Friday, October 31, 2003


Passion-music magazine is an online resource linked to a CD distributor (who also offer MP3 samples, links and ordering information) specialising in European folk music. Currently available texts include an interviw with Speranta Radulescu of the Romanian label Ethnophonie, and (fabulously) the preface to Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály's work 'Hungarian Folksongs', which was first published in the 1900s in Budapest.

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Thursday, October 30, 2003


Though accused in the media of deliberately trying to undercut English National Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, impresario Raymond Gubbay (known for his brassy and loud mega-opera 'spectaculars' at Earls Court) was suitably modest on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday.

His company, in legion with the Royal Philharmonic, has taken over the Savoy Theatre in London's West End and will offer an eight-performance weekly schedule of the most popular operatic works (Mozart, Puccini et al) between February and April next year.

Gubbay avered that he wants to work with rather than against the established Houses. But Today, which revels in dumbing-down when it comes to music (though not other art forms) made the underlying message clear by holding up an excerpt of Schoenberg's 'Moses Und Aaron' for implied ridicule... Just to show their ignorance, they chose a moment of exquisite melody: "though not as we know it, Jim" (or John, in this case).

Interesting additional fact: Today's John Humphries also hosts the TV show, Mastermind. But his own masterful mind had never heard of Fairport Convention, he confessed, when the folkie coruncopians were chosen as a specialist subject a few weeks back. So he's obviously never come across their instrumental of Berg's ditty 'Liege and Lief', then... ;-)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Yes, I know; a not-too-subtle Messiaen allusion. But the Phil Bancroft Quartet, a newish international jazz outfit who began to make an impression on the Scottish scene last year, do indeed conjour up the past and presage the future. Featuring Bancroft on sax, Mike Walker on guitar, Thomas Stronen on drums and Steve Watts (who has replaced American bass player Reid Anderson), they play Henry's Cellar Bar on Morrison Street, Edinburgh, tonight (29 October 2003) and tomorrow, starting at 8.30pm. Tickets are £8, and you can book on 0131 467 5200.

The Quartet's new album is due out on the fine Scottish label Caber Music early next year. A recent BBC Radio 3 review described them as purveying "dangerous rhyhm, waves of melody, hypnotic moods, sonic violence and shocking tenderness." Kay Smith has written, of their appearance at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival:

"As is to be expected, coming from the Scandanavian jazz scene, Stronen’s percussion was vibrantly adventurous. At first he whispered along with delicate brushwork; sticks were used too, to merely stroke the edges of symbols [sic!]. Later Stronen conjured up shades of American avant garde composer John Cage with, at times, sounds prosacically reminiscent of the crashing and clattering of dropped kitchen ware." (c) Kay Smith.

Also check out The Oracle, a good guide to jazz and more in Edinburgh.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Brian Lee writes with information about a UK concert of music by Jean Catoire in celebration of his 80th birthday. This takes place on 29 November 2003 at Colet House, 151 Talgarth Road, London W14 (nearest underground station - Barons Court).

Explains Lee: “Catoire, a one time pupil of Messiaen, worked in isolation in France. He pre-dates the minimalists of the 1960s. His music, in its geometric, repetitive simplicity and stillness, draws the listener into a state of meditation where higher mind and emotion become one with the music's archetypal nature. The programme comprises four sonatas for piano, voice, clarinet, flute and keyboard."

The Virgin CD 'A Requiem Sequence' brings together the work of Catoire and the twelfth-century German abbess, Hildegard Von Bingen.

The performers at the London concert will be: Stephen Bennett (clarinet), James D'Angelo(piano), James Gregory (flute) and DerShin Hwang (voice).

Admission at the door is £5 (£3 concessions). For further information ring: 01594 517333.

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Sunday, October 12, 2003


The primeTime sublime Community Orchestra (ptsCO) is, so it proudly proclaims, "one of the oddest, most intriguing groups of performers to arrive on the music scene in years." Combining skilled professional musicians, enthusiastic amateurs and a bank of computers, ptsCO seeks to bring a fresh sensibility to what it sees as "the often pretentious and self-absorbed world of modern music."

PtsCO: "Quintessentially normal" - NFE (c) ptsCO

PtsCO, ferociously loyal to its reversed upper and lower case aesthetic (but still, er, transgressively permitting a capital at the beginning of a sentence like this), notes that "Hip-hop and Techno artists have long demonstrated that, by piecing together wildly eclectic sounds, one can create bracing and fully modern music. So ptsCO takes the same approach, except that a standard, classical chamber orchestra is augmented with electric guitars, synthesizers, samplers and various non-western instruments, and the limits of music style are exploded to the point of no return."

D. C. Ruiz interviews ptsCO luminary Paul Minotto in The Independent Mind. The ptsCO website contains sound samples, weird tributes, and an insight into the Orchestra's recent unexpected masterpiece 'Holy War In Your Pants.'

"Very visual and cinematic stuff. It reminds me of a cross between The Residents/ Frank Zappa/ P.D.Q. Bach," observes Ontario DJ Chris Meloche. And he should know. They locked him up in the bar after a concert...

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Thursday, October 09, 2003


Classical Source is a good portfolio site which I came across while looking for reviews of concerts marking the 60th birthday of composer Robin Holloway. This has included events on London's South Bank and at the Wigmore Hall. The Britten Sinfonia's current season includes a concert (on Friday 14 November at 8pm) in Holloway's honour, since he is Cambridge-based.

"A fluent and versatile composer, Robin Holloway is noted for his rapprochement with tonality... The programme, devised by Holloway (and one of a series of events that celebrates the composer’s birthday during the Cambridge Music Festival) is infused with the romantic spirit. Alongside Holloway’s own 'First Idyll 'and 'Romanza', the Britten Sinfonia performs Berlioz’s song collection 'Les nuits d’été' (with mezzo-soprano Christine Rice), Wolf’s 'Italian Serenade' and Wagner’s 'Siegfried Idyll' (all pieces that Holloway loves). Paul Watkins, winner of the 2002 Leeds Conductors’ Competition, conducts. Robin Holloway talks about his work in a pre-concert event at 7.00pm."

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Friday, October 03, 2003


New York avant post-minimalist music collective Bang On A Can have a fine online store, which includes (a further layer back) sound samples of their material. The example I have chosen is Lisa Moore's Frederic Rzewski album, featuring 'De Profundis' (from the text by Oscar Wilde) and 'North American Ballads'. Moore is perhaps better known as pianist with the Steve Reich band. She also sings, shouts, purrs and declaims. Very Cecil Taylor and Schoenberg...

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Thursday, October 02, 2003


Courtney Pine interviewed in the Metro newspaper this morning:

"I realized that jazz gave me the most freedom - stuff they couldn't even teach you in school or university. The more I listened to Sonny Rollins or Miles Davis, the more I wanted to be like them. Jazz forces you to research the essence of what we are as human beings. I'm now called a jazz musician, even though I started as a reggae musician. You can play jazz and incorporate reggae or Indian influences (say) - all the soul music in this world.

"I try and play music for now, not in past styles, so it's a modern attempt at jazz music...

"I'm Britain's number one-selling jazz artist and nobody wants to give me a record deal. Jamie Callum, a young white pianist, has signed a deal for £1 million to the same label that is looking after my material. You can't make money out of black artists, so it is just not going to happen. Take this whole 'urban' thing now. That's what they call it because they don't want to call it 'black' music."

I suspect the issue also involves arcane music biz definitions about what they think of as 'commercial' (Pine isn't supposed to fit the bill, whatever his influences), and the question of TV and advertsing spin-offs. Nothing to do with anything so imaginative as music, of course...

Courtney Pine's new album, 'Devotion', is out now.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Asaf Sirkis and the Inner Noise are live at the Tap 'n' Tin, 24 Railway Street, Chatham, Kent, UK on 8 October 2003 at 8.30pm. Door £5. Tel. 01634 362704, 01634 847926. The band, who fuse jazz with rock, classical and Eastern influences, comprise: Steve Lodder - Keyboards; John Parricelli - Guitar; Asaf Sirkis - Drums. New CD available now on:

Lodder is well known for his association with British saxophonist Andy Sheppard and a host of top-ranking contemporary music performers and composers.

More information on Inner Noise is available at Sirkis' website.

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