We hope that you enjoy this broadcast from our archives, recorded at LSO St Luke's in February 2020.
Alex Groves Curved Form (No. 4)
Sam Cave ...touchless as they sleepwalk...
Bethan Morgan-Williams A Thornbush In My Strength
Anselm McDonnell The Anguish of John Paton
Alex Ho* In Significance (world premiere)
Emma-Kate Matthews Construction 003: axial/regional
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade Three études for piano and flower pots
Sun Keting* Now I will do nothing but Listen**(world premiere)
* Soundhub Phase II Members
** Please note that this piece includes mild nudity on film.
Pasha Mansurov flute/piccolo
Juliana Koch oboe/cor anglais
Michael Thompson horn
Julian Gil Rodríguez violin
Sarah Quinn violin
Paul Silverthorne viola
Orlando Jopling cello
Joe Melvin double bass
Neil Percy percussion
Angela Wai Nok Hui percussion
Darren Bloom conductor
David Harsent poet/speaker
Huang Xiao motion artist
LSO Soundhub is generously supported by Susie Thomson
Based at LSO St Luke’s, LSO Soundhub provides a flexible environment where composers can explore, collaborate and experiment, with access to vital resources, support from industry professionals and LSO members and staff.
Soundhub is a composer-led resource, responding directly to the needs of those using it: a supportive framework for artists to try out new ideas, develop existing work and benefit from peer-to-peer networking and support.
LSO Soundhub is generously supported by Susie Thomson
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Curved Form (No. 4)
Curved Form (No. 4) is a blissed out drone piece made with hammers. It is an attempt to create an understated and slowly evolving sound with the instant attack of the piano. A single pulsing note gradually morphs into a succession of changing chords, rising up from the start to the apex at the centre of the piece before retracing its steps back to the beginning. The repeated notes gradually recede into the distance leaving just the piano’s resonance hanging in the air.
Alex Groves is a composer and curator working across contemporary classical and electronic music. His work blends classical instruments, ambient textures and live-processed electronics to create uncanny soundworlds where the line between acoustic and electronic, real and imagined becomes blurred.
Alongside composing, Alex runs SOLO – a unique platform for leading contemporary classical soloists, such as Liam Byrne, Daniel Pioro and Eliza McCarthy, to explore the music they love in an intimate setting. Each gig features an eclectic setlist packed with formative influences, dream collaborations and new adventures.
Most recently, Alex self-released his debut EP — Curved Form (No. 4) — in collaboration with Eliza McCarthy, which features the title track alongside remixes by Benjamin Tassie, Matt Huxley and Alex himself. Other recent work includes commissions for the London Contemporary Orchestra and Crash Ensemble, operas for English Touring Opera and ERRATICA, and residencies with Handel & Hendrix in London, Snape Maltings and the New Amsterdam Composers Lab.
His music has been presented at the Barbican Centre, Sage Gateshead, Royal Opera House, V&A, Union Chapel, National Theatre Studio, King's Place and Nonclassical, broadcast on NTS Radio, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 6 Music, and released on Bedroom Community.
...touchless as they sleepwalk…
…touchless as they sleepwalk… aims to capture the poignant, yet elusive and dream-like, atmosphere created by David Harsent in his long poem A Dream Book. The fractured and dissociated use of the instruments of the string quartet, and the colouration of the harmonic world by many natural overtones, articulate a structure that moves from two independent lines to chordal coalescence. This, in turn, reflects the narrative structure of the poem – a love affair conducted in dreamscape and told to the reader in 36 highly evocative fragments.
I am greatly indebted to David Harsent for his part in bringing this piece to life.
In the margins they find one other, in fault lines,
where it’s silences or half-heard music and the last light drains
from a low, cold sky to leave them dark
in one another’s gaze and touchless as they sleepwalk
night-long in those narrows, then wake
to the same failing light, to moonrise, to music-in chains.
from A Dream Book, David Harsent
Sam Cave’s music searches for fragile intensity, a concentrated quietness and ‘flowing-stasis’. Its rhythms, harmonies and gestures aim to hint at an eternal ‘other world’ built purely of sound, and attempt to invite and reward close and concentrated listening.
His work has been performed in venues around the UK and abroad including the Pump Rooms, Royal College of Music, St George’s Bristol, Handel & Hendrix in London, Swinburne Hall, Norway’s Norges Musikkhøgskole, The RISUONANZE Festival in Tricesimo, Italy, in Australia at the Sydney Conservatorium and in the US at Arts Collinwood. Sam has written for some of the most exciting young musicians performing today including the Octandre Ensemble, Johan Lovfing and Improviso.
Sam studied at the Royal College of Music, with financial support from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and at the University of Southampton. He has recently completed a PhD in composition at Brunel University under the supervision of Christopher Fox and John Croft. Sam is currently an LSO Soundhub Associate Composer and is also a tutor at Brunel University and the London Youth Conservatoire. Several of Sam’s pieces are published by BabelScores.
A Thornbush In My Strength
‘Like a thornbush brandished by the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.’ (Proverbs 26:9, New Revised Standard)
Soundhub Associate, Panufnik Composers Scheme Member 2015
Bethan Morgan-Williams is a Welsh composer based in Montgomeryshire. She composes instrumental, vocal and electronic music for people of all ages and abilities, finding motivation through the simple urge to provide performers with new and exciting music. Described as ‘marvellously oblique and obscure’ (5against4) while being ‘rooted in something ancient and folky’ (The Telegraph), Bethan’s music is fluid and expressive. Current projects include new pieces for Antoine Tamestit and Colin Currie, Park Lane Group artists, Fenella Humphreys and Ensemble Musikfabrik.
The Anguish of John Paton
The Anguish of John Paton is a re-orchestration of a section from a larger work for solo viola and VR, which is based on events in the life of a Scottish missionary to the islands of the New Hebrides. The full work consists of nine musical formants: specific fixed structures which may be freely ordered by the performer. Anguish, the first formant, is the source of the music for this solo cello version. It explores various gradations in bowing technique that result in minute timbral fluctuations. Harmonically, the piece is mostly static, winding around microtonal inflections of D and E-flat, and this stasis draws attention to the colourful variations in timbre. The viola version of this formant will be recorded by Laura Sinnerton of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales later this year, for release on NMC Recordings.
Soundhub Phase I Member
Anselm McDonnell is an Irish-Welsh composer based in Belfast. He is a founding member of the Belfast-based new music ensemble PANIC, and has written over 50 works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensembles, soloists and electronics. He often collaborates with artists from other disciplines, including filmmakers, theologians, poets and artists. His music has been performed in Canada, Finland, Japan, Russia, France, Czech Republic, North America and numerous locations around the UK and Ireland. McDonnell has worked with ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, CRASH Ensemble, Chamber Choir Ireland, BBC Singers, Ulster Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. McDonnell’s music has been played on BBC Radio 3, Lyric FM and Radiophrenia Glasgow. His work has won several awards: winner of both the Feis Ceoil Choral (2016) and Chamber Music Composition Prize (2017), finalist in the Third International Sergei Slonimsky Competition in St Petersburg, winner of the Third International Kastalsky Choral Writing Competition, Moscow and finalist in the 14th Sun River Prize in Chengdu, China. His chamber work Engines of Babel was highly commended in the TMAO Symposium, Bangkok, Thailand.
This piece investigates the often uncomfortable relationship between centres and ‘their’ peripheries. Whether in respect to postcolonial thought, environmental issues, or social structures, the implication is that those on the periphery – individuals, groups, nature – are marginalised, ignored, and at times forgotten. It is as if the centre is independent and self-sufficient whilst the periphery is somehow lesser... unimportant ... insignificant ... And yet the relationship between a ‘centre’ and a ‘periphery’ is in fact interdependent. One does not exist without the other and in the latter, there is always latent value and meaning. In Significance thus meditates on these ideas, and hopes to encourage a more holistic understanding of how communities, histories and beings interact with each other.
Soundhub Phase II Member
Alex Ho is a British-Chinese composer based in London exploring transnational culture and identity. A composer on the London Symphony Orchestra's Soundhub scheme and a Help Musicians UK Fusion Fund Artist for 2019/20, Alex has had pieces performed by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Juice Ensemble, Roderick Williams, and the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford. His works have been heard on platforms including SoundState Festival (Southbank Centre, London), Sound Unbound (Barbican Centre, London), Hearing China (Shanghai Symphony Hall, Shanghai), nonclassical (London), Snape Maltings, Cheltenham Music Festival, Oxford Lieder Festival, and BBC Late Junction. Alex was one of Sound and Music's 'New Voices 2018', and is the co-director of Tangram, an artist collective opening up spaces beyond the China–West dichotomy. Alex studied Music at Oxford University and graduated with first-class honours before completing a composition masters at Cambridge University, where he was awarded the Arthur Bliss Prize in Composition for his final portfolio, which attained the highest mark across the university. He is currently studying for a doctorate at the Royal College of Music with a full scholarship (LAHP Studentship supported by RCM).
Construction 003: axial/regional
Construction 003: axial/regional establishes explicit relationships between spatial constructions in dimensional and musical space simultaneously. Our experience of music is not only inherently spatial but can also be analogous to our experience of the space in which it is played. We often talk about the shape, structure, form, direction and depth of a piece of music in a way which makes us think about music as if it were physically tangible, much like the objects and surfaces which define our physical, spatial environments. Dimensional concepts then have the capacity to become nuclei of musical ideas where distance and direction can become strategies for organising the ‘architecture’ of music. Construction 003: axial/regional explores the spatial concepts of distance and direction as both a musical idea and in the spatial organisation of its performance. The musical narrative establishes a timbral spectrum between instruments, from the very similar to the very different, as a method of discussing proximity, or closeness. This spatial narrative is further reinforced tonally by moving between a range of intervallic structures, from very close together to very far apart. The physical positioning of the musicians with respect to each other and the listening audience echoes these musical relationships to create a series of sonic axes and regions within the space of the auditorium. As dimensional space is considered a compositionally active component of the music, Construction 003 changes in response to the geometric and acoustic characteristics of performance spaces. Previous iterations of this piece have been developed in collaboration with acoustic engineers at Max Fordham for performance at the De Montfort Uni. PACE building —and with the London City Orchestra for performance at the Southbank Centre.
Soundhub Associate & Panufnik Composers Scheme Member 2020
Emma-Kate’s research concerns the discovery and exploitation of creative reciprocities between music as constructed sound, and architecture as constructed space. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL under the supervision of Professors Bob Sheil and Yeoryia Manolopoulou and Professor Neil Heyde from the Royal Academy of Music. Emma-Kate’s spatialised compositions have been performed at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and London’s Southbank Centre. Emma-Kate is a multi-instrumentalist and has released a number of albums, most recently East of the Active on Algebra Records. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts and the RIBA and has also been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals including Architectural Design (Wiley), Design Ecologies (Intellect books) and Organised Sound Journal (Cambridge University Press). She recently completed commissions for the Guildhall School of Music, Musicity and the Barbican Centre as part of the Sound Unbound festival.
Three tudes for piano and flower pots
A phenomenon of 19th-century musical culture, the étude emerged as an instrumental genre designed to showcase the technique and virtuosity of a star performer while retaining a didactic function. The most famous piano études by Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Ligeti are celebrated, however, not just as showpieces, but also for the ways in which they push boundaries of expression, inviting us to reimagine the sonorities that might be drawn from familiar concert-hall instruments.
In this composition I have employed the étude genre as a vehicle for presenting an unusual type of percussion instrument – a set of flower pots. Pitted against the piano, these flower pots are played with beaters in much the same way as a mallet instrument would be. As studies in sound, my three études respond to some of the expressive conventions of 19th-century piano repertoire while teasing out the musical capabilities of an everyday object. Three études for piano and flower pots was written for the Psappha Ensemble’s 2018/19 Composing For scheme and premiered by Tim Williams (percussion) and Benjamin Powell (piano) in Psappha’s 2019 season.
Soundhub Associate & Panufnik Composers Scheme Member 2019
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade is a composer and cellist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Composing for old, new and damaged musical instruments, her past projects have included works for symphony orchestra, viols and theorbo, string and percussion quartets, a homemade glass harmonica, the Princeton University carillon, and a fire-damaged piano. Recent commissions include works for the Psappha Ensemble, Glyndebourne Youth Opera, the 2019 LSO Panufnik Scheme and the 2020 Presteigne Festival. Ninfea is currently a Composer-in-Residence at Glyndebourne Opera House (2019/21) and recently participated in both the Psappha Ensemble’s Composing For scheme and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Composers’ Hub. 2019 saw the continued circulation of her work in the United States, with a performance of Hatters by Boston Symphony Orchestra percussionists at the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Los Angeles premiere of The Opium-Eaters by members of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, a tour of her solo percussion composition Playchest by the Ithaca-based new music ensemble Un/Pitched, and the New York premiere of solo violin work Devil’s Minion as part of the Metropolis Ensemble’s concert series. Ninfea holds degrees from the University of Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music, and is a doctoral candidate in music composition at Princeton University.
Now I will do nothing but Listen
Three people inspired me to write this piece – American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92), acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton and motion artist Huang Xiao.
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following.
Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Silence is the presence of time undisturbed.
It can be felt in the chest. It nurtures our nature.
silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything.
One Square Inch of Silence, Gordon Hempton
I hear Whitman’s song in Huang Xiao’s dance ...
I see her moving to the power of the silence ...
What emerges is the embodied awareness that silence – is the removal of excess material,
so that the true form of one’s consciousness,
of the world and of life itself
can be revealed.
Now I will do nothing but,
Soundhub Phase II Member
Sun Keting is a London-based Chinese composer and artist. Her recent works focus on performance arts and instrumental sound exploration combining Eastern cultural, spiritual and philosophical elements. Sun's music has been performed in the UK, US, Europe and Asia. She has composed music for the London Symphony Orchestra, Chroma Ensemble, Tangram, Silk Road Ensemble, CoMA Ensemble, Manson Ensemble, Tritium Trio, the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan. She recently created The Scent of Sound concert featuring new music based on folk music elements, cross-culture and cross-arts. She was selected to join the LSO's Soundhub Composer Scheme for both 2018/19 and 2019/20 phases and had the privilege of being mentored by Rolf Hind and Anna Thorvaldsdottir. She began composing in collaboration with Rome-based Chinese choreographer/artist Huang Xiao and jointly created Enso (2019) and Listen (2020), both premiered at LSO St Luke's. She is also Composer-in-Residence for both Chinese Arts Now and Tangram. Her work One Undivided (2019) was co-commissioned by CAN, the LSO and the Silk String Quartet; and her work Erasure (2019) was co-commissioned by Tangram and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. She attended the Creative Dialogue 2019 in Finland guided by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and the Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen. In 2018, she started a doctorate at the Royal Academy of Music under the mentorship of Helen Grime. She completed her MMus degree at RAM in 2018 and received a Distinction Degree and the Pullen Memorial Prize.
Darren Bloom is a composer, conductor, producer and educator. Described in The Times as ‘almost mystical … a genuine frisson’, Darren’s music is noted for its combination of ‘evocative harmony’ and ‘raw power’. His recent chamber symphony Dr Glaser’s Experiment, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra for their 2016 Futures Festival, was praised in theartsdesk.com as a ‘confident answer to the question: How can an orchestra perform the music of the future?’. Darren’s chamber work Strange Attractors was selected by the UK panel of the International Society for Contemporary Music to represent the UK, and his chamber opera KETTLEHEAD was created as part of his second year of residence with the London Symphony Orchestra as a member of the LSO Soundhub Scheme. Recent projects include a curated set for New Dots’ Curiouser event, which incorporated his new work Alice’s Dream Fragments for the Octandre Ensemble, and Borexino-Borealis, a commission from the Park Lane Group for the Borealis Saxophone Quartet. Darren is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, resulting in a commission for the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Darren is a founding member and conductor/creative producer of the Ossian Ensemble, with whom he has given the premieres of dozens of new works over the past decade. Other conducting highlights include a performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Five Klee Pictures in the presence of the composer, recording music for BBC 4 documentaries, directing several youth new music ensembles, including the Composers' Ensemble at Junior Trinity, and working for the past four years as a conductor for the LSO Soundhub Scheme.
Darren studied composition with Edwin Roxburgh, Brian Elias and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and conducting with Neil Thompson, Edwin Roxburgh and Christopher Austin. He was awarded a DipRAM and the Manson Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music, as well as recently being appointed an Associate of the RAM. In 2015, he commenced an AHRC funded PhD in Composition at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Richard Causton.
David Harsent has published twelve volumes of poetry. Legion won the Forward Prize for best collection; Night was triple short-listed in the UK and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Fire Songs won the T S Eliot Prize. A new collection, Loss, appeared in January 2020.
Harsent has collaborated with several composers, though most often with Harrison Birtwistle. Birtwistle/Harsent collaborations have been performed at venues worldwide, including the Royal Opera House, BBC Proms, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Holland Festival, The Concertgebouw, Southbank Centre, The Salzburg Festival and Carnegie Hall.
Other words for music include an oratorio, The Judas Passion (music by Sally Beamish), chamber operas with Huw Watkins for the Edinburgh International Festival and St David’s Hall, Cardiff, and a television opera When She Died (Channel 4: music by Jonathan Dove) which was broadcast in America and had a stage life in Vienna.
Huang Xiao is a Motion Artist with a background in dance, a master's degree in Contemporary Dance from The National Academy of Dance of Italy, and a PhD candidate in Visual, Performing and Media Arts at the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna in Italy. Xiao is currently a Distinguished Researcher at the Beijing Dance Academy.
Winner of the International Cinematica Festival Prize 2018 in Italy, a finalist of the Premio Roma Danza 2018 International Choreography and Dance Video Competition Award, she was also selected for the Official Selection Screenings in the 2018 edition of the Fashion Film Festival Milano.
London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie
London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie
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