Category Archives: How to Listen to the 21st Century

STEP 6: HOW TO DEBRIEF (11 NOV 2016)

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In our debrief for last Friday’s aural theatre performance at St John’s Smith Square, we have chosen to include a blog post from composer Deborah Pritchard who created our very first music map!

In Deborah’s own composition, she uses her synaesthesia to create coloured images that outline the structure of her work. We asked Deborah to invert her usual process and to produce a visual map of Furrer’s FAMA as a listening guide for our audience. The results were both beautiful and informative, and Deborah has kindly put in words the process behind her creation. Scroll down to see some photographs of the creative process and read on to find out more about her approach.

The music map has received some amazing feedback, at the event on Friday night and on social media. It is the first of a new initiative by the London Sinfonietta and we are excited to see what comes next. Look out for another installation by Deborah in December, when she will be guiding you through the sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee.

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Deborah’s Music Map of FAMA

CREATING A VISUAL MUSIC MAP 

My first step in creating a visual map to Beat Furrer’s FAMA was to research the beautiful and intense world of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the home of the goddess Fama (the Goddess of Rumor). This narrative evoked elegiac and translucent images layered like echoes and sounds, and the medium of watercolour seemed right to generate this mesmeric sound world. A leaning towards the colour blue as it demonstrated the fluid and luminous characteristics of FAMA whilst also resonating with past set designs and productions for this work. The addition of text from Arthur Schnitzler’s short novel, Fraulein Else, adds a powerful human element to the piece and I used slightly warmer purples and maroons to show this juxtaposition.

The next step was to measure out the piece in time, and to structure my visual map proportionally to the musical work. I then studied the score and visualised each of the eight scenes through colour and texture, with low to high register moving from bottom to top. Since it would be impossible to represent every single musical event clearly on one side of A4 I decided to highlight what I considered to be important or significant musical events and labelled them consecutively to guide the listener. For example, I chose to label the tam-tam crescendo at the end of Scene 7 since it was a clear and audible musical event. Further to this I decided to keep any vocal writing or passages for the actress in the centre of the map so there could be a keystone around which all other ensemble activity could move. In summary, the task was to create a visual map of FAMA that showed the piece in one glance, guiding the listener through the work.

Whilst this was essentially a listening guide to another composer’s work, my subjective way of working also engaged with my own creativity and sense of beauty. And in conjunction with a delicate layering of watercolour and freehand pen the visual map became both functional and expressive.

© Deborah Pritchard


 After its UK premiere last Friday (11 November 2016) in London, we hold a repeat performance of the work as part of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival this Sunday 20 November 2016 at 10pm. Deborah’s Music Map will be available on the night to guide festival goers through the 21st century masterpiece.

STEP 5: HOW TO GET BACKSTAGE (11 NOV 2016)

Last Friday night we were delighted to welcome Beat Furrer to conduct the UK premiere of his aural theatre masterpiece FAMA at St John’s Smith Square, where he was joined by actress Isabelle Menkes, soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute and the wonderful musicians of London Sinfonietta. Throughout the night we snapped some pics of the performance. Due to the success of the evening and what turned out to be a very busy and very full concert hall, we don’t have an abundance of ‘backstage’ photos but if you missed the live performance, you can certainly get a glimpse into the evening by taking a look at our gallery. More photos will be appearing on our instagram page throughout the week so make sure to follow us here.

STEP 4: HOW TO COMPOSE (FRI 11 NOV 2016)

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161111-beat-furrer-david-furrerWelcome to Step 4 of our online step-by-step guide to Friday’s performance of FAMA by Beat Furrer – who joins us on the night to conduct his 21st century masterpiece in its long-awaited UK premiere, along with actress Isabelle Menke and soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute. We are also pleased to welcome choral group EXAUDI who will perform the eight-part vocal line.

This step offers a sneak peak into the score of FAMA ahead of its performance on Friday. Note the instrumentation of each of the eight scenes, and the instructions outlined by Furrer – and join us on the night to experience this remarkable piece of sound theatre in the flesh.

STEP 3: HOW TO LISTEN (11 NOV 2016)

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Hailed as a miracle after its German premiere in 2005, FAMA finally arrives to the UK. This intriguing piece of aural theatre follows the story of a distressed young woman forced into prostitution in order to pay her father’s debts. London Sinfonietta are privileged to have composer Beat Furrer join them to conduct this long-overdue UK premiere of his 21st century masterwork, along with actress Isabelle Menke and soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute. They are also pleased to welcome choral group EXAUDI who will perform the eight-part vocal line.

In preparation for Friday’s performance of FAMA, we asked Philip Cashian (composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music) to create an audio guide for Furrer’s work. Made up of 8 scenes in total, Philip presents an introduction to the work along with a detailed analysis of the fifth scene which should prepare your listening for the entire work .

BEAT FURRER: FAMA
Sound theatre in eight scenes for 22 instrumentalists, 8 singers, and one actress.

INTRODUCTION

Swiss composer Beat Furrer was 51 when he wrote FAMA in 2005 and already well established as one of Europe’s leading composers as well as having a considerable reputation as a conductor (he was the founder of cutting edge new music ensemble Klangforum Wien).

FAMA is the fifth of seven works Furrer has written for the theatre.

The concept behind FAMA – which he more precisely describes as sound theatre – is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses:  ‘of the home of the goddess Fama, Goddess of Rumour, a place to which all the events and sounds of the world come and find resonance. This space has an overwhelming sensuality where, there is no shouting, but a murmur, like the sea, that sounds from a distance, or the last echoing rumble of thunder.

Writing in 2001 about his Orpheus Books for chorus and orchestra. Furrer offers an interesting insight into how he considers his music; the narrative, compressed into a single instant and captured in endless repetition, is projected into changing spaces. Filtering processes cause individual layers to recede into the background or come to the fore, thereby generating contrasting perspectives.

I find this way of thinking about narrative is clearly audible in Scene 5 which stretches a minimal amount of music out over 14 minutes and within which musical fragments constantly recur. The drama and tension of the scene, however, never dips for a moment, creating an eerie and sinister soundscape that has you on the edge of your seat throughout. It’s almost cinematic even when listening, as I am, to a recording.


AUDIO-ILLUSTRATED GUIDE

SCENE 5

Opening – 53” single, isolated very high harmonics create an immediate sense of isolation.

53” (and recurring throughout) an extremely high pedal that is a disturbing presence for most of the scene.

1’13” clarinet glissandi: this is a recurring gesture in various forms throughout (i.e. 2’57”)

3’29” The first entry of the voice, which over time becomes another recurring element placed in subtly different contexts.

5’49” – 8’40” (and recurring later) Two low, slow moving bass clarinets which create an extremes in register (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_(music)) in the music. From here on the two clarinets are very much in the foreground.

8’43” Bass Drum roll

9’16” Brief, resonant string pizzicatos and tremolo which punctuate the passing of time.

11’06” pulsing clarinets triggered by a brief stab in the piano which echoes the string pizzicatos. The pulsing clarinet figure is heard at other times in the scene.

14’00”-14’03” A very short flurry of activity that ‘switches off’ the scene.


(OPTIONAL) HOMEWORK

Helmut Lachenmann Mouvement ( – vor der Erstarrung)

Luigi Nono Das atmende Klarsein

Bruno Maderna  Oboe Concerto No. 2

Bent Sorensen Sirenengesang

 

© Philip Cashian

www.philipcashian.com

 

 

STEP 2: HOW TO BREAK THE ICE (11 NOV 2016)

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We eva-furrerlook forward to the long-awaited UK premiere of Beat Furrer’s FAMA on Friday 11 November at St John’s Smith Square. Ahead of the immersive aural theatre experience, Eva Furrer, who performs the contrabass flute solo in FAMA this Friday, faced our quickfire questions. Read on to discover some interesting facts about the musician.

 

 

 

 

What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
To be still hungry, interested and astonished about music.

What do you fear? 
To lose my curiosity and passion.

Which piece of music has had the biggest effect on you?
The music I was not allowed to listen to when I was young.

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
Playing Syrinx by Claude Debussy for my Tibetan Master, Tulku Lobsang Rinpoche.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
Always a flower from my garden.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan.

Describe yourself in three words.
Not yet arrived.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?
A writer.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My son David.

Tell us your best musical joke.
Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny (Zappa).

STEP 1: HOW TO SET THE SCENE (11 NOV 2016)

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On Friday 11 November at St John’s Smith Square we enter the sound world of Beat Furrer’s FAMA. We asked composer Beat Furrer, who joins us on the night to conduct the sound masterpiece that is FAMA, to provide a selection of music that inspires him as a composer:

Allesandro scarlatti Aria “Mentre io godo in dolce oblio” (from “La Santissima Vergine”)

Franz Schubert Schwanengesang

George Frideric Handel Ariodante

Antonio Vivaldi Orlando

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi salve regina

Alban Berg Wozzeck

Beat also finds beauty and inspiration in:
– Vocal music of the Renaissance and Baroque period
– John Dowland
– Flamenco
– A compilation of vocal music from all over the world called “Le voix du monde”

STEP 6: HOW TO DEBRIEF (22 OCT 2016)

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In the sixth and final step of our online guide to last Saturday’s CONNECT: The Audience as Artist concert at St John’s Smith Square – and its preceding conference at Southbank – we step back and debrief. In this installment, we hear from Barbara Palczynski. Barbara was the Project Consultant on CONNECT and she has kindly given us an insight into the work that’s gone into such a mammoth project, and her very own step-by-step guide to organising a large-scale project.

 

ARRANGING YOUR JIGSAW PUZZLE

One of the most rewarding parts of being a Projects Consultant is the variety of work that comes your way. Having spent most of last year colluding with app developers and researchers to build our super successful Clapping Music app, it was quite a contrast to find myself sitting in a board room in the Casa da Música in Porto with the heads of four top European music ensembles, agreeing to oversee a large scale artistic collaboration. The Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne normally offers financial support to new commissions but last year they decided it was time to initiate a new approach, to explore new models of supporting new commissions. They chose to bring together four powerful new music moguls under one umbrella to commission new works from two young composers which would actively engage audience members through sharing ideas in the curation process, creative planning and ultimately through their participation in the final work. A sort of semi-immersive approach to developing new works. My task was to oversee it and ensure a timely delivery.

STEP 1: Write a creative brief – something to give to a wide range of composers whom the group felt capable of working to the specification of involving the audience.

STEP 2:  Establish excellent communication – the key to running a smooth project. Getting to know the partners and understanding their different ways of working will help earn their trust. On a large scale project this can be a tall order, with the key players in London Sinfonietta, Remix Ensemble, Ensemble Modern and Asko Schoenberg, spread across four countries, a Swiss foundation, and our eventual composers – one in UK and the other in 3 time zones in New York, Amsterdam and China! Thanks to technology, through Skype, SoundCloud, YouTube, Dropbox and Basecamp, we perused proposals, listened to music, watched clips and Christian Mason and Huang Ruo were chosen as our inaugural composers.

STEP 3: Establish your timescale – ours looked pretty tight – but steadily, with some patience and negotiations of our four seasons and composers’ work schedules, we finally settled on performances in October, November and December 2016 across our four countries. The project was finally a reality – now we just had to ensure we had something to perform!

 

CREATING A PROJECT IDENTITY

After handing the creative responsibility over to the composers, and once the performance dates are settled, the next step is boring but necessary.

STEP 4: Contracting everything from composers’ commission fees with publishers and agents through to concert and rehearsal venue hire to ensure the nuts and bolts are all in place. This process often takes longer than you would expect, namely because turning around emails with multiple partners and settling on agreements can be a somewhat protracted phase. It’s easy to get bogged down at this stage but you just have to push through.

STEP 5: This step is more fun and gets us straight back into creative mode as we work out a project brand which will include a project name and a logo. It must convey in words the vision of the project, and the logo must encapsulate visually the essence of the project. It’s incredibly important that you get this right. So we are in Donald Draper territory. On this project, we need to find a name which can be understood across Europe. Some early suggestions include words like Refresh, Unite, Transform with straplines like Embracing New Audiences through New Music (too boring), Connecting people through music (too obvious), New Music in Motion (hmm, not sure). Putting U in the Music was clever (thanks @JoRynhold) but in the end the team agreed that it needs to be simple.

So we go with CONNECT: The Audience as Artist. Thanks to @thirty8digital, we work together on a logo to complement the project aims and I find there are about fifty shades of brownish grey to match the foundation’s logo. There are multiple rounds of discussions around fonts – who knew people feel so strongly about these things? Luckily there are some very talented people with an eye for design who are really skilled at this. You need to know where the strengths lie in your team and let them run with their ideas. Steer the ship without micro managing, listen and talk to everyone. Emailing is a very useful way to track conversations but it should not replace actual conversations.

STEP 6: The next step involves thinking about how we will get the brand out there. We write a good PR & Marketing strategy to fit the timeline of the project between all the different stakeholders’ marketing teams and to satisfy the funders. The collaborative aspect of the project is going really well and we are getting to know each other across our different countries.

All that remains now is to make the magic happen.


MAKING THE MAGIC HAPPEN

When I worked at the Philharmonia Orchestra we often referred to the Concerts department as the ‘engine room’ and for good reason. Without the concert, there is no product. So it falls to the concerts department now to take the reigns…

STEP 7: The concerts department were responsible for scoping a workshop and development phase with the composers to enable them to map out their scores. Geographically, it was helpful from the London Sinfonietta perspective that one of our composers Christian Mason lives in the UK and his In the Midst of Sonorous Islands take shape quickly with the team. Technology also allows us good communication with Huang Ruo, and we skype and talk and share vivid ideas about the metaphor of his The Sonic Great Wall. The main aim of this workshop phase is for the composers to explore how best to work with the public and for us to understand more about the ideas the composers are developing and for the players to meet the composer. There are 3 workshops in London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. We learn to blow bottles, jingle the Chinese baoding balls, try different techniques to play harmonicas, recite poetry in different languages and meditate to the distant hum of digeridoos. It is quite mesmerising! It enables us to not only hear some of the composers’ musical ideas, but to film them and interview the audience and gather material for the next piece of the jigsaw.

STEP 8: A promotional video. The extent to which a project benefits from a video is debatable, but certainly having a short promo video that you can direct people to on social media seems to be a very easy way to explain the project. It also acts as a vivid testimonial of our multi-ensemble collaboration. At around this time, we also get a very encouraging piece of news. The Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt are interested in conducting a piece of research around our project, specifically around this question of audience participation. They have funding to support the research and they would like to come to the workshops and and help with the evaluation of the project. We agree unanimously that we want to work with them, and they immediately come on board. This is a great bonus for CONNECT as they are a highly respected academic research body in Germany. Evaluation must form part of every project and we will enjoy working with them after the concerts as well.

STEP 9: This is a new challenge for a concert. Our Learning & Participation strategy requires us to recruit a minimum of 50 participants to become ‘the rehearsed audience’ who will take those parts of bottle and harmonica blowers. It is a tall order, and it inverts the process of marketing for ticket sales, when you are actively recruiting audience members to come to participate and perform. But the spirit of CONNECT is very much about finding new ways to find new audiences. And the incentive for becoming a  recruited participant is that you get discounts on season tickets. At the time of writing this, with only 5 days to go before the works have their world premieres, the suspense is tantalising and I have learned over many years that time will move very slowly in advance of a big event like this. But for sure, we are all excited for the next and final step on Saturday 22 October.

STEP 10: The world premieres and UK performances of CONNECT: The Audience as Artist. And then we relax, ponder, evaluate – and debrief!

© Barbara Palczynski


Check out photos from the activity packed day below. The majority of images captured give you an insight into the hugely successful conference that preceded the evening performance at Southbank, whilst the performance at St John’s Smith Square was an experience best captured in person! 


We would like to thank everyone involved in last weekend’s CONNECT: The Audience as Artist event – of whom there where many! To Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, composers Christian Mason and Huang Ruo, our amazing audience participants who committed to two days of rehearsals, the London Sinfonietta musicians, all who attended the conference, those who spoke at the event and to Barbara – thank you.

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