Wednesday, 20 January 2021

A snapshot of the time: Sound and Music (Vol. 1)

Sound and Music (vol 1); Supriya Nagarajan, Seán Clancy, Marc Yeats, Claudia Molitor, Jobina Tinnemans, Ailís Ní Ríain, Michael Betteridge, Jez riley French, Sam Salem; SOUND and MUSIC
Sound and Music (vol 1)
; Supriya Nagarajan, Seán Clancy, Marc Yeats, Claudia Molitor, Jobina Tinnemans, Ailís Ní Ríain, Michael Betteridge, Jez riley French, Sam Salem; SOUND and MUSIC

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 January 2021
Issued in support of Sound and Music, a disc which gives us a snap-shot of new music in 2020 from Summer School students to established composers

Sound and Music is the national organisation for new music in the UK, composers are its business. In support of its work developing musical talent in the country, the organisation has issued a disc, Sound and Music (Vol. 1) which features a wide range of tracks donated by alumni from its programmes, everyone from Summer School students to established composers, from choral music to sonic art and soundscapes. The composers featured are Supriya Nagarajan, Seán Clancy, Eleanor, Fernando, Marc Yeats, Claudia Molitor, Jobina Tinnemans, Ailís Ní Ríain, Kathleen, Michael Betteridge, Joshua, Maddie, Jez riley French, and Sam Salem.

We begin with Supriya Nagarajan;  Swaying in the wind created during lockdown by Nagarajan, Duncan Chapman, sound artist and arranger, and Satu Marita Sopanen, kantele, a multi-layered work which is a seductive mix of birdsong, an Indian instrument and Indian classical singer.  Seán Clancy's Schematic #3 is an electronic work, an intriguing mix of opposites; Clancy says that the piece is simply notated as a constellation of pitches and numbers. How these materials are used/structured/unfold in time, is entirely at the discretion of the performer(s) and here Clancy performs on synthesizer.

Eleanor's You'll never make it on time has rather attractive pop-ish elements to it, whilst Fernando's Desert Stroll is an engaging riff for clarinet and percussion which turns into something cool and laid-back.

Marc Yeats' Conversation 30 from 'On a Theme of Hermes' is a work for ensemble and voices which fuses many tracks of music and poetry for delivery through a mobile phone app as a user-responsive located installation. The result is a piece which creates a sound-piece using timbre and texture rather than pitch and rhythm. Claudia Molitor's I am chilled uses voice and electronics to create not so much a song as a sense of stream of consciousness. Jobina Tinnemans's Shakespeare and Hedgeshear (Live) features two prepared table tennis matches generating percussive rhythms and squeaks bouncing, alongside  the clipping of metal hedge shears. The result is full of complex rhythimc interest and unusual timbres, but not having the visual element is a lack. Here we simply enjoy the complex soundscape. Ailís Ní Ríain's Furibund is fast and furious, sounding like a prepared piano with elements of Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano. The work's title evidently means full of fury : frenzied, raging.

Kathleen's Identity, Universe, Understanding is a complex sound-picture which uses drones, overtones and mouth music, weaving different timbres together. Michael Betteridge's the sunday boys is a choral piece, a movement from a larger work with texts by Andrew McMillan which celebrates singing and how, as (predominantly) gay men, the bodily act of making sound together with our voices has a strong correlation with other forms of physicalness. The work is performed by The Sunday Boys (an inclusive LGBT+ choir based in Manchester), conducted by Betteridge.  The sound world is male-voice close harmony, with the harmonies also evoking religious music.

Joshua's Down Time is cool, big-band jazz, whilst Maddie's Tiger in the Boat draws together intriguing evanescent threads. 

Jez riley French's wash (.) is inspired by a street in Brussels which used to be an area of washing houses, and the piece creates a real sense of streetscape and soundscape.

Jasper's Life Goes On is a work which, unlike a number of works on the disc, is about the exploration of pitch and rhythm, including a number of stylistic references notably 20th century French music.

The disc ends with the first movement, Dreamt in Fire of Sam Salem's Midlands,  an immersive, audiovisual, concert length work for 7 musicians, amplified objects, performative electronics, fixed media sound diffusion & dual video projection. The work concerns the city of Derby and the composer's experience of growing up there as Other in the 1980s. Salem creates a complex soundscape involving live electronics and other sounds.

Some of the works are from a Summer School involving film music, and it would be interesting to know more about this. I have to confess that a couple of the longer pieces seemed to outstay their welcome, and I would have welcomed a greater degree of structure and less sense of improvisation. But as many of the pieces are the result of 2020 and the resulting personal isolation, perhaps the disc is a reflection of the times the composers were living in

The disc is a fascinating snapshot of various types of music around in 2020. The majority of works do not take the traditional combinations of pitch and rhythm as their starting point, and many come over as complex sound-scapes and sonic art, perhaps a reflection of composers' interests at the moment.

Sound and Music (Vol 1)
Supriya Nagarajan, Duncan Chapman & Satu Sopanen - Swaying in the wind
Seán Clancy - Schematic #3
Eleanor - You'll Never Make It On Time
Fernando - Desert Stroll
Marc Yeats - Conversation 30 from 'On a Theme of Hermes'
Claudia Molitor - I am chilled
Jobina Tinnemans - Shakespeare and Hedgeshear (Live)
Ailís Ní Ríain - Furibund
Kathleen - Identity, Universe, Understanding
Michael Betteridge - the sunday boys
Joshua - Down Time
Maddie - Tiger in the Boat
Jez riley French - wash (.)
Jasper - Life Goes On
Sam Salem - Midlands (Mvmt. 1 Dreamt In Fire - Live)
Sound and Music

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  • Re-inventing Kurt Weill: How Lotte Lenya's performances of her husband's music in the 1950s, born of expediency, came to define how the songs were performed  - feature article
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