While I’ve been kept incredibly busy with the stresses of my Masters’ degree, I’ve decided to post this week the first of a series of Quickbites on PRXLUDES – some shortform articles to break up the in-depth interviews.
In this first edition of Quickbites, I asked a few of the artists we’ve interviewed as part of PRXLUDES to talk about some composers, pieces, and records they’ve been listening to recently.
Lately, I have been listening to Ólafur Arnalds a lot, falling in love with his new album some kind of peace. The use of analog synths combined with piano and strings, the easy but emotional harmonic language, and the beautiful voices of Josin and JFDR really impressed me.
Another composer that kept me company during the last few months is Philip Glass – one of my favourite composers of all time. I liked very much the music he composed for the series ‘Tales from the Loop’ by Nathaniel Halpern. Actually, it is always the Glass we know, but it works so perfectly with the images that the result is a marvellous visual and sonic world that absorbed me for eight episodes.
Both of them have influenced me on the writing of “By the sea”, my latest work for saxophone quartet, voices, and synth, written for my MA degree graduation in Venice. “By the sea” is an audio-visual work that aims to make a portrait of the sea, a place that is quite important to me since I lived near to it for all my life.
Michele Deiana (1992, Cagliari, Italy) is a multidisciplinary composer based in Venice. Having studied in Sardinia, Venice and Birmingham, Michele’s work has been performed at festivals and institutions such as La Biennale di Venezia, EXPO Venice, Montréal International Festival of Films on Art, Mutek San Francisco andThinkTank Birmingham Science Museum.
Read PRXLUDES’ interview with Michele Deiana here.
I’ve listened to Kelly Lee Owens’ album Inner Song so much since it came out last year, deep melodic techno with shifting layers of synths and her amazing vocals over the top. I find it inspiring because the music has this richness without being overproduced – I can hear every element in the music without having to really focus on it, and this relative simplicity and the space in each track shows what you can achieve with a few really good elements.
Since Mogwai’s album As the Love Continues dropped this year, I’ve found myself revisiting their old catalogue a lot lately. They’re a hugely influential band for me, their music always has this raw emotional pull that sucks you into their world, whether it’s quiet and melancholic or really fucking loud!
I’ve also been listening to (and taking notes from) a producer called Calibre, who makes thoughtful introspective drum’n’bass. I’ve always loved electronic music that merges beats with organic elements and he does it so well. Good music both for chilling out and for dancing!
Torsten Jensen is a musician, pianist and composer based in Bristol, UK. Torsten is best known for his work with piano trio Hexcut, and as the keyboardist of Bristolian jazz fusion outfit Prudent Primate. Torsten’s playing style combines an eclectic mix of influences from jazz, to math rock, to drum and bass.
Read PRXLUDES’ interview with Torsten Jensen here.
At any given moment you’ll find me with a rotating roster of Tansy Davies, Gary Carpenter, Caroline Shaw and Laura Bowler swirling through my earphones. However, it’s specifically works intended for theatre which have had the most impact on my processes as a composer.
A key discovery was Belfast composer Conor Mitchell and his flair for the dramatic. Conor’s The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon is an immersive re-remembering of the Tudor Queen, with the structure of a song-cycle redefined as a ‘live concept album’, in an all-encompassing one-woman rant. The music a character in its own right, this score confirmed for me that the theatrical absolutely has a place in music and caused me to seriously reconsider how I think about opera. It has all of opera’s dimension, drama and even the head of a dead pig – just no singing.
I have recently returned to writing for dance, currently in the midst of the R&D of a second ballet with choreographer Ruaidhri Maguire. I’ve been retracing some old reference points from the creation of our first work, Dear Frances. Composing for dance and specifically for ballet is a balancing act. Whilst Stravinsky’s Firebird and Rite are my ride or die(s), most of my direct inspiration comes from choreography itself and the relationship between movement and music. Akram Khan’s Giselle is one of the most mesmerising performances I have witnessed, with his desolate world seamlessly bound together by music and sound design by Vincenzo Lamagna (adapted from Adolphe Adam’s original). On the note of originals, I am unashamedly un-immune from the classics and will admit that Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ‘balcony’ pas de deux, specifically in Kenneth Macmillan’s version, has unnatural power over my emotional state. Another duet that was significantly influential on the music for the central duets in Dear Frances was Macmillan’s Mayerling ‘Bedroom’ pas, with kaleidoscopic movement driven by John Lanchberry’s arrangements of Liszt.
Amelia Clarkson is a Northern Irish composer currently working between Belfast and Gdansk. Having graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in 2019, Amelia’s work has seen performances at the Southbank Centre, Elgar Concert Hall and Blackheath Halls, the latter of which saw the premiere of critically acclaimed one-act ballet Dear Frances. Amelia is currently a member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians‘ Yeomen scheme, and has recently worked on pieces for the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and Presteigne Festival.
Read PRXLUDES’ interview with Amelia Clarkson here.
It’s been a rather slow start to the year in just about every aspect. As a creator, not only has it been difficult to find the inspiration to create art, it’s also been really difficult to discover new music that just clicks with me, that gives me the spark and the desire to write new music. I’m quite picky with the music I choose to listen to in that way, which can be quite inconvenient at times, but I’m also the kind of person that doesn’t like forcing anything either.
Recently I’ve been listening to works by my peers, such as ‘Resolve’ by Jani and eeph – in fact, I blasted it on repeat the morning it came out. I really like Jani’s music – she has such an ethereal, soulful voice that compliments the melodies she writes so nicely. It’s always a joy listening whatever new things she comes out with!
A couple of my peers have been working on graphic score based compositions, and it’s been really interesting seeing how artistic and varied all their scores are. While I’ve done a couple of these in the past, it’s usually been for electroacoustic works, or scored pieces with an electroacoustic foundation. Seeing all these different approaches has really altered my perception of graphic scores, and I’d be really interested in working with them again, and further integrate my visual art practice with my compositional work.
Catherine Mole – Morning’s Coffee
May Chi is a Hong Kong-born musician, songwriter, composer and artist currently based in the UK. May’s work blends elements of indie, folk, alternative rock and ambient genres to create a sound world truly her own, taking inspiration from her personal experiences to create a cathartic listen.
Read PRXLUDES’ interview with May Chi here.
I could use this to fanboy about those composers/bands that have been crucial to my musical development, yknow, like Zorn, Braxton, Glenn Branca, Matana Roberts, Tim Kinsella etc etc, but everyone is sick of me banging on about them all the time. Instead, I’m going to use this to talk about an album that is so batshit baffling, it’s actually incredible. In a Metal Mood: No More Mr Nice Guy by Pat Boone. It’s all kinds of amazing! I no longer listen to this album ironically anymore! This love is pure sincerity now!
For the uninitiated, Pat Boone was an ultra-Christian crooner from the 50s – the corniest of the corny. And then in the late 90s, after years on the hotel band circuit, made an album of hard rock covers in a big band style. While the imitators are well documented, none of them go all-in on this like Pat Fucking Boone does! Whether it’s the virtuosic horn arrangements, hiring Sheila E to play timbales on their cover of Van Halen’s Panama or getting the backing singers to go “Choo! Choo!” in Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train, everyone goes hard! Props to Mr Boone for rocking the leather trousers too! Highlight has to be Holy Diver which features backing vocals from Ronnie James Dio himself.
Si Paton is a composer, improviser, bandleader, performer and academic currently studying a PhD at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Having been involved in projects such as Selectric, Apocalypse Jazz Unit and Phame, Si is known for his unique and bold approaches to composition and improvisation.
Read PRXLUDES’ interview with Si Paton here.
Photo credits: Patrice Hercay, Juliette Koch, Kenny Shi, Hugh Thomas