Works range from those using graphic art, comic strip and abstract artworks alongside familiar musical notation presented in unfamiliar ways. The programme spans classical, experimental and jazz to reflect the broad range of composers that have, and continue to, explore this pioneering practice. Joining Joanna Macgregor on stage are vocalist Elaine Mitchener, trumpeter Tom Arthurs, cellist Oliver Coates and electronics artist Isambard Khroustaliov, performing works by George Crumb, Cathy Berberian, Fred Frith, John Cage, Wadada Leo Smith, Cornelius Cardew, Tom Phillips RA and Jennifer Walshe against the striking visual backdrop of their projected scores.
A series of illustrated talks take place alongside the events featuring Theresa Sauer, from the fascinating Notations21 project that inspired this tour, with Tom Phillips RA joining Theresa in Southampton and London.
From the early twentieth century, certain groups of composers began questioning every convention and by the 1950s began liberating themselves from traditional notation through the use of visual symbols to create works of often stunning aesthetic quality. Blurring the boundaries between visual, written and musical languages, graphic scores saw collaboration between composers and visual artists, the influence of which is still felt today.
John Cage famously celebrated this prolific era for graphic scores with his book Notations (co-edited with Alison Knowles), which included works by the likes of Louis Andriessen alongside Yoko Ono and even a decorated lyric sheet by The Beatles. Whilst the initial blast of heat around graphic scores cooled in the 70s, their visual excitement remains highly seductive for many creating music today with artists from Aphex Twin to John Zorn using graphic notation in their work. In 2009 Theresa Sauer’s Notations21 explored these new developments in musical notation, just as Cage did, in a compendium of innovative scores from over 50 countries.
Graphic Scores charts a path from one side of the Atlantic to the other. John Cage’s Water Music for solo piano plus radio, whistles, water containers and a deck of cards is followed by Cathy Berberian’s wonderful Stripsody score where she exploits vocal technique using comic book sounds. Featuring Tarzan, superman, and Beatle’s Ticket To Ride heard over a radio dial, mezzo-soprano Elaine Mitchener brings the piece up to date with modern musical references.
UK composer Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise is one of the greatest examples of a graphic score. A massive work, it’s almost a separate work of art in itself comprising 193 pages of hugely striking, minimal graphic notation of which we present an excerpt as part of this concert. George Crumb’s Makrokosmos subtitled Twelve Fantasy-Pieces after the Zodiac took 7 years to complete; here Joanna MacGregor performs four pieces from its four volumes.
Several works by British artist / composer Tom Phillips RA are featured in the programme. Tom attended art school during the 60’s and was swept up in the free exchange of art forms these institutions encouraged. He was
instrumental in bringing composers like John Cage and Morton Feldman to the UK, and introducing Brian Eno to cross-art work. His work as an artist has won him great acclaim; to name just a few of his achievements he is only the second artist to have a retrospective of his portraits at the National Portrait and the Royal Mint commissioned him to design the first UK kilo coins to mark the occasion of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Songwriter, composer and improviser, and multi-instrumentalist Fred Frith’s graphic score for Bricks for Six (from Bricks, Glass, Wood, Fire) sees musicians interpret the patterns in a photograph of a brick wall. Whilst recent Pulitzer Prize winner, Wadada Leo Smith’s score for Luminous Axis looks like modern art it is in fact a language score which uses his systemic music language Ankhrasmation.
Hailed as “the most original compositional voice to emerge in Ireland in the last 20 years” (Irish Times), Irish composer, vocalist and artist Jennifer Walshe has created compositions, installations, graphic scores, films, photography, sculptures and fashion under various alter egos. Her THIS IS WHY PEOPLE O.D. ON PILLS/ AND JUMP FROM THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE score comes printed on a t-shirt and requires the musicians to undertake real and imaginary skate boarding.
An ensemble of some of the UK’s most exciting musicians, equally at home reading and improvising, has been specially put together for this project. One of the world’s most innovative musicians, Joanna MacGregor is currently Head of Piano at the Royal Academy and as a solo artist has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras and eminent conductors. As a recording artist she has made over 30 recordings from Bach to Cage and founded her own label SoundCircus whose releases include the Mercury prize nominated Play. Joanna is committed to expressing musical connections through diverse and original programming and has curated and been Artistic Director for major international festivals and events.
Trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer Tom Arthurs is a former BBC New Generation Artist whose work sits between large scale orchestral commissions, chamber jazz and experimental improvisation. Recent recordings include Julia Hulsmann Quartet (ECM) and as a composer Tom has received commissions from the City of London Festival, BBC Proms and BBC Concert Orchestra. Tom performs in numerous bands and his improvised output is available through the Not Applicable label.
Winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2011, Oliver Coates’ current season includes international performances with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov playing the Nico Muhly and Daníel Bjarnason Cello Concertos plus with Angela Hewitt and Barbara Hannigan playing chamber music. He is also an Artist in Residence at Southbank Centre in London where he programmes and curates a run of cross-arts events called Harmonic Series.
Isambard Khroustaliov is the solo alias of electronic musician and composer Sam Britton from the groups Icarus, Fiium Shaarrk and Leverton Fox. Performing worldwide, he has also released music on independent electronic music labels such as Output Recordings, Temporary Residence, Domino and The Leaf Label. Having recently studied at IRCAM in Paris, he has since worked with the London Sinfonietta and is also an associate with The New Radiophonic Workshop.
Vocalist Elaine Mitchener is noted for her mixture of styles drawing from sources as varied as contemporary new music, gospel, soul, jazz, and experimental/free improvisation. In recent years she has worked with Steve Beresford, John Butcher, Attila Csihar, Dam van Huynh, Max Eastley, Bobby Few, Luca Francesconi, Heiner Goebbels, Henry Grimes, Wouter van Looy, Christian Marclay, Phil Minton, David Moss, Lauren Newton, Maggie Nichols, Evan Parker, Mark Sanders and David Toop. Future performances include Manga Scroll (Marclay) Weseburg Museum, Bremen.
An intriguing peek into the history of this fascinating area and an insight into innovations taking place today, Graphic Scores presents an evening that will appeal to fans of contemporary music and art alike.
3 October, Southampton, Turner Sims,
8pm, £20 (£19 conc / £18 friends / £10 students), turnersims.co.uk, 023 8059 5151,
pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer and Tom Phillips RA at 7pm, free to ticket holders
4 October, Manchester, Royal Northern College of Music, 7.30pm, £12 (conc avail), rncm.ac.uk, 0161 907 5555, pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer at 6.30pm, free to ticket holders
5 October, Gateshead, Sage Gateshead, 8pm, £19.50, sagegateshead.com, 0191 443 4661,
pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer at 7pm, free to ticket holders
6 October, London, LSO St Luke’s, 7.30pm, £22 (£19 conc) / £15 (£12.50 conc) / £10, lso.co.uk/lso-st-luke-s, 020 7638 8891, pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer and Tom Phillips RA at 6.45pm, free to ticket holders
10 October, Leeds, Howard Assembly Room, 7.30pm, £12.50 (conc avail), howardassemblyroom.co.uk, 0844 848 2727, pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer at 6.15pm, free to ticket holders
11 October, Oxford, St John The Evangelist, Oxford promoted by Oxford Contemporary Music, 8pm, £17 (£15 conc), £14 (£10 conc), ocmevents.org, 01865 305 305, pre-concert talk with Theresa Sauer at 7pm, free to ticket holders
Produced by: sounduk. Funded by: Arts Council England, RVW Trust, Hinrichsen Trust
For further press information, images and interview contact: Maija Handover, sounduk, firstname.lastname@example.org ,020 3609 0242, 07939 568 053, www.sounduk.net
As an Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation, sounduk produces and commissions new music projects for tours and special events. We work with some of the most creative artists from Europe and beyond to create memorable performances which we hope excite and move audiences. In addition, sounduk works as a publicist and consultant with a range of like-minded artists and organisations at the forefront of their craft. www.sounduk.net