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Sound Art and Technoculture Module Trip to the V&A Museum

By Saule Boguzaite, BSc Year 3

On Friday, 30th November, the discussion about technology and media in the Sound, Art and Technoculture module was taken a tube ride away from campus to the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design – the V&A. Led by Dr Claudia Molitor, we visited an interactive exhibition, ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’, which explored the development, practice and magnitude of the medium since the mid-2000s.

The exhibition explores the world beyond the user’s interface of what for many of us, is a daily source of entertainment. Artefacts on display such as detailed blueprints and field research documentation revealed the extensive labour and process of video game production. The visitors from City enthusiastically gathered around the game-like exhibits that required hands-on interaction. An enormous screen showing an eSports tournament gave the visitor an idea of a rapidly growing player community and culture. The ‘Disrupt’ stage provides some food for thought through critical discussion about the social, cultural and political influence of videogames. The arcade with retro-style machines concluded the exhibition, where videogame enthusiasts of any level could find something they enjoyed.

Here is what some of the attendees had to say about the exhibition:

“I enjoyed the Play stage of the exhibit the most just for the simple pure enjoyment of having fun playing some of the unique and thought provoking games. The Design stage was also very interesting, to see the different motivations, ideas and techniques that went into the making of the games on display.” – Chris, BSc Year 2

 “I found that the plethora of sound effects present in the video game exhibition gave me new ideas for my major project, which involves sound design for video games.” – Moumen, BSc Year 3.

The exhibition is on until 24th February 2019

https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/videogames

 

Chamber Choir and Civitas Christmas Concert at St Clement’s

by Carolina Herrera, BMus Year 3

The City University Chamber Choir and Civitas delighted the audience during their Christmas Carol Concert at St. Clement’s Church, Finsbury, on Wednesday the 5th of December 2018.

Joining forces for the first time, the two City, University of London choral ensembles performed repertoire that included a mix of Gregorian chant, English anthems, sacred motets, traditional carols and the premiere of Nunc Dimittis from Ty Gwyn Canticles, an original work by choir baritone, final year Music student and composer Jacob Collins.

Conducted by Tim Hooper, the Chamber Choir performed Henry Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn (1908), Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace (1850), Josef Rheinberger’ Abendlied (1855) and Jamie W. Hall’s Sleep, my Jesu (2015). In alternation with these and Civitas’ pieces, the choir also sang Once in Royal David’s City (1848) by Arthur Henry Mann and Henry John Gauntlett, Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day (1830) by John Gardner; Ding Dong! Merrily on High, Eng. trad., arr. Charles Wood; A Maiden Most gentle, French trad., arr. Andrew Carter; Sans Day Carol and Nativity Carol (1963) by John Rutter, as well as O come, all ye faithful, J. F. Wade and Gabriel’s Message, Basque carol. The evening ended with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Mendelssohn, all arr. Willcox, for which the audience stood to join in song.

Civitas, led by Dr Alexander Lingas, performed Veni, Veni Emmanuel; Magnificat Antiphon Hodie, Cristus Natus Est; old Roman chant for the Mass of Christmas Day Kyrie in Natale Domini (MS Bodmer 79 ‘1071’); Christmas Canon, Ode 1 (Medieval Byzantine chant, MS Grottaferrata E. γ. II -13th c., ed. Ioannis Arvanitis); Lutheran chorale Wir schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Philipp Nicolai; Resonet in Laudibus (S. Gall MS, ed. Keyte and Parrott) and Annunciation carol Nova! Nova! (Hunterian Museum MS, ed. Keyte and Parrott).

During the interval, mulled wine and mince pies were available to singers and guests, who included friends and family, as well as Music department lecturers and members of the local community.

Many thanks to Tim Hooper and Dr Lingas. Also, to Dr Laudan Nooshin and Leo Chadburn for their concert organisation, to St Clement’s for hosting the concert, and of course to everyone who played!

The Chamber Choir will be Carol singing in Trafalgar Square this Tuesday, 11th of December and will be back in St. Clement’s Church for their annual Easter-themed spring performance.

 

Laudan Nooshin Presents Keynote Paper in Montréal

In October 2018, Laudan Nooshin travelled to Montréal, Canada, to present an invited keynote paper at the conference ‘Music and Nation III: Music in Post-war Transitions (19th to 21st Centuries)’. Laudan’s paper was entitled ‘From Post-Revolution to Post-War: Music and the Play of Identities in 1980s Iran’.

The conference was attended by about 50 delegates from across the globe and papers covered a wide range of topics relating to post-war transitions, including music in Cold War Europe, the creation of a Spanish national orchestra following the Spanish Civil War; rock music and global countercultural citizenship after the Vietnam war; and music in post-Civil War Tajikestan.

The conference was held in the stunning setting of the Music Department at the University of Montréal, located high up on Mount Royal (see below).

Laudan Nooshin at Royal Musical Association Conference

From 13th to 15th September 2018, Head of Department Laudan Nooshin attended the Annual Conference of the Royal Musial Association, the largest annual gathering in the UK of those working across the range of music studies, including musicologists, ethnomusicologists, performers, composers, and many more! The conference was hosted by the Music Department at the University of Bristol and held in their building – the Victoria Rooms – built in the 1840s as Assembly Rooms: some of the original drinking bars are still in place and provided an interesting setting for conference sessions!

Laudan presented a paper entitled ‘A Window Onto Other Worlds: Musical Exoticism in Iranian Cinema – The Case of The Lor Girl’, which explored the role of music in processes of constructing and representing ‘otherness’ in early Iranian cinema, focusing on the first Persian-language sound film, The Lor Girl, made in Bombay in 1933.

Laudan also spoke on a panel entitled ‘Decolonising Analysis’, which considered some of the ways in which recent calls to ‘decolonise the academy’ have impacted on the practice of music analysis. In a music studies context, the notion of ‘decolonisation’ is about recognising the ways in which our knowledge is, and has been, shaped by power relations and about challenging the normative centres of privilege and taken for granted assumptions through a diversity of musics and perspectives. Given that we’re all enmeshed in some way in colonial histories that inevitably shape how we think, Laudan asked whether it is in fact possible to decolonise analysis before we decolonise our own minds and bodies, particularly in the context of academic institutions – together with their structural inequalities – that were founded on colonial thinking and funded by the riches of empire. The panel provoked an interesting discussion and the setting of the University of Bristol was particularly appropriate, given that an estimated 85% of the wealth that was used to found the university was derived from slavery. Other panel members were: Chloë Alaghband-Zadeh (University of Manchester), Freya Jarman (University of Liverpool), Byron Dueck (Open University) and Ruard Absaroka (SOAS, University of London).

The conference keynote speakers were: Professor Robert Adlington (University of Huddersfield), presenting the annual Le Huray Lecture: ‘Democracy in Action? Audience Participation as Community Organising’; and Alejandro L. Madrid (Cornell University), who was presented with the prestigious Edward J. Dent Medal and whose lecture was entitled: ‘The Importance of Being from ‘the Other Side’: Music and Border Studies in the 21st Century’.

Next year’s RMA conference will be held from 11th to 13th September, and will be hosted jointly by the Music Department at the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music.

‘Decolonising Analysis’ Panel

University of Bristol, Victoria Rooms

Walls on Walls: New audio-visual artwork unveiled in Department of Music

Visitors to City, University of London have joined staff and students to create a new audio-visual art installation in the Department of Music.

Over a period of several months, participants recorded sounds from around the department’s rehearsal, teaching, studio and performance spaces. They also designed and painted artwork on walls of the foyer at the Performance Space.

Speakers have been installed in the area and the 30-minute composition of audio recordings is being played periodically into the room. The finished audio-visual artwork reflects the history, current profile and possible futures of the department, taking inspiration from the architecture of the building and activity happening within it.

Walls On Walls

The work was facilitated by Walls On Walls, a collaboration between Dr Tullis Rennie, who is a composer and City music lecturer, and artist Laurie Nouchka.

Dr Rennie said: “The idea of this project was that anybody in the City community was able to participate – we asked people to pick up paint brushes, explore the area to make recordings and help edit the audio.

“It’s a unique installation because a lot of participative art projects are visual but don’t involve sound. With this work, the group wanted to open up some of the hidden spaces in the department and record sounds that most people are not privy to.”

Practice-based research

The installation is part of Dr Rennie’s practice-based research into collaborative arts process. Practice-based research is a type of study where the aim is to develop knowledge through creative activity.

Dr Rennie’s objective was to observe participation in the creation of an audio-visual community project and see how this translated into the final artwork.

He said: “Participants were taken on a tour and recorded sound from lots of different areas, including the corridors, empty concert rooms, the spaces between rehearsal room and behind doors that are normally closed.”

Dr Rennie added: “They also had electro-magnetic equipment that they could use to record sounds from the wires around the department that connect various studio spaces.

“Students were able to access and edit the recordings themselves and we held an open listening group where everybody could voice opinions.”

The artwork is now a permanent installation in the Department of Music. It was launched at an open public event on Wednesday 30th May 2018.

Dr Rennie recently received a commendation for his work with Walls On Walls in the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category of the university’s President’s Awards.

 

Celebrated composer Michael Nyman speaks at City

On Tuesday 29th May, the Department of Music welcomed Michael Nyman CBE, one of Britain’s most celebrated composers, to deliver its first Distinguished Lecture in Music.

In the talk – which was free and open to the public – Nyman discussed his diverse career and musical influences and borrowings. He focused in particular on his allusions to previous music which he has only seen on the page, never heard.

A champion of new music

City’s Head of Performance Ian Pace, who chaired the talk, said: “It was a great privilege to be able to welcome Michael Nyman for this talk.

“Many will know of his scores for films like The Draughtsman’s Contract, The Piano or Wonderland, but he is equally a composer of a great many autonomous and sometimes abstract works, including symphonies, string quartets, song cycles, and so on. Nyman was also a musicologist – and an ethnomusicologist – at the beginning of his career, working on early baroque music and collecting Romanian folk song.”

Ian Pace added: “Furthermore, he championed new music as a critic for The Listener, while his 1974 book Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, was profoundly influential for many.

“For all of these reasons, his diverse work is especially relevant to a department like ours. Nyman’s work, drawing upon pre-existing musics, is far from simply nostalgic or idly eclectic, but represents a very clearly defined and individual sensibility.”

The lecture was part of the Department’s annual three-week festival of music, City Summer Sounds, featuring free events by our students alongside acclaimed international professionals.

 

City Music Department Christmas Cabaret 2017!

The Music Department celebrated the end of the Autumn Term in style with the annual Christmas Cabaret on the afternoon of 15th December.

Starting with the much-loved students vs staff quiz – which the students won, of course! – the afternoon featured appearances by the gamelan, led by Andy Channing, and the jazz-improvisation ensemble, led by Shirley Smart, the staff biscuit tin ensemble performed the world premiere of a specially-commissioned piece by MA student Gilberto Filho, for 5 biscuit tins played with a selection of vegetables, and we were treated to some vocal delights including a Disney medley and the traditional 12 Days of City Christmas.

We also had a beautiful specially-baked cake made by 3rd year students Harriet McBurnie and Eunji Choi. And we raised £50 for Mind and the Islington Law Centre by raffling and auctioning the beautiful handmade cabaret posters (to add to the £170 already raised in Trafalgar Square on 13th December).

The afternoon ended with a set by the funk band, when the performance space turned into a dance floor. Thanks to the Cabaret Committee and to everyone for contributing to such a fun afternoon. Happy Christmas all and see you next term!

     

      

      

 

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.