As with nearly all areas of activity worldwide, CeReNeM has of course faced significant disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the international span of our work, there have been countless projects, performances, collaborations, guest lectures, and publications that have been cancelled or postponed, and many of our international creative partners have faced frightening and often legitimately existential threats as the funding models for art, theatre, and music have been upended by the sudden shuttering of venues worldwide.
The research work of our staff was temporarily put on hold while we scrambled to move our teaching online, and in response there has been an impressive mobilisation of equipment and software to support undergraduate and postgraduate students confronting the new challenge of studying remotely and without access to the university’s studios, instruments, ensembles, or performance venues. Assessment regulations and procedures were quickly revamped, lectures moved to Zoom or to pre-recorded videos, and novel solutions to providing pastoral support for students (and for each other!) were invented.
Across these past several months, I have been deeply impressed by the work of our staff. They have been creative, resourceful, nimble, and responsive, but above all they have demonstrated a commitment to their work as teachers. Our work as an institute is of course focused primarily on high-level research, but that work is always grounded in—and indeed made possible by—a passion for education. I know from conversations with colleagues around the world that these kinds of acts were echoed and mirrored repeatedly across institutions and across disciplines, but still, I am particularly proud of the people who I have the privilege to have as colleagues.
That creativity and ingenuity has played out on the research front as well. Despite all the cancellations and disruptions, new models have emerged that have provided some very interesting new opportunities for exchanges, guest lectures, interviews, and collaborations, as well as new platforms to share and distribute creative work.
As such, we’ve arranged this newsletter a bit differently than in the past, first highlighting the many ways that CeReNeM staff have responded to the constraints of lockdown and travel restrictions, and then highlighting some of the major events and publications from the first three months of the year.
— Aaron Cassidy, Director, CeReNeM
News from the coronavirus lockdown
Over lockdown, Prof Philip Thomas managed to learn and record as near a complete set as anyone has ever managed of Christian Wolff’s Keyboard Miscellany. He recorded video performances of one piece per day over 60 days (with a few days absence due to illness). This is the largest set of collected performances of the Wolff pieces so far.
Prof Monty Adkins has had several international broadcasts of his music in recent months. His album Five Panels was live-streamed by Phlexx Records on April 3, and the album Fragile.Flicker.Fragment was broadcast by Paul Gough (aka Pimmon) on 2serFM, Sydney Radio Australia. His recent work At the Water’s Edge was presented on 5 June in a livestream celebrating Audiobulb’s 100th release, in advance of the album release in late June. Earlier in the lockdown period, CeReNeM alumnus Seth Parker Woods played Monty’s Winter Tendrils on April 15 in a livestream performance for the Gray Sound Sessions produced by the University of Chicago, one of the partner institutions in CeReNeM’s Speculations in Sound network:
Prof Aaron Cassidy’s metallic dust (1999) was recorded by clarinettist and CeReNeM PhD candidate Carl Rosman for the Ensemble Musikfabrik ‘Lockdown Tapes’ video series, set for release later this summer. Aaron has also given several online talks during the pandemic lockdown. On April 15, Aaron was interviewed by Andrew Watts as part of the ‘Language Lost’ class at the University of California, Santa Barbara, focusing on his approach to text and language in his compositions for voice. On June 10, Aaron gave a guest lecture for the Fellows at Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf, Germany, entitled ‘A way of making ghosts’, discussing his two recent quartets based on the self-portraits of the painter Gerhard Richter:
On June 4, he recorded an interview for the Boston-based Alinéa Ensemble’s Everything But The Kitchen Sink Summer Zoom Festival as one of the invited “Composers-in-(their)-Residence”, alongside CeReNeM friends Chaya Czernowin, Rebecca Saunders, Michael Finnissy, Liza Lim, Evan Johnson, and many more. The interview will be broadcast online on July 17, alongside a performance by Tyler Boque of his work I, purples, spat blood, laugh of beautiful lips (2006).
In June, Prof Pierre Alexandre Tremblay was the keynote speaker for the Sound and Music Computer Conference 2020, Torino, Italy. His keynote ‘A Beautiful Mess: tales of in-between-ness in SMC research’ was delivered via the event’s livestream, followed by a live Q&A.
Earlier in the month, the light.box project—the improvising duo of Alex Bonney (trumpet) and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay (bass)—launched their album halftoning on the Not Applicable label at the Hundred Years Gallery, London.
Dr Ben Spatz was interviewed by Prof Paul Bowman as part of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC), Cardiff University, UK, discussing his research on embodiment:
Two external members of Dr Ian Gibson‘s Adaptive Music Technology Research Group—Elin Skogdal (UiT, Arctic University of Norway) and Tim Anderson (software designer)—were involved in a live-streamed concert of adaptive music technology for children with physical disabilities from the SKUG institution in Norway. The Sommerkonsert can be seen on their Facebook page here.
Dr Hyunkook Lee was invited to deliver a talk for the most recent Audio Engineering Society convention, AES Virtual Vienna, in a session called ‘Goodbye Stereo’. Hyunkook talked about 3D audio psychoacoustic principles and his recording techniques, providing binaural demos. This session was very well received—it turned out to be the most ‘favourited‘ session of the convention, and AES did a live encore Q&A session exclusively for AES members.
CeReNeM’s postgraduate seminar and colloquium series also moved online. We welcomed CeReNeM alumni Scott McLaughlin (University of Leeds) & Heather Roche (Goldsmiths, University of London) to discuss their work for McLaughlin’s AHRC-funded Forking Paths project, and Prof Robert Adlington arranged a series of Zoom sessions specifically addressing how various collaborative projects have adapted their working methods in response to the pandemic lockdown. These have included sessions by CeReNeM friend Katherine Young (Emory University, USA), who discussed her longterm collaborative project with current CeReNeM PhD candidate and Distractfold Executive Director Linda Jankowska, entitled ‘Boundarymind‘; Andy Ingamells (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) and CeReNeM PhD candidate Kathryn Williams discussing their duo Private Hire, which was awarded support from the Help Musicians Fusion Fund to create a new work together during lockdown; and a session with Edward Henderson and Caitlin Rowley of the London-based collective Bastard Assignments, discussing the group’s ‘Lockdown Jams‘, which included a group performance/exercise that involved all of us slowly tracing the ‘boundaries’ of our newly ubiquitous Zoom rectangles:
Additional CeReNeM Publication and Research Activity
In January, we were very pleased to be able to welcome guest lecture presentations in the CeReNeM Colloquium from distinguished guests Prof Georgina Born (University of Oxford) and composer Anna Meredith (UK). In February, the annual Electric Spring festival of electronic music featured guest performances from Lauren Redhead (Goldsmiths, University of London) & Alistair Zaldua, Louise Rossiter (De Montfort University), Emma Margetson (UK), Weston Olencki (USA), and Leafcutter John (UK). As part of Electric Spring, CeReNeM hosted the third annual Creative Coding Lab Symposium, a series of presentations and discussion of cutting-edge technological research in electronic music, featuring guest speakers Leafcutter John, Andie Brown (University of Huddersfield), Alice Eldridge (University of Sussex), and Weston Olencki.
There has also of course been continued progress on CeReNeM’s two ERC-funded projects. The newly updated IRiMaS website documents the wide range of topics and papers that outline the activities of the IRiMaS team and the use of the TIAALS software. Team member Dr Cristina Ghirardini presented at her paper “Il dono di natura. Forme et usage de la langue et de la voix dans la joute poétique chantée en ottava rima en Italie centrale” at Épistémologie de la musique: analyses, formes, contextes, Archives Poincaré, Université de Lorraine. Other IRiMaS team members Prof Michael Clarke, Prof Amanda Bayley (Bath Spa University), Dr Frédéric Dufeu, Dr Keitaro Takahashi, and Maria Sappho Donahue had paper submissions selected for nine different international and national conferences, however many of these opportunities have been postponed. The team has recently produced two demonstration videos of the TIAALS software which are now available:
The FluCoMa project is now in full development mode for their second toolbox. The FluCoMa code is now available via github, with a release candidate of the software in the works. As planning gets underway for the next FluCoMa plenary, the video presentations from the last plenary meeting are now available online, featuring keynote presentations from Alice Eldridge (University of Sussex) and Michael Zbyszyński (Goldsmiths, University of London) and PhD Candidates James Bradbury (Huddersfield), Jacob Hart (FluCoMa, Huddersfield), and Ted Moore (University of Chicago).
The outcomes from a two-year collaboration between CeReNeM and Ensemble Musikfabrik were presented in Cologne on March 9, just as coronavirus headlines began to dominate the front pages of newspapers across Germany. The project saw the world premieres of Prof Aaron Cassidy‘s Self-portrait, 1996 (2019–20) and Dr Mary Bellamy‘s behind the transparent surface (2020), both conducted by Cassidy. Dr Bellamy’s work features the unique resources of Musikfabrik’s Harry Partch instrument collection, including the harmonic canon, ‘spoils of war’, and the adapted viola. Both pieces were recorded for future release on portrait CDs scheduled for Kairos and Huddersfield Contemporary Records in 2020 and 2021. The concert also featured the German premiere of Cassidy’s The wreck of former boundaries (clarinet) (2016), as well as work by former CeReNeM professor Liza Lim, and was preceded by a pre-concert interview between clarinettist Carl Rosman and Prof Cassidy.
In February, Huddersfield Contemporary Records launched its 23rd album, spilled out from tangles, by soprano Juliet Fraser. The four tracks on the disk—by Lisa Illean, Sivan Eldar, Nomi Epstein, and Lawrence Dunn—were written for Fraser over the past three years; Lawrence Dunn’s work was written as part of Fraser’s CeReNeM residency in 2017. Displaying an understated lyricism, these composers’ approaches show the breadth of creative possibility for crafting a sonic environment for the voice to inhabit.
Harp and zither gain a harmonic sheen that hovers in the background, high overtones joining Fraser’s duplicated voice in ghostly chorus. She sings delicately, but with a quiet strength, her vibrato more expressive when singing poetry.
– Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill
Juliet spoke about the record in an interview with CeReNeM in February:
Prof Philip Thomas’s and Prof Martin Iddon’s (University of Leeds) book John Cage’s concert for piano and orchestra launches in August. Published by Oxford University Press, the book was produced as one of the major outputs of the Cage Concert project, a joint AHRC-funded endeavour by the Universities of Huddersfield and Leeds, which also has included two extraordinary and innovative apps that provide completely new ways of studying and experiencing Cage’s groundbreaking work.
“A monumental achievement — in considering Cage’s watershed Concert with respect to historical context, sketch study and compositional realization, and performance as well as interpretation, Martin Iddon and Philip Thomas have produced a milestone in Cage scholarship.” — Rob Haskins, Professor and Chair, Department of Music, University of New Hampshire
“This extraordinary book gives John Cage’s monumental Concert for Piano and Orchestra the “full treatment.” Iddon and Thomas examine Cage’s revolutionary indeterminate score from multiple perspectives in a virtuoso synthesis of criticism, performance practice, music analysis, sketch studies, and reception history. That a single work has inspired such a massive, multidimensional study vividly demonstrates that the incendiary music of a notorious agent provocateur has now entered the musical mainstream.” — David W. Bernstein, Mills College, Oakland, CA
Philip also featured on four Apartment House recordings released on Another Timbre: Giuliano d’Angiolini’s Antifona, Luiz Henrique Yudo’s Chamber Works, Adrián Demoč’s Žiadba, and Ryoko Akama Dial 45-21-95.
In February, Prof Robert Adlington gave a guest lecture at the Royal Birmingham Conservatory titled “On the ‘undemocratic’ – in music, and elsewhere”. This incorporated new research arising from his ongoing book project Musical Models of Democracy, which will be completed later this year. A related multi-author volume, Finding Democracy in Music, which Robert co-edited with Prof Esteban Buch (EHESS, Paris), was submitted to Routledge in March and will be published in November. Smaller publication projects this spring have included a programme-book essay for the London Sinfonietta and a review-article on Jonathan Impett’s major new study of Luigi Nono (to be published in Fontes Artis Musicae later this year). Prof Adlington has also been collaborating with the new music foundation Tempo Reale in Florence and academic colleagues at the University of Nottingham on a grant application for a project on postmodernism in Italian music.
Dr Julio d’Escrivan has continued his busy schedule of international commercial and film work. His orchestral trailer cues recorded last year at the famous EastWest Studios in Hollywood will soon be published by Sencit music for their Imagination series. He has also recorded virtual instrument demonstration pieces for PulseSetter Sounds in Los Angeles—three for their collection of Dystopian Guitars and one for virtual orchestra and sound design, featuring Canadian cellist and producer Sam Villagomez—for their new Re:Coil Omnisphere 2.5 sound set. He has also recorded two new projects for the music licensing service The Nerve Media: Espressivo, an album of violin and piano music featuring CeReNeM PhD candidate Irine Røsnes, was published in January, and Poisoned Air, an album of ‘moody electronica’ in collaboration with former Huddersfield student Felipe Gutierrez, was released in March. Julio is also presently collaborating with Felipe on a hybrid virtual orchestra and sound design album consisting of horror/slasher music, to be released in early August.
Prof Bryn Harrison‘s Receiving the Approaching Memory was performed by Aisha Orazbayeva (violin) and Mark Knoop (piano) at The Fabric of Music on January 23 at Kettles Yard, Cambridge. Bryn has been on sabbatical leave in the first six months of 2020, working on several new projects. He completed a book chapter entitled ‘The Remembrance of Things to Be: An Approach to Memory, Repetition and Cyclical Structures” for a forthcoming volume on musical temporality edited CeReNeM alumnus Matthew Sergeant (Bath Spa University) and Michelle Phillips (RNCM), to be published later this year by Boydell and Brewer, and has been working on a 40-minute string quartet entitled Shelter for the Bozzini Quartet and a 70-minute, as yet untitled, piece for two pianos for Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas.
Dr Ben Spatz presented his paper ‘White Molecules: Experimental Methods and micro Racialization in the Judaica Project’ at the Jews and Whiteness in Colonial Spaces workshop, coordinated by the Centre for Jewish Studies at SOAS, University of London. His paper ‘Ancestors: Layers of Illumination for a moment of Broken Songwork’ was presented at the Song Studies Network Conference, University of Ghent, Belgium.
Prof Pierre Alexandre Tremblay toured Vancouver, Seattle and Montreal to speak about FluCoMa and his work as a composer and performer, speaking at the CIRMMT workshop at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, University of Washington’s CompLab composers’ colloquium, and at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montreal.