Monthly Archives: June 2013

Travel Awards from Sempre for City Students

We are delighted to announce that two of City’s postgraduate students have been awarded Gerry Farrell Travelling Scholarships by the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE).

MA student Sam Mackay was awarded a scholarship to help fund research in the city of Marseilles. The research, focusing on grassroots music scenes, cultural policy, and urban change, is now being written up as Sam’s MA dissertation.

Miranda Crowdus, currently in the 2nd year of her PhD, received a scholarship of £1900 to allow her to complete fieldwork for her doctoral thesis – which focuses on Palestinian-Israeli music, cross-cultural networks, and social protest in South Tel Aviv and Jaffa – as well as undertake an intensive language programme at Tel Aviv University over the summer.

The SEMPRE travel scholarship scheme was set up in memory of Gerry Farrell (1951-2003), an ethnomusicologist and fine sitar player who wrote extensively on all aspects of Indian music, ethnomusicology and music education. Gerry was Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at City University London from 1995 to 2003, and we are therefore particularly delighted that two City students have received the generous support of SEMPRE this year.

Ed Pick to take up position at Wells Cathedral School

A recent graduate of the DMA degree, Edward Pick, has secured a position as a full-time accompanist at Wells Cathedral School, Somerset, starting this September.

Ed’s DMA research was on ‘‘Tonality in Schoenberg’s Music with Particular Reference to the Piano Concerto’. His studies were supervised by Professor Rhian Samuel at City and Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Ed is very much looking forward to taking up his position at Wells and working in such an exciting musical environment.

Dr Christopher Wiley is awarded prestigious National Teaching Fellowship

Dr Christopher Wiley was among the 55 UK higher and further education staff awarded a 2013 National Teaching Fellowship, the Higher Education Academy announced earlier today.

Dr Wiley is Senior Lecturer in Music at City University London and Director of the BMus Music Programme.

The Fellows were chosen from nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Submissions were assessed against three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence, and developing excellence. Successful Fellows each receive an award of £10,000, which may be used for their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

The Centre for Music Studies’s Professor Steve Stanton received the same award in 2012. This is the only time in the history of the Scheme that two members of staff from the same department have been made National Teaching Fellows in consecutive years.

The new Fellows will officially receive their awards at a ceremony due to take place in London on Wednesday 9 October 2013.


Further information

Dr Wiley’s profile at the Higher Education Academy website:

News item by City University London:

The Guardian article on the 2013 National Teaching Fellows:


City Summer Sounds: Five minutes with Georgia Rodgers

In the final of our series of five minute interviews, we spoke to Georgia Rodgers, an Islington based composer pursuing a PhD in Music at City University.

This piece has come after a year long collaboration with cellist Séverine Ballon. How did that come about, and how has it been working with her?

I was introduced to Séverine by my supervisor Newton Armstrong last October, and she was kind enough to agree to work with me on this piece. It has been an absolutely brilliant experience and a real privilege. Séverine is a fantastically talented cello player. She plays with several renowned ensembles and is also pursuing a PhD in extended cello technique. Not only that but she is a great teacher; she showed me what is possible on the cello, what works and what doesn’t. She helped me to focus on the sounds I was interested in, to concentrate on what was important in the composition, and to communicate my ideas. She is also very patient! I’ve learnt so much from her and I’m very grateful.

Your piece combines electronics with the solo cello. How are these two aural aspects interacting with each other?

Ah, well that’s the million dollar question! The electronic sounds are derived entirely from simple processing of the live cello. Everything coming out of the loudspeakers is a slightly delayed or layered version of the live sound from the stage. In fact, the question you ask – how do the electronics and live sound interact with each other – is one of the key concerns of the composition. I’m interested in how our perception of the sound of the cello is altered when we hear a mix of live and electronic versions of it. I think by actively considering what we are hearing in this way, we may learn something about our own perception, what sound is and how it behaves. So, how do the two parts interact? I’d be interested to know what the audience thinks after hearing it!

You recently had a performance of your piece ‘A to B’ which is for acoustic percussion and electronics. How does this piece relate to the upcoming piece?

Yes, ‘A to B’ was performed at City in May this year by Serge Vuille. He did a really great job. The two pieces are quite similar in terms of their fundamentals: both have a solo instrumentalist playing on stage and four loudspeakers positioned around the audience. In both pieces the electronic part is derived entirely from the live instrumental sound using simple delays, layering and some transposition. In ‘A to B’ I investigated a range of extended playing techniques, a literal hands-on exploration of the percussion instruments, exploring the different sonic textures and spaces that could be created. In this new piece I think I have narrowed the range of instrumental material and electronic processing in order to concentrate on very small changes in the sound, trying to isolate thresholds in our perception, for example when does a noise become a pitch? When does a discrete sound become continuous? When does the space shift from front to back, left to right, near to far?

On Monday, your new piece is going to be performed alongside Morton Feldman’s ‘Patterns in a Chromatic Field’. How does your work fit in with this work? Are there any direct influences?

‘Patterns in a Chromatic Field’ is a fantastic piece; I’m really happy to be programmed along side it and am looking forward to hearing Séverine and Mark perform it. I don’t think there are any direct influences from it in my piece, but I am very interested in Feldman as a composer, in particular his approach to time. Feldman said that he was interested in getting at time “in its unstructured existence…before we put our paws on it” – our perception of time as a phenomenon, before we divide it into minutes and seconds. In ‘Patterns…’ he uses slightly varying repetition, a large time scale, and other techniques to approach this. My piece inhabits a very different world sonically but one of my concerns whilst composing it was accessing the present moment, by enabling us to consider our perception of sound.

Finally, “Listen to yourself listen” is a term you have applied to some of your research. What does this mean, and how does this come into play in the new work?

Listen to yourself listen is a phrase I’m using (with some poetic license) to imply a duality of listening – listening whilst at the same time understanding what it means to listen. This is why I’m interested in exploring our perception of sound and how it changes, where the thresholds of perception happen, at what point we hear one thing as opposed to another. I think it’s important to be conscious of our perception of sound in order to approach the sound itself, to learn more about what sound is and how it behaves, as well as learning more about ourselves perceiving it.

You can hear more of Georgia’s music here:

Her new composition will be performed by Séverine Ballon on Monday 24th June at 7pm, alongside a performance of Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field.

For more information about City Summer Sounds head to:

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City Summer Sounds: Five minutes with Mark Knoop


City Summer Sounds is now into its second week. We caught up with pianist Mark Knoop to talk about his upcoming performance in the festival next week.

 You are going to be performing Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field in next week’s concert, which is very much a piece about communication between the two performers. What does this piece mean to you?

Patterns in a Chromatic Field is an amazing late Feldman work of about 80 minutes duration. Séverine and I have talked about playing the piece for many years, so it’s great to have the opportunity to perform it at last. The title seems simultaneously rather dry musicological language, and also suggestive of the visual arts. Feldman actually subtitled the work “Untitled Composition” and is said to have preferred this designation.

“Patterns…” shares its scale with other late Feldman works, but has a more active surface than the big solo piano pieces. I think of the piece as if viewing a small, highly intricate, slowly rotating crystal, lit from one angle by strong light. As the crystal rotates, we see more detail emerging, then the view suddenly changes as the light hits a new facet.

The cellist Arne Deforce has pointed out a link to the work of Jasper Johns, who writes:

Take an object.

Do something to it.

Do something else to it

Do something else to it.

You’ve performed a number of Feldman pieces in recent years. As a pianist, is there something that draws you to his music?

Feldman’s piano writing is fascinating and powerful, also demanding and frustrating at times. I suppose I was initially attracted to the performative challenge of maintaining the scale of the long pieces, but even the shorter pieces have an way of immediately creating their own unique identity. Feldman does what he wants to do, there is no suggestion of compromise or concern with reaction or result.

You’re an Australian performer, now based in London. What was it that brought you to base yourself in London?

I moved to London in 2000 from Australia partly to distance myself from a rabidly reactionary conservative government and the Olympics. So that worked out well…

You seem to have a real focus on performing new works. Is there something you particularly enjoy about performing new works and collaborating with composers on new works?

Of course! I see music — like any other artform — to be primarily about creation. In order to have any relevance to contemporary culture, we must be continuously creating and collaborating. Marcel Duchamp maintained that art is no longer art after 20 years — of course in the performing arts there is a place for re-creation and reinterpretation, but the principal view should be forwards, not backwards.


You can find out more about Mark Knoop here:


Séverine Ballon and Mark Knoop perform Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field alongside a new work by Georgia Rodgers on Monday 24th June 2013 at 7pm, in the Performance Space (ALG10), College Building.

For more information about City Summer Sounds head to:

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Dr Christopher Wiley gives live interview for Monocle 24 radio show

Dr Christopher Wiley was interviewed live on global radio station Monocle 24, as part of the show ‘The Briefing’, Episode 422, broadcast on 14 June 2013.

‘The Briefing’ is intended to provide an analysis of the day’s major news stories, and is broadcast at 12noon London time on weekdays. It also functions as the station’s ‘drivetime show for the US East Coast’.

The subject of Dr Wiley’s interview was the recently filed lawsuit challenging the copyright to ‘Happy Birthday to You’. Dr Wiley was interviewed in his capacity as a music historian.

The interview may be heard at the following link: (listen from 22.55-27.40 for Dr Wiley’s interview). The episode is also available for download in iTunes.

City Summer Sounds: Five minutes with Annie Yim


With City Summer Sounds now officially under way, we had a quick chat to Annie ahead of her performance tonight.

Your programme features works by Schubert and Schumann. What is it about these pieces in particular that made you want to perform them?

Schubert was an important influence on Schumann.  Both composers wrote great song compositions and song cycles, and this lyrical quality shines through their instrumental works.  I have always enjoyed programming them together.  Between Schubert’s Improputu in B-flat major and Schumann’s Humoreske, I’m playing two Schumann songs transcribed by Liszt.  They are both love songs, written to express his ardent love for Clara before they married.  Widmung (Dedication) from Schumann’s song cycle, Myrthen Op. 25, was presented to Clara on their wedding day.  Fruhlingsnacht (Spring evening) is from his Liederkreis Op. 39, set to poetry by Joseph Eichendorff.


You are currently writing a doctoral thesis on Schumann’s influences upon Brahms. How does this research feed into your performance of Schumann’s works?


My research is on Schumann’s influence on the young Brahms, specifically on the little known and very different original version of Brahms’s Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8.

Performance and musicology are very closely connected. They are quite different approaches, but for me as a performer, the goal is the same. My research involves multiple perspectives, including historical, analytical, performance practice, and performing traditions, all of which build one’s understanding of the composer, the music, and the tradition of interpretations of the music. These great works of art require much more than musical instincts to re-create or discover their meaning. I focus very much on Schumann’s musical-aesthetics in my current thesis, which are complex, as his literary and esoteric aesthetics are often entangled by preconceptions about his mental illness, a biographical aspect which often undermine Schumann’s musical innovation.  Brahms, even at 20 years old, recognized Schumann’s genius and ingenuity, and became hugely influenced by his mentor throughout his life, even though they met only four months before Schumann was incarcerated in the mental asylum.

You also recently presented a lecture-recital on humour in Schumann’s Humoreske Op. 20. What aspects of humour can the audience expect to hear in your performance of this piece tonight?


Our understanding of humour is quite different, as Humoreske is by no means light-hearted!  The German notion of Humour was originally a literary aesthetic in the 19th Century, championed by writers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Jean Paul, who were Schumann’s heroes.

Jean Paul wrote that humour is represented by ‘an infinity of contrasts’, and that laughter is produced when juxtaposing pain and greatness.  For example, in Hoffmann’s novel Life and Opinion of Tomcat Murr, he tells two different but related stories, alternating them often at crucial moments to interrupt one from the other.  Humoreske is used for the first time in history as a musical title by Schumann here.

What happens in Schumann’s Humoreske adheres to it’s literary origin.  We have two contrasting but related tonalities, B-flat major, and G minor, which alternate throughout the work (just like in his Kreisleriana Op. 16).  The great moment arrives towards the end in a frenzied section, when we hear three fff chords in B-flat major, followed immediately in G MAJOR – a terrific sense of freedom is achieved as he breaks free of the B-flat major/G minor plot!  He has reached the zenith through ‘humour’. The Humoreske is indeed Schumann’s musical novel.

You can find out more about Annie Yim here:

Annie Yim performs a programme of Schubert and Schumann tonight (Tuesday 11th June 2013) at 7pm in the Performance Space (ALG10), College Building.


For more information about City Summer Sounds head to:

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Dr Christopher Wiley addresses Turning Technologies User Conference 2013 in Karlsruhe, Germany

Dr Christopher Wiley reprised his paper ‘Using Electronic Voting Systems in the Arts and Humanities’ at the most recent Turning Technologies User Conference in Karlsruhe, Germany on 3 June 2013.

Jointly hosted by the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Conference attracted a range of delegates from countries including the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Finland, Lebanon, and South Korea. The full Conference Agenda may be viewed here.

Dr Wiley’s paper was originally delivered last year at Aarhus University, Denmark (see here) and was revised for presentation in Karlsruhe, as part of the second Turning Technologies Conference to be held in Continental Europe.

An advocate of electronic voting systems for the past five years, in 2012 Dr Wiley became the first person from the arts and humanities to join Turning Technologies’ Distinguished Educator programme (see here).


STOP PRESS: as a result of this conference appearance, Dr Wiley was featured on ‘Turn to Your Neighbour: The Official Peer Instruction Blog’, which is among the top 100 most read educational blogs globally.

Written by the blog’s founder, Dr Julie Schell (who described it on Twitter as her ‘funnest post to date’), the article on Dr Wiley may be read here:

City Summer Sounds: 5 minutes with Joanna Bailie



On Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th June Joanna Bailie brings her camera obscura inpsired installation to City Summer Sounds festival. We managed to find some time to chat to her about the work as she makes her final preparations:

Your installation ‘Northampton Square’ employs a large camera obscura. For those that don’t know, how does a camera obscura work?

Camera obscura means “dark room” in Latin, but not the kind of dark room in which one develops photographs. In fact it’s a very large version of the inside of a camera — a dark space with a hole cut in one side to let the light (and the image) through, plus a surface onto which to project this image. It works because light travels in straight lines. Of course I only have a projection screen, not a surface covered in chemicals that react to the light, so I cannot preserve any images, they must be experienced live by the audience.

You’ve had a number of works in the past few years focusing on the concept of a camera obscura. What was it that drew you to this medium?

Yes, perhaps I’m a little obsessed. I saw my first camera obscura at an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on art and illusion about 10 years ago. It was a shed sitting outside the building with a view on Waterloo Bridge. I didn’t know what a camera obscura was at that time, and I was quite taken aback by the image of London in motion, upside down. There was a peculiar quality to the image — I thought it was the most vivid thing I had ever seen. It’s absolutely pure projection of continuous reality, unlike a film with its 24 images per second. A camera obscura has no frames, it’s way beyond HD. It has a level of resolution that HD will never attain. I never get tired of making camera obscuras nor of the effect they have (on me).

Before this installation I made two pieces using a camera obscura, the first with a German scenographer called Christoph Ragg and the second with a string trio. It’s important to say that both these pieces used a theatrical camera obscura, meaning that the bright space that was projected into the dark one, was an interior and thus had to be lit by a lot of theatre spots in order to be bright enough to create a good image. Northampton Square will be lit by the sun of course.

The audience gets a very intimate experience here, getting right inside the camera itself. What do you hope an audience member will gain from ‘Northampton Square’?

First of all I hope, like me, they’ll enjoy the incredibly vivid quality of the image. It’s not intended to be a didactic work at all, but people often end up learning about how a camera works for the first time and they can’t believe that all it takes is a dark and light space with a hole between. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, you might expect the hole to simply let a ray of light into the dark room, which makes what happens that much more amazing. The sound is another thing altogether. It’s a bit more intimate and complex and makes use of a freezing process where the live sound is periodically frozen into a sustained sound. The intention is to make the audience listen to the live sound in a different way, to hear it as a potential music and to experience the contrast between it and the image. The sound is broken up, discrete and abridged while the image, as I’ve already mentioned, is pure continuity.

This installation in particular plays on the boundaries between music and non-music, and unlike the previous camera obscura works relinquishes a certain amount of control to the world outside the camera. Is this balance of music and non-music something that you have focused on before, and what inspired you to focus on this?

The idea of using real life as the basis for some kind of artistic narrative has been the basis of many of my recent works using field recordings. But of course with field recordings you can select what you use from all the sound you’ve captured. In the installation the sound and image are always at the mercy of what happens because they are live. My idea is to try to compose the real life coming into the installation by making a score: a set of (almost) live sound manipulations that the computer has to perform on the microphone feed. The score is quite elaborate and works fairly well regardless of what is going on outside. Occasionally something very special happens at exactly the right time and it’s all just chance (by the way, I recommend coming to see/hear the installation exactly on the hour for reasons that will become obvious!). You could say that the installation is all about creating a frame for reality via the projection screens that physically frame the image, and the computer manipulations that successively frame and unframe the sound.

What’s next for you and the camera obscura project?

Well Northampton Square will be the third incarnation of the installation (the first and second were in Brussels and Belfast). The fourth is set for Brussels again during the Tuned City Festival. That one will look onto a very busy road and will be very different from Northampton Square. Following that I’ll be creating a theatre piece about condensing the last 100 years of history with a German theatre-maker and actress called Katja Dryer, and working on my PhD of course!


You can find out more about Joanna Bailie here:

The installation ‘Northampton Square’ will be open between the hours of 12am and 6pm in Northampton Square Bandstand on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th June 2013.

For more information about City Summer Sounds head to:

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Oxford Maqam at City

On 14th May 2013, the Centre for Music Studies was delighted to welcome the group Oxford Maqam, The Madeleine Quartet and members of the King’s College London Big Band to perform the rarely heard operetta Majnoun Laila by Egyptian composer and singer Abd al-Wahhab (1902-91), together with songs from the 1950s and 60s by another prominent singer, Abd al-Halim Hafez (1929-77).

Oxford Maqam is led by Professor Martin Stokes, King’s College London, who also presented a pre-concert talk with band members Tarik Beshir and Yara Salahideen, about the reconstruction of Majnoun Lailla and some of the performance issues raised: ‘The performance is an unusual attempt to restore some elements of the revolutionary soundworld of the early recordings, one that has long since disappeared in Egyptian contemporary performance practice’.

Despite the heavy rain that evening, the musicians performed to a packed Performance Space, bringing in many people from outside City interested in Egyptian music of the early to mid-20th century.