Tag Archives: interview

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: https://soundcloud.com/georgiarodgers

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: http://www.city.ac.uk/city-summer-sounds

Or follow us on facebook: http://facebook.com/CitySummerSounds

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: http://joannabailie.com/

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: http://www.city.ac.uk/city-summer-sounds

Or follow us on facebook: http://facebook.com/CitySummerSounds




Five minutes with: Luci Briginshaw

Luci BriginshawLuci Briginshaw (soprano) and Ian Pace (piano) will be performing tonight in The Performance Space, 7pm, City University London. We spent five minutes having a quick chat with Luci ahead of rehearsals:

Firstly, please tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I graduated from King’s College London, where I did an academic music degree (so not much to do with singing), ten years ago. Since then I’ve been working in an office, and on the side repeatedly trying to get into music college to study singing further. This never really happened, so I’m striking out on my own! I’m very soon going to leave my office job, and be a full-time singer, and this is thanks to my position as an official operatic busker at Covent Garden Market, which, believe or not, does now bring in enough money to live on. I do also occasionally get paid to be in opera productions!

How did you get into music and what made you pursue a career as a musician?

I’ve always wanted to be a musician for as long as I can remember. I badgered my mum to teach me the piano as soon as I was old enough to stand up and bang on the keys. She very kindly financed private piano lessons for me from the age of 5 to 18, and somewhere along that line it became clear to me that singing, and not the piano, was my true love, (although being a pianist is an invaluable aid now I am a singer).

What is it in particular that draws you to opera?

Great music sounds best when sung by a really beautiful voice, in my opinion. Opera has the best tunes, and I want to be the one that sings them!

You’ve recently performed roles such as The Queen (The Magic Flute), Clorinda (La Cenerentola) and Olympia (Les contes d’Hoffmann) as well as Mrs Rogers/Nurse in the new children’s opera My Mother Told Me Not To Stare. What has been your favourite role and why?

I am also about to sing the role of Leila in the Pearl Fishers in April, which I think will be lovely, as well as The Queen of the Night yet again in November. The Queen sings two absolutely phenomenal songs which are great fun, but as a role I couldn’t really say it’s my favourite because in reality you’re very disconnected from the rest of the cast, and spend most of the opera backstage, which is a little dull. As an experience, rather than just as a ‘role’, I would say my favourite job has been the new opera last year, as it was so special to feel I was part of creating something truly new, not just trying to emulate what thousands of sopranos had done before me. And it was also just a really great show!

Yes, creating something new is certainly a different challenge. Is that something you would like to be involved in the future, creating and presenting new operatic works?

I would love to do more contemporary work, yes; it’s very exciting to me. The only downside is it’s incredibly difficult to convince the public to come and see something new; they are very apprehensive, and worried they won’t like it. It’s such a shame that so many wonderful new pieces are being ignored.

Was it a different challenge performing specifically for children?

The challenge of performing to children had largely been taken care of by the composer and librettist, who had created a wonderfully tailor-made children’s story, with accessible music; but a challenge that I, as an actor, had to face was that all of the singing I did was performed with some kind of mask on my face. This meant that all the expression I put into had to be via movement of my body, which did take some getting used to.

It can be difficult to bring together the many hundreds of versions of well-known works when it comes to performance. How do you normally go about approaching well-known works with regards to taking influence from others, yet maintaining your own interpretation and voice?

I tend to learn a piece from the music on the score, and not listen to anyone else performing it until I have already learnt it. Having said that, for extremely well-known works, there is no avoiding the fact that you’ve heard it many times before. I think you just have to colour your interpretation with feelings that accompany the “getting inside” of that particular character – this will always result in an individual performance, because no-one else can be inside your head and therefore sing it exactly as you do.

Finally, what tips do you have for others pursuing a career in music, and more specifically opera?

If it is truly what you want to do, then don’t give up. Don’t bother taking personal offence at any criticism given. And also, although this bit can be tricky, really make sure you have the right teacher. You can waste years going to the same teacher because you like them, or they make you feel comfortable, but you should know in your heart whether or not they are advancing your technique at a noticeable speed. If not, shop around. And don’t give up! Mainly, don’t give up.


Luci will be performing a programme of Rebecca Clarke, Vincenzo Bellini, Richard Strauss, Jules Massenet and Ambroise Thomas, in the Performance Space tonight, at 7pm.

Admission is free; further details can be found at: