Composers and Commissions 2017
Following the success of the inaugural New Music Biennial in 2014, PRS for Music Foundation announced its call for proposals for New Music Biennial 2017.
New Music Biennial 2017 is a PRS for Music Foundation initiative which is presented in partnership with Hull UK City of Culture 2017, London’s Southbank Centre and BBC Radio 3 comprising of 20 new pieces of music: ten brand new works and ten pre-existing works that have been composed within the last 15 years.
The New Music Biennial includes new music from across all genres: from classical and chamber opera to jazz, folk and electronic. Works should be no longer than 15 minutes in duration in response to the New Music Biennial’s aim to create a pop-up, interactive way for audiences to discover new music and be able to hear each piece twice.
The winning compositions were selected by a panel of judges including Vanessa Reed (Executive Director, PRS for Music Foundation), Judith Weir (Master of the Queens Music), Sam Hunt (Executive Producer, Hull UK City of Culture), Sara Mohr Pietsch (BBC Radio 3 Presenter), Gillian Moore MBE (Director of Music, Southbank Centre), Kevin Le Gendre (Journalist and broadcaster), and chaired by BBC Radio 3 Controller, Alan Davey.
Throughout 2016 the new pieces will be composed and rehearsed and all twenty commissions will receive public performances throughout the UK in 2017, culminating in two celebration weekends in Hull on 1 & 2 July as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and 7- 9 July at London’s Southbank Centre.
The premieres will form part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 which has four central themes: Made in Hull, welcoming the world to the city; Roots and Routes, celebrating Hull’s connections; Freedom, exploring the city’s role in ending global injustice; and Tell the World, exploring what is next for this unique place.
Anna Meredith – ‘Concerto for Beatboxer & orchestra’, commissioned by Southbank Centre
Anna Meredith is a composer, producer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. Her sound is often described as ‘maximalist’, ‘uncategorisable’ and ‘genre-hopping’ and straddles the worlds of contemporary classical, avant pop, electronica and experimental rock. Southbank Centre commissioned Anna Meredith to write a new piece for Beatboxer and Orchestra in 2010. The Concerto is an acclaimed modern classical work recognising the human voice box as a musical instrument.
Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe – ’13 Vices’, commissioned by Moving On Music
A collaboration between two of the UK and Ireland’s most dynamic compositional voices, Brian Irvine and Jennifer Washle, this piece explores the weird, humorous, dark and exotic world of contemporary vices. Written for ensemble, improvisers, conductor and voice it melts the boundaries between various disciplines including theatre, opera, poetry and contemporary music.
Errollyn Wallen – ‘Mighty River’, commissioned by Rev John and Mrs Carol Wates & produced by Oxford Contemporary Music
Exploring themes of slavery and freedom, Mighty River combines contemporary classical techniques with spirituals which were introduced to Hull in 1871 by the Fisk Jubilee Singers – an African-American a cappella choir of ex-slaves. The piece, written for orchestra, takes its inspiration from William Wilberforce the English politician, philanthropist and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade who was, very fittingly, a native of Hull. Errollyn Wallen is at ease both as a singer-songwriter of pop-influenced songs and a composer of contemporary new music. She describes her own Ensemble X with the motto, ‘We don’t break down barriers in music…we don’t see any.’ This commission has also been supported by RVW Trust and The Radcliffe Trust.
Hannah Peel – ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’, commissioned by Tubular Brass
Electronic artist, arranger and composer Hannah Peel’s work combines the tremendously deep, rich power of traditional brass with the uplifting arpeggiated patterns and unearthly sound textures of analogue synthesizers. Through an intergalactic journey from Earth to the star constellation of Cassiopeia, Peel explores one person’s journey through space, time and mortality by telling the story of 86 year old Mary Casio and her lifelong stargazing dream to leave her South Yorkshire home in the mining town of Barnsley and see Cassiopeia for herself.
Drawing influences from synth pioneers such as Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire and performing live with the newly formed brass band Tubular Brass, featuring the UK’s finest brass players, Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia will be released in September 2017 as Hannah Peel’s third album. Their special performance at Hull UK City of Culture 2017 will be one of only a handful of shows around the UK.
Jocelyn Pook – ‘Anxiety Fanfare and Variation for Voices’, commissioned by Mental Health Foundation
First commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014 and premièred at the Wigmore Hall, London this work extends the multi-award winning composer Jocelyn Pook’s interest in the experience of mental illness, which she explored in her ground-breaking 2012 work Hearing Voices. The Fanfare is written in five movements and draws on the unique potential of professional and nonprofessional singers. The fanfare will be rehearsed and performed with a community choir composed of mental health service users and professionals.
Laurence Crane – ‘Pieces About Art’, commissioned by EXAUDI
Composition Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Laurence Crane was commissioned by EXAUDI vocal ensemble in 2014 to write a new work for them. Initially wanting to use words that had been written by a famous American artist, engraved on a metal sculpture exhibited in a show in the late 1960s, Laurence was denied permission to use the text. Immediately putting his disappointment to one side, Laurence made the decision to write a text based on this permission email while concealing the artist’s name from the score. It is a piece which is all about the composers struggle to get permission to set the text. There are sections of wordless music in this movement, perhaps suggesting that if permission had been granted then this is where the artist’s words would be.
Mark Simpson – ‘After Avedon’, commissioned by Gould Piano Trio
At the age of 17 Mark Simpson became the first ever winner of both BBC Young Musician and BBC Proms/Guardian Young composer of the Year. In 2015 he was appointed Composer in Association of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. The new work by Mark will form the centrepiece of the Gould Piano Trio’s 25th anniversary celebration. Impressed by Mark’s high profile appointment as the BBC Philharmonic’s new Composer-in-Association, as well as critical acclaim following his latest premiere of a large scale oratorio at the Manchester International Festival.
Peter Edwards – ‘A Journey with the Giants of Jazz’, commissioned by Turner Sims Southampton
Pianist, composer and bandleader and nominee for the 2015 Jazz FM Breakthrough Artist Awards, Peter Edwards, looks into the year 1917, which was a defining year for jazz. It saw the births of some of the most influential jazz artists including composer ‘Tadd’ Dameron, singer Ella Fitzgerald, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, drummer Buddy Rich and percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Taking inspiration from the motifs found in six of the artists’ classic works, Peter Edwards’ piece, to be performed by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra (a Tomorrow’s Warriors ensemble), deconstructs their themes to offer the audience a re-imagined and alternative musical experience.
Philip Venables – ‘Illusions’, commissioned by London Sinfonietta
Illusions is politically-engaged contemporary music exploring themes of government, LGBT rights and the rituals of music and art performance, featuring footage of avant-garde performance artist David Hoyle. The interplay between music and the cut-up video snippets of Hoyle searing and topical polemic is reflected in the erratic, boisterous and aggressive nature of the composition. The piece is written for an ensemble of nine musicians and is an extended and further developed version of Philip Venables’ existing composition which was part of the London Sinfonietta’s Notes to the New Government in May 2015. Philip Venables’ music is often concerned with violence, politics and speech within concert music and opera. Performance artist David Hoyles’ often focuses on themes in the LGBT community attacking what he sees as dominant trends in ‘bourgeios Britain’.
Sam Lee – ‘Hullucination’, commissioned by The Nest Collective
The Mercury Prize nominated Sam Lee and driving force behind the eclectic, award-winning folk club The Nest Collective will explore the rich history of vernacular folk song in Hull City and District using a collection of songs from in and around the city. Through recorded testimonials that capture the current and historical oral traditions extant amongst the residents, Sam Lee creates a sonic triptych combining choral and arranged accompaniment to portrait the city and its ever changing character.
Simon Holt – ‘Concerto for clarinet & Orchestra’, commissioned by BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Simon Holt is one of the UK’s leading composers and is currently Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music. He will write a basset clarinet concerto for 2006’s BBC Young Musician of the Year Mark Simpson, inspired from a black and white print by the English artist, Cecil Collins, of a rampant bull-like creature with fearsome horns.
Darkstar – ‘Dance Unity’, commissioned by James McVinnie
‘Dance Unity’ is a piece composed by Darkstar and performed by James Mcvinnie. It is inspired by Hull as a city and the Dance Unity parties that were held there in the early 90’s. With focus on trying to create a piece that oscillates through a series of movements and emotions ‘Dance Unity’ is the result of trying to immerse ourselves in the capabilities and functionality of the organ but also the landscape of Hull as backdrop in playing host to parties that were intrinsic to the city in the early 90’s. ‘Dance Unity’ feels like an appropriate reaction to the positivity galvanised in the recent election and the context draws parallels in trying to display a unified front in times of adversity.
Daniel Elms – ‘Bethia’, commissioned by the BFI
Influenced by the natural landscape surrounding his Yorkshire Hometown, Daniel Elms’ piece for acoustic and electronic instruments celebrates the maritime history of Hull using re-imagined sea shanties and maritime hymns. It will be performed alongside projected film footage that has been
edited and adapted to create abstract ambience and light. Written for a small group of chamber musicians the music will interweave cross-rhythms and interlocking harmony to create a texture similar to that of a tremulous sea.
Eliza Carthy – ‘Rivers and Railways’, commissioned by Freedom Festival
Eliza Carthy is a traditional folk musician and composer who was championed from an early age by John Peel, Andy Kershaw and Billy Bragg and is the winner of five BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and currently Associate Artist at Sage Gateshead. Eliza’s new piece, Rivers and Railways is a collaboration with celebrated sonic adventurers Moulettes, exploring the theme of what makes a city what it is when it is perched on the edge of a place, a port, a destination, an identity. Touching upon themes of migration, Hull’s industries and history (Hull was the second most bombed city in the Second World War) and its pioneering son William Wilberforce who was instrumental in writing the Abolition of Slavery Act. Using local stories and music to create the new work, and through creative staging, using outdoor location and engagement with the ‘Freedom Choir’, will make something very special and unique and with a strong Hull flavour that will be unmistakeable and moving.
Emily Hall – ‘Itch-Witch’, commissioned by Mahogany Opera Group
Written by composer Emily Hall and author Toby Litt, ‘Itch-Witch is a visual and atmospheric event for children aged 7-11 and forms part of the nationwide project ‘Snappy Operas’ of 10 new mini-operas from British artists created with and performed by children. The piece tells the story of the Itch-Witch, the Tooth-Fairy’s evil older sister. The Itch-Witch sends her horrible Nits to bite your heads and suck your blood. And the Itch-Witch is so mean she doesn’t pay you a penny! This is the story of how some brave children decide to fight back against the Itch-Witch and her nits with the only weapon they have – combs!.
Gavin Bryars – ‘Holderness and Spurnhead’, commissioned by Opera North
Born in Yorkshire Gavin Bryars has been described as a composer ‘who falls under no category’ and since 2006 he has been collaborating with Opera North on numerous projects. For this commission Bryars will use the inspiration of the Holderness/Spurn Head landscape, and at the same time the life and poetry of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), the metaphysical poet who was born and raised in the Holderness region. When a young man of just 19, Marvell may have witnessed his father drowning as he tried to cross the Humber. The new commission will take two iterations; one a sound installation and the second a live performance by an ensemble of musicians and possibly one singer.
GoGo Penguin – ‘As Above So Below’ – commissioned by J-Night
Mercury Prize-nominated Manchester-based acoustic-electronica trio GoGo Penguin pay tribute to Basil Kirchin, the pioneering film composer described by Brian Eno as “a founding father of ambient” in their own inimitable fashion. Drawing on a broad tapestry of influences from electronica, jazz and contemporary classical to the Northern industrial landscape, GoGo Penguin present As Above So Below a brand new composition commissioned by J-Night for Hull UK City Of Culture 2017 and part of the New Music Biennial.
Jason Singh and Anne Martin – ‘Ceumannan – Footsteps. 2.’, commissioned by Atlas Arts
A synthesis of traditional Gaelic song and North Indian Raga, this piece interweaves contemporary rhythms and acoustic sounds with the struggles of culture and identity pertinent to both of the artists’ roots. The work is a continuation of Ceumannan – Footsteps which explores the struggle for land use experienced by both the Highlanders of Scotland and communities of Northern Indea, and emphasises the commonality and creativity of human experience.
Mica Levi – ‘New work for the BBC Concert Orchestra’, commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra
Mica Levi is a classically trained singer, songwriter, BAFTA nominated composer and producer who is best known for her band Micachu & The Shapes. Mica will write an exciting piece with the BBC Concert Orchestra drawing on and utilising the Orchestra’s huge sound and great power.
Ray Lee – ‘Ring Out’, commissioned by Oxford Contemporary Music
Sound artist and composer Ray Lee, renowned for creating music for public places, will create an outdoor musical and visual spectacle composed for electronically generated bell sounds, each swinging from a giant metal tower. The composition builds a series of tonal pitches into a constantly evolving texture of pulsed tones created by the swinging of the bell-speakers by a team of local bell-ringers. The audience are able to walk around the space and experience the series of micro-melodies shifting and changing as the piece progresses. This commission also received support from Oxford Brookes University and 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space and support using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Head to the PRS for Music Foundation website for more New Music Biennial information.