Various bits of copywriting
for Edition·S. 2013

- Copenhagen Phil in Christiania -

‘The Danish song is a young blonde girl’, or at least so said Carl Nielsen and Kai Hoffman in 1926.

For the second time in a week, the Copenhagen Phil will at 8pm Saturday October 12 play the unparalleled setting of Christiania’s Grå Hal. Continuing the centenary celebrations of the Danish Composers’ Society the concert, curated by Jexper Holmen and Frode Andersen, sees composers of the 21st century respond to the idea of what ‘the Danish song’ can be today. Freshly composed pieces will sit alongside Holmen’s vehemently physical sole orchestral work Transcendental Preference and Amongst, Simon Steen-Andersen’s ‘concerto for extremely amplified guitar and orchestra’. In all, three consecutive acts form the evening with various ‘intermezzo’ pieces by Anders Monrad/Jesper Elving, Jeppe Just, Jeppe Ernst, and Wayne Seigel complementing larger works by Pernille Sejlund, Thomas Agerfeldt, Jesper Egelund, Peter Bruun, and Anders Brødsgaard. The result of collaboration between Holmen and Andersen, the closing work most boldly addresses the overarching theme: Song we sing to ourselves is, as well as the Copenhagen Phil, to be performed by the audience itself. Surely an experience not to be missed!

- Nordic Music Days 2013 -

Rotating annually around the Nordic countries, this year Helsinki plays host to one of the world’s longest continuously running music festivals. Nordic Music Days 2013 presents the richest offering of contemporary Nordic music in all its diverse forms for five days beginning October 15.
The Tapiola Sinfonietta takes charge of the first of the sixteen concerts programmed with a concert featuring Steingrimur Rohloff’s Der erste Mensch. Written originally for Ensemble Modern in 2011, the Icelandic-German composer’s ‘experiment with “dirty sounds” and “musical uncleanliness”’ on one hand sees a quite free use of electronic sounds where whilst on the other the performers’ physical abilities often pushed to the point of the theatrical. Later in the same evening a second concert offers Rune Glerup’s work for cello and electronics, Destruct[urat]ion #4, where after beginning with a pre-existing piece the composer reworked the old material by using the abstract painting technique of Jackson Pollock as something of a compositional ‘prism’.
On Wednesday 16 October, members of the Uusinta Chamber Ensemble present Simon Christensen’s Octet. Written just last year, the work displays exquisitely the one time rock drummer’s revelry in polyrhythms. Yet, a mere construction of superimposed figures this is not; Christensen is acutely attentive to the stratums’ microtonal level, going to affect the nature of the foreground from the most miniscule detail up.
Broadcast live on Finnish radio, on Friday October 18 the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra perform Simon Steen-Andersen’s work of 2010, Double Up. A work of duality and distortion, this year’s recipient of the Carl Nielsen Prize musically interprets the range between the supposed certainty of the ‘double up’ in the casino or stock market and the ‘drunken and sloppy’ of a bar’s happy hour.
To conclude this penultimate day of the festival, at 10pm Jexper Holmen’s work for clarinet, string trio and analogue ring-modulator Marula, originally commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival for the London Sinfonietta, receives a performance by defunensemble.

- Copenhagen premiere of Black Box Music -

Under Håkon Stene, who takes the dual-role of percussionist and conductor, the Aarhus Sinfonietta will open the Wundergrund Festival 2013 on October 26 with the Copenhagen premiere of Simon Steen-Andersen’s Black Box Music. First performed in 2012 and since heard the world over, the Koncertkirken will host the first performance of this most immersive work in the capital.
We hear music but we do not quite see it. Steen-Andersen’s ‘grand show’ has the conductor/soloist perform duties with hands inside an amplified black box mocked up to be a stage, complete with curtains and props. However, this is all we really see projected on a screen, as flanking the audience the work’s fifteen players respond to their on-screen master. With loudspeakers playing the sounds from the conductor/percussionist also located around the concert space, the whole room is a stage and all directed from this box within a box.
The work, in a sense, furthers the ‘location as an instrument’ concept explored in the video-installation piece RunTime Error. But here different concepts are at play. Our visual focus is directed away from the performers and into the microcosm of performance we see projected before us, but simultaneously we are inside of.
This radical but compelling, and sometimes funny, take on the inherent theatre of music has attracted much praise and will come just a day after the composer is awarded the prestigious Carl Nielsen Prize at the Black Diamond, Royal Library, which that evening hosts a celebratory concert featuring the composer's works.
Also as part of the Copenhagen-based festival, on the following Monday the composer himself is set to engage in a debate about music and performance at the Literaturhaus from 6pm.

- Jack Quartet in Denmark -

The young and exciting Jack Quartet will come to Denmark this month to play four concerts of contemporary Danish string quartets. Since forming at the Eastman School of Music, this American foursome has become one of the foremost exhibitors of contemporary music. Danish audiences will have the rare treat of hearing these virtuosos take on some of the most thrilling, sometimes moving, and more often ground-breaking chamber music Denmark has to offer.
The Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen hosts the first concert on November 7 and includes two world premieres by Edition·S composers. The second of his ‘Mosiaco’ series of works, Ejnar Kanding’s Obscure Transparence takes the traditional string quartet and adds live electronics with the software Max/MSP. Completed this year, Anders Brødsgaard’s String Quartet also receives its first performance.
On November 9 at the Auktionshuset in Aarhus, Jexper Holmen’s Intend and Simon Steen-Andersen’s String Quartet No.2 will be performed. Holmen’s work might be though of as ‘catastrophic’, but only according to it fitting between his idea of ‘Pre-Catastrophic’ works and ‘Post-Catastrophic’ ones. This is violent music, where the players balance brutal periods of musical catastrophe with fleeting moments of arrest. Steen-Andersen’s Quartet requires the players to use ‘prepared and amplified bows’ and where Holmen’s swings almost offensively between extremes in dynamic, this work of 2012 is contrastingly a kind of microscopic study in restricted means. In addition to this, following recent success with his song work Me Quitte, Niels Rønsholdt’s Americana will receive its first performance. And, if that was not enough, a further highlight of the Jack Quartet's Aarhus concert will be a performance of Crystal Tapestry by the promising young Danish composer Allan Gravgaard Madsen.
The following day, the quartet completes their tour of Denmark with a visit to the Utzon Centre in Aalborg. Alongside other contemporary Danish quartets, Kanding’s Obscure Transparence, Steen- Andersen’s String Quartet No.2, and Brødsgaard’s String Quartet will be heard.
And, on the November 16, the quartet return to Denmark to play the Define Festival in Sønderborg where Kanding and Brødsgaard will be heard again.

- Wien Modern Festival 2013 -

The 26th Wien Modern festival began this year on October 24 and concludes this week. On Monday 11 November, the cradle of modernism itself bears witness to one of Denmark’s most radical composers when the PHACE Ensemble performs Simon Christensen’s work for string quartet Towards Nothingness.
Born from the same impulse as much rock music, Christensen takes the traditional ensemble and, using the software Max/MSP, has the instruments play through individual guitar amplifiers. The audible result is uncompromising and raw, repetitive music with a serrated edge.
Yet, the journey through the work sees this edge evolve. The opening polyphony of recurrent deep- cutting heavy bowings often switches abruptly in register and then, two-thirds of the way through, the intensity suddenly gives way to a softer and more resonant episode employing the same material. But just as calm seems within reach, the broad texture of ringing and tugging chords is, as rapidly as it appeared, condensed into a grinding grainy music of friction as Christensen has the players play sub- harmonics – where if bowing correctly a player can create a sound one octave lower than the string itself. Whilst these new sonorities dominate the texture, the resonances of the lone cellist’s plucked lines seem a residue of the previous music.
And so, once bows have touched strings for the last time, we may wonder whether just for a fleeting moment we heard the next musical episode; the material now condensed so much in sonority and length that it simply reached the point of nothingness.

- Simon Christensen's new movie project: Mail -

Alongside his unmistakable instrumental works, Simon Christensen has in recent years found his stride writing pieces utilising video and projection. Most notably, in 2011, his collaboration with the filmmaker Bill Morrison, TRIBUTES – Pulse, with its sepia conjunction of deteriorating film compiled by Morrison and Christensen's pulse-led music, met critical acclaim and has since been heard worldwide.
The Danish composer's new project has seen him work collaboratively with the filmmaker Robert Schaller and performance artist Michelle Ellsworth on a smaller project entitled 'Mail'. The elusive new work, in three parts, for solo cello, electronics, and analogue film equipment is to be performed as a whole in Colorado at the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center on November 23, with Trevor Minton on cello.

- Langgaard String Quartets Vol. 2 -

It is probably fair to say that the Nightingale String Quartet took the musical world a little by surprise when they released their first volume of the string quartets of Rued Langgaard last year. Amongst the overwhelmingly positive critical and public reception, the San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed: 'Simply breathtaking. I can't wait for the next release.' The wait is over.
Featuring works all centering around the year 1918 – Rosengaardsspil (Rose Garden Play), the String Quartet (A-flat major), and the String Quartet No. 4 'Sommerdage' (Summer Days) – these incredible new performances leave little doubt of both the Nightingale Quartet's position as one of the finest young quartets around and of Langgaard's work will continuing to shift from its current paradoxic situation of 'famously neglected' to one where all recognise the value of this unique music.
The album is released on Dacapo records today (December 2) and is available here on CD and digital formats (including the 24-bit studio master). Also, the quartet plays a special concert at Christians Kirke, Copenhagen at 8pm tonight to celebrate the album release.

all texts copyright © Luke Lewis 2014