the cmrc blog

  • Posted on 11 June 2018

    The play of Beckett’s which first captured my imagination was the one called ‘Play ’.  A man and two women, their heads protruding from huge funeral urns, are interrogated by a spotlight which switches rapidly from one to another.  When the light shines on them they speak, when it moves away they stop.   The women, either side of the man, are his wife and mistress, and all three now inhabit a region beyond death. Each recalls their side of the triangular relationship – the wife her suspicions and confrontations, the mistress her contempt and disappointment, and the man his attempts to placate both women.

  • Posted on 1 June 2018

    Roger’s recent blog on Holliger’s settings of Beckett, and Bill’s reply, prompted me to offer a few thoughts on the subject of (fairly) recent examples of text and music for voice, with or without piano – or song, if you like to call it that. I’m curious to see how deconstructive strategies derived from the […]

  • Posted on 27 May 2018

    As a young composer, Beckett was as important to me as Joyce, perhaps more important.  In the early seventies my teacher Bernard Rands, along with a number of my fellow students, read Beckett and talked about his work a lot, especially the new stuff as it came out, which was minimal and exquisite and very exciting.  Vic Hoyland, a composer a few years ahead of me, whose work I greatly admired, bought me Beckett’s latest novella Lessness in about 1971 and it blew my mind.

  • Posted on 19 April 2018

    One of Japan’s biggest pop culture idols for over a decade, Hatsune Miku’s synthesised voice and image have been used on hundreds of thousands pop tracks, videos, and franchised products worldwide. Powered by Yamaha’s Vocaloid software, she represents the ultimate hyper-idol, a digitally rendered eternal bubblegum teen star. Originally intended as just a cannily marketed […]

  • Posted on 20 March 2018

    The 2018 Spring forum was held on 14th March in the “Treehouse”, Humanities Research Centre. In this new environment, there were presentations from people early on in their research as well as those close to submission. The range of topics demonstrated the impact and significance of music beyond the department walls. First up was in-coming […]

  • Posted on 20 March 2018

      Composed for Solo Television performer, and incorporating bath tubs, kettles, mechanical fish, and a grand piano, a remarkable recording exists of Cage’s ‘Water Walk’, given by the man himself on the 1960s American panel show ‘I’ve Got a Secret’.  It’s an absurd scene, made all the more surreal through the postponement of the game-show […]

  • Posted on 5 March 2018

      Last week, the Proms announced that by 2022, 50% of new commissions will go to women (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/26/bbc-proms-give-half-new-commissions-women-2022/).  This is part of the PRSF’s Keychange initiative, and 45 other UK festivals have made pledges along similar lines. Predictably, not everyone is happy, though this Telegraph headline is perhaps overstating things: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/01/bbc-proms-backlash-gender-balance-will-see-fading-opportunities/ The argument I’ve heard most […]

  • Posted on 24 January 2018

    As tributes pour in for the legendary South African trumpeter, vocalist, composer and arranger uBab’uHugh Ramopolo Masekela, the world reflects on his global contribution to music, his role in the anti-apartheid movement, and his advocacy for civil rights and heritage restoration in Africa. During a recording career spanning 60 years he reached audiences worldwide with […]

  • Posted on 17 January 2018

    In the late nineties I was producer for the Naxos Audiobook recordings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy in a new English translation by Benedict Flynn.  The reader was the extraordinary Heathcote Williams who died in July 2017. I knew nothing at the time about Heathcote, his poetry, his political writing or his acting; but I […]

  • Posted on 11 January 2018

    Mementos   [originally written for Aurora Orchestra blog] but see the mud is on our shoulders Edoardo Sanguineti … No listener, no performer, no composer can escape their personal musical histories and engage an ‘innocent ear’.  We hear through a bespoke hall of mirrors that transforms fluctuating air pressure into something rich and meaningful. We […]

  • Posted on 2 January 2018

    It was Bernard Rands, my composition teacher, who in 1971 introduced my family to the Italian aperitif Punt e Mes, a dark vermouth with a slightly bitter taste.  It became a favourite in our house for a few years, and a kind of family secret because in London at that time (and still today) it was not a well-known drink.  At the start of our relationship in the late eighties, Anna (now my wife) and I, rediscovered Punt e Mes and would always have a bottle in the house.  When in 1987 I was asked to take part in a live radio chat during the interval of a BBC concert which included the London premiere of Berio’s orchestral work Formazioni, I asked Anna to give me a word or phrase to slip into the discussion as a secret message across the airwaves: something challenging.  Yes I was that unprofessional.  Anna immediately suggested ‘Punt e Mes’.

  • Posted on 17 October 2017

    The Autumn 2017 Postgraduate Forum is intended as a welcome to newcomers and a showcase of research by current students. The event reflected the current multifaceted nature of research in Music. Unity was found in this diversity in that so many ideas were concerned with bridging certain boundaries of discipline, venue, musical technique or the […]

  • Posted on 12 October 2017

    Memory is the subject of this year’s BBC Radio 3 / Wellcome Collection mini festival, “Why Music?”.  I recall as a young violinist that music seemed to embed itself in my fingers so that I never needed to learn to memorise, and never worried that I might forget in performance.  Fast-forward a couple of decades (ok maybe a few decades) and I’m looping the first four bars of one of Kurtág’s Signs Games and Messages, desperately trying to alight on the correct continuation in the second phrase and wondering how many times I can get away with the repetition before anyone notices.

  • Posted on 4 October 2017

    We read all the time that our society is ‘more divided than ever’.  I don’t need to reference that – it’s a common trope, and not just in the UK but in the USA and across the world.  The inequalities and racial tensions are there for everyone to see.  But more divided?  I doubt that.  Our great castles and cathedrals were not built to house the poor, and even within living memory violent civil wars and extreme racial segregation should give us pause for thought.

  • Posted on 22 September 2017

      I live in earshot of Heslington Hall. At night, I hear   the clock strike the hours. They have replaced the gears and the bell;   now it’s synthesized. I no longer imagine or hear   whirs, clanks, gaps, errors. It’s all correct, uniform, pleasant.   ***   I think: this is not how […]

  • Posted on 1 September 2017

    The spectre of Nazism has surfaced this summer in the USA (Land of the Free). It has been troubling to see Nazi flags flying and armed, uniformed Nationalists marching on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.  It has given rise to some debate on social media about the appropriate response to this growing phenomenon.  In a […]

  • Posted on 4 July 2017

    As a school governor I have to approve policies which include the teaching of British Values.  I find this deeply troubling, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  What are British Values?  Apparently they are ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs […]

  • Posted on 22 June 2017

    Isang Yun Remembered Postlude I: Music and Politics (Music by Isang Yun and Roger Marsh) Recently I organized and performed a concert entitled Isang Yun Remembered (June 6th NCEM), focusing on the relationship between Yun’s music and his political/cultural experience. The concert prompted me to reflect further, and this blog explores some of my thoughts […]

  • Posted on 24 May 2017

    A report from Lynette Quek PhD in Audiovisual Composition and Carmen Troncoso PhD in Performance   On Wednesday 10th May we showcased our collaborative piece “ Recordeur  I-II ” within the framework of Sound & Thought at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland.  Sound Thought (Festival of Music and Sound Research, Composition and […]

  • Posted on 8 May 2017

    The First Young Musicologists and Ethnomusicologists International Conference (YMEIC) – was held at Tor Vergata University in Rome on 27th-28th April, and featured three papers by PhD researchers from the York Music Department.

  • Posted on 25 April 2017

    I have been working exclusively with toy instruments for almost a year now, although the title of this post perhaps implies a degree of severity and gravity in this exploration, which, in reality, was never intended, nor ever materialised.

  • Posted on 3 March 2017

    The music department’s spring postgraduate forum was held on Thursday 2nd March. We had a packed day with a really wide range of topics covered, issues touched on, and genres explored. Click for full report and timetable.  LM tweet Beau

  • Posted on 7 February 2017

    In 1997 I made a new singing translation of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.  I did it because I wanted to mount a staged performance of the piece in a way that would allow a British audience to understand the texts, and the existing translations were not good to sing.  The early (and most famous) translation by Cecil Gray, for example, has some horrors: ‘a phantasmagorical light ray’ (no 3) is one; even worse is ‘a chlorotic laundry maid’ (no 4).

  • Posted on 2 February 2017

    Postgraduate forum, Autumn 2016 2016’s autumn postgraduate forum – 28th September, in the Music Research Centre – showcased a typically diverse range of talents, tastes, specialisms and perspectives. The forum also featured, for the first time, a poster competition – giving students the opportunity to share ideas and progress in a different format and broadening […]

  • Posted on 9 January 2017

    The composer and double bassist Barry Guy is the kind of musician I would love to have been. In a career which began in London in the late 1960s, Barry has defied conventional type-casting and made his mark in the worlds of jazz, early music and avant-garde concert music.  When the Vortex Jazz Club open their Intakt Festival on April 16th 2017 with a concert to celebrate Barry’s 70th birthday, he will play all night himself, with jazz legends like Evan Parker and Howard Riley; but he will also play a set with his wife Maya Homburger, a baroque violinist.  They will play music of the 9th century, and play Biber, as well as improvising on music by Kurtag and a piece by Barry.

  • Posted on 19 September 2016

    I was invited to the Royal Irish Academy of Music to give a lecture-recital on the resistance of the flute in indeterminate compositions. The indeterminacy of the pieces I was performing seemed to coincide with the indeterminacy of the city and the event in multiple ways. For instance, for one of the pieces, Umbrella resistance, I need a second performer who acts as an umbrella operator. Since I couldn’t bring my own performer to Dublin, Dublin had to provide one for me. This was very exciting.

  • Posted on 5 September 2016

    On a secluded backstreet in the ancient Italian town of Spoleto, there is a house full of statues. Open its heavy oak front door, and you are greeted immediately by an imposing stone figure guarding the central courtyard. Entering the main body of the house, you meet a reclining figure; climbing the stairs, a vast mask stares down upon you with unblinking eyes. On the first floor, in a stately music room flooded with light, and lined with scores, a series of busts of musical luminaries – Mahler, Schoenberg, Klemperer – look down unwaveringly across the curved form of a Steinway grand.

  • Posted on 1 September 2016

    Berlin, Germany initially felt like an intimidating city to me — the graffiti-filled walls, the language I was unfamiliar with*, and its long history and heritage. But having been there recently, my views took a complete turn. Berlin is beautiful, beautiful in a way that you have to experience it yourself. It had an inner beauty shared among the friendly locals, artistic culture that was part of daily life, and a sense of warmth that made me feel safe travelling alone.

  • Posted on 1 September 2016

    Working with Michael Finnissy this year at one of his many birthday celebration events (this was a performance of Plain Harmony with COMA and the BCMG in Birmingham), I was struck by one of his tangents. It seemed he was a reviewer for the press at one point and gave a good review of a piece by Michael Tippett (I forget which). He received a handwritten note from Tippett thanking him for what appeared to be the only good review, remarking that composing was “Like crossing a desert, without any friends” (paraphrase).

  • Posted on 30 August 2016

    As long as our artistic work based or influenced by others’ work(s) is well defined in its purpose and scope as well as properly acknowledged, endless , creative, innovative proposals can be developed, opening new insights, new frameworks, and, as Roger wrote once, providing ‘a new lease of life’.

    However, this chain of related names and works has to appear as part of the new expression, the new version, the new ‘thing’. So I agree with the opinion that we shouldn´t need to trace the originals. They should be there, as part of the new event.

  • Posted on 24 August 2016

    Every student of 20th century music knows Pierrot Lunaire, one of the iconic masterpieces of 20th century music.  If you are reading this and you don’t know it, go away and check it out and I’ll catch you later.

    Pierre Boulez, when asked to name the two most important pieces of modern music, had no hesitation in citing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire op 21.  The influence of Pierrot was huge – even Stravinsky had to admit its importance.

  • Posted on 22 July 2016

    On the evening of June 18th 2006, a fair-haired man in his mid-twenties, boyish and bespectacled, stood up on stage at the Royal Court Theatre in London, in front of an audience including the playwrights Harold Pinter,  Vaclav Havel, and Tom Stoppard and the actors Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons, and read the following words:

    Now, of course, questions must be asked.  We’re going to have to talk about a great many things.  I want you to know that I’m here for the long haul.  I’m not backing down.  I’ll keep on asking until there’s simply nothing left to ask.  So, where to begin?  Begin again, shall we?  Why don’t you tell me what it was you were doing before we arrested you?  No?  Don’t like that idea?  Don’t want to tell me that?  If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.  Nothing to hide.  But, you do have something to fear, don’t you?  Dont you?