I am releasing a 16 and a half minute, one-track EP at the end of the month… the first Simon Bookish recording in quite a while. Digital only, available from all your favourite / most hated online stores.
In case you missed it, here’s my studio recording of New York experimental composer Travis Just’s hypnotic and unsettling piece ‘Paul Pierce,’ which I performed live on my tour earlier in the year. This version features the brilliant Laura Moody on ‘cello and Chris Branch on synthesisers/noise.
The Quietus featured the track last month – have a look at what they had to say about it here.
Seeing as I’ve been writing a fair amount of notated music in the last few years, I’ve added some scores to the Sound and Music ‘British Music Collection.’ I may rotate / exchange / add / delete at some point, but for now you can look at the two pieces premiered at last year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival: The Indistinguishables (string quartet and recorded voices) and Vapour Descriptors (for two pianos – pianists also sing), plus the orchestral piece for the LSO (Brown Leather Sofa) and the piece for Apartment House, X Chairman Maos.
I also added the complete score for ‘Everything/Everything;’ the original versions of the arrangements prepared for the recording sessions back in 2008. Perhaps it seems a little perverse to put up the score of a pop album, but it exists and might offer some kind of insight / amusement / edification?
I’ve recently finished work on the soundtrack for an experimental film by the brilliant artist Jennet Thomas (our second collaboration) and I’m extremely pleased to say it’s being screened on a mini-tour of the UK this month.
“THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE” is a wild, fantastical vision of a distant future (or perhaps a parallel past?), where magic and technology are indistinguishable and a kind of cargo cult has arisen around the image and ideas of Margaret Thatcher. Two women journey across a haunted landscape, with a green baby in a box, arriving at a frenzied, climactic conference at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
Watch the trailer here:
Echoing the ambiguous feeling of what is past and what is future, much of the music is based on mangled and repurposed versions of songs by renaissance composer John Dowland, including a performance of his beautiful “Flow My Tears,” re-imagined for a choir of analogue synths.
The film has caused something of a stir among Blackpool councillors, apparently consumed by the idea that a science-fiction fantasy film might influence voters in the forthcoming general election. You can read about the postponements and weird political machinations it’s caused here.
Anyway, come and see it screened at one of these venues:
GRAND UNION : BIRMINGHAM 9th April
PRIMARY : NOTTINGHAM 16th April
OUTPOST : NORWICH 23rd April
CUBE : BRISTOL 30th April
The film will be accompanied by talks, performances and debates on each date.
There’ll be a big show in BLACKPOOL and a screening in LONDON post-election, if the world hasn’t ended by then.
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).
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):
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.
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.
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!
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’.
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:
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)]:
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…
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:
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.
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….
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.
A million thanks for all the support in the last two seasons. Invaluable.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Get tickets here… http://www.wegottickets.com/event/222569
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:
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…
…and there’s a beach…
Anyway, here’s some of the other things I saw:
Coming from London, the relaxed Aarhus approach to bicycle security is a surprise!
I stayed just next to the cathedral. On Saturday morning there was a carboot sale outside – homely!
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:
Once in a while, telephone photography comes up trumps. Look at the view through the top, the perfect disc of Danish sky:
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:
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:
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:
That’s it. No sausages.