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Concerts

Welcome Back to the Sound Laboratory

This season we're continuing to bring you more brand new music from the cutting edge here in the city with the University of Shefeld New Music Ensemble (9 May) as well as music that transcends time in Cage:Scarlatti:Sonatas (28 February) and borders in Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues (17 March). In addition, we're exploring some of Boulez's most intense music in his Piano Sonatas and most ethereal in Anthèmes II. Students meet masters in Sound Junction with guest performers Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley and there's a concert like no other with Joby Burgess' Pioneers of Percussion in June. All in all, Sound Laboratory offers an an action packed season spanning the breadth of contemporary and modern music. We look forward to welcoming you on our adventures in the Sound Lab!

Stewart Campbell
Producer

Alex Gowan-Webster
Guide Author and Sound Laboratory Content Producer


Read all about the cutting edge music presented in Sound Laboratory below.

David Greilsammer Scarlatti:Cage:Sonatas

About this Concert:

David Greilsammer describes this programme as “music from another planet”, describing both Cage and Scarlatti’s approach to the sonata as truly revolutionary. Presented back to back across the centuries, Scarlatti from the early 1700s and John Cage from the mid 20th Century, this concert o?ers a unique opportunity to compare these two visionaries and draw links between their approaches to one of the most popular musical forms, the piano sonata.

The Prepared Piano:

The otherworldly sounds created in the Cage works in this concert are the result of meticulous preparation of the piano. According to instructions by Cage, bolts, screws and rubbers are placed between strings inside the piano at carefully measured distances to accentuate certain sounds and harmonics inside the piano. This creates a completely new soundworld more akin to the percussion section of an orchestra than that of a solo piano.

Things to Listen For: 

This concert is a unique chance to compare the music of two visionary composers and to draw comparisons about the inventive ways Scarlatti and Cage approached the keyboard. Both men composed these pieces at turning points in musical history and drew unusual influences in their work. Scarlatti's sonatas are famed for their dramatic shifts of mood, suggested to have been influenced by Iberian folk music that Scarlatti was exposed to in Spain where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Similarly Cage drew on influences outside the classical sphere having famously been introduced to Indian philosophy. When listening to these works, try to forget time, place, or period and simply allow yourself to enjoy the mastery of composition presented.

Recommended Further Listening:

There is bountiful further listening for Scarlatti’s Sonatas as he wrote over 500 sonatas for keyboard. Many of his pieces have now been arranged for guitar where the Iberian harmonies are equally suited. Cage is perhaps the most prolifc writer for prepared piano, and his Works of Calder are highly recommended. Beyond Cage, the prepared piano has gained more recognition recently with artists such as Hauschka and Klavikon creating rhythmic compositions that owe as much to the sounds of techno as they do to Cage, a fascinating crossover! Listen to some of this music below.

 

Other Concerts in the Series:

More piano freworks will occur when pianist Matthew Odell presents Boulez’s three piano sonatas all in one day. Through his famous friendship with John Cage, Boulez presented his second sonata on a US tour where it was performed by long time Cage collaborator and pianist David Tudor. Boulez was a famous admirer of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes and this concert provides an opportunity to hear music contemporary to Cage’s written across the Atlantic in Europe.

About the Performers:

Known for his eclectic and fascinating performances, conductor and pianist David Greilsammer is recognised as one of today’s most audacious classical artists. The New York Times recently selected Scarlatti:Cage:Sonatas as one of the ten most important musical events of the year. Since 2013, David has been Music and Artistic Director of the Geneva Camerata (GECA). With this innovative orchestra, he gives more than forty concerts per season, including international tours that have taken him and the ensemble to Paris, Berlin, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Gstaad, Lausanne, Mexico, Morelia, Eilat and Istanbul.

Sheffield Composer Portrait: Dorothy Ker

Dorothy Ker is a Senior Lecturer in Composition and Director of Research in Music at the University. She teaches numerous undergraduate and postgraduate modules as well as supervising PhD students and keeping up with her own compositional work and research. Born in New Zealand, Dorothy maintains many connections to contemporary music in the South Pacifc as well as here in the UK. She spent July 2013-June 2014 as Visiting Scholar at the New Zealand School of Music, where she was resident at the historic Lilburn house in Wellington and in 2015 was awarded the Composers Association of New Zealand Trust Fund award for her contribution to New Zealand music.

Dorothy’s Music

Dorothy’s music is often delicate and focussed on subtleties, drawing the audience into an intimate and precisely crafted soundworld. Dorothy’s music is frequently performed in Shefeld including Onaia performed by the Fidelio Trio in 2015 and Tactus which saw its UK premiere with New Zealand composer and guitarist Dylan Lardelli in Firth Hall. Her latest work Time Bends in the Rock will be performed alongside works by Lardelli and other as part of Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues (17 March). We caught up with Dorothy and asked her a few questions about the concert...

Sound Lab: What is Silk Dialogues?

DK: Silk Dialogues is an international, cross-cultural collaboration that has generated four new compositions for guzheng (Chinese zither) and piano trio (violin, cello and piano). These will be heard for the frst time in the UK as part of Classical Weekend, but the project has already been hosted in New Zealand and Beijing with great success.

Sound Lab: Tell us about the other music in the concert...

DK: I’ve been joined in this venture by three brilliant composers - renowned Chinese composer Gao Ping, New Zealand and Australian composer Dylan Lardelli and British and New Zealand composer Jeroen Speak - who have each written exquisite, distinctive pieces that show how versatile the ensemble can be.

Sound Lab: What are you looking forward to about the Shefeld performance of Silk Dialogues?

DK:
The intimacy and responsive acoustic of Upper Chapel will suit the music very well, and the mid-evening timing of the 50-minute concert will lend a certain focussed atmosphere I am looking forward to very much.

Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues

About this Concert:

Silk Dialogues is a unique event merging the boundaries between our Global Soundtracks and Sound Laboratory seasons. Here we present the UK premiere of several exciting new works created for the unique combination of guzheng (Chinese zither) and piano trio following critically acclaimed performances in New Zealand and Beijing. Each of the composers has written works demonstrating the versatility of this unique ensemble.

Things to Listen For:

Dorothy Ker describes both her work Time Bends in the Rock and the role of the guzheng in her music:

“The Chinese guzheng is a large, 21-string zither that sits on a stand and is played with two hands. It combines very well with Western stringed instruments, making for a rich, exhilarating palette to work with. My work Time Bends in the Rock is inspired by the way the guzheng player bends the string to ornament the tone, which is a distinctive feature of the instrument. The four instruments become one, so that bending, plucking, bowing and striking all become shared techniques. Above all it is a poetic piece that aims fnd a new expression through this multi-faceted yet cohesive ensemble.”

 

Other Concerts in the Series:

In addition to this concert we are proud to present more Chinese music on 17 March and 18 March where leading musicians from Shanghai will present Chinese classical music as part of Global Soundtracks: Dreams of China.

About the Performers:

This concert features a collaboration between Beijing-based virtuoso Xia Jing and the Fidelio Trio, an ensemble with a longstanding relationship with Shefeld: Pianist Mary Dullea was previously Head of Performance at the University of Shefeld. The Trio visited last year as part of a tour to present a new work created in collaboration with composer Piers Hellawell and the Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey. Violinist Darragh Morgan will also appear separately, performing Boulez’s Anthèmes II on 18 March.

The Conflict and The Passion

About this Concert:

Opening our trio of Boulez concerts we present two works that are testament to the passionate and turbulent characteristics of two great composers. Beethoven initially dedicated his Sonata No. 9 to violinist George Bridgewater, however following a disagreement hours after the premiere he hastily re-dedicated the work to Kreutzer. In a similar fashion, Boulez dedicated his frst sonata to his teacher René Leibowitz yet so strong was Leibowitz’s criticism of the work that Boulez stormed away from the meeting and ended their friendship. Both pieces feature a deep sense of emotional power which binds them together despite their stylistic di?erences

Things to Listen For:

Piano Sonata No. 1 is one of Boulez’s frst works using the 12 tone ‘serial’ composition* technique which lends a particular angular power to the piece. The piece is gestural so try to listen beyond the clashes and enjoy the ?urries and swirls of notes along with the tempo changes that make up this dynamic work. Similarly Beethoven’s sonata is deeply powerful and emotive, written in the run up to his renowned Eroica Symphony, the Kreutzer Sonata shows tentative precursors of the heroic might that the Eroica presents.

Recommended Further Listening:

A natural partner to Boulez’s piano writing is the work of another French composer: Olivier Messiaen. His Catalogue d’Oiseaux and Vingt Regards (both performed in Sheffield last year) are highly recommended. For more serial work in a similar vein, Webern’s concise but brilliant works are well worth exploring, in particular his Six Bagatelles for String Quartet or his Piano Variations Op. 27. Find a playlist to accompany all three Boulez concerts below:

 

Other Concerts in the Series:

Other concerts with such variety of styles can be found in New Music Ensemble (9 May) and if you’re reading this in advance, David Greilsammer’s innovative combination of Cage and Scarlatti (28 February).

About the Performers:

Lucy Phillips is a freelance violinist and teacher based in Shefeld. Since 2016 she has taught at the University of Shefeld whilst maintaining a busy performance schedule including a complete series of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, of which this concert is the conclusion. Matthew Odell currently teaches at the world-famous Juilliard School in New York, combining this with a busy international touring schedule. Matthew has been awarded the Presser Award, the Sarah Stuhlman Zierler Award, two Peabody Career Development Grants, the Lucrezia Bori Grant, the Virginia Allison Accompanying Award, and a numerous fellowships and grants from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Deconstruction and Digitalisation

About this Concert:

Deconstruction and Digitalisation presents a fantastically balanced portrait of Boulez as a composer. Piano Sonata No. 2 is among the most infamous of 20th Century piano pieces, noted for its fendish difculty. Here it is juxtaposed with the experimental side of Boulez, in a rare piece that includes the use of live electronics: Anthèmes II.

Things to Listen For:

Boulez commented that in Anthèmes II he sought inspiration from the contrasting languages heard in his childhood church services. The two languages are represented by static or gliding harmonics contrasting against the faster sections. Boulez’s second piano sonata brought him international recognition and a reputation as an uncompromising perfectionist. Much like the frst sonata this piece is complex but can be enjoyed without the need for academic study simply by following the angular lines and dramatic pacing.

Recommended Further Listening:

The angular writing of Piano Sonata No. 2 is very reminiscent of the work of Conlon Nancarrow whose music for player piano (in particular the studies) is well worth seeking out. The majority of Boulez’s work was
instrumental, an exception being
Répons, composed at IRCAM, a world famous research centre dedicated to electronic music in Paris. This work is well worth listening to and exploring. A playlist to accompany all three of our Boulez concerts can be found below.

Other Concerts in the Series:

Sound Junction Weekend (5-7 May) is an essential part of this season’s calendar. Featuring world renowned guest composers Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley it’s set to be a truly memorable weekend of music. In addition to this, more immersive and innovative music with live electronics can be heard as part of percussionist Joby Burgess’ Pioneers of Percussion programme in June.

About the Performers:

Alongside his work as a member of the Fidelio Trio, Darragh Morgan maintains a varied career as both an ensemble leader and solo violinist. Working frequently with ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group he has additionally collaborated with many leading composers including Arvo Pärt, Michael Nyman, Sir John Tavener, Gavin Bryars, Kevin Volans and Michael Finnissy. Darragh is currently Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Matthew Odell’s biography can be found accompanying the first of his concerts above.

Choice and Chance

About this Concert:

In this fnal Boulez concert of Classical Weekend we are exploring a different side of Boulez, one that, despite his serial work and perfectionism, puts the music in the hands of the performers. Boulez’s third sonata was inspired by the work of the French poet Mallarmé and Irish author James Joyce. Both of these writers experimented with a sense of natural ?ow in their writing. Boulez attempts to recreate this by allowing the performer to choose in real time which notes are to be played and in which order, creating an open piece that can be recomposed with each performance. This is accompanied by Boulez’s Domaines, a piece which can be performed either solo by a clarinet or alongside six groups forming an orchestra that is spread across the performance space.The clarinettist can move between groups and the structure of the piece is partially defned by the players similarly to Piano Sonata No. 3.

Things to Listen For:

These works come alive during performance so be sure to pay attention to the subtleties of interpretation and interplay as performers make decisions that in?uence the work. During Domaines feel free to turn to watch di?erent groups and to make the most of the spatial di?erences this provides. Sheffield University composer Professor George Nicholson describes the piece here:

“Boulez wrote Domaines in the frst instance in 1968 as a solo clarinet piece lasting about ffteen minutes, and then decided to open it out as a series of dialogues between the soloist and various ensembles. It is laid out in two parts: in the first, each of the ensembles responds in turn to a section of the original clarinet piece, and in the second the ensembles lead and the soloist reciprocates. At no point does the whole orchestra ever play together, the big attraction for me is the wide range of delectable sonorities Boulez produces.”

Recommended Further Listening:

A further masterpiece for solo clarinet comes from Messiaen as part of his Quartet for the End of Time. The third movement, Aîmbe des Oiseaux, is a truly stand-out piece of the clarinet repertoire. For more free and choice-based piano works the early work of Morton Feldman including Intermission 6 and Two Pianos are highly recommended. We've created a playlist to accompany our three Boulez concerts and it can be listened to below.

 

Other Concerts in the Series:

Members of the University’s New Music Ensemble can be heard again on 9 May where they will present cutting edge music created at the University of Sheffield. New music from Shefeld will also be performed as part of Sheffield collective Platform 4’s free Rush Hour concert on 20 March.

About the Performers:

Sarah Watts is an award winning British clarinettist who has gained an international reputation for her work as a solo bass clarinettist. Sarah is also visiting teacher at the Royal Northern College of Music. The University’s New Music Ensemble is formed by invitation on a concert-by-concert basis, co-ordinated by Dr Dorothy Ker and Professor George Nicholson. Matthew Odell’s biography can be found above.

Sheffield Composer Portrait George Nicholson

Professor George Nicholson is Head of Composition and Director of the University of Sheffield New Music Ensemble, dedicated to performing new music written by students at the University. The performance of student work is a central part of George’s approach to teaching composition as he describes here:


“I am proud not only of the fact that each year we offer opportunities for student composers to have their music played by the various larger ensembles such as the Symphony Orchestra and Wind Orchestra, but that we also encourage promising students to take on the challenge of conducting these ensembles or appearing as soloists with them. In the moment of performance all music is in a strict sense ‘contemporary’, and therefore it is natural and right that composers should be at the heart of that activity.”


George’s Music

George’s music has been performed by the London Sinfonietta, BBC Philharmonic, the Orchestra of St John’s Smith Square and many other ensembles. He has received several BBC commissions, including a cello concerto premiered by Moray Welsh. He was also commissioned by James Galway to write a ?ute concerto. We talked to George about some of his key influences...

GN: While still at school I discovered the major figures of early twentieth century music - Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, Ravel, Berg, Webern (and so on!) - and was fred up by their fascination with sheer sound and with the endless possibilities of instrumental resources. Around the same time I was also exploring the later generation of Boulez, Stockhausen and Berio, whose music was largely available to me only by means of radio broadcasts, and I was always on the lookout for broadcast premieres! I went on to study composition at York with Bernard Rands and David Blake, whose conflicting influences are still with me. Richard Orton - though never my composition teacher as such - also made a signifcant contribution to the development of my thinking as a musician.

George will conduct Domaines as part of our Boulez series over the Classical Weekend. We asked him what makes the piece special to him?

GN:
The big attraction for me is the wide range of delectable sonorities Boulez produces. It’s very sumptuous and dramatic music (I always hear echoes of Debussy’s approach in Boulez - a typically French sensibility that they share) and the piece now feels like one of the frst steps he made in the direction of constructing large-scale works like Rituel and Répons.

Sheffield Composer Portrait: Adrian Moore

Dr Adrian Moore is a Reader in the Department of Music, Director of University of Shefeld Sound Studios (USSS) and Deputy Head of Department. He is a composer of electroacoustic and acousmatic music and his work has been performed and broadcast across the world. Adrian’s music is published by empreintes DIGITALes and can be streamed online at https://electrotheque.com. He recently published his book ‘Sonic Art: an Introduction to Electroacoustic Music Composition’ (Routledge 2016). We caught up with Adrian to ask him a few questions about his work and the upcoming Sound Junction Weekend (5-7 May).

Sound Lab: How did you come to be based in Sheffield? Do you feel that Sheffield has or has had a unique in?uence on your music and if so how?

AM: I came to be based here when Professor Eric Clarke (now based in Oxford) came to give a talk at Birmingham and recruited me for one day a week back in 1998. Part-time became full-time in 2000. The University of Sheffield Sound Studios have moved from a computer in a room in an old stable-block by the then Tapton Halls of Residence to a multi-user lab in the Jessop Building and six studios on the top ?oor of the iconic Soundhouse. But it’s not about kit. We have some amazingly eager undergraduates who have the open-mindedness to accept that computers and music might mean a ‘new music’. We also have a reputation for the ‘acousmatic’ and as a consequence have a really healthy PhD programme and a very vibrant community of composers. Like many students who stay in Sheffield for three years then ‘stick around’, there’s something about Shefield that makes life just a little easier. The people and places are so welcoming. My postgraduate life moved me from London to Birmingham with spells in Europe. Sheffield has just the right feel. Shefield itself hasn’t in?uenced my music short of the sounds I’ve recorded in and around the city. However, of course it has. I just can’t tell you how.

Sound Lab: What makes Sound Junction special, and in particular this upcoming edition with guests Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley?

AM:
This Sound Junction is going to be special for many reasons. We began implementing a bigger system of 32 channels as we knew - even back in early 2016 - that Jonty Harrison would be playing a work of at least 32 channels. We still have work to do in order to make sure we can accommodate his latest piece. More important than kit is the music. Harrison and Smalley are the best acousmatic (a listening stance that favours sound over sight) composers in the UK. Not only are they composing excellent new music, their past works are icons of the genre. Finally, there is a personal angle. For both me and Adam Stanovic, we know Jonty and Denis quite well as I studied for my MA and PhD with Jonty at Birmingham and Adam studied with Denis for his PhD at City University, London. They have both appeared in Sheffield before but now we get to close the circle.

Spring Sound Junction 2017

About these Concerts:

Allow yourself to become immersed by the University of Sheffield Sound Studio’s 32 speaker surround sound system and experience music in a whole new way.

Things to Listen For:

In these concerts, composers perform their pieces from a control desk in the middle of the hall. From here they control when and where sounds appear, often di?using stereo pieces across the 32 channel system. When attending these concerts the best listening position is the centre of the room. Close your eyes and allow yourself to be transported by the sounds around you.

Recommended Further Listening:

As part of the digitisation of this guide, University of Sheffield Concerts have created a Spotify playlist to introduce a broad range of electroacoustic and acousmatic music. In addition to this the music of Adrian Moore, Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley is all released via empreintes DIGITALes and available to stream online via https://electrotheque.com which also features one album from their catalogue for free each week, a great online resource. Further recommended UK composers include Pete Stollery and Trevor Wishart. Outside of the UK the work of Annette Vande Gorne, Francois Bayle, Åke Parmerud and Barry Truax are all highly recommended.

Other Concerts in the Series:

The Sound Junction Weekend happens twice a year in November and May. In November 2017, US-based German composer Hans Tutschku will feature. Sound Junction is fast becoming a highlight of our contemporary season and is an event well worth experiencing with your own ears.

About the Performers:

This edition of Sound Junction features guest composers Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley. We talked to Dr Adrian Moore about what makes this visit special:

“Harrison and Smalley are the best acousmatic composers in the UK. Not only are they composing excellent new music, their past works are icons of the genre. Klang by Jonty Harrison and Pentes by Denis Smalley are known to every student studying acousmatic music composition. Both composers articulate their materials with such delicacy and refnement. The listener is transported to new sonic environments. Real-world sounds fuse with imaginary sounds and you realise that any sound has musical potential in their hands.”

There is an additional personal touch to this series, as Dr Moore explains:

“I know Jonty Harrison quite well as I studied for my MA and PhD with him at Birmingham. Academics often mention the nature of a PhD as a learning partnership. This was most certainly the case for Jonty and myself. He was always willing to share information and experience. This, above almost all else is what I try to do as an academic at Sheffield."

Sheffield Composer Portrait: Adam Stanovic

Dr Adam Stanovic is a composer, performer and writer specialising in electroacoustic and acousmatic music. Director of the MA in Composition and the MA in Sonic Art at the University, his work has been performed, published and prized around the world. Adam started composing electroacoustic music some twenty years ago, before completing a degree in music production at The University of Leeds, and a PhD in electroacoustic composition at City University, London, under the supervision of Professor Denis Smalley (whom he will perform alongside as part of Sound Junction Weekend in May).

Adam’s Music

Adam’s music often consists of rich layers of sound that swell and coalesce into masses that envelop the listener. He has frequently premiered new works in Sheffield including Foundry Flux written as part of a collaboration between University composers and Furnace Park in Shefeld. He and Dr Inja Stanovi? premiered a new collaborative piece One Byrd, Two Stones for piano and tape as part of Sound Junction 2016. Adam’s music has been published by Elektramusic, Taukey, Sargasso and ICMA amongst others. Some of his work can be found on Spotify under his previous name Adam Stansbie.

Joby Burgess: Pioneers of Percussion

About this Concert:

Renowned percussionist Joby Burgess has been at the cutting edge of British classical music for many years, both as a soloist and with his ensemble Powerplant. This unique programme, designed and curated by Burgess, showcases some of the most innovative solo percussion music of the last century including two special commissions for this project by Nicol Lizée (Canada) and Linda Buckley (Ireland).

Things to Listen for:

This concert is set to be as much a visual spectacle as an aural one. Solo percussion is one of the most exciting sights in classical music, in particular the work Psappha by Xenakis, which is featured here. This work calls for “three groups of wood and/or skins and three groups of metal instruments” leaving the exact choice of instruments to the performer. This leads to a truly unique performance tailored by each performer to their own interpretation of the work. Other works include the sounds of the haunting aluminum harp in Takemitsu’s Seasons and a new electronic and percussive soundworld to immerse you in Linda Buckley’s work Ekstatis.

Recommended Further Listening:

Xenakis is famous for his percussion writing and composed several other pieces for percussion ensemble as well as a second work for solo percussion entitled Rebonds. This is a deeply ritualistic and highly recommended listen. Equally recommended is Steve Reich’s epic Drumming which lasts over an hour and employs at least nine percussionists. Find a playlist including some of these pieces below.

Other Concerts in the Series:

Pioneers of Percussion marks the end of this season of Sound Laboratory which will return in the autumn. Be sure to keep an eye out online for announcement of our autumn season later this year.

About the Performers:

One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby Burgess is best known for his virtuosic, often lissom performances, daring collaborations and his extensive education work. He regularly appears throughout Europe, the
USA and beyond. Both in the studio and on the road Joby Burgess works with artists including Peter Gabriel, Eric Whitacre, Graham Fitkin, Gabriel Prokofev, Will Gregory and John Lunn.

Box office

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Enquiries

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