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!

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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.