Summer Updates, July 2016

The early summer has been an extremely productive time at the Centre for Research in New Music, with exciting news emanating from both our staff and students.

In late June, Prof. Philip Thomas released a new recording of piano music by composer Michael Finnissy. The disc, entitled Beat Generation Ballads and published on CeReNeM’s record label HCR (distributed by NMC Recordings), has already attracted impressive critical acclaim. Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Clements described the disc as “thoughtful and superbly played – ★★★★”, whereas Philip Clarke described Thomas’s performance in Gramophone as “kept on the tightest structural leash.”


More recently still, the Another Timbre label has released a new portrait disc of Dr Bryn Harrison’s work. The disc takes its title from Harrison’s forty-minute composition Receiving the Approaching Memory for violin and piano (which occupies the disc’s entire duration), performed by Aisha Orazbayeva (violin) and Mark Knoop (piano). The release has already been highly praised in the national press, described by Kate Molleson in the Guardian as “economical and fantastical […] fine-grained, shimmering material – ★★★★.”

Prof. Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay has begun development of his new audio-visual performance project, codenamed BlackBox. Collaborating with artists, Rodrigo Constanzo, Sylvain Pohu and Patrick Saint-Denis, the project recently entered its first creative development phase via a residency involving all participants, beautifully documented in this short trailer by filmmaker Angela Guyton.

Our students have been equally busy.

PhD student Lawrence Dunn has been taking part in a Sound and Music (SAM) embedded scheme, working with Sounding Motion (specifically members Stephen Upshaw and Imogen Bland) to produce music for movement and viola. Lawrence undertook a substantial interview with SAM for their Sampler magazine, which is available to read here.


Violinist and improvisor Mira Benjaminwho is approaching her final year of PhD studies within the centre, has been awarded the prestigious Virginia Parker Prize by the Canadian Arts Council. The prize is awarded annually to a young Canadian classical musician who demonstrates outstanding talent, musicianship and artistic excellence, and who makes a valuable contribution to the artistic life in Canada and internationally. The official announcement is available on the Canadian Arts Council homepage, here. Our wholehearted congratulations to Mira on this fantastic achievement.

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Congratulations and huge thanks to all CeReNeM members to all their hard work over this summer period so far. More news coming soon!

Dr Bryn Harrison in Focus, June 2016


Bryn Harrison has recently returned from a short residency in New York following the successful premiere of a new work, a form in search of itself, scored for soprano voice, five instrumentalists, and live electronics. The piece was commissioned especially for the core players of Wet Ink ensemble, a highly regarded New York-based new music ensemble now in their 17th concert season. The piece is one of an on-going series that outlines similar approaches to form; that of moving gradually from fleeting, ephemeral moments that seem to constantly elude the listener, to a point of immersion, through which events become subjected to greater and greater degrees of repetition. Unusually for Harrison, the score is presented in mobile form through which the players choose their own circuitous routes through the lines of music provided. The result is a dense, contrapuntal texture in which time seems at once both in motion and yet strangely arrested. Harrison has spoken of this process as being both playful and invigorating, noting that it has led to musical results that always contain an element of surprise.

Another new work, Things have never been as much like they are now ever before will be premiered at this year’s summer course at Darmstadt in August. The piece was commissioned by the Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa – with whom the composer has built up a close working relationship over the last few years – and works on a similar premise, through which material cycles on continually shorter loops. The materials, however, are quite different here; swells of chords from the five-piece ensemble (including wah-wah guitar, electric bass and organ) are juxtaposed and overlaid like plates of glass. The harmonies are continually revisited but in different guises, providing both points of orientation and disorientation for the listener. The composer presents material that at first seems out of reach, but it gradually comes into focus as the piece unfolds over its 35 minute duration.

Bryn Harrison – Piano Quintet (2016, in progress)

Currently, Harrison is working on an ambitious hour-long piano quintet for pianist Philip Thomas and the Bozzini Quartet, part of CeReNeM’s successful URF research bid.  The piece will receive its premiere early next year, and will subsequently be recorded for release on the HCR label next year. In the meantime, June has seen the release of two works on CD: Five Miniatures in Three Parts, performed by Ensemble Offspring and receiving the approaching memory, Harrison’s second portrait disc on the another timbre label.


Speculations 2, May 2016


Speculations 2, the second edition of Speculations in Sound (a weekend discussion event gathering members from CeReNeM’s Speculations in Sound International Research Network) took place at Queen’s University Belfast on May 7 and 8, 2016. Jointly organised by Michael Clarke (CeReNeM, Huddersfield) and Michael Alcorn (Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC), QUB) with the support of Matthew Sergeant and Frédéric Dufeu from CeReNeM and Matilde Meireles, Craig Jackson, David Bird, Hannah Casey, and Pearl Young from SARC,these two days of intensive discussions on the three-dimensional spatialisation of sound were associated to the Sonorities festival, including a series of 3D audio concerts in the Sonic Lab at SARC.


The event was a significant gathering of leading international figures in sound spatialisation, representing many of the major institutions working in this field. These included Natasha Barrett (University of Oslo), Ludger Brümmer (ZKM, Karlsruhe), Bill Brunson (KMH, Stockholm), Gary Kendall (formerly at QUB), Fernando Lopez-Lezcano (Stanford University), Eric Lyon (Virginia Tech), Markus Noisternig (Ircam, Paris), Robert Normandeau (Université de Montréal), David Pirrò (IEM, Graz), Jøran Rudi and Notto Thelle (NoTAM, Oslo), Barry Truax (Simon Fraser University), and Hans Tutschku (Harvard University) in addition to those working in this field at SARC (Trevor Agus, Michael Alcorn and Pedro Rebelo) and at CeReNeM (Michael Clarke, Frédéric Dufeu, Alex Harker and Hyunkook Lee).


Prior to the event, participants were asked to provide two ‘challenges’ to be printed on postcards – problems or issues they would like to see resolved and requiring different fields of expertise from their own. On the basis of these individual challenges, the participants could exchange, react, and speculate on varied topics such as the compositional practice involving 3D sound, the aesthetic and technical perspectives and limitations of currently developed systems, parameters, abstractions and representations for sound in space, system portability, psychoacoustic studies, and the impact of 3D composition to the audience.


The distinctive format of the event, with participants sharing questions, problems and aspirations, rather than bringing completed research outcomes, was very positively received by those attending and further follow up meetings in some of the other international centres represented are planned. Speculations 2 was videoed and it is intended that these be transcribed and re-worked with additional material for a publication. The Speculations in Sound website will also be extended as a repository for research materials in this increasingly important area of music technology, and funding for continuing research in this field is to be sought.

[Report by Michael Clarke and Frédéric Defeu. With thanks to Fernando Lopez-Lecano for the use of his photographs.]

Liza Lim – “Tree of Codes” in Focus, April 2016

Tree of Codes, a major new opera by Prof. Liza Lim (Professor of Composition and Director of CeReNeM) has just completed a highly successful premiere season of five performances in Cologne, Germany.

Commissioned in a partnership between Oper Köln, Europäisches Zentrum der Künste (Dresden), and internationally renowned contemporary music ensemble MusikFabrik, Tree of Codes is based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name, where a new story is forged by removing – or more precisely physically cutting out – words from Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles (of which Lim was already a fan prior to Safran Foer’s repurposing).


Lim describes the opera as ‘tak[ing] place during an extra day grafted on to the continuity of life. Within this margin of secret time, a ‘backstage’ area, the boundaries between the natural world, animals, birds, humans and machines are dissolving. Dead matter is combined with the living and becomes animated. It learns to dream, to speak, to sing…’

‘Cut-outs in time’ also serves the composer as the work’s subtitle – and the phrase certainly introduces the experience of the live work. The idea of a ‘cut out’ is transposed into several multidimensional spaces, manifesting as recurrent senses of voids and farther-reaching glimpses. All the performers – including MusikFabrik’s players – occupy the stage for the majority of the time, framed by and melding with a wireframe set. Characters transpose across bodies through masks. Instrumentalists become singers (MusikFabrik’s Carl Rosman plays both the clarinet and sings the role of the Mutant Bird) and then perform as a cappella choirs. Mute actors entwine with the major singing roles taken by soprano Emily Hindrichs and baritone Christian Miedl. The production was directed by the Swiss director Massimo Furlan with sets, costumes, lighting and video realised with his team from the theatre company Numero23.Prod.

Tree of Codes, Cologne Opera, photo by Paul Leclaire

There have been strong reactions to the new work in international press. Ulrike Gonforf, writing for DeutschlandRadioKultur, described the work as “an exciting discovery for music theatre, cleverly designed and eminently sensual in sound,” whereas Markus Schwering for Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger stated that “this is an opera which is for, not against the human voice”. UK writer Tim Rutherford-Johnson writing for Limelight Magazine says, “Claims are often made for a new kind of opera, but in Tree of Codes they seemed entirely justified by the true fluidity between music and spectacle, sound and drama”. With additional press attention from Theater PurDie Bühne, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, WDR, NRWJazzVan Magazine and the New York Times, the impact of this first production is already being felt across the world.

CeReNeM offers its warmest congratulations to Prof. Lim for this incredible achievement and looks forward to the resurgence of this production in Dresden later this year.

Report by Matthew Sergeant
[who attended the 3rd performance of the opera in Cologne on 14 April 2016]

Prof. Peter Ablinger in Focus, March 2016


The first five months of 2016 sees Prof. Peter Ablinger’s music featured in eight countries by some of the world’s leading performers, as well as presentations at international conferences, and a new single-artist CD. With some twenty-five major performances scheduled to May alone, drawing up even a shortlist of highlights from Prof. Ablinger’s activity is difficult. So far this year, he been the subject of an Icelandic portrait concert of five specially selected works and delivered guest lectures at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague and the Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik (IEM), Graz, as well as receiving other performances in a diverse array of artistic centres ranging from Helsinki to Hồ Chí Minh City.

Upcoming events of note:

Reykjavik Tectonics Festival (April 14-15) will present Ablinger’s chamber works alongside a performance of his recent Quartz for high orchestra (2015) by the Iceland Symphony under the baton of Ilan Volkov, who conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for the premiere of the work in Glasgow last year. At the end of the month, Ablinger’s second festival feature takes place at Festival Mixtur in Barcelona (April 21 – May 1) where he will lead a composition workshop. The festival programme includes his acclaimed Voices and Piano (begun 1998 and ongoing) performed by Lluisa Espigolé, who will also premiere Ablinger’s new solo piano work Antoni Tapies (2016).

Ablinger was able to share the technology and concepts explored in Voices and Piano earlier this year in Huddersfield, bringing RHEA, the computer-controlled piano he designed in collaboration with Prof. Winfried Ritsch (Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik, Graz) for a week-long workshop with students. The project is documented by filmmaker Angela Guyton in the video below.

Ablinger’s third festival feature takes place at the end of May (20-22) at the Tage Neue Musik Graz, in Austria. The programme includes his Second String Quartet (2009/13) with video installation, and surround presentations of three pieces for computer-controlled piano, Quadraturen IIIf (2006), Quadraturen IIIg (2006), and Quadraturen IIIh (2009).

The violinist and member of the influential Wandelweiser Collective, Johnny Chang, also recently released Ablinger’s disc-length work, AUGMENTED STUDY for 16 violins on the Sacred Realism label (SR006). Click here for purchase info.



Prof. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay wins 2016 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, February 2016


The University of Huddersfield’s Professor of Composition and Improvisation and director of our electroacoustic music studios, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay has been awarded the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Continue reading “Prof. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay wins 2016 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, February 2016”

CeReNeM Newsletter, Autumn 2015

We have had a busy and stimulating semester at the Centre for Research in New Music with highlights including a wonderful ‘robotic piano’ project with postgraduates led by Prof. Peter Ablinger; the first of our international network events ‘Speculations in Sound’, and the launch of a new partnership between our HCR label and NMC Recordings. The transnational identity of the centre continues to develop with fourteen international guests visiting Huddersfield for talks, symposia and studio work, whilst our own staff have matched this research exchange with guest lectures and research residencies in Oslo, Barcelona, Berlin, Mexico and the USA. In September we welcomed 12 new PhD and Masters students, bringing our postgraduate community to 50 members from seventeen countries.

Continue reading “CeReNeM Newsletter, Autumn 2015”