Articles, Track By Track

TRACK BY TRACK | “anthem”: a celebration and dissection of liveness (Birmingham Record Company)

“The music collected on this album is more than just a document of something that happened: it’s a celebration of the vitality and variety of musical performance today.” Birmingham Record Company

Birmingham Record Company (BRC) presents eclectic and exciting new releases by artists who challenge, innovate and transform ideas of music today. Based at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in the heart of the UK and with an international outlook, BRC celebrates off-beat work that sits between genres. As well as 12-minute micro-operas and Country-and-Western piano quintets, listeners are just as likely to find music structured around famous football matches, recordings of 1920s mechanical dancehall organs, and story-telling in yoga position.

In this edition of “Track by Track”, four of the album’s featured composers – Emily Abdy, Andy Ingamells, Ryan Latimer, and Genevieve Murphy – and Paul Jackson guide us through the inspirations behind BRC’s latest compilation release anthem, released in April 2022.

The Concept

anthem brings together new live recordings from five composers who make striking and unconventional music. Each track on this diverse compilation deals with the liveness of music: that powerful experience of witnessing musicians on stage, in person, in the present.

Whether embracing performances that can only happen in person, or rejecting live performance altogether, the music collected on this album is more than just a document of something that happened: it’s a celebration of the vitality and variety of musical performance today.

anthem (Emily Abdy)

this is my anthem – a reference to the phrase one may use to describe their favourite song

music built to impress – likely composed in a way to appeal to a certain audience

no one but you – yet this is an individual’s anthem and they feel a sense of ownership

in the back of my pocket – which is good because that sells

you’ll start a war and a panic – kisses, musical differences, limited edition vinyl reprint…

*sigh* – (again)

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – that sells too

Dwelling somewhere between conceptual song, cinematic soundtrack, theatrical poetry and contemporary-classical music, Emily Abdy’s work is simultaneously highly personal and empathetic, exploring visceral themes such as mental illness, gender equality, the conventions of the music industry…

Emily is currently Associate Composer with London-based label and promotion company nonclassical. Her work has been commissioned, performed and recorded by a variety of professional ensembles and musicians across the UK and overseas. Emily often performs and self-releases her own work; she studied at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, she was awarded first class undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in music composition, several composition prizes, a Universal Music UK Sound Foundation bursary and was selected to participate in the 2020 International Composers Meeting in Apeldoorn, NL.

Learn more about Emily Abdy here.

Petting Zoo (Andy Ingamells)

I like touching people’s hands while they play music. For me it’s about making a connection. Whatever it is, in Petting Zoo I told a true story about meeting a composer and his dog as a way of getting an audience up on stage to manipulate the hands of Apartment House as they tried their best to continue playing. I wanted to invite an audience to approach musicians and interact with their hands, caressing, stroking, tickling, touching, exploring and manipulating them for themselves. Apartment House seemed like they might just be up for this kind of thing – and to my surprise and delight, they were (although they were keen to emphasise that the piece should not damage the instruments and should encourage gentle touching!).

Andy Ingamells’ work is grounded in traditional elements of music-making and Western classical concert conventions, but implemented in a differentway: elements such as score-reading, performance and improvisation often do not give way to recognisably musical material. His is a musical practice that does not privilege the sounding result, but sees it as one amongst many different and equal possibilities.

Andy has filled taxis with recorder players reading traffic lights as notation, played gold-painted pianos overflowing with buckets of red wallpaper paste, invented the game of violin cricket, and been tickled by improvisers playing his ticklish body as a musical instrument. His work has been performed in the National Portrait Gallery, the Handel & Hendrix House Museum and Café Oto in London, the Orgelpark and Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, the Lapidarium of Kings in Copenhagen, Walled City Festival in Derry, Birmingham International Dance Festival, and Cheltenham Music Festival.

Learn more about Andy Ingamells here.

Gorilla and Orange Sun (Ryan Latimer)

The title refers to the work of author and illustrator Anthony Browne, known for his absurd depictions of gorillas strolling the streets in cardigans and raincoats, and the sun as a giant floating orange. Browne creates worlds where things that do not normally “belong” are brought together in cohabitation. He draws directly on the work of other artists such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte or engages with various historical trends including pointillism or dadaism, often in combination with allusions to contemporary culture, from superhero movies to soap operas. For me, his work demystifies the high-art world without undermining it and liberates iconic works from the stranglehold of canonic appropriation and explores them as objects of play.

There is, however, an apparent sense of celebration and homage in the way that Browne engages with these existing works and influences. Similarly, as a composer, it is important for me to engage critically and openly with the diversity of music around me. To explore the influences that have informed my own personal understanding and appreciation of music—from early childhood curiosities, to partial musical memories, to more present interests—leaving clear traces of them close to the musical surface.

Ryan Latimer is a British composer whose music has been described as “anarchic and cartoonishly fun” (BBC R3), “deliciously playful” (Classical Music Magazine) and “irresistible in its tongue-in-cheek irreverence” (ISCM). He has written for a variety of forces ranging from music for orchestras, choirs and ensembles; to opera and theatre; and more recently, for dance.

In 2021, his debut album was be released worldwide on NMC Recordings. “Allusive, sparkling and emphatically rhythmic” (The Guardian), it reached #2 in the UK Official Charts and received 5 stars from BBC Music Magazine. Ryan is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham and supported by PRS for Music Foundation.

Learn more about Ryan Latimer here.

F.I.N.E (Genevieve Murphy)

“Fine” can stand for:
Fucked Insecure Neurotic Exhausted.

It can be very hard to explain to others when one feels unhappy or challenged by life’s obstacles. I like the positivity that the word ‘fine’ implies and I often use it in order to be polite and to stay away from the subject of how I really feel.

This suite is inspired by the word ‘Fine’, and by perseverance, parody and connection. If one feels challenged or unhappy, we require perseverance in order to move forwards. It is important to connect and seek support from others and through the use of the word ‘fine’ we can try to accept in ourselves, certain feelings of defeat, insecurity, neurosis, and exhaustion.

Genevieve Murphy combines performance art / visual art with contemporary classical music and her concepts are frequently based around psychology and disability. As well as an independent maker, she has collaboratedand performed with visual artists, free improvisers,choreographers and producers and has toured internationally with London based visual artist Martin Creed. Genevieve received a Masters in Composition at The Royal Conservatory of The Hague in 2013 and currently lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Learn more about Genevieve Murphy here.

kr-ti-sa (Corey Mwamba)

If the first four works are live experiences imperfectly yet intriguingly rendered as audio-only recordings, then Corey Mwamba’s kr-ti-sa from 2020 is something a little different.

In 2018 Mwamba publicly retired from live performance for good, citing a number of reasons which he details on his personal website. Since then he has maintained a practice of releasing recordings of stunning variety and detail to subscribers of his Bandcamp page (subscribe if you can!). In kr-ti-sa he plays all the instruments that you hear, creating a simulation of the characteristic group interaction of live improvised music. This way of creating music outside of traditional contexts and connecting with others in online spaces has become more important as musicians face up to the negative environmental consequences of travel, and the negative mental consequences of performing live night after night for different audiences in different cities across the globe.

(words by Paul Jackson, 2022)

Corey Mwamba creates music using vibraphone, dulcimer, electronics and small instruments. His music contains elements of jazz, folk from different countries, and electronica. He retired from public performance in March 2019 and is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly show on BBC Radio 3 that plays adventurous jazz and improvised music from across the globe. He is an active advocate of the arts and adventurous programmer of new music in Derby.

Learn more about Corey Mwamba here.

Stream and buy anthem at the links below:

Follow the composers behind anthem at:

Track by Track is a new segment on PRXLUDES, and our first foray into music coverage outside of our traditional interview format. If you’d like to see more content like this, or more content besides our in-depth composer interviews, let us know – leave a comment or get in touch!

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