CeReNeM Newsletter, December 2016

This December witnesses the end of another extremely busy period at the Centre for Research in New Music, with extensive activity from both staff and students. Such activity has not gone unnoticed, with Tim Rutherford-Johnson declaring in a recent article in his much-read new music blog, The Rambler, that Huddersfield ‘is surely now the powerhouse for new music in UK academe’.

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Such a declaration is particularly well-timed, given that this is CeReNeM’s 10th anniversary year. CeReNeM was founded in 2006 at a launch event at HCMF, so it was fitting that the anniversary was formally marked with a mirror event at this year’s festival. To mark the occasion, Dr Matthew Sergeant curated an exhibition of CeReNeM’s archive, which was displayed in the Creative Arts Building atrium throughout the HCMF period. The exhibition featured examples from our extensive collection of staff and student scores, photos, video materials and artefacts (including the promotional bookmark distributed to all attendees of the original launch event in 2006!) and attracted a lot of public attention throughout its installation.

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CeReNeM 10th Anniversary Exhibit at //HCMF2016

Staff research activity has been typically productive this term.

Prof. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay has celebrated major grant success this term, receiving approximately €2million of funding from the European Research Council to activate his FluCoMa (Fluid Corpus Manipulation) project. This is a huge achievement for Prof. Tremblay and we offer him our largest possible congratulations as the project goes forward into actualisation. You can read a more substantial blog post about his project online here.

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CeReNeM director, Prof. Liza Lim, has had a particularly busy season, as a host of internationally acclaimed orchestras and ensembles collectively mark an important birthday year. The September to December period has been occupied with over forty performances of her work, occurring in more than ten different countries spread over five continents (a complete list is available here). A comprehensive cross section of her music has been presented, many examples of which were composed during her time as Professor of Composition here at Huddersfield University. Invisibility (2009, for solo cello with two bows) alone has received five performances this season, and the representation of her work expands all the way up (in both time of creation and scale) to her latest opera Tree of Codes (2013-15, produced by MusikFabrik and Oper Köln), performed in Dresden in October, and a broadcast of her 2008 opera The Navigator on Australian radio.]

Both Prof. Liza Lim and Prof. Aaron Cassidy have received major premieres this season with the ELISION Ensemble. Lim’s How Forests Think and Cassidy’s The wreck of former boundaries are substantial 35 minutes works and were first presented at the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM) in Australia before touring to the Tage für neue Musik Zürich and HCMF2016. Both works are due to be released on HCR (Huddersfield Contemporary Records, CeReNeM’s CD label) in the new year.

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Liza Lim’s How Forests Think in rehearsal (Sept 2016)

Prof. Philip Thomas’s ongoing research project Cage and the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (in partnership with the University of Leeds) has continued to make substantial progress this term. The research team have spent time at key archives this year, including the John Cage Collection (Northwestern University), the John Cage manuscripts collection at the New York Public Library, and the John Cage Trust. They have presented on their work at the Fourth Biennial Performance Studies Network conference and at Northwestern University. Next year the team hosts an international conference ‘Performing Indeterminacy’, which includes Thomas playing with Apartment House in John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra and the world premiere of a new work for piano and ensemble by Christian Wolff.

Bozzini+, CeReNeM’s ongoing research project with the internationally acclaimed Bozzini Quartet has entered its final stages this term. In early November, Prof. Monty Adkins major new work Water’s Edge was premiered by the Bozzinis with folk-violinist Sarah-Jane Summers at the Sound Festival (Aberdeen). Dr Bryn Harrison and Dr Mary Bellamy are finalising their scores written for the quartet and CeReNeM’s own Philip Thomas ready for a set of performances in the UK and Canada next year, as well as recordings to be released on our record label, HCR.

CeReNeM’s newly-launched Creative Coding Lab (CCL) began its first year of operation this term under the direction of Dr Alex Harker. The lab welcomed its PhD scholar Oliver Larkin into its programme of research, alongside the first visit of Dr Sam Pluta (University of Chicago) as its new visiting research fellow.

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Dr Sam Pluta, CCL Visiting Research Fellow

CeReNeM is delighted to have been accepted as the host institution of the 2017 edition of the prestigious ‘Tracking the Creative Process in Music’ (TCPM) conference. Previous editions of the conference were hosted by IRCAM in Paris and Université de Montréal, and  planning for our own edition is now well underway, led by Prof. Michael Clarke and Dr Frédéric Dufeu. The new conference website, which includes details of the conference as they are announced, is available here.

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Our record label, HCR, has continued to grow and develop during this autumn/winter period. Our latest release, Caerulean, from world-renowned clarinettist and CeReNeM PhD student Carl Rosman, was released at a launch event in HCMF2016. Ten years in the making, the disk documents work written for and in collaboration with Rosman, including world premiere recordings from composers Rebecca Saunders and Richard Barrett alongside work by CeReNeM Professor of Composition Aaron Cassidy and PhD student Chikako Morishita.

Prof. Philip Thomas’s June release on HCR – Beat Generation Ballads – has also attracted a large amount of critical attention, being awarded a 4-star review in the Guardian and being included in The Wire magazines ‘top ten contemporary classical releases of 2016.’

As is evident, there is much to report from CeReNeM this term. We pass on our thanks and congratulations to all of our staff and wish everybody a happy holiday period and a refreshed and rejuvenated new year.

Enquiries: Dr Matthew Sergeant [m.sergeant@hud.ac.uk]

FluCoMa: Major Grant Success, December 2016

CeReNeM is delighted to offer huge congratulations to Prof. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay (Studio Director and CeReNeM Professor of Improvisation) on a successful grant from the European Research Council (ERC) worth approximately €2million.

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Prof. Tremblay’s project, FluCoMaFluid Corpus Manipulation: Creative Research in Musical Mining of Large Sound/Gesture Datasets through Foundational Access to the Latest Advances of Signal Decomposition – instigates new musical ways of exploiting ever-growing banks of sound and gestures within the digital composition process. The project will bring breakthroughs in signal decomposition DSP to the toolset of techno-fluent computer composers for the first time.

To expand further, Prof. Tremblay explains

“Cutting-edge musical composition has always been dependent on, critical and subversive of the latest advances of technology. Unfortunately, there is a contemporary challenge inherent to aesthetic research in computer composition: an ever-expanding gap between DSP advances and their availability to musical investigators.

One such advance is signal decomposition: a sound can now be separated into its transient, pitched, and residual constituents. These potent algorithms are partially available in closed software, or in laboratories, but not at a suitable level of modularity within the coding environments used by the creative researchers (Max and SuperCollider) to allow groundbreaking sonic research into a rich unexploited area: the manipulation of large sound corpora. Indeed, with access to, genesis of, and storage of large sound banks now commonplace, novel ways of abstracting and manipulating them are needed to mine their inherent potential.

FluCoMa proposes to tackle this issue by bridging this gap, empowering techno-fluent aesthetic researchers with a toolset for signal decomposition within their mastered software environments, in order to experiment with new sound and gesture design untapped in large corpora. The three degrees of manipulations to be explored are (1) expressive browsing and descriptor-based taxonomy, (2) remixing, component replacement, and hybridisation by concatenation, and (3) pattern recognition at component level, with interpolating and variation making potential. These novel manipulations will yield new sounds, new musical ideas, and new approaches to large corpora. At present, no library exists allowing such cutting-edge research on creative fluid corpus manipulations to be done.”

CeReNeM is extremely proud of Prof. Tremblay’s significant achievement and looks forward to co-hosting his project alongside the university’s HISS (Huddersfield Immersive Sound System) and CLL (Creative Coding Lab) ventures.

Read the official ERC press release here.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

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