Composers and Commissions 2019
Following its success at Hull City of Culture and London’s Southbank Centre in 2017, this critically acclaimed free festival of new music returns to present a unique snapshot of UK contemporary music, featuring brand new and recently written music by an exciting range of music creators.
The New Music Biennial 2019 programme includes new music from all genres: classical to chamber music, jazz, folk and electronic to music for kora, gamelan, oud and organ. Presenting and commissioning works of no longer than 15 minutes, the New Music Biennial provides a unique pop-up, accessible way for audiences to discover new music and hear the pieces more than once.
The winning compositions were selected by a panel of judges, Chaired by BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey and including Vanessa Reed (CEO, PRS Foundation), Gillian Moore CBE (Director of Music, Southbank Centre), Katy Fuller (Director, Absolutely Cultured) and radio presenters Kevin Le Gendre and Elizabeth Alker. The programme features an impressive array of performance groups and arts organisations with a strong track record in supporting UK composers.
9Bach – ‘Yn dy Lais – In Your Voice’, commissioned by Focus Wales
Alternative Welsh folk group 9Bach (Realworld) , winners of Best Album at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for TINCIAN, will collaborate with acclaimed drummer Andy Gangadeen to explore miscommunication and misinformation in a bilingual, multimedia, and genre defying piece, with special guest. Andy is a well-known Musical Director and session musician having worked with musicians as varied as Massive Attack, Chase and Status and Jeff Beck, he is also the brains behind The Bays. Andy has been brought in to add an electronic slant to the bands distinctive and evocative sound. The composition will contain words sung in the Welsh language. Woven purposefully in to the sound, the audience will hear a spoken word piece performed in English which will voice an interpretation (or feel) of the song’s meaning.
Aidan O’Rourke, Kit Downes and James Robertson – ‘365: Stories and Music’, commissioned by Edinburgh International Book Festival
This piece is about storytelling: about how to tell stories without saying too much. James Robertson wrote a story every day for a year, each exactly 365 words. What began as an exercise became a valued ritual and a captivating collection of tales, from the supernatural to the philosophical. Aidan O’Rourke applied the same discipline to composition: a tune a day in response to Robertson’s stories. The music is rooted in Scottish folk fiddling with Kit Downes on harmonium adding jazz and French impressionism. The performance intertwines tunes with the words that inspired them. A series of fleeting, vivid vignettes.
Arun Ghosh – ‘Ambhas’, Commissioned by Freedom Festival Arts Trust
British-Asian clarinetist and composer Arun Ghosh presents a new work for Wind Orchestra and Percussion.
Bringing together forces of young Northern musicians alongside professional players, Ambhas is a large-scale performance piece with an ancient Euro-Scando tribal aesthetic.
Ambhas, a Sanskrit word for water, and a Celtic word meaning ‘well’ or ‘good’, is the origin of the name of the River Humber.
Evoking the spirit of the Vikings and water travellers, Ambhas re-imagines ancient journey rituals and beliefs, expressing our metaphysical relationships to rivers, the sea, and celestial waters.
Commissioned by Freedom Festival Arts Trust
Claire M Singer – ‘gleann ciùin’, Commissioned by London Contemporary Orchestra
Claire M Singer is a composer, producer and performer of acoustic and electronic music, film and installations. In June 2017 she was a recipient of the inaugural Oram Awards from the PRS Foundation and New BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Her work incorporates the aesthetic of electronics created purely through acoustic means. Following the New Music Biennial, the work will then go on to tour the UK.
Conor Mitchell – ‘Lunaria’, commissioned by Commissioned by The Belfast Ensemble
Lunaria (a flower that takes two years to bloom) is a bespoke 15 minute work for 9 musicians and 4 performers that celebrates what is possible within a two year period when artists of many disciplines, across many boundaries make music together. Internationally recognised, Conor Mitchell’s significant output encompasses opera, music-theatre, song cycle, orchestral and chamber work; working with artists as various as Marc Almond, The Pet Shop Boys and NI Opera.
Dan Jones – commissioned by Absolutely Cultured & Hebrides Ensemble
In addition to the pieces above, Absolutely Cultured in Hull will be working with award-winning Dan Jones to create a site-specific piece, continuing its focus on outdoor works which transform the urban environment for large audiences. This work will also come to Southbank Centre alongside additional free participatory events which will be presented throughout the weekend. More details to be announced.
David Fennessy – commissioned by Psappha and Hebrides
The cimbalom governs the string ensemble in a new work by David Fennessy, performed by Psappha. Every attack on the string of the instrument has a consequence on the rest of the players. Each beat triggers a ripple, much like a stone dropped into a still lake, which eventually reaches the strings: they reflect and magnify its effects. The cimbalom also governs pulse and dynamic and, through its careful exploration of the natural harmonics available on its lowest string, plots the entire course of the piece. The word ‘panopticon’ is usually associated with an 18th-century design concept for a circular prison. Cells were arranged around a central well, from which prisoners could be observed at all times.
Edmund Finnis – ‘The Centre Is Everywhere’, Commissioned by Manchester Collective
The UK premiere of a piece for string ensemble, The Centre is Everywhere is a starkly original work, described by Music Director Rakhi Singh as “something beautiful and strange, a music of close whispers and myriad reflections”. The Centre is Everywhere brings together Finnis’ exquisite sonic language with the work of one of Britain’s most exciting young ensembles, Manchester Collective.
Edmund Finnis has composed intimate music for soloists and duets, immersive electronic pieces, music for film, ensemble music and works for large orchestra. His music has been hailed as ‘magical’ (The Times) and ‘iridescent, compelling’ (The Guardian).
Manchester Collective produces innovative and outward-facing musical experiences for new audiences across Britain.
Forest Swords and Immix Ensemble – ‘Trespassing’, commissioned by Metal Liverpool
Since the release of his two celebrated albums, Engravings and Compassion, Barnes has collaborated with Massive Attack and Young Fathers, remixed Bjork, and was a recent curator in the DJ-Kicks compilation series.
He has also explored multidisciplinary work in the form of Shrine, a contemporary dance commission.
Immix Ensemble formed in 2014, as part of a Metal Time and Space residency, to join up the conversation between the classical and pop music voices within the city. They are now in their third series of unique, collaborative performances.
Signed to acclaimed label Erased Tapes, Immix have developed and presented over 20 new works, working with artists across boundaries, from the leftfield pop songwriting of Jane Weaver, Stealing Sheep and Kelly Lee Owens, to artists at the forefront of the British experimental community such as Vessel, Luke Abbott and Ex-Easter Island Head.
Gazelle Twin & Max De Wardener – Commissioned by BBC Radio 3
Composer, producer and musician Gazelle Twin’s* collaboration with composer Max de Wardener brings the blend of traditional musical concepts and futuristic pop from her latest album Pastoral (an album of 2018 for BBC6Music, The Quietus and many more) to a full symphony orchestra. Gazelle Twin is the moniker for performance artist, composer and producer Elizabeth Bernholz whose conceptual albums present dystopian themes through unconventional electronic production and extraordinary live performances which feature changing personas.
*Change to previously announced programme.
Jessica Curry – ‘She Who’, commissioned by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
The new commission by Jessica Curry will weave together themes of beauty, humanity and connectivity into an original and innovative 15-minute choral work that fuses the young voices of the National Youth Choir with digital music in a powerful and inclusive celebration of the female experience. Jessica is an internationally acclaimed BAFTA winning composer and co-founder of renowned games company The Chinese Room. Her work has been performed in diverse and high profile venues such as The Old Vic Tunnels, Sydney Opera House, Great Ormond Street Hospital, MOMI New York, The Royal Opera House, and Durham Cathedral.
Khyam Allami – ‘Requiem for the 21st Century’, commissioned by Opera North
Khyam Allami is a London-based Iraqi oud player and composer interested in how the sound worlds of Arabic music can be placed into a creative relationship with contemporary western classical music. Inspired by the rich history and myth surrounding the oud, this immersive sound installation is created from a collection of broken and decaying ouds, playing acoustically recorded microtonal notes in generative patterns. Together they will generate metamorphosing melodic fragments and fields of sound based on different maqams, the modes of Arabic music. Requiem for the 21st Century is conceived as a powerful, ever-changing requiem for the troubled 21st century and in particular as a commemoration of the civilians killed during the incessant wars across the Middle East.
Klein – ‘Osanle’, commissioned by Qu Junktions
Osanle will be a drama – dance piece on dance, looking at the iconography of ballet through the eyes of three teenage boys and their new friend. The piece will be an extension of elements from Care, the musical Klein presented at ICA in February 2018. The project will be scored, casted and directed by Klein, with additional dance choreographed by Scout Creswick. The cast will consist of teenage boys with no prior experience of ballet or dance performance. The result will be a live dance piece with original music performed by Klein.
Numb Mob – ‘Where to Build in Stone’, commissioned by Serious
‘Where to Build in Stone’ is inspired by the shapes and sounds of the city of Hull, originally commissioned by J-Night for Hull Jazz Festival 2017. Performed with a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments, the piece is a vivid soundscape embroidered with evocative melodies that evoke a mysterious and oddly beautiful side of the city. The visual counterpart explores Hull over the course of a day, telling the story of the city through the things that are everywhere and overlooked; the familiar seen from an unfamiliar perspective. Music by Numb Mob, film by Joseph Bird.
Roderick Williams – commissioned by Chineke!
Better known to some as a baritone soloist, Roderick Williams’ reputation as a composer is growing steadily. His Advent antiphon O Adonai has become something of a favourite for choirs on both sides of the Atlantic and his Ave Verum Corpus Re-imagined was awarded the BASCA prize for Choral Composition in 2016. The commission scored for voice and orchestra, and featuring Roderick as soloist, will be a significant new work which Chineke! plans to tour in future jazz-inspired programmes.
Rolf Hind – ‘Tiger’s Nest’, commissioned by Southbank Centre
This will be the London premiere of Rolf Hind’s Tiger’s Nest for Southbank Gamelan Players and soloists (two prepared pianos and percussion). Rolf Hind has worked closely with living composers across a broad range of styles: from John Adams and Tan Dun, to Ligeti and Lachenmann; Xenakis and Messiaen, to Simon Holt and Judith Weir. He appears regularly at new music festivals throughout Europe and he is in demand as a soloist. Further afield he has made numerous appearances: including with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and others.
Sam Eastmond – ‘Brit-Ish’, commissioned by JW3
Brit-Ish is a pun. Brit in Hebrew means covenant/partnership, and Ish means Person. At a time when nationalism and ethnic identities are being placed into opposition, this project explores what it means to have a hyphened identity in 21st century Britain. An identity that is a partnership of Jewish heritage and British culture. With all the complexities of coming from a community that has been here since medieval times, and yet are often identified as immigrants. This project forges a new diasporic Jewish identity with a piece of music informed by diverse Jewish legacies infused with a contemporary sensibility.
Sarah Tandy – ‘The Dream Without A Name’, commissioned by J-Night
As one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was writing at a time when a city was experiencing a unique moment in its cultural history. His writing has helped to shape the identity of jazz in the popular consciousness. For this piece, some of his ideas about music, love and city life will be explored within the musical context of the UK scene, where many aspects of that traditional jazz mythology are being creatively re-interpreted, and the pioneering spirit continues to thrive in diverse city environments. Pianist / composer Sarah Tandy is “one of the brightest sparks on an increasingly lively UK youth-jazz scene” – John Fordham, The Guardian.
Shiva Feshareki – ‘Dialogue’ – commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra
Turntable artist Shiva Feshareki describes Dialogue as a “sonic sculpture between electronic and acoustic sound.” Honoured with the BASCA British Composer Award for Innovation, expect live-sampling of the orchestra through hyperphysical electronic improvisations that perceptually bend time and space, in duet with resonant orchestral soundscapes. Described as the most “cutting-edge expression of turntablism,” Feshareki exists at the intersection of many artistic scenes, experimenting with electronic & club music, concert & orchestral, fine art and free improvisation.
Sona Jobarteh – commissioned by Yaram Arts
Sona Jobarteh is the first female Kora virtuoso to come from a west African Griot family. Breaking away from tradition, she is a pioneer in an ancient male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries. This commission will integrate West African and European instrumental interpretation; instruments will be paired together in likeness in a unique arrangement that will explore and challenge the capabilities of the instruments from both traditions.