‘Exploring Xenakis: Performance, Practice, Philosophy’

Tomorrow I will be giving a talk at the ‘Exploring Xenakis: Performance, Practice, Philosophy’ Symposium with colleague and critical theorist Michael D. Atkinson. Our talk discusses Xenakis, the Avant Garde, May ’68 and the legendary quote ‘Xenakis, not Gounod’ which was scrawled in graffiti during the protests in France.

Below is an abstract of our talk:

May ’68 saw a time of political tension in France: the Situationist International signified a growing desire to move away from capitalism and the world of boredom and alienation it entails, and, likewise, young radicals wanted to free music from the shackles of reification that contradicted the notion of ‘avant garde’. People protested via music, vandalism, public broadcasts, sexuality, subversive behaviour, and vandalism. Graffiti was rife, with phrases such as ‘Commute, work, commute, sleep…’, ‘In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society’, and ‘Art is dead, don’t consume its corpse.’ Upon the walls of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris were graffitied the words ‘Xenakis, not Gounod’.

This focus on an avant-garde practice that exemplifies experimentation, chance, subversion, and the like was part of an effort to sublate art with everyday life, that is, to enact a revolution of everyday life. In this talk, we will explore the intertwining of such revolutionary desires with the avant-garde tendencies of the day, and, further, how the ageing, commodification, and subsequent reification of the Avant Garde is antithetical to the desires and ideology behind itself. We will focus in particular on how Xenakis and those like him became central to the revolutionary consciousness of the day, and what it is about Xenakis’ practice that paradoxically disavows such possibilities.

Reviewing the New Music Biennial Festival #nmb17

Any readers following my Instagram feed will be aware that I was reviewing this year’s New Music Biennial Festival in Hull. For those of you who could not attend the festival this year, my article features in Sounds Like Now: Contemporary Music News  and can be read here.

Below is a preview of the article, also available here.

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Eliza Carthy at the PRSF New Music Biennial 2017, photo Tom Arran

The New Music Biennial festival, funded by the PRS for Music Foundation, claims to push ‘the boundaries of new music’. It provides an opportunity for new musical works to be showcased across the United Kingdom and on BBC Radio 3. The term ‘new’ in this instance is to be taken literally: these works were very recently written (some were world premières) and drew on music history, existing practices and the musical techniques of a variety of cultures. The festival, initially presented in Hull, the 2017 City of Culture, was repeated at London’s Southbank Centre and follows the previous models of this festival to present a variety of eclectic genres of music being written today.

To access this article in full, you must purchase a subscription or log in if you are a subscriber.

Upcoming Performance in Bydgoszcz

Tomorrow, accordionist Ryszard Lubieniecki will perform my piece ‘We Lived in the Gaps between the Stories.’ (2016) for amplified accordion as part of his final diploma recital at the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz. He will also perform works by Richard McReynoldsGilberto AgostinhoDominik KarskiPiotr Bednarczyk, as well as his own piece black-control-Holzfällen

This recital is free, and so if you happen to be in Bydgoszcz, then why not have a listen.

Event details: June 16, 2017, 1:30 pm, Concert Hall of the Academy of Music,  Gdańsk Street 20, Bydgoszcz

A full programme is available here.

Upcoming Performance: Amplified Accordion in Wrocław

My composition for solo accordion ‘We Lived in the Gaps between the Stories.’ (2016) will be performed for a second time by Ryszard Lubieniecki in Wrocław on June 13. This piece was first performed at Wrocław’s Spadochron festival last week.

Tomorrow’s event comprises a performance of amplified accordion music, commissioned and performed by accordionist Ryszard Lubieniecki with additional electronics by Piotr Bednarczyk. The event features many new works by composers Richard McReynoldsGilberto AgostinhoDominik KarskiPiotr Bednarczyk, and Ryszard Lubieniecki himself. 

If you happen to be in Wrocław tomorrow, then why not have a listen. A full programme is available here.

World Premiere in Wrocław

On June 10, 2017, accordionist Ryszard Lubieniecki will premiere my composition for solo accordion ‘We Lived in the Gaps between the Stories.’ (2016). The premiere will take place in Wrocław’s festival ‘Spadochron‘ (parachute). ‘Spadochron’ is a festival dedicated to solo improvised music and curate by Michał Sember and Lena Czerniawska.

Due to the nature of the score, ‘We Lived in the Gaps between the Stories.’ is of indefinite duration and Lubieniecki’s performance at this particular event will last approximately 20-30 minutes.

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poster for the music festival ‘Spadochron’ in Wrocław

Further details of the event, along with the above poster, can be found here.

Upcoming Performance: *Pacific Pleasures*, an opera.

I have composed a one-act opera called Pacific Pleasures (with libretto by Jorge Balça), which will be performed by Bloomsbury Opera company on March 25th and 26th in London. More information can be found here and on the poster below. 17159237_262559437526537_2985126229500355757_o

Pacific Pleasures (2016-17) is a prequel to Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti (1952),
which tells the story of a married couple living together in suburban America.
They are both desperately unhappy in their relationship and frequently argue.
In contrast to this, Pacific Pleasures tells the story of how this soon-to-be married
couple were born, met, fell in love, and got married.

Stage Director: Jorge Balça
Musical Director: Karin Hendrickson
Designer: Isobel Harcourt

Cast: Rebecca Cuddy
Edward Laurenson
Eleri Gwilym
Joshua Baxter
Ashley Mercer

Tickets to this event can be obtained here.

Słuchalnia Festival in Toruń

On the 25th November, Trio Layers will be performing angustia for flute, violin, accordion, and fixed-media electronics in ‘Słuchalnia’, the fourth edition of the international festival for new music in Toruń. More information about this festival is available here.

Trio Layers will also be performing works by Bednarczyk, Blecharz, Lubieniecki, Skrzypczak, Amador, and Karsk. A program is available here and here.

‘avant garde’ and ‘Avant Garde’: A Practice-Led Investigation

I will be giving a talk at the University of Leeds in December. More information will be available here at some point. My talk is based on my PhD thesis, and is titled ‘”avant garde” and “Avant Garde”: A Practice-Led Investigation’. Below is an abstract for the talk:

‘avant garde’ and ‘Avant Garde’: one term denotes artistic progression, the other describes a fixed concept. Both fuel artistic practice. The terms are easily and often confused and this goes someway to blurring the boundaries between being progressive and adhering to a style. This talk examines and compares these two definitions by way of an introspective examination of the compositional process. Investigations involve a series of forced attempts at being avant garde (progressive); however, as will become clear throughout this talk, forced attempts at being progressive are destined to fail due to the inescapable phenomenon of Meno’s paradox that, instead, explains the existence of the Avant Garde as a fixed concept. Theoretical research suggests that this is symptomatic of the way current society is organised. This talk explores ways in which compositional practice can work with the societal status quo in order to be avant garde in the progressive sense.

music-research-seminar-talk

The above image comprises the cover of the 1983 edition of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle by J.R. Eyerman, superimposed onto a photo of Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square taken by Micha Theiner (edited by Michael D. Atkinson and Alannah Marie Halay).

Image credit: Kasimir Malevich, J.R. Eyerman, Micha Theiner, Michael D. Atkinson, Alannah Marie Halay