Is This Thing Still On?

After an absence of over two years I’m brushing the dust off. I’m powering machines back up, replacing snapped strings, retuning and broadcasting once more from West Yorkshire.

A lot has changed since the last transmission: I completed my PhD in Composition and have taken up a teaching fellowship at the University of Leeds. I also stopped making music for nearly two years (PhD burnout is real and unpleasant), which was difficult. But after some time away, some self-care/discipline, and good conversations/ttrpgs with friends, 2018 has seen the wheels begin to turn again. It hasn’t been pretty, but it’s getting there. I know you didn’t ask, but here’s a run-down of what has been happening recently:

PERFORMANCES

Seth Parker Woods (USA), a supremely brilliant cellist and a very dear friend, commissioned khepri for Cluster festival in Winnipeg, CA. khepri for solo cello focuses on the tiny noises of the cello as Seth performs some fiercely quiet bow taps and finger strikes. Premiered 2nd March 2018, Winnipeg, CA. There is no recording of the premiere, so instead check out Seth performing Iced Bodies here with Spencer Topel. An intense re-imagining of Jim McWilliams’ Ice Music (1972).

abate ablaze abrade was commission by London’s Plus-Minus ensemble and premiered 27th March 2018 at City University, London. Other new works by Ben Jameson; Alice Jeffreys; Lawrence Dunn; Caitlin Rowley ; and Monika Dalach. It’s a slow, tangling trio for bass clarinet, piano and cello. Due to noisy lights (a sure sign that your music is quiet), the performance took place in the dark which was wonderfully evocative and testament to how brilliant these musicians are. Bass clarinet—Vicky Wright; piano—Mark Knoop; cello—Alice Purton.

In July, I’ll be at the 49th Darmstadt Ferienkurse Internationales Musikinstitut. I’ll have two new pieces being performed and workshopped:

polynya, or ever less is an etude for electric guitar, written for Yaron Deutsch’s concert and guitar studio. The piece uses a glass test tube to bow the strings, while the free hand plays soft hammer-ons. It’s quiet in spite of the amplifier. Glacial shredding.

o horizon, gloa on the forest floor was written for harp and a hand full of metal, and will be workshopped by Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir’s Harp studio. The piece builds up a number of tectonic hums and scrapes, as the player slides along the string with a hand of metal. Sensual scratching.

Further ahead, Ensemble Nikel (who, I suspect, a couple of you will have seen at last year’s hcmf//) will be ensemble in residence at Gaudeamus festival in Utrecht, NLD. If you’re there, they’ll be playing my whose veil remains inscrutable on 6th September 2018.

RECORDS

At the start of 2016, before everything went dark, I released something without fanfare. Listening back I still quite like it, so for your consideration: larynx, closing

In 2017 Ensemble Nikel released their retrospective 4CD+DVD+BOOK box-set A DECADE. It features their recording of my whose veil remains inscrutable that we made in Bern in 2015. It’s an exceptional performance and a wonderful album that I’m delighted to feature on. Audio excerpt here.

WRITING

If you read my 2015 article Disappearing Sounds: Fragility in the Music of Jakob Ullmann in TEMPO (Vol 69, Issue 274, Cambridge University Press), I’ve written a sequel. Rebuilding Babel: On Fragility And The Palimpsest In Jakob Ullmann’s voice, books and FIRE (Vol 71Issue 282, Cambridge University Press) was published in October 2017. It focuses on Ullmann’s huge cycle voice, books and FIRE and is similarly unwieldly.

I also reviewed Apartment House’s premiere of a new Christian Wolff piece, performed alongside Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra(1957–58) for TEMPO’s January 2018 issue. It was good.

 

That’s it for now. I’m going to try to make an effort to post more as I make more work, so, err… consider yourself warned?

Until next time,

Oliver.

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Addendum:

In the last month or so, I’ve been reading a lot of Jeff VanderMeer and Cixin Liu. I’ve been listening to Taku Sugimoto’s h from Another Timbre and I’ve been watching the university of Leeds’ newly hatched peregrines. [If you made it this far, you owe it to yourself to watch cute baby chicks eating other birds]

larynx, closing

last week, I released a new album of solo material. larynx, closing is a collection of two, or maybe three, or maybe four pieces across one hour and twenty minutes. it is very quiet.

SIDE A

1 – grid of four: first, across (16:07)

2 – against the grain, larynx (24:45)

SIDE B

3 – against the grain, larynx (continued, end) (16:34)

4 – grid of four: first (alternate take) and second, across (23:40)

viola. harmonium. Klaus Lang on Ilkley moor.

Last November I made a short film with Klaus Lang up on Ilkley Moor. I wrote a piece for Klaus and, together with Viola d’Amore player Barbara Konrad, we carried a harmonium up onto the moor. The film documents two pieces, my ‘a technical diagram for the abstraction of ockeghem’s missa pro defunctis: kyrie, side elevation‘ and a section from Klaus’ longer cycle: ‘viola. harmonium.

viola. harmonium. on Ilkley Moor from Oliver Thurley on Vimeo.

This film couldn’t have been made without Ollie Jenkins, who took care of all the filming and editing, and Elspeth Mitchell, who helped organise and produce everything. The project was part-funded by the Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts (CePRA) at the University of Leeds. Thanks also to Helen Barker and Rex Russell for their assistance.

Ullmann article now up

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 09.52.46

 

I recently wrote an article on fragility in the music of Jakob Ullmann. I’m very pleased to say that it is now available, published in the excellent TEMPO music journal (Volume 69 / Issue 274, Cambridge University Press).

 

If you have institution access (or a subscription, which is well worth it), you can read the article here, otherwise, I hope to make the text available as soon as I figure out a way around academia’s archaic copyright systems ( cough email me cough).

 

For those within reach of HCMF this year, you have a great chance to see a rare performance of Ullmann’s work coming up. Don’t miss it…

with the very same twist (traces, under erasure)

A new piece (maybe two pieces, or a piece and an ‘epilogue’ perhaps): with the very same twist to their faces for baritone saxophone and accordion.

Here is the first page of the ‘epilogue’, with the very same twist to their faces (under erasure), which is made up of trace layers/ palimpsestic readings of the ‘main’ version.

wtvstttf-under-erasure-p1

 

 

Network for String Quartet

I’ve mentioned the piece a couple of times on here over the last few months, but wanted to wait for a performance/recording to explain it a little more. So here we are at last: Network no.1 for string quartet.

The score is a hybrid of graphic and traditional, with a graph network diagram functioning as a map, and traditionally notated reference. Each ‘node’ on the map relates to an element from the separately notated gamut of sonorities. The edges of the map signify a potential route from one musical element to another. The length of an edge determines the duration of the element to be performed. So in this sense the map represents the time-space and structure of the piece, while the reference contains the sonic material.

As previously mentioned, the work exists in a a state of non-linearity. Performers work independently, following their own paths across score ‘maps’. Routes are determined stochastically (and regenerated each time the network graphs are compiles), although each player may choose their own starting point.

The recording was made on Tuesday, 7th May, 2013. Many thanks to the performers for their time:

Violins – Alice Dawkins; Hannah Packman
Viola – Katherine Lambeth
Violoncello – Claudia Chapman

Thanks also to Tony @Big_Pause for his patient advice during the programming stage.