Wednesday, December 24, 2003

[240.1] NFE BACK IN 2004

NewFrontEars will be updated again after the Winter break, and will be fully operational again in the New Year. Meanwhile, if you catch the 'Nine Lessons and Carols' from Kings College Cambridge on BBC Radio 4 today, you will hear a new carol by Harrison Birtwistle. Seasons Greetings.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Charlotte Higgins on the vexed question of concert encores:

"Perhaps we should be thankful that spontaneity is generally an illusion. The best encores are often the most considered. On September 12 2002, a day after the anniversary of 9/11, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave a concert at the Proms.

"For an encore, instead of dredging up some predictable signifier of grief or contemplation, such as Barber's Adagio, the orchestra, under Sakari Oramo, played a little-known work by Charles Ives called 'The Unanswered Question'. A tiny, exquisite, palpitating study in ambivalence, with no obvious musical or emotional resolution, it was cliche-free and utterly apt."

I've never thought of 'The Unanswered Question' as obscure myself. It's a lesser repertoire piece, for sure. But it was, after all, the founding musical text for Bernstein's classic Norton Lectures on the innate grammar (or otherwise) of music in general and tonality in particular. I agree with Higgins' general sentiments, though.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003


A bit of an ambitious title, there. But nevertheless the allrecordlabels weblog ("what's new in music on the web") does manage to highlight an extraordinary range of genres -- not to mention the 12,000 labels indexed on its parent site. An invaluable service.

NFE readers will be especially interested in the contemporary classical, jazz and experimental listings, no doubt. You can also browse by format, country (and, in the US, city or state).

The log itself contains regular, economical snippets of news for the butterflies among you... The main site is here. Drop them a note if you want to add your label details.

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Monday, December 08, 2003


Drummergirl is the aptly-named and well-resourced site "for women who drum" (articles, advice and encouragement for those working in a variety of musical genres). I came across it via Evelyn Glennie's interesting percussion links page, and before that from the peerless Music Web classical connections. I forget what I was looking for, but there you go. It was almost certainly there.

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Sunday, December 07, 2003


It's that time of year already. Having disgracefully missed the Ultrasound electronic event, I'd better not miss the annual Spitalfields Festival. The full calendar is here.

There's an spnm at 60 event ('Minstrels and Revelry') at 19:30 on 10 December 2003, at Shoreditch Church, London E1 6JN.

Jane’s Minstrels
Jane Manning, soprano, presenter
Roger Montgomery, conductor

The works featured, which include a number of premieres, are:

Iain Matheson, 'Play'
Kerry Andrew, 'Fruit Songs'
Jan Podlipny, 'Frisson'
Daniel Andor-Ardó, 'Un Autre Jeu'
Anthony Payne, 'Scenes from the Woodlanders'
Joanna Kate Lee, Y'our Little Voice'
Clive Wilkinson, 'Two Haiku'
Enid Luff, 'The Footprints of the Storm'
Webern, 'Six Songs after Georg Trakl', opus 14

Tickets: £9 (free for spnm members, subject to availability). Telephone: 020 7377 1362

spnm New Notes listings are always worth checking.

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Saturday, December 06, 2003


Composer biographies, 2000 photos, 400 librettos, 300 catalogues and 5,000 lieder texts are among the goodies you'll find at Even more interestingly, there are 1000 free dowloadable music files on their MP3 Archive -- both well- and lesser-known pieces.

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Friday, December 05, 2003


If you missed their November 2003 tour, you'll be glad to hear that eclectic vocal ensemble The Shout return to London's Drill Hall from 13-21st this month with their Christmas show -- it sold out last year. Acapella material is sourced from New Testament Apocrypha, Jean Cocteau, Brian Eno, Robert Scott (the polar explorer)... and a scientific analysis of the problems of flying reindeer. Or should that be musicological? You'll just have to find out...

Effortlessly combining jazz, gospel, blues, contemporary, operatic, Indian and classical voices, The Shout do things choirs normally don’t do while pushing the boundaries of what a choir might be.

"Ensemble sound and attitude like no other. Entertaining, funny and deadly serious."

For booking information and the usual blather, go to the Drill hall site. If you're just too far away from London to contemplate this one, you could always pick up a Shout CD. See also this natural voice resource list.

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Thursday, December 04, 2003


From The Guardian's online section today:

"An online radio station that plays music created by software may sound like a plot device from a William Gibson novel. But now it is actually here. Taking its name from the randomise command in the computer language C++, RAND()% is the first online radio station to devote itself exclusively to generative (meaning self-generating) music. This alluring net station plays only music produced by software, although musicians and artists have a hand in setting the programme's parameters. On the hour, a speech synthesiser reads the news from BBC online, complete with snatches of the HTML code. The success of London's Resonance FM, which is struggling for funding but not for an audience, proves there is an appetite for this kind of avant garde radio." (c) Sean Dodson

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Arturo Stàlteri, piano, and Yasue Ito, violin, play 'Rings - il decimo anello' (inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien) at St Giles' Cripplegate, Fore Street, Barbican, London, EC2 on 10 December 2003 at 19:30. Ticket Prices: £7 (Concessions £5) available on the door. I've no idea what this will be like, but it landed in my mail box and I thought I'd pass it on.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2003


3D Music, a Braunarts project, is an innovative, interactive performance space combining specially commissioned music and visual images. Composer Sam Hayden worked with 3D artist Eduardo Carillo and creative director Gabi Braun to come up with the idea. It was launched with a concert a year ago under the direction of Gillian Moore (artistic director of the London Sinfonietta), Terry Braun (director of Braunarts) and coder Adam Hoyle.

The site includes technical suggestions for its use and appreciation. It works best on a fast games level / multimedia enabled computer. Broadband is a necessity (obviously), and the site is supported by NTL. There are six different performance spaces.

Says Hayden: "A visual element certainly makes music more consumable although there is a risk that this is at the expense of the music itself. Despite some reservations, the use of multi-media in non-classical venues (e.g. clubs, art spaces, theatres etc) was one of the ideas behind Rout, an ensemble that I formed with Paul Newland and Paul Whitty in 1995. It is certainly an effective strategy as our first performance was a sell-out, bringing new music to an audience educated in the contemporary arts but rarely present at traditional new music venues." (See the full spnm 'New Notes' article here.)

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Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Extraordinary nonogenarian Elliott Carter's opera 'What Next', premiered in 2000, is newly available on ECM, along with 'Asko Concerto'. And no, it doesn't have a question mark in it. Amazon has a good Carter Soundworld list, too.

Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta gave the UK premiere of 'What Next' in 2001. Matthew Rye of the Telegraph wasn't hugely impressed at the time. Let's hope he has a different experience this time.

Meanwhile Carter remains a strong advocate of maximalism:

"If you write one bar and then repeat it over again, the music ceases to have anything to do with the composer, from my point of view, anyway. It means a person's stopped living. It doesn't have anything to do with music. Well, it obviously does, because some people think it's very good. But I don't understand that. I think that one of the big problems we live with is that that kind of repetition is everywhere, in advertising, in public address systems, and in politicians always saying the same thing. We live in a minimalist world, I feel. That's what I think. Those other people can think what they think." (From an interview with Geoffrey Norris earlier in 2003).

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Monday, December 01, 2003


Amidst the bland corporatization of music in the everyday world we know as Entertainmentville Inc, the web continues to offer byways of unexpected sound. One such is the fine weblog be-jazz, which insists on "reporting from the trenches of the Belgian jazz scene." Not too warlike a culture, fortunately, but be-jazz profiles it well (and in English): reviews, links, recordings and opinion runs free. There's a thought piece on jazz-in-the-feet and its relation to jazz-in-the-head, for example.

Also crossing my path for the first time recently is Schizoidman, "A mind-altering journey through one muso-geek's ever-growing record collection." Given the Crimsoid title it won't surprise you to know that this includes alt and prog rock, among other diversions. Nifty design, too. I must figure out how to brighten up NFE. Any advice or HTML workarounds welcome. I prefer to spend my time in the concert hall or at the console, so those techie skills are a slow train coming.

Much excitement when I saw a weblog called Difficult Music a few minutes ago. But it doesn't seem too preoccupied with either the sonic or the complex, let alone the two together. Perhaps I'll have to trawl bl.ogs favourites again, continuing that endless quest for informative and interesting new music qwertys.

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