A day with Sally Beamish

All string players are invited to join composer Sally Beamish and conductor Garry Walker on Sunday 31 October for a FREE day long workshop rehearsing Sally’s Rhapsody on Themes from Hafez.  Below, Sally gives us some insight on the piece but for more, Johnston Hall is where you want to be on 31 October…

Sally Beamish

Sally Beamish (c) Ashley Coombes

“The Rhapsody came directly from vocal settings I had made of the 14th century Persian mystic poet Hafez. There are musical references to birds and animals, including a deer, a horse and a nightingale and I particularly liked the idea of a non-professional body of strings, with a fresh, natural sound.

The voices of viola and harp are the main protagonists. The string quartet is used not so much as a unit, but to add colour and provide extra solo voices, and the string orchestra provides a ‘chorus’, commenting on and echoing the thematic ideas.

The workshop day will be a chance to discuss the themes behind the piece, while working on reflecting the strong imagery of Hafez: horses’ hooves, the buzzing of flies, the call of a nightingale… we will be recreating all of these using varied string techniques and atmospheric sounds. There are also influences from traditional Iranian music, which will lead to a more unusual approach to string playing, while the harp mimics the sound of the Persian setar.

This piece is like a set of songs, but without voice. I am looking forward to building it together, concentrating on colour, sound and atmosphere.”

Sally Beamish

Details and application form are available here. Please note we have pushed back submission deadline by a few days.

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The story behind a new piece by Gabriel Jackson

On Wednesday 20 October, Red Note Ensemble will launch sound with a new piece of music by Gabriel Jackson. John Harris, chief executive and artistic co-director of the ensemble shares with us the thrill of first setting eyes on a new score…

John Harris

“Gabriel Jackson’s new piece for us arrived in the post very recently, all beautifully printed and bound and looking and feeling very nice indeed. I have to say, the joy of new scores is not just about the music that can be produced from the ink on their paper; they’re as much of a tactile and visual experience for me when they first turn up as a musical one. You don’t yet know, without reading them through thoroughly, the details they contain – the music that will appear from these pages exists some distance away, in a future place and time.

Right now, on this first looking, the paper is slightly rough to the touch, not yet smoothed by constant turning, returning, checking and referencing; the ink has a faint whiff of having been just placed there, almost as though it hasn’t really settled yet and may decide to flit away before anyone looks at it too closely. As I leaf through these new pages the glue-and-fabric binding creaks and snaps slightly, and tiny snatches of the music to come flicker past my ears.

I’m not a person who generally mourns the onset of the digital revolution – a man who prefers CDs to downloads, because CDs are Objects and downloads are not. But I will miss the New-Score Experience, when all sheet music is delivered electronically and all we do is print it out onto office-block A4. I will miss the slight crankiness of the size of each page; the fact that it’s much easier to read a B4 part, but far less convenient to make one – because B4 paper and the printers that can handle it will soon be as rare as stove-black. I will miss the fact that those who supply the sheet music, because of the digital barrier, will no longer be able to match the infinite tactile care in its production that the musicians will take over its performance.

Gabriel’s piece is about several things. One of these is that Doonies Hill is the site of a WWII radar station. On a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum in London I was very deeply struck by the bombers and fighter planes they have on display. They’re tin cans, they’re lashed together with string. Far, far less substantial than any domestic car that one would drive to the supermarket for the weekly shop, let alone something one might be prepared to pilot on life-and-death missions over aggressive foreign lands. To get inside one of these planes, and to take off, would require more bravery than I feel I could possibly ever muster. I suppose that utter desperation and a belief in the necessity of what one was being asked to do would give one the necessary mental armour to make these, once everyday, heroisms possible – but they are simply beyond my imaginings.

I am deeply grateful that I don’t have to live in times like the ones those pilots experienced, and also that I don’t have to because they did. I’m lucky to be able to enjoy unrepeatable, simple, rare pleasures  – like the arrival of a new score in the post, or the first hearing of some new music. The Infinite Replication Machine, through its promise of Instant Everything, can take away as much as it delivers. Sometimes it’s worth reflecting on these things, and how they came to be about.”

John Harris

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Are you dancing?

This is the second year sound as worked closely with DanceLive to programme events that include elements of new music and contemporary dance. Jenny Phillips, festival producer gives us a taster!

Jenny Phillips

Jenny Phillips DanceLive Producer

“Aberdeen’s dance festival kicks off tonight with Scottish Ballet and we are now all geared up for a packed six-week programme of some the best of contemporary dance with no less than 35+ events across the city and shire.

Highlights for this year include the world première of a new piece by international choreographer Ian Spink in association with sound artist Bill Thompson on Saturday 30 October as well as the rarely performed Vesalii Icones by Peter Maxwell Davies in a new version choreographed and performed by Michael Popper and the Hebrides Ensemble on Saturday 6 November.

We are also delighted to showcase local talent in East Coast Moves, a programme of four short new works by young female choreographers and dancers, and featuring live music on Thursday 28 October. There’s also lots of ways to join in the fun yourselves, from bringing the little ones along to boogie to We Dance wee groove, or joining in our global world record breaking to create the biggest ever simultaneous dance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” routine!

DanceLive 2010

DanceLive Festival 28.10.10 to 13.11.10

I’ve highlighted a couple of events but remember there is lots more happening. We’ve set out to showcase contemporary dance and to prove that dance is exciting, accessible and alive, and this year’s programme certainly does that. Check our website out for more details www.dancelive.org.uk.

Come dance with us!”

Jenny Phillips

DanceLive 2010

DanceLive 2010

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A flute weekend with Richard Craig

Richard Craig, flute

A regular at sound, flautist Richard Craig will be joined by Margaret Preston to lead a Flute Course on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 October in the Uni’s MacRobert Building.

sound have been on at me to make a contribution to their new blog, so I’ve finally prised myself away from the flute to mention the very first flute course at the festival. I can’t take credit for the idea since the Sax weekend in 2008 paved the way for this project, but I hope to add something a bit different to the course by playing some tunes and demonstrating some new music techniques and ideas.

Last year’s flute day established that there was indeed an interest in playing the flute in Aberdeenshire, and that we could do something along those lines. I also know that for a lot of you, the words contemporary, music and techniques all in the same sentence may sound like a cue to find an excuse NOT to come along, but before you do reach for the mouse and continue your cyber promenade, lend me your imagination.

You have to admit, that the flute (baroque, classical and romantic) has some beautiful works, and during the weekend we will certainly play these and enjoy some fine performances, but why should it stop there? Why don’t we allow ourselves to be a little more inquisitive and imagine what other images or places that we can conjure with the flute…suddenly we have a new language which we never knew existed, waiting all the time, under our fingers or only in our imagination. This course is precisely that: opening these doors and complementing what we already know about the flute.

Ken Dempster, composer, has written a new piece especially for us, which is both melodic and exciting, as well as having many more colours and textures than you would usually expect. A master of flute writing, he came forward with lots of thoughts and interesting ideas for the piece, which is now being carefully gathered onto a score for us to play. Would you like to be part of a world premiere of a new work for lots of flutes? Meet players and generally have a great time playing the flute? Click here for more information and application form.”

Richard Craig

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Welcome to sound 2010!

Pete Stollery

Pete Stollery, composer, teacher and performer based in Aberdeen and founder of sound in 2004 helps the festival take its first few steps into the blogging world by introducing you to this year’s programme.

“Well, just one month to go before the start of sound 2010 and it doesn’t seem a year since the last one! This might be to do with the new surroundsound initiative, where we have been publishing details of new music events outside the normal Oct/Nov period on our website to keep you informed of all the new music activity in NE Scotland. What’s great about this is that you’re kept in touch and our partners’ audiences continue to grow!

Anyway – back to the festival this year. It’s a stunner… Kicks off with the incredible Red Note Ensemble who ended last year’s festival with an amazing gig at the Lemon Tree. Some of the very best performers of new music in Scotland together on the same stage and performing classic pieces by John Adams (Shaker Loops) and Gavin Bryars (Jesus’ Blood…) at Woodend Barn. This is a great opener, not only to the festival itself, but also to the first of our themed weekends this year – Less is More – classic minimalism from 1970s and beyond. The weekend (well it’s a bit more than a weekend actually!) continues with friends and regular visitors to sound, Graham Fitkin and Ruth Wall, the Smith Quartet and a first visit from Colin Currie Group playing Reich’s iconic Drumming. It follows on rather nicely from Glasgow Concert Halls Minimal festival the previous week.

We’re linking up again with DanceLive to present a series of events, including a welcome return from Michael Popper along with Colin Currie (again), this time as soloist with the Hebrides. And at last, we’ve programmed FOUND! They’ve been coming to Aberdeen for ages, but this is the first time the group has performed at sound – and I can’t be at the gig. We’ll just have to get them up again…

There are 16 world premieres this year, including a new choral commission from Paul Mealor for massed choirs from St Andrew’s, Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities. Gabriel Jackson, Diana Salazar and many others – this is what I really enjoy about sound – premieres from the very best of Scottish and UK composers.

Too much to mention in detail – but I have to mention the Electroacoustic Fair on Sat  13 Nov which I am curating! It’s a kind of theme park of sound where you can go on sonic rides and see/hear the very best in electroacoustic music and sound art. Gigs and demos throughout the afternoon and finishing up with a gig from invisiblEARts. Now all we have to do is to make sure we’ve got the kit to make this happen – that’ll fill up the next few weeks quite nicely I think!

See you there.”

Pete Stollery

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