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LIR003 – PROGRAMME NOTES
The New Music Players & Five Commissions
This CD is the result of a three year cycle of commissions initiated in 1999. The Foundation for Sport and the Arts was the main funder and also supported the recording. The Brighton Festival hosted the ensemble in 2000 and 2001 as part of its contemporary music weekend, and commissioned three of the works. Yorkshire Arts assisted with James Wood’s commission which was premiered at the University of York during our period as Ensemble-In-Residence which ran from 2000 to 2003 and which enabled the ensemble to develop its work, resulting in a series of remarkable world premieres and a much enriched approach to live performance - both with respect to contemporary and twentieth century music. For me, this recording represents the ensemble at its best - brilliant performances of work that we have commissioned and which open up new sound worlds, unafraid to engage directly with myth, philosophy, ritual, and the spiritual relationship of people with the world and the heavens. I am a great fan of complexity - not just in the sense of surface style - but in terms of the way, in music, it can reflect the nexus of human experience. These five works, in different ways, invite the listener to consider some of the beliefs, fears and ecstasies of existence, which a highly Artistic Director, The New Music Players. James Wood: Crying bird, echoing star. (2002) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano Commissioned by the New Music Players with funds from Yorkshire Arts and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. Like many previous works of mine (in particular Stoicheia, Phainomena, Mountain Language and The Journey of the Magi) Crying bird, echoing star is conceived as a discourse of questions (Cries) and responses (Echoes). At the back of my mind was Ives’ The Unanswered Question, where a lone soul intones ‘The Perennial Question of Existence’ to which a quartet search endlessly for ‘The Invisible Answer’ - this discourse is supported by very quiet and ‘eternal’ resonance from the strings who represent the ‘Silences of the Druids - Who Know, See and Hear Nothing’. The discourse in Crying bird, echoing star becomes rather more agitated and complex than in Ives’ work, and brings together two long-held fascinations of mine, namely birdsong and the star patterns of the constellations. Made up from the cries of birds and the echoes of the stars, the discourse is entrusted mainly to the flute, clarinet, violin and cello, with the piano providing rhythmic framework and resonance. Sometimes the cries are answered by one or more echoes, but other times they go unanswered. The musicians are spaced out quite widely on the stage in order to help convey a certain degree of space and perspective. As in Stoicheia, Phainomena and The Journey of the Magi the star patterns of the constellations are developed using my own particular graphic techniques of rotation, augmentation and diminution on both x and y axes, and applied to constantly shifting harmonic fields. It has always struck me how uncannily ‘alive’ and lyrical they become when realised in this way. The birdsong used in Crying bird is based on the songs of twelve birds - Robin, Blackbird, Icterine warbler, Pied butcherbird, Hill blue flycatcher, White-rumped shama, Tropical boubou, Spotted mourning warbler, Black-tailed robin chat, White-browed robin chat, Red-capped robin chat and Rufus-throated solitaire; and the star-patterns are based on twelve constellations - Draco, Bootes, Virgo, Hydra, Ursa Major, Coma Berenices, Corvus, Leo, Crater, Sextans, Lynx and Cancer. Crying bird, echoing star was commissioned by The New Music Players and is dedicated to their director, Edward Dudley Hughes. It was written between December 2001 and March 2002 and first performed on 8 May 2002 at the York Spring Festival of New Music. James Wood
James Wood is known for an unusually wide range of activities as composer and conductor, and also formerly as a virtuoso percussionist. He is the founder/director of the highly acclaimed New London Chamber Choir with whom he has built up a huge repertoire and has made numerous CDs of music ranging from Josquin to Xenakis. Aside from his work with NLCC, he is becoming increasingly in demand as a guest conductor, and has worked with ensembles, orchestras and choirs as diverse as the BBCSO, London Sinfonietta, Sinfonia 21, Ensemble InterContemporain, l’Itinéraire, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Percussion Group the Hague, Belgian Radio Philharmonic, Krakow Radio Orchestra, Champ d’Action, Ictus, Ensemble 2E2M, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln and the Tokyo Philharmonic Choir. As a composer his interests have led to a wide range of works - commissions include works for the Arditti Quartet, Electric Phoenix, Amadinda Percussion Group, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, IRCAM, the Association of German Radio Stations and the BBC. He has twice been commissioned by the Proms, the first time in 1989 for his Oreion (for the BBCSO) and the second time in 1995 for his percussion concerto, Two men meet, each presuming the other to be from a distant planet (for Steven Schick and Critical Band). Other major recent works include Séance (1996), for soprano, mixed chorus, MIDI-vibraphone and electronics, The Parliament of Angels (1997), Mountain Language (1998) for alphorn, MIDI-cowbells, computer and electronics, and Jodo (1999) for soprano, percussion and electronics. His recent work, Journey of the Magi (commissioned jointly by the French State and MUSICA Festival, Strasbourg) was recently premiered in Strasbourg, and also repeated in Montreal by the combined forces of Les Percussions de Strasbourg and Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Montreal, conducted by Lorraine Vaillancourt. His recent BBC commission, Autumn Voices, for violin and electronics received its premiere at the 2001 Huddersfield Festival, by Mieko Kanno. Recent major awards include the 1993 Gemini Fellowship, the 1995/6 Arts Foundation Fellowship for electro-acoustic composition, and a Holst Foundation Award. His music is recorded on Wergo, NMC, Continuum and Mode. His website is www.choroi.demon.co.uk. Gordon McPherson: Explore Yourself (2000) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion Commissioned by the Brighton Festival for the New Music Players. This piece describes the moment when six musicians get together to find out what happens when they are asked to play sounds together. It’s about musicians getting together to enjoy themselves - no agenda in other words. I suppose the title is also a call to young composers to ask themselves what’s really important to their own Gordon McPherson

Gordon McPherson was born in Dundee in 1965. He studied at the University of
York, returning there for his Doctorate, and continuing with post-doctoral research at the Royal Northern College of Music. His work has been performed and broadcast widely throughout the UK and abroad. Recent works have included a second work for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Kamperduin, commissioned to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Camperdown, Friends in Strange Places, a new chamber work recorded for the inauguration of Dundee Contemporary Arts, a second study for guitar, Miami, premiered at the Wigmore Hall in 1998, and Detours, commissioned by the Hebrides Ensemble. The Baby Bear’s Bed, a large amplified work for the London based ensemble Icebreaker, was premiered in Vienna in September; a third string quartet The Original Soundtrack, was commissioned by the Salisbury Festival and Ubeat Destroyer for the Composers Ensemble. Works in progress and preparation include a large scale melodrama The Land of Cakes commissioned for the Dundee Rep’s new ensemble company, a second guitar concertante, Born of Funk and the Fear of Failing, for the Scottish guitarist Allan Neave and Psappha, and a new work for the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland premiered in 2002. He has recently been in demand both as teacher and lecturer and currently teaches composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where he has been appointed Head of Composition as well as lecturing on 20th Century Music and Analysis at St.Andrew’s University. Edward Dudley Hughes: The Sibyl of Cumae (2001) for mezzo, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, double bass, piano, percussion. Music by Edward Dudley Hughes. Text & concept by Tom Lowenstein 2001 Commissioned by the Brighton Festival for Louise Mott and the New Music Players. The Sibyl was priestess of Apollo, through whose mouth the god sang in a shrine at the Graeco-Roman settlement at Cumae, south-west Italy. Like her sisters at the earlier oracle at Delphi, the Cumaean Sibyl was a visionary whose prophetic utterances were not infrequently used to guide state policy. Much of our knowledge of this world comes from Virgil, Ovid and other ancient poets and historians who evoke the Sibyl’s often painful possession by Apollo and her arduous spirit journeys to the underworld. The Sibyl of Cumae is a work in eight sections, or eight separate monologues, treating different aspects of the Sibyl’s mind and history, though together these ‘scenes’ or ‘panels’ might represent, or appear to represent, one skein. At the centre of each scene there is some narrative and/or drama, though the text itself is in varying degrees fragmentary and allusive. One unifying element is the Sibyl of Cumae’s preoccupation with time. The Sibyl has been given near-immortality by Apollo, and can thus look back over a thousand years of mortality: this is balanced by demands on her to predict the future which she alone will live to observe being worked out. The first section is a Ritual Invocation in the nature of a Greek chorus, introducing Apollo, god of sun, light, music. But he is also a dark and unintelligible force, a usurper in that he takes over, at Cumae, from the cult of Demeter, an earlier, dark earth goddess. A quieter, contextualising interlude follows, to provide a visual impression of Cumae. The Sibyl’s sanctuary lies within a mountainous outcrop which stands alone in flat coastal country. A little way inland are the Phlegrean Fields. These are smouldering volcanic pits giving off sulphur fumes which suggest hell just underfoot. Section 3 represents the beginning of the Sibyl’s more expressive monologue. She describes how the god casually and en passant bestowed on her the poisonous gift of prophetic madness. This she carries ‘like a child’s scream’. The scream represents the pain inherent in her career, her relationship with the rogue god she may love, hate and depend on, and also the energic principle which takes her into shamanistic states. In section 4 the Sibyl describes Apollo’s visits to her, when he ‘enters from the trees’ which are visible and audible from the large window cut into the rock of her chamber. This section is one of possession. The god’s visit is conceived as an assault. This derives from the shamanistic idea that a possessed individual is taken over by a spirit or deity, who may then dismember the initiate. In section 5 the Sibyl emerges from trance language and at once enters an account of relationship with an enquirer at Cumae - an emperor who wants to extend Rome. Section 6 is a meditation on the Sibylline leaves, on which prophecies were inscribed. Section 7 refers again to the Sibyl’s initial, semi-erotic meeting with Apollo, but introduces now the idea of her attempt at a pact with him. The final section attempts to redeem the negative aspects with an invocation from the end of the Sibyl’s life when at last she can approach a genuine death. Here the text and music echo and contrast with the form of section 1. The Sibyl can now look forward to not having foresight and knowledge. In death she will join ‘the silent and eventual collectivity’, the silent collective of humanity. She can now dismiss the god and Tom Lowenstein & Edward Dudley Hughes
Edward Dudley Hughes studied music at Cambridge University and Southampton University. Works recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio 3 include an orchestral piece, Crimson Flames, and chamber works such as Aureola, Lanterns, Media Vita, and his two collaborations with the poet Tom Lowenstein: Sun, New Moon and Women Shouting which received its Norwegian premiere in 2001 in the Arctic Cathedral, Tromso, performed by the vocal ensemble I Fagiolini; and The Sibyl of Cumae. In 2001 Edward wrote a new score for the silent film Rain (1929) by Joris Ivens, performed by the New Music Players at the Bath International Music Festival with a simultaneous screening of the film. He was commissioned by the 2002 Bath Film Festival and South West Arts to create a new score for the silent feature I Was Born, But. (1932) by the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. A large-scale choral work for the Bath Camerata was completed in 2003 for performance in Wells Cathedral. Previous commissions include Opus 20, Brighton Festival, Sinfonia 21, Wingfield Arts, and London Sinfonietta. He is artistic director of The New Music Players. Tom Lowenstein is a poet and ethnographer who has worked since the mid-1970s on the myths and histories of an Eskimo community in north Alaska. His studies of pre- contact Alaskan shamanism led to two main books: The Things that were Said of Them, and Ancient Land: Sacred Whale, an early version of which was dramatised on BBC Radio 3 in 1990. The study of shamanism led back to an interest in the poet Virgil whose portrait of the Sibyl of Cumae comes in book 6 of Virgil’s Aeneid. Part of the present text was written in the Sibyl’s shrine outside Naples which was excavated in the early 1930s. Tom Lowenstein is currently writing a history of contact between north Alaskan Eskimos and white people in the late 19th century. He is also composing a narrative poem about his experience of Alaska in the mid- 1970s. Rowland Sutherland: Timeless Odyssey (2000) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion Commissioned by the New Music Players with funds from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. From a young age I have had a fascination for travel. This piece is concerned with the sensations that can embrace you as you travel on long journeys and voyages, and where the sounds and colours of distant places invigorate your imagination. It expresses a captured moment in the context of feelings of anticipation and of having tasted something different from your own surroundings. The music is fully notated until the closing section, the summation of the piece, where the ensemble improvises, extemporizing on chords and scales which have a jazz influenced and modal character. Here some of the scales have Spanish-like inflections: they are used to create new combinations of sound, not specifically to evoke other cultures. This work was commissioned by The New Music Players and is dedicated to them and their artistic director, Edward Dudley Hughes. Rowland Sutherland
Rowland Sutherland enjoys an international career in many different fields of music. He regularly performs in new music ensembles, jazz groups, various non- Western groups, symphony orchestras, pop outfits and as a soloist. He has composed and arranged music for groups, ensembles and for the BBC. Rowland studied flute at the Guildhall School of Music with Kathryn Lukas, Philippa Davies, Peter Lloyd and participated in master classes given by the late Geoffrey Gilbert. He studied jazz with the late Lionel Grigson. Rowland currently teaches at the Trinity College of Music and has also given lessons at the Guildhall School of Music and the Centre for Young Musicians at Morley College, and has coached at Durham University. He has given workshops and demonstrations on dance music with improvisation and DJ-ing at the Trinity College of Music Summer School. Rowland’s experience in non-Western music has led him to tour Morocco in performances with the Gnawa Musicians, record with African master drummer Gaspar Lawal, tour with the ‘Rebirth Brass Band’ from New Orleans; record with Pops Mohamed – master percussionist from South Africa – and the late African jazz pianist Moses Molelekwa; and to perform with the Anglo Chinese music theatre ensemble Inter Artes. Alongside this, Rowland’s involvement with Brazilian music has led him to perform with ‘Olodum’, the famous Afro Bloc from Bahia, Brazil, (who appeared on Paul Simon’s ‘Rhythm of the Saints’ album of 1992 & Michael Jackson’s album ‘History’), the legendary Brazilian drummer and percussionist Dom Um Romao and the cult singer/songwriter Joyce. He has also appeared on stage with Hermeto Pascoal as well as with Flora Purim and Airto. Rowland Sutherland performs with and directs his own band, the critically acclaimed Mistura, who perform predominantly Brazilian as well as Afro-Cuban jazz fusion. Their live album Coast to Coast is on the FMR label and details are at Rowland’s website: www.rowlandsutherland.com. Rolf Hind: The Horse Sacrifice (2001) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion Commissioned by the Brighton Festival for the New Music Players. The Horse Sacrifice - or asvamedha - was a crucial and elaborate part of Vedic (early Hindu) ritual. Reading Roberto Calasso’s description of it in his amazing book KA inspired this piece, which is in no way an attempt to depict such a ritual, although it does contain elements of theatre. One thing which was most important in the symbolism of this apparently extremely grisly ceremony was the sense that each action, each cut of the knife, stood for something much larger - nothing less than all the separate processes of regeneration in the universe. I was particularly interested in this idea of universes being contained in one gesture because of the musical material I had been working with. Most of the music comes from a unison melody which is a kind of fractal, i.e. it repeats itself within itself at four different speeds. I decided that a soloist, the cello, would to some extent represent the sacrifice victim. In each of the four movements, which are played without a break, it has a different role: in the first, responding lamely to the others’ pitiless games; in the second, starting a song which the other players join in with and then try to destroy. The third movement, where the full fractal is heard, forces the cello to burst virtuosically out of the texture. The final movement is subtitled Sesa – or “what remains” – the Hindu concept of what is left after (or before) the earth exists. Here, clattering triangles annihilate the cello’s song, and the instrument sinks, Here are three extracts from KA which I particularly like: “When the sun rose, and the sun was the horse, they were ready to greet it with twenty-one formulas. Each homage was a phrase, a musical articulation. Behind every composition lies the sequence of these formulas.” “There is a horse’s head rolling along the surface of the sky: it is the sun. There is a horse’s head rolling across the earth: it is the receptacle of sweetness. There is a man’s head rolling across the earth: it is the person who hasn’t solved the enigma of the horse’s severed head.” “Like everything, the asvamedha, which is everything, began and ended with water. There was a bath at the beginning. There was a bath at the end. After the final bath, those who do good and those who do evil return to their village together The Horse Sacrifice is dedicated to Ray. Rolf Hind

Rolf Hind studied composition at the Royal College of Music with Edwin Roxburgh
and Jeremy Dale Roberts. He subsequently didn’t write a note for ten years,
inhibited by working as a pianist with many of the world’s finest composers, including Ligeti, Xenakis, James MacMillan, Bent Sørensen, Poul Ruders, Simon Holt, Tan Dun and Unsuk Chin. Two factors in the last few years have encouraged him to write: a number of visits to India, whose mythology and culture have influenced several pieces, as well as the support and friendship of a number of Danish composer friends, notably Bent Sørensen. He has played his own pieces for prepared piano, Cloud Shadow and Solgata, widely in Europe and the Far East and in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The Horse Sacrifice, written for The New Music Players, was subsequently broadcast by the same ensemble as part of the BBC’s Music Live in York. He has written/improvised a score for WDR Cologne’s radio production of the play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, composed a set of songs for voice, cello and piano setting Hindi love lyrics, called The City of Love and Your Black Mouth for clarinet and harp. His most recent commission was for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, a violin and piano piece Das Unenthullte which he premiered with his regular duo partner, David Alberman, in November 2002. He is currently working on another solo piano piece, and SLAVE, a piano and ensemble work for himself to play with the London Sinfonietta in 2004.

Source: http://www.london-independent.co.uk/LIR003.pdf

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