History in Surround, Record Breaking and New Toys

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A new addition to my PA hire stock, Soundcraft Vi1. 

This year so far has been nothing if not varied. It started with stage managing the beautiful Mizmorim festival of Jewish chamber music in Basel, Switzerland (the Doric Quartet were a complete revelation). Moving straight on from that, I went in to touring a project reworking Broadside Ballads, a project I produced with Sound UK and the Bodleian Library Oxford and which featured Sam Lee, Lisa Knapp and Nathanieal Mann. Some fantastic audience and press responses mean we hope to take it out again in the future.

March saw audiograft Festival for what (I think!) is my 7th year of providing sound for this festival of experimental music. Each year gets better and better. Some highlights this year were Paul Whitty’s piece “somewhere and field” for his group [rout]. Tiny sounds from [rout] were amplified in 4 point surround alongside field recordings made in Netherexe, Devon. audiograft finished with Japanese sound artist Katsura Mouri literary breaking (vinyl) records whilst filling the Old Fire Station in Oxford with powerful drones, quite a contrast.

Threaded through the year have been preperations for Iain Chambers 19 point surround sound epic House of Sound, to be presented in the square of the Guildhall in London in September. Charting the sonic history of London with recorded speech, field recordings, music concrete and live performers Iain’s really managed to pack centuries of history into what will be a fascinating piece.

Coming up in the rest of the year I’ll be sound engineering some of the dates on the tour of the Nu Civilisation Orchestra jazz big band as they celebrate what would of been the 100th birthday year of 6 giants of jazz including Ella Fitzgerald and Tad Dameron, alongside school children mentored through their The Jazz Ticket programme.

Later in the year I’m looking forward to returning to mixing sound for outdoor large scale theatre producers Periplum and their version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in Hull.

Dotted around all this will be dates sound engineering Colin Riley’s In Place project as he explores regional cultural identity and dialect in England, Ireland and Wales. A similar theme continues with a tour providing sound engineering, PA and tour management for Sound UK as composer/ performer Kerry Andrews presents here new works around wild swimming in rural locations… can’t wait!

 

Going with Múm to Iceland

About 3 times a year I have the pleasure of tour managing Kronos Quartet .This November I will be joining them for their trip to perform with Icelandic band Múm in Reykjavik. I remember buying Summer Make Good when I was a student in its beautiful packaging. Looking forward to meeting them for the first time and to visiting Iceland Airwaves festival for the first time too.

Mallorca to Aldershot, Summer 2016

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(Photo courtesy of Tammy Bedford)

This summer has been wet, busy and interesting in equal measure.

Production managing Mark Anderson’s intense and excellent show Furious Folly (https://www.1418now.org.uk/commissions/furious-folly/) in Oxford (the wet bit) led in to Production Managing Proms at St. Jude’s festival in North London. Proms raises between £50,000 and £60,000 each year for  two local charities, Tallis Scholars a definite highlight this year.

July was my first trip to Priddy Folk Festival, providing PA and mixing their late night sessions. Ushti Baba, the band on the Friday night were probably the venn diagram of all perfect festival bands, all rammed shoulder to shoulder on a stage barely more than 8 feet wide.

Ducking out of Priddy for one day I headed off for a culture shock to stage manage Will Young on the Floating Stage at Henley Festival.

August saw a short tour with Kronos Quartet, Bratislava and (unusually) Mallorca. Musically stunning as ever. Superbly looked after too by the team at Viva Musica in Bratislava: http://vivamusica.sk/en/ .

With September came a last minute call to record a new commission by Nathaniel Mann for Gurkha musicians in Aldershot. A fine introduction to traditional Neplali music which I knew very little about, essentially it’s LOUD! The recordings (traditional Nepli music and a collaboration with Nathaniel) are due for release on Antigen Records (http://antigenrecords.com/) in due course. The project is produced by Tammy Bedford (http://www.tammybedford.co.uk/) and part of the consortium New Dimensions (http://www.newdimensions.org.uk/)

 

 

April: Kronos Quartet in France and Turkey

April was mostly a small tour with the Kronos Quartet. As ever the programmes were fantastic, I find out about so much interesting music from Kronos, Nicole Lizée for one but also Mary Kouyoumdjian whose Bombs of Beirut is utterly moving and thought provoking.

In Arras I found some lovely sounds – appropriate after working so recently with Arno Fabre and Mario de Vega.

Recorded on my phone…. Arras bells

Then there was the amazing tower of the Cathedral at LeHavre, the view from my hotel towards the venue, the Royal de Luxe workshops in Nantes, and then off to Ankara for a couple of days:

Le Havre Cathedral

Le Havre Cathedral

View to Le Havre venue

View to Le Havre venue

nantes venue

Le Lieu Unique venue, Nantes

The Sultan's Elephant

The Sultan’s Elephant – Royal de Luxe

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds in Ankara

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds in Ankara

Patchwork of old rugs, Ankara

Patchwork of old rugs, Ankara

Working with the Kronos Quartet and crew is always a joy, and this tour was no exception!

March: mostly Audiograft!

So Audiograft is over for another year. The helium has been returned, and the installations taken down. Glass tubes have been posted back to Japan.

Working as Production Manager was really rewarding and there was great stuff as always, but this time the highlights for me were Arno Fabre‘s ‘Cloche’ (our six-year-olds were fascinated, and thought the moment the bell dropped down and rang was ‘Wow!’), and Sally Golding‘s ‘hacked cinema’ of tampered-with film and projections, visceral, making me feel excited in a way I haven’t quite felt about music/ sound for a while.

But Audiograft is full of highlights, simply because of the range and commitment to experimental work. This year, as well, the ‘audioHEARth‘ ran again at the Oxford Hub, to ‘nurture the social side of Audiograft’, adding an extra dimension, encouraging people to meet and discuss the events and artists, and bringing Audiograft right into the heart of Oxford. Hearing Sally Golding talk about her work as I recovered at the end of the main week with a very large hot chocolate felt like something there should be more of.

Onwards and upwards: next thing is tour managing in France with the Kronos Quartet; I’m looking forward to hearing them play (amongst many other things) my favourite piece written for them, Nicole Lizée’s Death to Kosmische.

A Trip to Oslo

I’ve just come back from 3 days in Oslo, thanks to the endless contact book and contagious enthusiasm of Fiona Talkington (Radio 3 Late Junction, Scene Norway, etc. etc.) and also the kind support of the Norwegian Embassy in London.

The trip centred around seeing Garth Knox and Unni Løvlid perform their (very) new and stunning collaboration curated by Fiona for her ‘Conexions’ series with the venue Riksscenen. The trip extended into meetings and conversations with Nymusikk, Ultima Festival, Nordsk Jazz Forum and some of Fiona’s (and my) favorite musicians.

I have to admit that many of my perceptions of Norway were formed by the covers of ECM albums and the evocative soundscapes of artists like Arve Henriksen and Terje Insungset (all that snow and months of darkness you know!). That, linked with the obvious (but changing) financial differences between Norway and the UK and the fact that they trounced us in the race to the south pole (primarily by being just better, albeit a bit full of it), made the approach irrationally daunting for me.

Luckily I’m not Scott and the Norwegian music scene isn’t Amundsen; I’ve rarely felt so welcomed. The overriding experience was of a group of people who think deeply about what it is they do and why. We talked of little else, and actually managed to achieve many great, solid, creative things as well as talking about them. Time will tell, but the major things I’ve taken away from the trip (other than some nice but overpriced duty free chocolate with Fjord pictures on) is a much stronger sense in my own head of the validity of all our approaches to music.

Almost all of my strongest, fastest and sometimes only reactions to music are emotional. Scraping my way through a music degree and ending up (happily) in the promotion of contemporary music (note the small ‘c’, though we do big ‘C’ too sometimes) I’ve always felt rather guilty about this. So much rigorous and challenging thought goes into festivals like Ultima and programmes like Nymusikk, magazines like The Wire etc. that I’ve always pictured myself as somewhere on the other side of a binary divide from intellectually articulate places like this. It struck me, talking to clear-headed Lars Petter from Ultima Festival (in a coffee shop too cool for carpet in Grünerløkka), that actually (obviously) music is the porous divide between these approaches to music, a Venn diagram with the actual stuff we all get excited about fighting it out for our attention in the middle. In other words, we’re all right and when we’re wrong is when we say we’re not….

On the occasions I’ve moved through the music to an intellectual understanding of context and process which I can actually grasp, it’s only heightened my emotional appreciation. I love Countdown by John Coltrane viscerally because It was the first time I realized what it was he was playing (all the notes in the chords), not because I had a strong emotional reaction to it when I first heard it; I love field recording because of the focus it gives to our everyday experience and the fact that it allows you to think about that. There was also a strong sense amongst the people I met that there’s no point doing something (in our case presenting sound and music) without knowing deeply what it is you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what sense it makes given what’s around it. I must always strive to do that: my job as a promoter of music and sound should be to bring people in from all approaches to music, from the Venn diagram spanning both intellectual and emotional responses, through the music, to the ‘other sides’. That all sounds obvious I guess and I sort of already knew that but it’s still a newly internalized realization to me.