A Tour!

Dear All,

I’m doing a small tour of some strange and exciting music in the next month – starting this Saturday!

“Leo Chadburn Presents The Text Message”

  • MK Gallery, Milton Keynes – Saturday 28th February – info here
  • The Old Dentist, London – Friday 6th March – info here (N.B. limited capacity)
  • The Northern Charter, Newcastle – Saturday 7th March – info here
  • The Scope, Brighton – Wednesday 18th March – info here

We’re performing music by me, of course, alongside the UK premiere performances of experimental music with weird and wonderful words by Jennifer Walshe, Travis Just, Yannis Kyriakides, Peter Ablinger and others.

I’ll be joined by some special and talented guests, besides some solo works.

Please do come down, if you’re near (or nearish).

Leo

 

Leo in Huddersfield this November

Just some advance warning about this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, which features two concerts that include new notated pieces by me, plus a performance by me (of music not by me):

Monday 24th November – 7 pm @ St Pauls Hall

Kate Halsall and Fumiko Miyachi perform the world premiere of my piece Vapour Descriptors for two pianos (and singing pianists). It’s all about the strange vocabulary of the perfume industry.

Tuesday 25th November – 11 am @ Huddersfield Town Hall

The Bozzini Quartet perform the UK premiere of my piece The Indistinguishables for string quartet and disembodied speaking voices.

This is the culmination of the tremendously exciting ‘Composer’s Kitchen’ project, which started in the wonderful city of Montreal back in June (see post below). The piece is based around the names of 70 species of UK moth and some atmospheric harmonies.

Friday 28th November – 7:30 pm @ Bates Mill Photographic Studio

I join my favourite band, Apartment House, to perform a cover of Brian Eno’s classic album Another Green World.

Naturally, there’s a lot of other interesting things happening over the course of the festival – full details here: www.hcmf.co.uk
Very much looking forward to seeing a few of you there!
Leo

Whatever Happened To The First Half of 2014?

The sands of time: what an elastically overstretched metaphor! I wonder if time isn’t less like sand, more like grit: swept away in the blink of an eye, but not before it’s caused some sort of irritation.

The insubstantial nature of the grit of time means that it seems only a moment ago that it was 2013, yet here we are, past the Summer solstice, heading downhill. This overstuffed blog post is here to make a record of at least some of what’s happened in the last six months:

Nothing Can Stop Us Now

Much of the beginning of this year was spent working with the wonderful artist Richard Grayson on his enormously ambitious five screen video installation, Nothing Can Stop Us Now, featuring five singers shot on location at various politically and culturally potent London landmarks. I directed the music and prepared the score and arrangement for this, which begins with brief fragments and phrases, the singers ‘humming to themselves’, before they begin to fall into sync, as if by magic, despite being in five different places. In the final three minutes, the music explodes into a version of Willie Johnson’s 1943 song Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’.

Stalin Wasn't Stallin'

Nothing Can Stop Us Now (2014) Video Still.

The piece was shot over a beautifully bright, insanely hectic weekend in March, leaving Richard an absurdly small, gritty window of time to edit the piece for the opening of the exhibition at the atmospheric Dilston Grove Gallery in mid May.

You can watch a demo of the whole piece on Vimeo here, but it doesn’t quite have the impact of the real thing – imagine it on five huge HD screens…

The feedback from everyone who made it down has been very gratifying, but it seems there was a little confusion about how the thing works: ALL the sound was recorded on location, sung in the street, by the Thames and in the backs of taxis by the cast: Bishi, Sophie Ramsay, Laura Moody and Tom Herbert, representing a dedicated and supremely talented cross-section of musicians working in pop, classical, jazz and folk music and beyond. Thanks to Matt’s Gallery for the support in making it happen – hopefully there will be some more showings soon.

Denmark / SPOR Festival Report

In early May, I made a return visit (wearing my ‘journalist’ hat) to the SPOR Festival in Aarhus, Denmark. I had a brilliant time last year, and SPOR 2014 was equally as good. For some thoughts about it, read my report for The Quietus here. Otherwise, here’s a picture of me inside Vinyl Horror and Terror’s pleasingly creepy festival sound installation, The Host:

Leo at SPOR 2014

At SPOR 2014 – Photo by Samuel Olandersson.

May – London Contemporary Music Festival

Almost immediately upon returning, it was time for the second LCMF – I was delighted to be asked to participate again, after the intense experience of performing Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together last year. This time, I joined experimental music legend Gavin Bryars and band for a revival of his piece 1-2, 1-2-3-4. The piece is entirely cued by music on headphones, which has the strange, disorientating effect of isolating the players from each other. It’s a psychologically unique experience, and I’m told it sounded great (I have no idea, I was wearing headphones).

Here’s a picture of the performance, in the hall of mirrors set up for the duration of the festival, smashed on the final night by an assistant of arte povera artist Michelangelo Pistoletto:

[From left to right: me, Leo Abrahams, Gavin Bryars, Ashley Paul – out of shot: Lucy Railton (cello) and Christopher Hobbs (piano)]:

Gavin Bryars - LCMF 2014

Gavin Bryars – LCMF 2014.

May – Nottingham Reactor Halls / Jennet Thomas

Also in May, I did my one and only solo performance (so far) this year, at the Reactor Halls space in Nottingham, alongside artist film-makers Jennet Thomas and Paul Tarragó, of whose work I am a massive fan (both of them). Jennet provided new visuals for a one-off revival of my ‘dreamscape cabaret album’ Trainwreck/Raincheck

Leo in Nottingham

Performing at Reactor Halls E11 as part of The Dark Horse Moving Picture Show.
Photo: Julian Hughes.

You may remember my previous work with Jennet on her unnervingly excellent video installation, School of Change, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with her again on a new project, The Unspeakable Freedom Device, which is currently being shot in London and Blackpool. I’m providing some music, and also have a cameo role (I’m not sure why I’ve been allowed to act again. I really am a crap actor). Here I am in costume in the East Sussex countryside a few weeks ago, perhaps giving you a flavour of how weird and wonderful the finished piece will be:

The Unspeakable Freedom Device

On location for the forthcoming film The Unspeakable Freedom Device.

Montreal, Canada / Bozzini Quartet

A project which has occupied a fair amount of time this year was an invitation to write a string quartet for Quatour Bozzini and visit Montreal to work on it with them for 10 days last month. It’s really a terribly rare experience (certainly in classical music land) to have the luxury of such an extended period of time to hone something, and rarer still to work with musicians as insightful and committed to experimental music as the Bozzini Quartet. What amazing and generous people.

Bozzini Quartet in rehearsal

Quatour Bozzini rehearsing my piece, ‘The Indistinguishables’ in Montreal.

The finished piece (which includes disembodied voices speaking the names of seventy British moth species and is called The Indistinguishables) will get a performance in November as part of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival – I may well blog some more details nearer the time. Incidentally, I think Montreal is a superb city and met some great human beings out there. I also spoke a fair bit of appallingly bad French and only did a modicum of tourist things….

Leo / Buckminster Fuller

L’égoportrait touristique: me outside Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, Montréal.

Apologies for the bloat of information above. I’ve not had a great deal of time to blog here in the last six months, mainly through writing elsewhere. In case you have a burning desire to know my thoughts on other people’s music, I’ve been writing for Sinfini, The Quietus and Tempo, about everything from George Benjamin to Richard Reed Parry…

Plans for the second half of the year are currently in motion.

It is activated.

News soon.

A million thanks for all the support in the last two seasons. Invaluable.

Leo out.

Belated Summer Activities Rundown

The trouble with ‘doing things’ means that sometimes it’s hard to remember to document what’s going on, leading to empty blogs and the impression that nothing has been going on at all. I’m terribly guilty of this, so to make some kind of amends here’s a quick run down of some of the things I’ve been up to over the past few months…

June – Dublin / Cerith Wyn Evans

Much of the early part of the Summer was spent working with conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans on a new piece for unaccompanied voices, Imagination Dead Imagine (inspired by Samuel Beckett), for performance at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. The museum is a rather amazing building, and we were lucky to have the brilliant new vocal group Silver Kites on hand to perform it.

View through the courtyard, Irish Museum of Modern Art

View through the courtyard, Irish Museum of Modern Art

Cerith’s frame of musical reference is pretty wide (he loves Maria Callas and Xenakis with equal enthusiasm), which gave me some inspiration to write a piece with a similar ‘richness’, moving between shadowy whispers and lush harmonies. It’s pretty fresh and I’m hoping there will be a London performance soonish…

Imagination Dead Imagine

Imagination Dead Imagine – Score excerpt

June – Southend, Tilbury, Southwark / Britten

I guess it was inevitable that I’d end up doing some Benjamin Britten this year, seeing as it’s the Britten centenary and there are performances everywhere. It was a little curious, though, to be asked to join the Britten Sinfonia to play the solo recorder parts of his astonishing ‘community opera’ Noye’s Fludde. I’m a sort-of retired recorder player, as some people know, although I occasionally play it on other people’s records (for example my friend Serafina Steer‘s marvellous last album, which came out earlier in the year).

Slung Mugs

Britten’s famous ‘slung mugs’ – ready to play the ‘falling raindrops’ music in Noye’s Fludde.

We took the piece on a ‘watery tour’, taking in Southend and Tilbury, before performing it by the Thames in Southwark Cathedral.

July – Margate / Dead Symphony

Some of July was spent helping out my favourite experimental music group Apartment House. I prepared the scores and performance material for their new commission from sound artist Saskia Moore, entitled Dead Symphony, an intriguing and rather beautiful piece built from interviews with people who have had near death experiences.

Margate

Arrival in Margate

It was performed at Turner Contemporary in Margate, a gallery overlooking the beach, allowing some seaside splashing around at half-time, at the height of the British heatwave. After Margate, Apartment House took the piece to Australia – have a look at this video clip to see what it was all about…

July – Iceland / Purcell

More recorder playing (!) – this time as a guest of Icelandic ensemble Nordic Affect, who put on two concerts of breathtakingly gorgeous music by Henry Purcell as part of the Skálholt Summer Concert series. Besides being an opportunity to play this incredible music, I was thrilled to have a week in Iceland. It’s a seriously amazing place.

Gullfoss

Leo being a tourist at the Gullfoss, Iceland – Photo: Ian Wilson.

August – Peckham / Rzewski

Back in London for the early part of August, I was delighted to be asked to perform at the first London Contemporary Music Festival, which took place at Bold Tendencies, otherwise known as the abandoned carpark in Peckham. Considering this was its first year, the festival attracted some legendary names (Tony Conrad, Charlemagne Palestine, Glenn Branca), so I flattered to be asked along.

Leo performing Frederic Rzewski's 'Coming Together'.

Leo performing Frederic Rzewski’s ‘Coming Together’.

Together with a virtuoso ensemble conducted by Chris Stark, I was the vocalist in Frederic Rzewski‘s minimalist/politcal masterpiece Coming Together, which I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. It’s a fantastic piece, so thanks to LCMF for putting it on.

***

Anyway, I promise that I’ll try to update here a little more frequently, and give everyone a little heads up about forthcoming projects – there is some planning and scheming to do in the next few months – interesting things afoot.

 

Leo

Kammer Klang – Tuesday 21st May

Oh! I’m playing at the brilliant Kammer Klang night at Cafe Oto this Tuesday – I’ve made some new arrangements of John Cage’s utterly beautiful ‘Harmonies’, which I’ll be performing with Lucy Railton. This means I’m playing the piano. I am not the best pianist. Hmm.

However, there are other things too – the brilliant Jenny Walshe is performing too…

Kammer Klang May 2013

Kammer Klang May 2013

Get tickets here… http://www.wegottickets.com/event/222569

Telephonic Photography (Aarhus)

Last weekend, I was in Aarhus, Denmark, to report on the marvellous SPOR Festival of experimental music and sound art. My ‘proper’ review will be published in the Wire magazine, but I thought sharing my ‘holiday snaps’ here might be nice.

Like many people these days, I’m happy to document what’s going on with a smart phone. There’s a convenience to whipping it out and taking a quick photo, but I’m increasingly aware of an absurdity: we’re taking photographs on a telephone. We’re not quite using the right tool for the job. Banging in nails with the blunt end of a screwdriver.

The telephonic photographer ends up with a lot of noisy, messy images such as this one:

Dawn Over Tottenham

Dawn Over Tottenham

In real life, this was the spectacularly beautiful dawn over Tottenham Marshes, viewed from the train on the way to Stansted Airport. Oh well..

Aarhus is an interesting city. There’s a collision of pragmatic, liberal Scandinavian modernity, a picturesque old town, and an impressive, dramatic industrial port. It all fits, somehow…

Atomkraft? Nej Tak

Atomkraft?

Cathedral

Cathedral

Impressive Blue Crane

Impressive!

…and there’s a beach…

Beach

View from the beach.

Anyway, here’s some of the other things I saw:

Improvisations in gallery spaces

Improvisations

Antique computers running Max/MSP

Max/MSP

The shō

Shō

Coming from London, the relaxed Aarhus approach to bicycle security is a surprise!

Bikes

Bikes

I stayed just next to the cathedral. On Saturday morning there was a carboot sale outside – homely!

Carboot

Carboot

We saw some sound art in impressive places. This was Kirsten Reese’s installation, No voice audible but that of the sea on the far side. Spiralling electronic sound projected inside a cofferdam, designed to lie on the sea bed:

Cofferdam

Cofferdam

Inside the cofferdam

Inside the cofferdam

Once in a while, telephone photography comes up trumps. Look at the view through the top, the perfect disc of Danish sky:

Through the hole.

Through the hole

At other times, the photography is not so marvellous. I tried to document the various preparations done to the pianos over the course of the festival. Everything from electric motors balanced on the strings, to swathes of masking tape. Interesting sounds, grainy images:

Piano + masking tape

Piano + masking tape

Piano + motors

Piano + motors

At festivals of experimental music, pianos aren’t the only instruments that receive some punishment. Oh no! Here is a guitar being strung up for a performance by Seth Kim-Cohen:

Poor guitar!

Poor guitar!

Poor guitar!

Poor guitar!

I managed to see everything that was performed, through a strategy of dashing between venues, but also found a few minutes to dash up to see Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama, the permanent installation high above the city. And pose like a tourist:

Leo in rainbow

Hello!

Rainbow

Rainbow

That’s it. No sausages.

No Sausages

No Sausages

Epigram / Microgram (CZ) on Bandcamp

The small synthesizer album, “Epigram / Micogram (CZ)” will be available on all digital download stores from Tuesday 2nd April (iTunes, Amazon, etc. etc.), but you buy it straight away from Bandcamp…

Epigram / Microgram (CZ)

– Album due for release 2nd April 2013 –

Recorded in 2002 and finally released “from the vaults”, EPIGRAM / MICROGRAM (CZ) is a small expedition to the heart of a synthesizer and creative monomania. All seven tracks use nothing but the sounds of the Casio CZ-101, with its characteristic digital fizz and shimmer, to create spacey instrumental synthscapes.

Epigram / Microgram (CZ)
(Design by Daniel Kluge)

While the album has just one sound source, each track explores one compositional idea – they are not conventional song forms, but “aphorisms” driven by an attention to texture and harmony. For example, “Things You Can’t Hear, Things You Can’t See” is concerned simply with one chord incrementally melting into another. On “Theme and Deviations” the harmony shifts sequentially through every key. They’re studies – tiny journeys into what happens, artistically, when you restrict the material and focus the beam of the working methods. A kind of sonic microscopy.

CZ-101

The CZ-101, toy-sized but curiously powerful, all-digital but oddly warm, is the shy child of a somewhat grander 20th century synthesizer experiment. Its origins lie in the work of Isao Tomita, whose most famous album was Snowflakes Are Dancing (1974), a post-Wendy Carlos smash hit collection of pieces by Claude Debussy played on Moog synthesizers. He took the decision to embrace digital technology in the early 1980s and asked Casio to develop something new for him. The result was the cutely named “Cosmo Synthesizer” system, which made its debut on Tomita’s Dawn Chorus / Canon of the Three Stars in 1984.

The domesticated version of this instrument, the CZ-101, appeared shortly after. It’s an appealing instrument: small, cheap, rich with potential for strange new sounds, fiddly to program in an enjoyable sort of way. You can run it off battery power. Vince Clarke bought tons of them. Its “phase distortion” algorithms and unusual eight-stage envelopes give it a distinctive voice. It can buzz and moan, or sing glassily.

CZ-101

These tracks were written on eight-track tapes in my extremely modest studio, immediately after I escaped from my degree in classical composition. You can still hear the murmur of my interest in minimalist music running through them, but perhaps also an echo of the quirky electronica that was around at that time, courtesy of exciting labels like Planet Mu and Tigerbeat6. I re-recorded the album into ProTools, mixed it, gave a few homemade CD versions to friends, then forgot all about it.

This year, I was reminded that this stuff exists through conversations with Kerry Yong, a virtuoso pianist who also specialises in brilliant performances of high- modernist music on a variety of Casio synths. Now seems as good a time as any to release it. Perhaps it will shed some light on the musical genesis of the first few tracks I released under the name Simon Bookish, which followed the completion of this album, breaking away from my fascination with process music rather more decisively. With an eleven year gap, I feel able to be relatively objective about this music; I like its modesty and small scale. And I like those cosmic noises. Science fiction. Cosmosynth.

Now on Bandcamp

Some brief news, of an administrative nature!

As well as everywhere else, the first two Simon Bookish albums are now available to download from Bandcamp (Everything/Everything – not yet!).

This is just because I’m preparing to release a few ‘archive’ tracks in the next few weeks – some previously unheard things from the vaults. Watch this space!

 

Leo

Jennet Thomas – School of Change

Dear All,

For the past two years I’ve been working with the marvellous video artist Jennet Thomas on her new installation “SCHOOL OF CHANGE”, an absurd, hilarious, disturbing and unique piece of work, flavoured with the spirit of both Dennis Potter and 1970/80s children’s television. It was shot last year on location at Jennet’s old, real-life school in Hatfield, although its atmosphere and script are pretty much as far removed from real-life as it gets… possibly…

It features songs, sound design and, for want of a better term, ‘acting’ by me. Here’s the trailer:

If you’d like to go and see it, it’s on NOW at the wonderful Matt’s Gallery (click the link for opening times / visitor info) in Mile End, London, till July 29th… the film is embedded within one of Jennet’s sculptural environments, with live performers inhabiting the space too.

Working with visual artists is a pleasurable and intriguing process. Artists from different media getting together and exchanging something is a winner, as far as I’m concerned.

Leo
x

P.S.

Jennet is the Guardian’s ‘Artist of the Week‘ this week.

If you’re hungry for more information about ‘School of Change’, how it was made and what it all means (or doesn’t mean), there’s a detailed discussion between Jennet and writer Rachel Withers, with interjections by me, here.