Monthly Archives: April 2014

‘Garden City’ – A presentation of compositions by Alex de Lacey


Year 3 BMus student Alex de Lacey will be presenting his final portfolio for Studio Composition and Audio Art 3 in City University’s Performance Space at 1pm on Friday the 9th of May. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

Largely inspired by The Factory Photographs of David Lynch, the electronic works in de Lacey’s series ‘Garden City’ look at the degradation of British industry, gentrification, and the reuse of factory spaces by art galleries and musical performances.

The programme will be:

Garden City – Electroacoustic 5:1 audiovisual work. Images and words by Chris Runciman, 12′
Disrepair – Electroacoustic 5:1 work, 7′
Regeneration? – Stereo fixed media with live electronics/triggering, 8′

Alex de Lacey is a 3rd year studio composer who mainly works with live processing and electroacoustic composition. He is also a DJ, and interested in the implications and performance practice of this art form.

Chris Runciman is a University College London graduate working with contemporary and sound poetry.

More information on the event can be found here.

Cadence EP Launch Event, Saturday 12th April

Third year Music students Roza Kalnins and Micah Rose-Trespeuch have teamed up with other artists – many also from City University London – to put together an event to celebrate the launch of their new EP. Their band ‘Cadence’ has toured the London new music circuit including venues such as 02 Academy Islington, The Water Rats and The 229 Venue. They now join City University’s Rachel Espeute and her band ‘Ask Seek Knock’ along with Fred Lessore, a rising singer/songwriter, to put on a free event at the newly refurbished venue: The Islington. As many of the performers involved are in their final year of studying Music at City, they welcome all to join them in one of the last events they will have as a year group.


Excellent review of lecture-recital by Ikuko Inoguchi in Takemitsu Society Newsletter

Ikuko pictureCity PhD student Ikuko Inoguchi, who is currently in the third year of her doctoral programme, supervised by Ian Pace, gave a lecture-recital at Schott’s for the Institute of Musical Research on November 15th, 2013, relating to her research into the music of Toru Takemitsu and its performance. In the Takemitsu Society Newsletter, renowned Takemitsu scholar Peter Burt wrote about:

‘.. her [Izoguchi’s] admirable professional cool as she launched into her presentation on ‘Performing Tōru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch: a sense of time, a sense of space, and a sensitivity to colour and tone’. As the title suggests, her presentation viewed the work in part from a performer’s perspective – a perspective to which she showed herself fully entitled, immediately sitting down at the piano and demonstrating her total command of the piece’s technical and expressive challenges. Performers’ preoccupations were also to the fore in the detailed analysis which followed, which included the fruits of some pioneering research into the variant metronome markings of the various editions. Yet there was plenty to interest the non-specialist here too, not least in the shape of some fascinating speculations on the Japanese sense of time. All in all, like the other contributions, it provided plenty of fuel for discussion in the ensuing question period and, more informally, over wine afterwards – and an encouraging sign of the Society’s rebirth after that long period of hibernation.’


Five minutes with: James Saunders

James SaundersJames Saunders  is a composer with an interest in modularity. He performs in the duo Parkinson Saunders, and with Apartment House. He is Head of the Centre for Musical Research at Bath Spa University. On Tuesday his music is featured in a portrait concert performed by our ensemble-in-residence, Plus-Minus, including a new work composed specifically for the event. We spent five minutes talking to James about his work.


Your works tend to explore open forms and processes. This brings with it the issues of generality and specificity, something that you have talked about previously. What is it about the boundaries between generality and specificity that draws you to compose in this field?

At the moment I see them as two states, and pieces I make tend to be broadly either specific or general. By specific, I mean that the score will indicate a more tightly controlled series of activities, normally with definite sounds of some kind or a clear temporal relationship, but still may be open in some way. The general pieces leave a lot of possibilities left open, and might be used to generate more specific pieces themselves. Recently this has become more of a focus for me. I tend to sketch out ideas for pieces in my notebook, some of which stay there for good reasons, but others are made quite quickly into scores, normally short verbal descriptions of processes. I’ve found over the past few months that they might also exist in a more specific state, taking the basic process and fleshing it out, giving it a context, normally with particular sounds. So as an example, I wrote a piece ‘things whole and not whole’ for Basel Sinfonietta in 2011 that models the way birds flock. The musicians are able to use any sound sources or instruments, as long as they can produce short sounds on cue. The new piece on bare trees in the concert on Tuesday is a version of this, but the players are given a series of pitches in short phrases. The cueing system is the same, but a different kind of patterning emerges, with each phrase coming to rest on a repeated unison pitch. I expect some of the other general pieces might develop in this way.

You have composed a new piece for Plus-Minus, being performed on Tuesday, in which you use a mutually orthogonal latin square to control various permutations of four parameters. Can you explain a little more about this compositional process and what we can expect of ‘so many territories’?

They’re a bit of a mouthful aren’t they? I first came across them in relation to George Perec’s ‘Life: A User’s Manual’, which is one of my favourite books and through which I developed a fascination with the Oulipo. Perec uses a Graeco-Latin Bi-square, which is a square gridded arrangement with each cell containing two elements, one from each of two sets. Across the square, each element of the two sets appears in each row and column only once, and each combination of the two elements occurs only once across the whole square. In the book, Perec uses this to determine the constraints for each chapter of the book, creating a set of permutations of elements from which to construct the narrative. It is possible to create squares with more than two sets, and they are mutually orthogonal if there is no repetition of the different combinations of elements across the square. In my piece, the score is presented as a 8×8 grid of cells. It took me a while to find four mutually orthogonal squares, but the result is that each cell contains a unique combination of four musical parameters (two pitches, a dynamic and articulation). In some parts this is rationalised a little where unplayable results occur, but it allowed me to define a space, both sonically and on the score. The players move across this grid independently, creating loops and chains of events as they progress.

so many territories - accordion copyYour recent works also employ musical cueing systems that explore group behaviour in your works. How does ‘so many territories’ fit within this context of cueing and group behaviour?

There’s no cueing in ‘so many territories’ as such, but group behaviours may emerge. The players work independently across the grid, but stable states may sometimes develop where repetitions of cells in a fixed relationship occur. If this happens, players may either choose to submit and move on, co-exist for a time, or refuse to move on and wait for the other player(s) to submit. This determines the progression.



‘everybody do this’ was recently performed in Bath with four performers [watch here]. Next week we will see this performed with a larger group of around 20-25 performers. How do you expect the outcome to change considering the much larger ensemble?

Good question. It is likely to be a lot more chaotic of course. The piece works by each player giving spoken cues for actions to which the other players respond. Cues relate to pitches, noises, and devices, so for example if someone says ‘pitch 4’, then everybody plays their fourth pitch sound. The choice of sounds is left to the players to decide independently, so the combinations are determined through distributed decision making. All players give and receive cues simultaneously as they want. In the first performance it was possible for all of us to hear the instructions easily enough. Patterns were constructed and broken regularly, and there was a relatively high degree of order. With a much larger group it will be very different. It is likely that it will oscillate between having a few dominant voices to which everyone responds, smaller localised groups of concerted activity, and a few loners. To be honest, I can’t wait to find out. This piece is another group behaviour piece and is part of a series which explore organisation structures. So if this is a many-to-many relationship, the other pieces use one-to-one (‘what you must do, rather than must not do’, 2012), many-to-one (‘you say what to do’, 2014), and one-to-many (‘I say what to do’, 2014). These will all have been performed by the middle of the year, and the next stage of the project is to look at other more complex relationships. The master plan is to use these as modular blocks from which much larger networks can be built. They model organisation structures, and these tend to be complex, and often short circuit themselves at some point. Anyone who works in a big organisation will know what this feels like, so you might identify with the chaos which ensues in the piece, despite the occasional havens of order.


You can find out more about James Saunders and his work here:


James’ works will be performed on Tuesday 8th Aril at 7pm in the Performance Space, College Building. 

Admission is free. To book a place head to:

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Upcoming Conference Presentations by Doctoral student Mark Porter

292826_10100346898619549_193371507_nDoctoral candidate Mark Porter has been awarded funding from the City University Graduate School in order to present a paper at the conference of the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture in Canterbury later this year. Mark’s presentation on congregational music and the ‘new cosmopolitanism’ will focus on the application of recent cosmopolitan thought to the understanding of musical dynamics within congregational music.

In addition to Canterbury, Mark is due to present papers at two further conferences this summer. In April he will present a paper at a joint BFE/RMA study day on music, circulation and the public sphere, focussing on the application of aspects of Jürgen Habermas’ thought to contemporary worship music and in July he will present a paper at the annual conference of the BFE at SOAS focussing on the dynamics of alternative musical spaces within the musical life of a congregation.