez – Mambo à la Braque
Imagine you wanted to “write” a note but had no writing utensil. So, you decide to cut out letters from an old newspaper and put together your note. With that kind of Intention in mind, in this piece, I used short musical segments, all which came from different versions of a well-known mambo number – Caballo Negro (Black Horse) – by the King of Mambo, Cuban composer Dámaso Perez Prado, to whom this short piece pays homage. I then re-assembled them into a sound mosaic using a few other sounds to “glue” them together. My aim was to create a sort of cubist music, a mambo of my own invention made out of mambo cuttings. Mambo à la Braque was commissioned by the Canadian recording label empreintes DIGITALes and appeared on their Électro clips album.

Robert Duncan Scorah – Shaya
Shaya is a piece primarily concerned with contrast, both timbral and emotional, and with transformation, in this case between sampled human voice parts and the live and recorded electric guitar. The harmonic content of both has been altered, so as, at some points to blur the boundaries of each. The piece also centres on the inner melodies and chordal qualities of the sounds themselves and how the listener can be drawn into such small details and then away again by more dramatic gestures.

Michael Jones – State of Mind
Mental illness is a terrible condition that affects more people than we realise. After watching a powerful documentary on television recently, I decided to write this piece which evokes the sense of confusion ill people must experience and explores some of the strange habits they sometimes develop, i.e. constant rocking, muttering and repetitive gestures.

Andrew Lewis – Ascent
for Lydia
Ascent resonates with the landscape of the Snowdonian setting in which it was composed. The Welsh name for Snowdonia is Eryri (“Land of Eagles”). The opening sounds of the piece suggest the shape and mass of mountainous forms, evoking the expansiveness of the view of mountains, sky and open sea which dominates the University of Wales, Bangor studio. An aspect of mountain landscapes is the way their static forms appear to be in constant metamorphosis as the position of the observer and viewing conditions change. In Ascent this phenomenon finds musical parallels as structures are constantly reviewed and re-explored. Moving freely across a spectrum of approaches, the piece ranges from the purely abstract to the cinematic. It was commissioned by BEAST for the …RUMOURS… concert series with financial support from West Midlands Arts.

Concert #2

Pascale Criton – Bifurcations
for cello, piano and tape
Bifurcations returns to an idea I previously explored in La forme incontournée (for two pianos, one diatonic and the other in 1/16 tone, 1985): that of tension generated by two different temperaments superimposed upon each other.

Here, the 1\16 tone piano of Carrillo is pre-recorded and woven into the diatonic music for piano and cello. This micro-chromatic strand of a different tonicity, introduces a tension which creates minutely compressed and stretched interval relationships, a sense of departing from the norm. The resulting fluidity generates a latent harmony which is constantly changed and renewed, to the very limits of possible “bifurcations”.

The two temperaments keep up flexible, elastic bonds. They cross, influence, stabilise each other. They impulse each other, intertwine together and they “bifurquent”, while at the same time a fragile tension emerges as harmonic relationships, following the evolution and involution of an everchanging spiral.

Recorded on the 1/16 tone piano by Sylvaine Billier.
Sound recording by Dominique Lambert.

Richard Barrett – Ne Songe plus à fuir
Ne Songe plus à fuir was written between May 1985 and October 1986. It was first performed by Alan Brett on 27 January 1986 at the British Music Information Centre, London. The title (“Dream no more of fleeing”) is that of a painting by Roberto Matta; this work is the second of six in a series entitled After Matta.

Matta’s painting depicts a dark environment in which indistinct, vaguely human forms are seen in the midst of a thundery atmosphere swirling with luminous particles; some of these beings are desperately embracing, others cover their faces as If in terror or anguish, others stand in line like ancient monuments. This painting seems to relate directly to Matta’s consistently outspoken denouncement of the fascist regime in his native Chile (unsurprisingly an ally of the “Western democracies”).

Michael Clarke – Confluence
Confluence for cello and synthesizers is composed using a single micro- tonal mode. The mode is based on the interval of a sixth tone, much smaller than the usual semitone on which traditional Western scales are built. The centre of the mode is D and the intervals around this note are the smallest, those further away being multiples of a sixth tone. In the course of the piece the music moves from the opening tonal centre of D, first to G and finally to A. However, the mode itself always remains untransposed and so the intervals and harmony are transformed.

The form of the piece revolves around three different types of texture. The first of these loud wild micro-tonal variations on octave Ds opens the work with the synthesisers playing alone. This returns at the climax of the piece, transposed to A and with the cello participating. The second texture forms the main core of the work. It occurs three times and grows from a mediation on one note to a sustained lyrical line in its final appearance at the very end of the work. These sections alternate with the third type of material, comprising energetic waves of rhythmic counterpoint.

Confluence was commissioned by Interfusion with funds from the Arts Council of England and first performed at the Icebreaker in Amsterdam on 19 May 1995.

Jonathan Harvey – Tombeau de Messiaen
for piano and tape
This work is a modest offering in response to the death of a great musical and spiritual presence. Messiaen was a protospectralist; that is to say, he was fascinated by the colours of the harmonic series and its distortions and found therein a prismatic play of light. The tape part of my work is composed of piano sounds entirely tuned to harmonic series – twelve of them, one for each class of pitch. The ‘tempered’ live piano joins and distorts these series, never entirely belonging , never entirely separate. Tombeau de Messiaen was written for Philip Mead (who commissioned it with funds provided in part by Eastern Arts) and dedicated to him and to Jake Harvey Tavener who was born ten hours before the Tombeau was finished.

Alaistair MacDonald – Brittle
One of the aspects of electroacoustic music which most intrigues me is that of the virtual image “projected”, like an imaginary film, into the listening environment. Here, sounds on tape can be alchemical, appearing to transform between the real, the surreal and the abstract. Acoustic instruments do not have this power – if we close our eyes, a piano remains a piano; a cello is still a cello.

But in Brittle they do change. Although what we hear is always clearly cello and piano, we are presented with a multi-perspectival sound-image, hearing the instrument from inside and out in the same moment. Just as Braques and Picasso used their cubims to describe everything they knew about their subjects rather than a single view. Brittle shows us the instruments through a magnifying glass.

The material is organised into energetic clusters and patterns, overlaid to create dense and lively textures of instrumental and recorded sounds whose flow of perspectives marks the progress of the piece.

Concert #3

Bruno Maderna – Musica su due Dimensioni (1952)
Musica su due Dimensioni was written for Severino Gazzelloni who pioneered many of the new playing techniques which became such a feature of avant-garde flute music in the 1950s and ’60s. The work exists in two versions. The first, written in 1952 and given a single performance in the Darmstadt Summer School that year, has the historical distinction of being the very first work for pre-recorded tape and live performer. Musically, it adopts the same formal solution to the problem of integrating taped and instrumental as Varese’s Deserts (1949-54) by alternating tape and instrumental sections. Although the first performance was recorded, the performing materials for the piece disappeared for many years and the version to be heard tonight has been reconstructed by Roberto Fabbriciani.

Javier Alvarez – Mambo Vinko
for trombone and electroacoustic sounds
During my day as a youngster I did quite a lot of travelling around Mexico by asking for rides at motorway entrances. On a certain occasion, I was given a ride on a large timber-carrying truck across the mountain ridge which lies between Puebla and Veracruz. After settling down on my seat and a little later having exhausted the expected small talk, the truck driver immersed in great detail into his lifelong predilection for Mambo music (which of course we heard incessantly on the radio). It was very late at night and I was very tired, so I spent a strange night trying not to fall asleep yet waking up between wild dreams invaded by the sounds of engine acceleration and the air brakes of the enormous machine, the blaring radio and the over enthusiastic conversation of the driver.

It is on the basis of that trip that I drew the psychological frame for Mambo Vinko. The piece is a sort of construction, or rather a deconstruction of this experience, organised as a personal “road movie”, completed with quotes from the different sonic characters who inhabited my dreams, including the unmistakable grunts of the 50’s great king of mambo, Dámaso Perez Prado. The work was composed for Vinko Globokar on a commission from the Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris in 1993. Vinko gave the premiere on Radio France in May 1993 to a fully awake audience.

Christopher Fox – stone. wind.rain.sun³
The alto flute solo stone.wind.rain.sun was written during the summer of 1989 and is the third of a sequence of four works with that title (the other pieces in the sequence are scored respectively for four trombones, saxophone quartet and two clarinets). All four works were inspired by the upland landscape of the north of England but as their title also suggests ‘four-ness’ is an important feature of each stone.wind.rain.sun piece. In stone.wind.rain.sun³, this four-ness manifests itself as a 16-part canon (simultaneous four part canons each in four different tempi, with each canonic layer characterised by a different use of the breath and embouchure), producing music of such complexity (the Australian flautist, Laura Chislett, for whom stone.wind.rain.sun³ was written and for whom the flute music of Ferneyhough holds no fears, told me that it was the hardest piece in her repertoire) that it was only with a computer that I could work it out and it is only with amplification that we can hear it properly. However listeners who find visual images useful may like to imagine the music as making a journey through the complexe underground environment of the limestone hills of the Pennines as water seeps and trickles through clints, grikes, sink-holes, caves and tunnels.

stone.wind.rain.sun³ was premiered by Laura Chislett in the British Centre Berlin in September 1989.

Richard Barrett – Tract Part I
Tract Part 1 is the first half of a projected work in two movements; it was written between 1984 and 1989 and first performed by James Clapperton at the Musica 89 festival in Strasbourg. It is dedicated “to Ann Whelan, James Robinson, Vincent Hickey and Michael Hickey, and their fight against injustice and wrongful imprisonment”.

The title firstly has the sense of a polemical statement of beliefs, concerning musical form and the nature of the instrument. The primary distinction between form and nearly everything else I have written arises from the imprisonment of the piano within almost impossibly strict limits: the chromatic scale, the decay of struck sounds, the span of the hands, etc (a distant echo: the German ‘trachten’ – to strive). In part 1 these limits are intensified – the hands move almost exclusively in parallel, the dynamic range is largely restrained, the highest register is almost completely avoided (part 2 is a different matter). Also, the title occurs frequently in Beckett,s novel How It Is – “on from there that moment and following not all a selection natural order vast tracts of time”, “vast tracts of time good moments say what I may less good too they must be expected”, “passing time is told to me and time past vast tracts of time the panting stops and scraps of an enormous tale as heard so murmured to this mud”, and so on. The not-quite repetitive structures of this novel, in which the reader is often unsure as to whether a turn of phrase (or an entire paragraph) has not occurred before, have parallels in Tracts, as do the frequent half- remembered lapses into platitude, like “the eyes burn with severe love, I offer her mine pale upcast to the sky whence cometh our help”. Tract forms the eighth part of Fictions, a series of eleven works.

Bruno Maderna – Musica su due Dimensioni (1958)
Musica su due Dimensioni was written for Severino Gazzelloni who pioneered many of the new playing techniques which became such a feature of avant-garde flute music in the 1950s and ’60s. The work exists in two versions. The first, written in 1952 and given a single performance in the Darmstadt Summer School that year, has the historical distinction of being the very first work for pre-recorded tape and live performer. Musically, it adopts the same formal solution to the problem of integrating taped and instrumental as Varese’s Deserts (1949-54) by alternating tape and instrumental sections. Although the first performance was recorded, the performing materials for the piece disappeared for many years and the version to be heard tonight has been reconstructed by Roberto Fabbriciani.

Furt – Irregular
Improvisation by Furt
Richard Barrett and Paul Obermeyer – live electronics