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The first symposium of our new research centre SPARC

In late September we launched our new research centre SPARC, Sound Practice And Research @ City, with the Touching Sound symposium, the first of our yearly September Symposiums.

We spent two days contemplating the tactility of sound with a group of people fr om a variety of disciplines. Surgeon Prof Roger Kneebone, our key-note, opened proceedings with his talk on touch in medicine where he introduced us to the fascinating world of surgery and his collaboration with a lace-maker. He explained that for him, attending to touch, is a way of looking at the practice of surgery that can bring into view aspects that might not be otherwise apparent.

Composers Dr James Weeks reminded us that in music we have a tendency to priorities words that are associated with touch, such as texture, temperature, grain and introduced us to one of his works that evokes such tactility. Dr Aaron Einbond suggested a sense of disembodiment through reproduction, transcription, and trace in his compositional practice, and Dr Amber Priestley introduced us to one of her installations which we had the pleasure to experience hands on during a concert in the evening. Alongside wonderful performances by violist Benedict Taylor and guitarist Pétur Jónasson with live-coding by Dr Thor Magnusson. Pétur, in his talk earlier in the day asked whether a sonic instance could leave a permanent physical marker in our brain if it elicits a strong emotion, and Thor questioned whether the composed-work-concept is disappearing due to the expanding use of anthropic digital instruments.

Digital artist Amie Ray had us taste letters and kneed play-dough, choreographer Teoma Naccarato gave us insight into her collaborative practice in creating intimate, one-to-one dance performances, and ceramicist Julian Stair introduced us to his Quietus project that explores the containment of the human body after death.

Composer/sound artist Jan Hendrickse, understanding the body as a contested site which is caught in a constant performance, asked us to reimagine the body as musical structure. Dr Miguel Mera showed us how the synchronicity of sound and sight can elicit touch in film, and PhD candidate William Cole proposed touch as a model for an expanded musical form. Dr Adam Harper explored the tangibility of the digital by explaining that the digital does not lack physicality, but rather possesses a different kind of physicality. And landscape architect Johanna Gibbons introduced us to the connections between soil and roots with our lived experience.

In due course there will be a publication connected with this symposium, and we are very much looking forward to our next symposium in September 2018 called Socio-Sonic: an exploration of the social in sound.

Laudan Nooshin Chapter in Award-Winning Book

City Music Head of Department Laudan Nooshin is delighted to report that a book that she has contributed to has been awarded a major academic book prize.

Jazz Worlds/World Jazz (Chicago University Press, 2016), edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Goffrredo Plastino, has received the American Musicological Society Ruth A. Solie Award, given each year to a collection of musicological essays of exceptional merit.

Laudan’s chapter is entitled ‘Jazz and its Social Meanings in Iran: From Cultural Colonialism to the Universal’, and explores various aspects of jazz and its social meanings in Iran from the 1950s onwards, focusing in particular on the period of cultural liberalism that followed the election of reformist President Khatami in 1997. Whilst most forms of western popular music were branded as a form of cultural imperialism and banned after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, jazz managed to remain largely unproblematic, mainly because it was positioned as a form of  “art” music and as a  “universal” musical expression. Laudan discusses the changing meanings of jazz in Iran over the past 70 years.

Jazz Worlds/World Jazz includes 16 chapters which explore a range of jazz traditions around the world, from Ethiopian jazz and Indian fusion, to Balkan swing and South African jazz.

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/J/bo19637106.html

Dr Lingas Spends Autumn Reading Week on the Road Lecturing in Oregon and Chanting in Winchester


Autumn Reading Week found Alexander Lingas active on both sides of the Atlantic. He began by offering a public talk on ‘Russian Sacred Music between Byzantium and ‘the West’ at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, USA.  Sponsored by the Reed College departments of Russian and Music, it considered the shifting cultural location of Russian Orthodox sacred music as rulers, clergy, and lay members of the church steered it from its Byzantine origins into the modern era. Repeated attempts through the centuries to re-engage with Byzantine traditions were contrasted with other movements emphasizing engagement with Western art music or Slavic exceptionalism. The next day he offered a lecture on Russian liturgy and its music to an undergraduate module on the history of Russian literature.

The morning after returning to the UK Dr Lingas travelled to the University of Winchester, where he demonstrated Byzantine chant at a Study Day sponsored by the Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality. The day ended with Evensong at Winchester Cathedral, which included traditional Byzantine chanting alongside choral works by the late Sir John Tavener.

 

 

 

Annual Music Research Afternoon Features PhD Students and Staff

On Wednesday 7th June 2017, the Music Department held its annual research afternoon with presentations by research students and staff.

The afternoon started with presentations by first year PhD students Gabrielle Messeder and Alice Jeffreys. Gabby talked about her research into the role of music in the ongoing Syrian conflict, with a paper  entitled: ‘YouTube battleground: Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary songs of the Syrian civil war’. This was followed by composition student Alice Jeffreys speaking about ‘YX (2017) for Ensemble XY: Discontinuity and Obscured Linearity’.

The next speaker was 4th year PhD student Sam MacKay, whose presentation was entitled: ‘Geopoetics of the French South: La Nòvia in Marseille’. This was followed by a staff presentation, with Claudia Molitor asking: ‘Where do all the earthworms go?’.

By this point in the afternoon, everyone was ready for tea and cake! After refreshments, we had another staff speaker, Adam Harper, talking about ‘Elysia Crampton: Geologies of Identity, Geologies of Sound’. The final final session featured presentations by 4th year PhD student, Emaeyak Sylvanus: ‘Finlandia and Biafra in Nollywood: Transnational aesthetic objectivity and the metaphoric journey of identity’ and 3rd year composition PhD student Elizabeth Black: ‘Texture Defined: an examination of Texture in instrumental music’.

We had a thoroughly stimulating afternoon. Many thanks to all the speakers and our very active and engaged audience!

Elizabeth Black Presenting on 7th June

City students perform at London venue IKLECTIK

City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE) – an 18-piece student ensemble directed by Tullis Rennie –  recently performed a public concert of freely improvised music at central London venue IKLECTIK. The programme included works of graphic notation, animated scores and brand new pieces composed especially for the ensemble.

CUEE at IKLECTIK Ryan Ross Smith

CUEE play Ryan Ross Smith’s animated score ‘Study no. 40.3 [pulseven]’

Composer and baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts featured as a guest artist , while MA composer Leon Lewington premiered his new work aMass.

CUEE at IKLECTIK Cath Roberts

Cath Roberts introduces ‘March of the Egos’, written for CUEE

Anna Vaughan and Jamie Turner – two final-year undergraduate members of the group – wrote about their experiences of playing at one of London’s most respected venues for improvised music.

Anna: “I am a a third year student who played the electric violin in CUEE. One of the best gigs in my uni experience was on April 5th when CUEE got to play at IKLECTIK right in the heart of London. We played pieces that had been written specifically for the ensemble which was such an incredible feeling. Having a London composer work with us gave it an immense professional presence. The outcome of the gig was an incredible feeling. A general public audience who came to enjoy young artists perform new experimental music gave it such an incredible atmosphere. Like I said before, one of the best gigs I’ve played at thanks to the effort that has been put into this ensemble.”

Jamie:  “I was ecstatic after CUEE’s IKLEKTIK gig, it’s the furtherest the ensemble has traveled from the university grounds and the experience was invaluable for us performers. The venue was well sourced for our brand of contemporary music, all members of the ensemble engaged passionately and professionally throughout the evening, and the public turn out helped to reassure us that there is still an audience for this style of music. Over the past year the transition from a student led independent group to a fully accredited ensemble has been seamless and I am confident that CUEE will continue to develop and expand its reach exponentially in the years to come.”

CUEE at IKLECTIK Anna Vaughan Jamie Turner Cath Roberts

Anna Vaughan (violin, centre) and Jamie Turner (guitar, right) perform Cath Robert’s ‘Wasps/Wolves’ with Leo Bennett (piano, left)

City Summer Sounds: 2017 Festival

It’s now ten days before the start of our annual music festival, City Summer Sounds. We have three weeks of events, including jazz, world, experimental, electronic and classical chamber music, reflecting the diverse interests of the Department of Music. Everything is open to the public and free to attend.

City Summer Sounds Logo

You may wish to look over the complete listings here and sign up for tickets: http://www.city.ac.uk/city-summer-sounds

City Summer Sounds is an opportunity to showcase our students’ work, with performances by all our instrumentalists, and premieres by our composers. Immersive, multichannel electronic music is also a major part of the programme, studio work being a proud and significant part of the department’s legacy.

Maya Youssef

Maya Youssef (22nd May). Photo by Sarah Ginn

We’re also joined by internationally acclaimed guests and friends of the department, including Syrian kanun virtuoso Maya Youssef (22nd May), Australian pianist Zubin Kanga (5th June), jazz bassists Tom Herbert and Ruth Goller (7th June) and award winning Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain (8th June).

Zubin Kanga (5th June). Photo by Richard Hedger.

On the 6th June, we launch a new group, the City Pierrot Ensemble, who will be performing Schoenberg’s expressionist masterpiece Pierrot Lunaire, Michael Finnissy’s wild, rarely-performed music theatre piece, Mr Punch, and Roger Redgate’s mercurial Pierrot On The Stage Of Desire. The vocalists will be two astonishing performers, Adam de la Cour and Alwynne Pritchard.

Alwynne Pritchard

Alwynne Pritchard (6th June)

 

Reserve tickets now – and see you there!

 

City Speakers at the 2017 British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference, Sheffield

This years’ British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference was held at the University of Sheffield from 20th to 23rd April 2017. There were over 150 attendees from the UK, Europe and beyond, and the keynote speaker was Professor Michael Bakan from Florida State University. City’s Music Department was represented by two of its academic staff: Professor Stephen Cottrell and Dr Laudan Nooshin, who both delivered papers. Stephen’s paper was entitled ‘Ethnomusicology, Music Information Retrieval and Big Music Data’, and considered the ways in which computational analysis of large audio data sets might impact on the study and understanding of music traditions around the globe. Laudan presented as part of a roundtable which she convened on ‘The Ethics and Aesthetics of Studying Music in Situations of Conflict and Violence’. Her contribution focused on some of the issues raised by music video responses to the 2009 contested presidential elections in Iran. The roundtable generated interesting discussion across a range of issues related to undertaking research in situations of conflict and violence.

The size and success of the conference again demonstrated the strength and vitality of British ethnomusicology, and the large numbers of early career scholars who attended – including some from City – augurs well for the future development of this part of the music studies field.

City Music Alumna Wins Dunraven Welsh Young Singer of the Year

City University Music alumna, Siân Dicker (graduated 2014), was awarded the Dunraven Welsh Young Singer of the Year award after competing in the final at Maesteg Town Hall on Saturday 25th March 2017. The competition was adjudicated by David Jackson (Artistic Director of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World) as well as Welsh singers Rebecca Evans and Gary Griffiths. Siân is currently in her second year of a Masters in Vocal Studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama studying with Marie Vassiliou and Janice Chapman. As a result of winning the competition, Siân was awarded £2,500 towards her tuition fees for next year.

Siân’s upcoming engagements include her Wigmore Hall debut performing new music in collaboration with GSMD composers, opera scenes at Milton Court studio theatre in July as well as various recitals at the Guildhall school. See further details on her website: https://www.siandicker.com/

 

City Chamber Choir Concert at St Clement’s Church

The City University Chamber Choir gave its Spring Term concert at St Clement’s Church on Wednesday 29th March, conducted by Tim Hooper, featuring a wonderful selection of pieces, including the sublime ‘Locus Iste’ by Bruckner, a full performance of the Vivaldi Gloria and the word premiere of acappella vocal piece ‘Sleep’ by first year BMus student Jacob Collins. For the Vivaldi, the choir was accompanied by a small chamber orchestra featuring BMus students Anna Vaughan (violin), Daisy Heath (‘cello), Stamatios Solonos (oboe), Jacob Collins (Harpsichord) and MA student Carlota Rodriguez Ruiz-Healy (viola). Vocal solos featured Emilie Parry Williams, Nia Rees and Carolina Herrera. A very enjoyable concert and the harpsichord also enjoyed its first outing of the year!

Tim Hooper will be conducting the Chamber Orchestra in a concert on May 19th as part of the City Summer Sounds Festival

City Composers Visit King’s College London, March 2017

At the beginning of the academic year, Marcos Stuardo, a PhD composition student at King’s College London, proposed an exchange whereby composers studying at Kings would give presentations on their work at City and vice versa. Following a departmental research seminar last November at which four PhD composers from King’s discussed their work, two of our PhD composers, Georgia Rodgers and William Cole, and Masters student, Dorothy Lee, visited King’s College on Wednesday 29th March, accompanied by our “Composition Tsar”, Aaron Einbond.  

William was the first to take the floor, discussing a performed sound installation that was staged last year. After William outlined ideas behind the work’s conception and played a short sample of a recording of the performance, a lively dialogue ensued as the King’s cohort questioned its ontological and experiential structures, and its relationship to more traditional operations of music-making.

Following William’s presentation, Georgia detailed her aesthetic interests in acoustic phenomena and explained how these concerns inform her compositional approach, which she demonstrated through an analysis of two recent works. The King’s composers were receptive to Georgia’s music and raised several interesting issues, resulting, again, in an exciting exchange of ideas.

Last to present was Dorothy, who showed how her work brings together Western and Asian musical concepts, highlighting a range of philosophical and creative influences, and illustrating how these influences play out in her music. Drawing the session to a close, yet another stimulating discussion occurred as Dorothy was confronted with a number of acute questions from the audience.

At the end of the seminar we retired to the pub, where we discussed possibilities of how this exchange might progress in the future and how we might incorporate students from other faculties across London. With the revival of our Listening Group next year, the composition arm of the Music department at City are keen to reach out and create opportunities for sonic artists across London’s universities (and beyond) to share their ideas and exhibit their work. The arrangement with King’s this year has demonstrated just how valuable cross-institution interchange is, and going forward it seems imperative that City capitalises on its potential to play a leading role in this. 

William Cole, Music PhD Student