The Bridge

October 15th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  2 Comments

“This should sound like your wife screaming” was the composer’s first comment to the London Sinfonietta trombonist during rehearsals for his piece “Run” in the large dance rehearsal studio at the Royal Theatre in central Copenhagen.

“Ah yes!” he said as I whacked sfffffz hell out of my cello fingerboard with the wood of the bow. “A real catastrophe!” (He’d probably have been pleased to know that my brand new bow fell apart during the opening bars of a performance seminar I gave music students in Copenhagn a few days later). Read the rest of this entry »


October 15th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus  | 2 Comments

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New ways of breathing

September 30th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

“Curlew River” is perhaps not the first title one would imagine Japanese actors rushing to pronounce, but Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan’s leading specialist music and arts college, was more than up for having a go during their recent UK performances of the Noh play Sumidagawa and the operatic piece Benjamin Britten closely based on it.

I had the good fortune to get to see this rare performance combo one sunny afternoon at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Orford (below), in deepest Suffolk where “Curlew River “ (Op. 71), also known as the “Church Parables” was premiered in 1964. Read the rest of this entry »


September 30th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Copland kills cow

September 19th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

“I mean who wants to listen to four and half minutes of silence? It’s really too much to impose on people. And have you ever really heard those chance pieces? It’s just not music and gives everyone terrible license to make bad art.”

These words, spoken by Shirley Perle, pianist and widow of distinguished composer and musical theorist George Perle, may come as blackest heresy to some, but goodness me, what a refreshing opinion in this anniversary year of wall-to-wall Cage events buoyed up by the unquestioning approval of performers and punters alike.

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September 19th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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An answered question

August 24th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  1 Comment

img_1072-nggid03275-ngg0dyn-320x240x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010If you take the Hutchinson River Parkway, or “The Hutch” as it’s known, in a northerly direction from the Bronx NY, NY, there are an impressive number of dead composers who line the route to Connecticut. Bartok, Zemlinsky, Rachmaninov and Percy Grainger all lived within leafy travelling distance of the Big Apple, as did Charles Ives whose country home (left) I got to visit a couple of weeks back.

In 1912, Ives bought a plot of land across the road from the site of General Putnam’s headquarters in the Revolutionary War, set deep within the verdant rolling hills of Redding, Connecticut, and had a house and barn built to his specifications. A year later he moved in with his wife Harmony (is that not the perfect composer’s wife name?) and stayed there until his death in 1954, at which point the house remained in the Ives family. Read the rest of this entry »


August 24th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus  | 1 Comment

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The test of time

August 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

There’s a wonderful story in Joel Sachs’ fantastic biography of composer, pianist and musical theorist Henry Cowell, of when he went round to composer Carl Ruggles’ house.

King of Cantankerous Old Man, composer Carl Ruggles aged 132.

“Ruggles was sitting at the old piano, singing a single tone at the top of his raucous composer’s voice, and banging a single chord at intervals over and over. He refused to be interrupted in this pursuit, and after an hour or so, I insisted on knowing what the idea was. Read the rest of this entry »


August 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Look to the music

July 16th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  6 Comments

It’s a sultry weekend at London’s South Bank Centre and the newly refurbished concrete spaces are teeming with sexy young Venezuelans in concert blacks amidst hordes of children and their family entourages carrying assorted instruments and wearing souvenir Venezuelan flag jackets.

The Simon Bolivar (formerly Youth) Orchestra is in town (or was, recently) and Boli-mania is palpable, as it has been since their legendary first visit to London in 2007. They are now international stars, touring the major venues of the world, a staggering success story. Read the rest of this entry »


July 16th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus  | 6 Comments

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One handshake away…

July 4th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  2 Comments

Pheeeee baff spsp sp whooooooosh! BAP….. BAP BAP BAP oooooooooo, pheee…. Op op op op op, sweeesh, O! ik ok kik POW! Popopopopop.

Helmut Lachenmann has arrived at the Aldeburgh Festival and Ensemble Modern, his long term interpreters, are doing what they do best after many years working with this great man and his music. The sounds are exciting, disturbing, exquisite, subtle, haunting, beautiful and completely, utterly original. Read the rest of this entry »


July 4th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus  | 2 Comments

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Wild Things

June 18th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

 

“And let the wild rumpus start!”

The words of Max, the young hero of Oliver Knussen’s opera “Wild Things” based on Maurice Sendak’s book, as sung by soprano Claire Booth at the opera’s golden section, part of the Knussen opera double bill at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival. Read the rest of this entry »


June 18th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Film, Fashion, Revelations and the Return to Mortality

June 10th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

As Whore of Babylon I am sitting grasping a child’s battered quarter size cello between my knees,  and whispering a consonant-only deconstructed excerpt from the Bible’s Book of Revelation:

“Sitting on a Scarlet Beast, she is dressed in purple robes, carrying the glittering golden cup of the filth of adulterers.” 

Composer Line Tjornhoj (left) is giving me directions for my part in her latest project, “Portrait – a dialogue between child and adult:” “You will wear no makeup, no jewellery.”

The Whore of Babylon without mascara?!!!!

Working with Line is always an unpredictable experience, often pushing personal boundaries, from which I’ve learnt much. Read the rest of this entry »


June 10th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Rock gods, Xenakis and the Danish Interior

June 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

Off my face on premium Afghan sensei I gasped as the curtains went up on the opening of Wayne McGregor’s award winning ballet, Chroma. What lithe, contained, muscular lyricism! The colours! The lights! The technical flawlessness, strength and sheer stamina of the Danish Royal Ballet, whirling their way through sustained passages of virtuoso acrobatics! The edgy architectural spaces created by ensemble groupings! The gorgeousness of the dancers themselves in tiny little slips designed by Moritz Junge!

Read the rest of this entry »


June 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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