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This is the fourth installment of our step-by-step guide to CONNECT: The Audience as Artist, which takes place at St John’s Smith Square on Saturday 22 October 2016. Step 4 strives to give you an insight into the composer’s creative process.

Ahead of the world premiere of his composition In the Midst of the Sonorous Islands tomorrow night, we visited Christian Mason and talked about hearing and feeling instruments in close proximity, the relationship between professional musicians and the audience and the significance behind learning a piece during it’s performance — “it’s not about the perfection, it’s about going through the process”.


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Welcome to Step 3 of our online guide to the London Sinfonietta’s concert on Saturday 22 October 2016, CONNECT: The Audience as Artist. Usually this segment is an audio-illustrated article about one of the works on the bill. However — because new music is our thing — this is not always possible. This weekend consists of two world premieres by composers Christian Mason and Huang Ruo, whose works will involve the public in their realisataion.

We asked Philip Cashian (composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music) to discuss a work that reflects the public participation element of Saturday’s concert and he has chosen to look at Workers Union, a work written by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen.


Hugely influential Dutch composer Louis Andriessen was 36 when he wrote Workers Union in 1975 for the Orchestra de Volharding (of which he was a founding member and, at that time, the pianist). Andriessen’s music is heavily influenced by Stravinsky, jazz (particularly boogie-woogie) and American minimalism.

This twenty minute piece is scored for any loud sounding group of instruments and is one of his most performed pieces. It is a political work in which everybody plays in unison throughout: one voice united in delivering the same emphatic message and unified in their intent. After a while this strength in numbers makes the music become almost hypnotic in character even though it’s delivered in an uncompromising and at times ferocious manner. The skill and concentration required for each musician to remain exactly in unison with the rest of the ensemble throughout as Andriessen constantly varies and changes the rhythmic patterns makes a performance exhilarating to watch as it, on one level, becomes an act of physical agility.

Andriessen says of the work: “This piece is a combination of individual freedom and severe discipline: its rhythm is exactly fixed; the pitch, on the other hand, is indicated only approximately, on a single-lined stave. It is difficult to play in an ensemble and to remain in step, sort of thing like organising and carrying on political action”.

And in his performance note in the score he says: “Only in the case of every player playing with such an intention that their part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work.”

The piece is all about rhythm and Andriessen manages to create a single span of music that is uncompromising, obsessive, relentless and constantly surprising. A real tour de force of musical invention. He achieves this by using a very simple rhythmic cell as the basis for the entire work which you can hear in the opening moments of the piece.

The rest of the piece is made out of repetitions, juxtapositions and simple variations of this three note figure in which Andriessen lengthens or shortens part of it to create new rhythmic patterns. So you hear new ideas being introduced in the music but they always sound related. This helps give the piece a feeling of fusion.


Here’s your guide for what to listen out for:

Opening-06” Three note rhythmic figure out of which he builds the entire piece.

56” Here is the first very noticeable change in the music.

2’53” Another introduction of a new 7 note rhythmic figure.

05’28” A new rhythmic figure very clearly related to the opening of the piece.

11’05”-11’15” A relentless motor rhythm

11’20”-11’45” A gradual diminuendo in the music.

14’35”-15’08” An obsessive, repetitive section where the music gets stuck in a groove.

15’04” A brief return to the opening of the piece.



Here is some further listening that I would recommend, to give context to Andriessen’s music:

Terry Riley In C

Stravinsky Sacrificial Dance from The Rite of Spring

Count Basie The Kid from the Red Bank

Steve Reich Music for large ensemble

Julia Wolfe Dig Deep – Ethel

© Philip Cashian






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We’re getting to know the people behind the music, in Step 2 of our online guide to London Sinfonietta’s concert CONNECT: The Audience as Artist this Saturday. In this quickfire interview, we ask composer Christian Mason about his highs, his lows and his best musical joke.

What do you regarcm-8-c-manu-theobaldd as your greatest artistic achievement?

Well, the piece which so far gets closest to my artistic ideal of an expansive sustained luminosity is probably The Years of Light. Also, the discovery of the handkerchief-harmonica (simply a harmonica wrapped in a handkerchief) which makes one of my favourite sounds and features in that piece. But there are other pieces with other concerns that I feel equally, or more, connected to depending on the time of day/week/month/year…

What do you fear?
Time, especially the lack of it.

Which piece of music has had the biggest effect on you?
Giacinto Scelsi’s Anahit or Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Hoch-Zeiten

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
Dawn improvisation in a field by the river Ouse (York), attended only by the local sheep.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
A book about Kingfishers and Piranesi’s Le Vedute di Roma.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
I think it was The Beatles 1967-70 Blue Album compilation (on cassette!).

Describe yourself in three words. 
Melancholy yet joyful.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?
Unemployed (in a society with a universal basic income).

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Probably my sister, Barbara Keal, and my first composition teacher Sinan Savaskan.

Tell us your best musical joke.
You’d be better off watching Monty Python’s ‘Johann Gambolputty’ sketch:



This Saturday (22 October 2016) two ground-breaking commissions by Christian Mason and Huang Ruo give you the chance to perform in world premieres with the London Sinfonietta at St John’s Smith Square as part of CONNECT: The Audience as Artist. With no musical experience needed, glass bottles, baoding balls, tin foil, harmonicas and whispers will be your instruments.

CONNECT is a European-wide project to create and perform new compositions which involve the public in their realisation. The works performed this weekend will also receive performances by the project’s other core ensembles: Asko|Schönberg in Amsterdam, Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt and Remix Ensemble Casa da Música in Porto.

Ahead of the concert, we have created a playlist of music by both composers.

Christian Mason:

Huang Ruo:


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The debriefing that followed last Saturday’s TURNING POINTS: STOCKHAUSEN event was abundant! After the performances, the audience had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Jonathan Cross (Professor of Musicology at Oxford University); attend a Q&A with the London Sinfonietta, Jonathan Cross and musicians; try their hand at Mikrophonie I and meet with musicians informally at the bar.We were delighted to see such enthusiasm amongst our audience, and a big thanks to everyone for coming out on what was very wet evening indeed.

On entering the event space, people were handed a Stockhausen quiz that they could fill out throughout the evening, as they learnt about Stockhausen and attended performances of his works. Below, we have published the questions and answers to that quiz:


Post-concert Q&A with London Sinfonietta, Sound Intermedia and Jonathan Cross

1. In what colour did Stockhausen dream? He dreamt of the string orchestra in Trans bathed in this colour light. It represented the idea of ‘good’ to him.
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: violet-red

2. In 1970 Stockhausen, along with an architect, constructed a completely spherical hall. It seated 550 people, who were then surrounded by loudspeakers, which projected sound in circles, lines and spirals amongst them. Where was this?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: Osaka, Japan, at the World Fair

3. What is the last ‘live’ instrument played in Kontakte?
Answer in Hall One performance: snare drum with brush

4. How many individual units are there in Piano Piece XI?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: 19

5. How many implements are used to resonate the tam tam in Mikrophonie I?
Answer on the night:  50-65

6. What is the title of Stockhausen’s famous 1955 essay, which attempted to uncover the relationship between rhythm and pitch?
Answer in foyer (chapter 4): …how time passes…

7. A 1969 performance of Stimmung was disrupted by young composers, in protest at this ‘too authoritarian music’. Which now famous Dutch composer challenged Stockhausen to defend himself?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: Louis Andriessen

8. What does ‘stimmung’ mean in English?
Answer displayed in foyer (chapter 6): Trick question!
‘Stimmung’ is a German word whose meaning is difficult to render in English. Stockhausen himself suggests it can denote ‘tuning’ or ‘true intonation’. But it also has implications of ‘attuning’, as well as ‘mood’, ‘feeling’, ‘atmosphere’ and ‘spirit’. Stockhausen’s work entitled Stimmung (1968) explores all these aspects. In the most basic sense, the work is concerned with tuning, in that it presents just a single well-tuned chord across its c.70-minute duration, sung by six singers. It is, in fact, the ‘pure’ sound of harmonics above a fundamental B-flat, that is, it presents the harmonic ‘spectrum’ of that sound. Clearly it was a product of his analysis of sound in the studio.


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Last Saturday (Saturday 15 October 2016) was the first installation of our Turning Points series in association with Kings Place and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The aim of the series is to establish a new-format of concerts which explores game-changing masterworks in music history. Audiences were encouraged to soak up the music of Stockhausen through listening, watching, reading and discussing.

Throughout the evening, we posted pictures of backstage, set-up and during the event over on our Instagram page. Check out the photos below or follow us now to see what we got upto!


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The fourth step in our online guides this season, strives to give you the opportunity to hear about the creative process from the composers themselves, or sneak a peek inside their sketchbook.

In preparation for Saturday’s Turning Points concert, we are lucky to have some shots from rehearsals for Kontakte one of the works that will be performed during the evening. Take a look at the photos to get an insight into the composition and its instrumentation.


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