Archive

Uncategorized

Also known as the la Grancassa (italian), basstrommel (German), and la Grosse Caisse (French) -which can literally be translated as ‘fat drum’ (or even ‘phat drum’), the Bass Drum produces the lowest frequencies of the Orchestra, is used to create some of the most thunderous climaxes, and heaviest punches, but it’s never been considered as a ‘solo’ instrument or been given a Concerto. As it’s un-pitched, and on the surface seems quite a limited instrument, that’s not surprising; but about a year ago I perversely thought it would be interesting to attempt to compose a Concerto for Bass Drum… Now after 3-4 months of composing, and a few hours of rehearsing it’s being premiered by British percussion virtuoso Joby Burgess with Princeton Symphony (conducted by Rossen Milanov) in Princeton, New Jersery, 9th Feb 2012; then being performed by The Chicago Composers Orchestra on 21st Feb (conducted by Matthew Kasper); and then have it’s European premier with the LCO (conducted by Hugh Brunt) in the Round House, Camden, 3rd March 2012.

Img_1541Img_1562Img_1581Img_1546

A Concerto for Bass Drum is by no means a gimmick or a joke piece, there are real reasons why the Bass Drum deserves a Concerto:
Firstly, the Bass Drum is actually one of the most ubiquitous instruments of our time. Where ever I go in London I hear Bass Drums thumping out of people’s car stereos, out of shops, out of night-club and bars; the bass drum is everywhere… More often than not the Bass Drum is the first sound you hear when you approach a club or music event; in electronic dance music most produces obsess over getting the perfect Bass Drum sound; and though it can drive you crazy when its pounding through your walls at 4am when your neighbours having a party; it’s one of the essential instruments of the 21st century.

In classical music it only gets occasional and very simple use, but it has a serious range of sonic possibilities and once you experiment with the Bass Drum many sounds emerge:
– wooden ‘tocks’ & ‘clicks’ from hitting the rim of the drum
– metallic snaps from striking the metal lugs
– Whale-like moans through to rubbing the skin with a wet finger or Super-Ball
– Then hitting the skin itself can give so much variety depending on what type of mallet is used; where on the skin it is hit; and very importantly how much the drum is dampened… and there’s more. [photos below show all the mallets used]

Img_1569Img_1545Img_1583Img_1584Img_1586

This Concerto grew into quite a monster with 5 movements, 26 minutes long; all inspired by the range of sounds, colours, textures that the B.D. can produce.
Each movement explores different possibilities and moods of the drum; and it’s relationship with the Orchestra. Also many of the different rhythms & beats that are often associated with Bass Drum are explored, and of course the power and energy of the Bass Drum were a big inspiration:

#1: Adagio maestoso – allegro trepido (21 Ways)
the Bass Drum is heavily dampened with 2 towels (plus one towel taped to the underside), and struck with ‘poly’ (plastic) mallets and hard felt mallets, for a really punchy tight sound. The movement opens with Ligeti inspired Wind chords, which then cycle into a slightly hip-hop inspired groove (marked ‘Andante con un po’ di hip-hop’). The second half of the movement has a irregular groove that is in 21/8 (notated as 5/8+5/8+5/8+6/8 to read easier), which gives a little nod to Stravinsky’s rhythmic stabs in Rite of Spring.

#2: Lento Scuro (Bass War)
The dampening is taken off the drum and it’s full bass & power is revealed with a super slow crescendoing roll. Then there is a sort of ‘bass-off’ between the Bass Drum and the low-end of the Orchestra. Then Joby places a chain on the drum to give a grimy, aggressive rumble to it (a dirty, metallic, snare effect), playing a ‘half-step’ type groove. At the end of the movement he rotates the drum to reveal a gut-string coming out of the centre of the drum which he bows to give a Lion’s Roar effect.

#3: Largo Mesto (in the Steppes)
The mood is more contemplative, less dissonant with a slightly Russian, modal-minor feel (hence the sub-title: in the Steppes).
Joby uses only his hands for the entire movement: gentle tapping it with his palms, fist and fingers, using thimbles on his fingers to create clicks and ticks on the rims and lugs.
The second-half freezes to an open, non vibrato strings chord over which Joby rubs the drum skin with a wet finger and a super-ball to create haunting whale-like moans and super-deep sub-bass tones.

#4: Allegro Moderato Leggiero (four to the floor)
A Concerto for Bass Drum wouldn’t be complete without a section dedicated to the ubiquitous ‘thud thud thud thud’ four-to-the-floor bass drum beat of club music. Though it’s rhythmically simple, the subtlety is found in the way Joby alters the damping of the drum, starting completely dead; just like an electronic bass drum, and then musically varying the tone. The Orchestra play a repetitive off-beat chords (based on a corrupted B minor chord), starting with 1/8th notes, but subtly slipping in and out of triplets, playing with the difference between a swinging & straight groove.

#5: Allegro Brilliante (May Speed)
This is a break-neck-speed finale, in which Joby smacks the hell out of the drum with 2 wooden sticks (slightly reminiscent of Japanese Taiko drumming at times), and the Orchestra play a spiralling Hindemith-esque continuously modulating melody.

There’s much more to say about this Concerto. The Orchestra’s role is equal to that of the Bass, and of course they carry all the harmony and melody, but the bass drum is definitely the soloist  and is still able to lead most of the melodic shapes; Joby can produce several clearly different tones, with the Bass Drum marked to help consistency. There is also a strong sense of musical journey in the Concerto, influenced by the simple excitement of composing for a huge drum! through to subconscious (and slightly conscious) influences from the events that have been happening in the world around me over the last year.

Here are the dates for the first performances:

9th Feb – Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ, USA with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra
21st Feb – Ruth Page Theater, Chicago, IL, USA with the Chicago Composers Orchestra
3rd March – The Roundhouse, London, UK with the London Contemporary Orchestra

 

As I’m never one to miss the opportunity to put on a NONCLASSICAL club-night. I’m also DJing and hosting 5 NONCLASSICAL club-nights in the US while I’m over. All featuring Solo percussion performances by Joby Burgess (as Powerplant), and Cello & laptop performances from Peter Gregson – doing the US launch of our forthcoming album ‘Cello Multitracks’ (more info on that soon(-ish)). Here are the club dates:

10th Feb – Nonclassical @ Joes Pub – Manhattan. with Peter Gregson (playing upcoming release on Nonclassical: Cello Multitracks) & Todd Reynolds.

11th Feb – Terrace Club, Princeton, NJ @ 8pm – solo Powerplant set, dancers Susan Marshall, Rebecca Lazier and DJ G Prokofiev

15th Feb – The Moct, Milwaukee, WI @ 8pm Nonclassical in association Present Music – solo Powerplant, Dj Madhatter, Peter Gregson, G Prokofiev, & Unlooped Vs Dilla.

16th Feb – The Brink Lounge, Madison, WI @ 8pm Nonclassical in association with Classical Revolution – Powerplant, Peter Gregson, G Prokofiev + local ensemble

18th Feb – Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago, IL @ 9pm Nonclassical + Chicago Composers Orchestra – Powerplant, DJ G Prokofiev, Peter Gregson & more

Advertisements

Wow… This year has been stupidly busy for me – and my Blog intentions have really been impossible as I’ve been continually chasing the next deadline. Between Febuary & June I had to compose two new Orchestral scores totalling 45 minutes, and also expand the orchestration of my Concerto for Turntables & Orchestra (making over an hour of scores to finish & proof) – my head was spinning by the end.
Anyway, one of those projects:  Cathy Marston‘s new Ballet of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; re-titlled ‘Ein Winternachtstraum’ (a Winter Night’s Dream) is going to be premiered tomorrow in the very pretty red & gold Stadttheater Bern (Bern City Theat. I’m trying to take my mind off it and get on with another orchestral composition, but I just can’t keep still; the mix of nerves & excitement for the General Rehearsal tonight & the Premier won’t leave me alone….

Img_1193Img_1239Img_1201Img_1204Img_1235Img_1208Img_1237Img_1226Img_1187

So a bit of background… About a year ago Veteran ballet-dancer, (& my unofficial new-godfather) David Drew (who’s been dancing with Royal Ballet for over 40 years) had given Cathy the CD of my Concerto for Turntables. She really liked it & then somehow decided that it would work well in a ballet of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; alongside the existing M.N.D. Overture & incidental music of Mendelssohn!
To be honest, I was quite doubtful about this combination, and had never thought that my Turntable Concerto could be set to MND…?! But despite my scepticism I thought I’d give it a try – as I was keen to work with Cathy & the chance to be involved in a full-length narrative ballet has been a long-term ambition of mine (and even better if it’s performed by Bern Ballet & Bern Symphony !). So with much curiosity & uncertainty I went to a meeting with Cathy & her scenario man Edward Kemp, in his office at RADA….
….Well …  It worked! Cathy knew exactly what she was doing, and somehow in the setting of the Mendelssohn and Shakespeare my Turntable Concerto did make sense as music for MND. Edward read through the Scenario as Cathy played back all the music on her laptop. It was really clever. The context of the Mendelssohn put more emphasis on the ‘classical’ elements of my Concerto; and it sounded even more than ever like twisted /upside-down classical music; and was therefore perfect music for the crazy dream that the fairies create in the centre of the play. And the Turntables (which manipulate recorded sounds of a real orchestra) can then represent the way that Puck & Oberon manipulate the real lives of the lovers & mechanicals. I was smiling with surprise! And really shocked again by how much context can change one’s perception of music.
But there was one more twist to come. Cathy explained that she would need another 20 minutes of new music for scenes that weren’t covered by the existing music – that was great news; as I really wanted to compose something new for this ballet; but, Cathy was keen that I use some of Mendelssohn’s existing themes from MND. How about a new version of the famous Wedding March, may be in a different style? How about a Watlz version, someone said (it might have even been me!). Oh no! Here we go again! I thought. You see, not long before I’d agreed to do this crazy Orchestral Remix of Beethoven’s 9th (a commission I was seriously struggling with at that time – blog on that coming soon(ish)), and now I was going to have to start meddling with Mendelssohn aswell! Well I guess I had to resign myself to half a year of sacrilegious messing with the masters…
And the truth be told, I had so much fun composing the new music for Ein Winternachtsraum; following the witty scenario, enjoying bring my own little twists to the action; that incorporating a bit of Felix M themes here and there just added to the fun.
Also, I discovered that I actually liked Mendelssohn much more than I had anticipated; I’d never really given his music that much time – always found it ‘too classical’; like a romanticised, light re-hash of Mozart; but I was wrong.

A quick overview of what Mendelssohn I used:
I took the theme from Mendelssohn’s humorous ‘Dance of the Rustics’, to create a lesbian love scene between Titania and Bottom (who is female in Winternachtstraum): Bottom’s famous theme is at first slowed-down by 16 times and sustained to provide the harmonic basis for a sensual opening. Then later Mendelssohn’s famous Donkey ‘squeak’ is used but in an even more explicit way; as the climactic scream of Bottom as she and Titania manage to release their long pent-up passions together.
As for the wedding March… At first the opening fanfare starts to emerge as a fragmented alarm-call, to wake up the Lovers & Mechanicals from their strange adventures; then it whirls them into a Wedding Waltz (using an interrupted phrase from the wedding march) and even a moment of wedding disco (and I threw in a couple of quotations from Wagner’s famous wedding tune).
For the several spells that are cast, I developed ideas from the opening of my Concerto (which becomes the Puck (twins) theme) with elements of Mendelssohn’s original spell music.

As for this whole production… That deserves another blog in itself.In brief: it’s a very dynamic production; Cathy’s choreography is quite sophisticated: great details, and lots of character, but also very witty at times & quite sensual too. Both set & costumes are modern – but beautifully detailed. The whole Ballet takes place on a derelict fair-ground, guarded by the fairies, with the Mechanicals as yellow-hatted demolition men. Bottom, ends up with a fair-ground horse’s head on her and a rather phallic tail. Martin Baumgartner is performing the Solo Turntablist part, and doing an exceptional job – super tight & with funk (which is a mean feat when you have to keep it locked to both Orchestra and Ballet dancers). His tuning on the pitch-controlled melodic solo in MeditNow is the best I’ve heard. And of course the Bern Symphony, conducted by the brilliant Dorian ‘genau’ Keilhack (with 4 extra percussionists) are doing a great job. Really nice punchy sound; they seem to particularly enjoy the Titania Bottom Love Duet.

For fact finders… A few coincidences connected to this project:
– This not the first time that the names Mendelssohn and Prokofiev have been put side by side.
My grandfather Sergei Prokofiev’s second wife was actually called Mira Mendelssohn.

– The premier of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture was at a concert in Sszsecin, Poland in1827, and Beethoven’s 9th was performed in the second half; (that other master-work that I was messing with!)

– I acted Puck when I was 12 years old; so Midsummer Night’s Dream was my first real experience of Shakespeare.

 

And one recommendation:
Bern is definitely worth a long weekend visit… Not only is there Bern Ballet; but in 1 hour you can get up into the alps. I managed to go right to the top of the Schilhorn and have a drink in rotating Piz Gloria restaurant (of James Bond & Blofeld fame); and there was even the obligatory Bollywood film-shoot happening on the mountain top for new Tamil movie: Ishtam. See photos below:

Img_1145Img_1135Img_1105

Ein Winternachtstraum
Choreographie von Cathy Marston // Musik: Gabriel Prokofiev, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

DATES:

Do. 03.11.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette
Sa. 12.11.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette
Di. 15.11.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

Do. 24.11.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

Sa. 10.12.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Ausverkauft

Fr. 16.12.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

Mi. 21.12.2011, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

Mo. 26.12.2011, 18.00 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette
So. 15.01.2012, 18.00 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette
Sa. 21.01.2012, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette
So. 22.01.2012, 15.00 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

Di. 31.01.2012, 19.30 Uhr, Stadttheater Billette

-finally got the chance to post this schedule of most of the concerts + DJ-sets I’m involved in this year. Several of them have happened already of course, but better late than never. The ‘Beethoven9 Orchestral Remix’ got a better response than I could of dreamed for in Nantes & Angers this week- more coming on that soon – I promise.

Gabriel Prokofiev //////////// Concerts & DJ-sets dates 2011

25 February -17 April 2011 (8 performances)
‘wipeDouBt‘ Bern Ballet, Switzerland
Choreographie: Cathy Marston / Musik: J. S. Bach, Gabriel Prokofjev, Paul Giger/Marie-Louise Dähler, Mani Matter

March 2011
10-day US tour: Portland, Nashville, Austin
G Prokofiev Chamber music & DJ-sets (see previous post)

6 April 2011
Juice Vocal Ensemble Album launch @ NONCLASSICAL monthly club-night

music: various composers, incl G Prokofiev.
+ resident DJs G Prokofiev & Richard Lannoy
(Nonclassical club continues first Weds of every month) www.nonclassical.co.uk for more details

Img_0271

28 April – 8 May 2011
‘Swipe’ Richmond Ballet, Richmond, Virginia USA
music from Gabriel Prokofiev String Quartet No  2 & remixes. 30 mins
choreographer: Val Caniparoli
(10 performances)

17 May 2011
‘Nonclassical Directions’ curated by Gabriel Prokofiev
@ LSO St Lukes, London [UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica series]
David Lang The Anvil Chorus
Gabriel Prokofiev new work for cello & eight loudspeakers (world premiere) / Peter Gregson cello
Gabriel Prokofiev import/export: Suite for Global Junk // Powerplant: Joby Burgess, M Fairclough, Kathy Hinde
Gabriel Prokofiev Stolen Guitars (world premiere) // Sam Cave, Alastair Putt, Tom Ellis, Matthew Robinson electric guitars
Gabriel Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables (special 3 turntable version) // DJ Switch turntables

24 Feb – 3 June
‘Left to Write’ Transitions Dance Company, UK
choreography Melanie Teall
music: G Prokofiev String Quartet no 2 (mov 1 & 2), Quartet no 1 (Max De Wardener Remix)
(UK tour of 13 performances).
http://youtu.be/nNZq2remuEA

Img_0499Img_0492Img_0497

1-9 June 2011
‘Plucked’ Augsburg Ballet, Germany
choreographer: Maurice Causey
music: G Prokofiev String Quartet no 2 (complete)

Plucked-mauricecausey-balletaugsburg-gprokofiev

13-24 June 2011
NONCLASSICAL in the Market, Spitalfields Music Festival
G Prokofiev DJ-sets every other day.
14 June: Peter Gregson: ‘Suite for cello and loudspeakers’ by Gabriel Prokofiev
22 June: DJ Switch: ‘G Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables (3 turntable version)’ + Ligeti Quartet ‘ G Prokofiev Quartet No1’

24 – 29 June 2011
Beethoven 9: Orchestral Remix by Gabriel Prokofiev (22 mins)
Orchestral National des Pays de la Loire (ONPL), France
24 June: Angers, 28 & 29 June: Nantes
+ G Prokofiev DJ-sets after-concert

Img_0623Img_0625Img_0626Onpljohnaxelrod-play-gprokofievbeethoven9Img_0635

July 2-6 2011
‘Grit’ @ Premio Roma Danza International Choreography Competition, Rome, Italy
Choreographer: Maurice Causey, Dancer: Cristian Laverde Koenig
music: G Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra (6 mins selection)

7 July
NONCLASSICAL DJs @ Institue of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London
G Prokofiev DJ-set after concert from OXUS

16 July
Festival de Saint-Riquier, France
G Prokofiev DJ-set
22:25, Jardins de l’Abbaye

17 July
Latitude Festival, Suffolk, UK
‘Suite for cello and loudspeakers’ by Gabriel Prokofiev / performed by Peter Gregson
+ G Prokofiev DJ-sets in-between live sets

22 July
NONCLASSICAL @ the Truck Festival, Oxfordshire, UK
G Prokofiev DJ-sets in-between live sets

23 July
Rite of Spring in a multi-story car-park, Peckham, London
G Prokofiev DJ-set after concert

3-6 August 2011
Gabriel Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra
NYO, Vladimir Jurowksi, DJ Switch (turntables)
3 Aug: Birmingham Symphony Hall, UK
4 Aug: Snape Proms, Alderburgh, UK
6 Aug: BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

1 October 2011
Cabaret Contemporain, ‘Nuit Blanche’, Paris
G Prokofiev DJ-set

26 October – 5 November TBC
G Prokofiev String Quartets: Messer Quartet
WUNDERGRUND 11, Copenhagen, Denmark
+ G Prokofiev DJ-sets

3 November 2011 – 31 January 2012
Ein Winternachtstraum, Bern Ballet, Switzerland
Choreography: Cathy Marston
Music: Felix Mendelssohn / Gabriel Prokofiev
(13 performances) (approx 90 mins)

24 November 2011
Cabaret Contemporain, Biennale d’art contemporain de Lyon
G Prokofiev DJ-set

//////////// COMING IN 2012

February 2012
Concerto for Bass Drum and Orchestra
World Premier: TBC:
Princeton, New York / The Round House, London
Bass Drum: Joby Burgess

Just when I though I’d never get this blog going I’ve finally found a train journey & a window of time to get it going; many things to write about but best to start with the one of most recent…

Last month (well… March 2011), I did a quick, but wide, tour of USA: from Portland to Nashville to Austin…
It was kick-started by the Nonclassical team agreeing that we should host another NONCLASSICAL showcase @ the SXSW festival in Austin. We did one in 2009 – I went as the DJ along with The Elysian Quartet, John Mathhias & Nick Ryan (of Cortical Songs), and label manager David Halliwell; we did a gig at Le Poisson Rouge (New York) on the way to Austin, and got some great reviews in both New York & Austin newspapers.

This year we were keen to go again, and make an even bigger mark. Todd Puckhaber @ SXSW was enthusiastic and helped us get a venue, right bang in the centre of the mayhem of Austin’s 6th st, for Friday night @ a very cool club: The Velveet Room. Newly signed Nonclassical artists: Juice Vocal Ensemble managed to get some funding from PRSF for their travel out Austin, and then I got in touch with a very adventurous selection of American performers and ensembles I knew, in order to build a complete program for the night.

But, in the mean-time FearNoMusic, a new music group from Portland, had been in touch; one of their violinists Paloma Griffin had facebooked me after reading a Wall Street Journal review of our 2009 Poisson Rouge show. FearNoMusic wanted to do a full program of my chamber music and have me over as a guest (sit in on rehearsals, and do some DJing), and realised they could tie their event in with this trip.

Finally, another visit that I HAD to tie in with this trip was to NAXOS USA in Nashville (especially as Nashville looked quite near to Austin, according to my naive European eyes).
Nonclassical Records have been distributed by Naxos for the last 2 years, and they have been the nicest people we’ve worked with, not only totally behind what we’re trying to do with Nonclassical, but really helpful and friendly swell. We agreed that it would be great if we could set up a NONCLASSICAL club-night in Nashville while I was in town, and Megan (our label manager at Naxos), managed to book a very cool venue: The Mercy Lounge AND get local percussion legend Ray Wooten (aka FutureMan) involved as well; he has an interesting new ‘classical’ project called Black Mozart & we were going to share the bill; me DJing & his band doing a live set, and then a bit of jamming together to end the night…. yikes.

PORTLAND

Usa_march_2011_-_01Usa_march_2011_-_03Usa_march_2011_-_02

FearNoMusic, were one of the most hospitable groups I’ve ever met, from the moment I arrived in Portland, I was really well looked after. Jeff Payne, their Pianist, even gave up his apartment for me for the 4 nights I was there, and Paloma took me out on the town with her good friend Thomas Laudedale (of PInk Martini) -who gave me his infamous tour of Portlands night-life (which included ‘Marys’ & ‘Silverados’, female & male strip-clubs respectively).
This gig was a first for me, in that the whole concert was dedicated to my chamber music, and it was a real honour that it was performed such talent as FearNoMusic. – On the night before gig Paloma took me to a Portland Symphony concert, and there leading the Viola & Cellos were three of the FearNoMusic musicians, along with Inés in Violins & Mark on Clarinet (-the following night they were all going to playing my music in the characterfully Aladdin theatre…! )

The program for the gig was:

G Prokofiev String Quartet No.1 (2003)-Northwest premiere
GP Dance “Silente” for String Trio, Bass Clarinet, piano and scratch DJ (2004) -US premiere
GP Sleeveless Scherzo for solo violin & solo dancer (2008) – choreography-World premiere
GP Piano Book No. 1 (2009) Excerpts -Northwest premiere
GP Multi-track Cello Suite (2010) Excerpts – US Premiere
GP Bogle Move for string quartet (2009) – US Premiere
Sergei Prokofiev: Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34 (1919)
—-

Particularly exciting for me was to hear the first live performance of Jerk Driver, a piece I composed 1 year ago for multi-track Cellos. Nancy Ives, had recorded all the mulitrack cello parts a week earlier in a friend’s studio & I was blown-away by the accuracy and understanding of her interpretation… The piece is based on a very jerky, stuttery, crunchy double-stopped bass groove, which she got totally spot-on, as well as all the extended-technique cello percussion stuff. I had assumed the piece would need quite a bit of work-shopping, but she understood, really enjoyed & pulled it off; so our rehearsal session together was just to fine-tune a few details.
And in the concert, the audience seemed to get the feel of it too (now, I’m really looking forward to Peter Gregson, performing all 5 of the Multitrack pieces @ my Eclectica gig in LSO St Lukes) – and hopefully Nancy learning more of them aswell).
Another real revelation of the FearNoMusic gig was the new interpretation of Sleeveless Scherzo by Solo Dancer; Gavin Larsen, and Solo Violin: Paloma Griffin.
Sleeveless Scherzo was originally composed in collaboration with choreographer & dancer Trish Okenwa for 3 Rambert Dance Company Shows in 2008 and had not been performed since. Gavin’s new interpretation (based on Trish’s & my original notes for the piece) was really fantastic, and Paloma played the tricky Violin part so eloquently -they made a great duet.
The other performances were also very strong, and Jeff Payne did especially well with the very physical Tuff Moves (for solo Piano), of which I had only sent him the (rather ugly) score just a 2 weeks before.
I got a nice taste of performance stress too: playing the DJ part in my ‘Silente’ (2nd Dance for String Trio, Piano, Bass Clarinet & DJ). It had been a long time since I’d actually properly put hand to vinyl in a rhythmic way (I tend to DJ from laptop these days) and I only just managed to pull-off the DJ-part…

There is much more I could say, but most importantly if you are ever in Portland check out FearNoMusic; they are a really special group of very talented players who are genuinely dedicated to playing new music – but as Jeff said: “only stuff we actually like playing” -which is how it should be. And hopefully we’ll be working together again soon.
They have now been going nearly 20 years, and are one of a number of unique groups around the US (and Europe) who are keeping new contemporary music a living / breathing force, and who actually have dedicated followers; like Present Music, Milwaukee (who I had the fortune of working with in September 2010)

NASHVILLE (15th March):

Usa_march_2011_-_06Usa_march_2011_-_04

It is always interesting when you actually get to meet the people behind the emails & phone calls. And with the Naxos team it was an very overdue pleasure to meet everyone in person.
Colin, was missing his infamous mohawk (he hadn’t warned me that he shaves it off to make way for a hat in the winter) but he was as kind and knowledgeable as I’d imagined, with an incredible music collection, and also a few surprises: fore-arms covered in tattooed signatures of female foot models (in his spare time he is a leading foot-fetish photographer !)
He introduced me to everyone in the Naxos team -we went from office booth to office booth meeting the all faces behind names from different emails. I saw the gigantic CD warehouse next door to the offices (and even the small temperature controlled Vinyl room, where our 3 Nonclassical 12″ Vinyls are stocked). then lunch @ psychedelic-styled pizza restaurant in downtown Franklin (a model of the classic southern, single-street town centre).

Usa_march_2011_-_08

Then to the Mercy Lounge to meet FutureMan & his infamous Black Mozart Ensemble and soundcheck for the Nonclassical night there.
I can’t deny this whole show had me slightly nervous… Firstly I’ve never really consider my DJ sets as being a ‘performance’ (in fact I’m sceptical that many DJ-sets could really be seen as ‘performances’); my DJing is something that has happened out of necessity; I put on a Nonclassical club night & needed someone to DJ appropriate music in-between live sets and couldn’t find the right DJ so had to do it myself.
So being on equal billing to Future Man and his live set worried me, as did a previous email with Zach (his concert master) that we should definitely ‘jam’ together for a third set…
I’d seen some Youtube clips of the FutureMan shows & they did proper crowd-working ‘shows’, whereas my DJing is normally for setting an atmosphere, not getting everyone ‘whooping’, etc..
– I have been planning (for a while) to develop fully functioning ‘live remixing’ set-up on my laptop so I really can interact with acoustic musicians in-real time: live, but just have not found that spare week to do it yet; but fortunately I remembered a ‘jamming’ project I had been involved in last summer at the Glastonbury Festival:
BBC conductor: Charles Hazelwood had this wicked idea of taking a selection of Purcell Figured-Bass and using them as Bass-lines for more electronic, contemporary styled music. Charles was on keys, Adrian (from Portishead) on Guitar, Jason Yard on Sax & fx, and somehow I had ended-up as the ‘beats & bass’-man; pre-programming a bunch of Electronic beats & bass-lines using Purcell figured-bass that would form the basis of our extended jams. I had set up these beats on ableton live so that I could tweak/mash/process/twist and jam with them.

In the end the whole night out turned out well. I did a warm-up DJ-set, then The Black Mozart experience began: (too much to fully explain it here) but it opened with a really powerful film, and then Ray Wooten (on percussion), and String Quintet led by Zach jammed in a classical-meets-country-meets-angular-funk-with a dash of contemporary classical for about an hour – and it was a lot of fun, with Ray Wooten’s own compositions being the high-light, along with some excellent solos from the ensemble & this really cool country-style of ‘chopping’ from the ‘rhythm violinist’ -who deadened his strings rhythmically stuck them with the heel-end of the bow. Then came a really nice surprise for me: a live ‘Remix’ of the 4th movement of my 1st String Quartet; done with an unexpected reggae-feel which actually worked very nicely; and there was a cool jam over the main bass-line (played by double bass pre-looped by DJ Black Cat, who guested for the remix).
Then after a bit more DJing, which Ray Wooten jammed along to, we had some fun with a couple of those Purcell Bass-lines, and it gelled really nicely. Afterwards I wished that I could’ve stayed longer & we could have worked together some more… Ray & his group are so talented and sharing the stage with them gave my DJ-set an extra energy…
Next morning I was up early & flying to Austin -which wasn’t as near as I thought (especially as my flight had a change a Chicago..!?!?). Anyway, this blog is getting LONG – the Austin SXSW chapter comes soon…
GPx

Aparantly the best way to get your ideas & thoughts out into the world these days is a Blog… I’ve been avoiding getting involved for a while…

I thought I was doing enough ‘extra-curicular’ stuff to help get my music out there: I’ve started an independent classical record label (‘nonclassical’), I’ve set-up a monthly alternative classical club-night (also called ‘nonclassical’). I’m recording and producing several other composers’ music and ensembles… Sometimes I seem to have almost no time left to actually compose, and now it seems I ought to have a ‘blog’ aswell..!

Unlike my famous grandfather I’m certainly not a diarist, and though I’m thinking about music and culture all the time I never seem to get anything actually written down…

So, fingers crossed that this blog actually works. Encouragement & nagging for new posts both welcome.

Back soon…