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Series 4

CMPCP/IMR Series 4 (2013-14)


Hearing the continuum of sound

Salomé Voegelin (London College of Communication)
7 October 2013

Room 104, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Salomé Voegelin discusses her work as an artist and writer concerned with the practice and philosophy of sound. In particular she will introduce her current research into sound art works as sonic possible worlds, inviting us to hear the work as environment, as timespace place that we generate in our listening and that reciprocates us in what we hear. This sonic possibilism can be likened to the practice of an affective geography, inhabiting and walking through the work as world; to explore it from its material actualities and its imaginary possibilities to contingently decide what it is and what that is like. These environments are extended from sound art into the musical work, where through a participatory listening, music is drawn into the universe of sound and sonic production to find a shared accessibility that offers not an unproblematic, linear or homogeneous history between sound art and music, but that pursues a folding, unfolding and refolding of each other from the possibility of sound into the experience of listening to hear the possibilities of a discontinuous continuity.

Salomé Voegelin is Swiss artist and writer based in London. She is the author of Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, Continuum, NY, 2010. Other writings include ‘Ethics of listening’ in the Journal of Sonic Studies, Vol. 2, 2012, and ‘Listening to the stars’ in What Matters Now? (What Can’t You Hear?), Noch Publishing, 2013. She co-hosts, together with Daniela Cascella, a monthly radio show, ‘ora: voyages into listening and writing’ on Resonance FM, and is currently working on a second book Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound, to be published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury in 2014. She is a reader in Sound Arts at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.

Tristan Murail: Thursday 31 October at BBC Maida Vale Studios

Open Rehearsal
31 October 2013
MV1, BBC Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Road, London W9 2LG

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sakari Oramo, conductor
Olli Mustonen, piano
Sergei Nakariov, trumpet

Tristan Murail: Reflections/Reflets
Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor Op. 35

To attend this event (which is free of charge), please email
You must register for this event to be permitted access to BBC Maida Vale Studios.

Tristan Murail discusses his music
31 October 2013
MV1, BBC Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Road, London W9 2LG

Tristan Murail in conversation with Professor Jonathan Cross

To attend this event(which is free of charge), please email
You must register for this event to be permitted access to BBC Maida Vale Studios.

Tristan Murail’s new work Reflections will receive its world premiere by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on Saturday 2 November at 7.30pm in the Barbican Centre.

For further details and to book tickets:

Christopher Redgate demonstrates Brian Ferneyhough

Christopher Redgate and Brian Ferneyhough
11 November 2013

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Christopher Redgate demonstrates passages from Brian Ferneyhough’s new work Schatten aus Wasser und Stein for the Redgate/Howarth oboe and string quartet

Christopher Redgate has specialised in contemporary repertoire for over thirty years and has performed across Europe, the USA, China and Australia. A three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship (2009-12) at the Royal Academy of Music enabled him to re-think the key-work of the oboe and, in collaboration with Howarth of London, to build a new instrument: the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe. He now performs exclusively on this instrument. As a performer he has developed significantly several aspects of oboe technique, leading him to re-evaluate a number of performance practices. Christopher Redgate’s concerts frequently include solo improvisations, which allow him to further explore the more extreme areas of the oboe. Many composers have written for him, including Michael Finnissy, Richard Barrett, Sam Hayden, Roger Redgate, Edwin Roxburgh, Christopher Fox, James Clarke, Paul Archbold, Dorothy Ker, Michael Young, Fabrice Fitch, David Gorton, Rob Keeley, Joe Cutler, Edward Cowie and Gwyn Pritchard. He gives regular masterclasses for oboists and composer workshops at colleges and universities around the world. He has recorded extensively, contributed articles to Contemporary Music Review and other double reed journals. He is currently writing a book, 21st Century Oboe, and contributing chapters to others.

What might Schechner’s Performance Studies and the emerging field of performance philosophy mean for music?

Laura Cull (University of Surrey)
9 December 2013

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

This paper will be in two parts. The first will start from the premise that the term ‘performance studies’ means different things in different contexts. Specifically, the paper will address the distinction between i) ‘Performance Studies’ understood as a discipline that emerged largely as a challenge to Theatre Studies in the US in the 1980s and 90s – thanks in large part to the work of Richard Schechner, and ii) performance studies understood as ‘the scholarly study of musical performance’ (Rink 2005: x) which, again since the 1980s, has constituted a rapidly growing area of research within music and musicology. Having outlined the distinction, but also areas of shared concern, I will offer some preliminary observations as to what the value might be of greater levels of communication between these two versions of performance studies. The second part of the paper will introduce the emerging field of Performance Philosophy as one site in which precisely these kinds of interdisciplinary exchange might take place. Here, I will focus on the concept of music performance as philosophy – drawing from scholars such as Andrew Bowie to suggest that we need not think of philosophy as simply one more source of methodologies which might be applied to musical performance, but of music performance itself as the site of a kind of philosophical thinking in its own right.

Laura Cull is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies and Director of Postgraduate Research in the School of Arts at the University of Surrey. She is author of the book Theatres of Immanence: Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance (Palgrave, 2012), editor of the volume Deleuze and Performance (Edinburgh, 2009) and co-editor of the collection Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics (Intellect, 2013). Laura is a founding, core convener of the research network and professional association Performance Philosophy, which includes a sub-group for those concerned with the relationship between Music and Philosophy.

Performing reality through Australian indigenous epistemologies of ceremonial law

Aaron Corn (Australian National University)
27 January 2014

Room 102, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

There is a song in my mind that takes me to a place of great beauty and antiquity. As its melody undulates through my synapses, I can sense this place anew – fine, white sands squelching between my toes; wind rippling across the bay towards an adjacent island. The air tastes of salt and, close to shore, a rip current emits a constant, gentle roar as a lone gull cries above. In this place, I am alone, yet people surround me and watch me as I sit – generation upon generation of them moving in rhythm; their intertwining voices becoming one with the song in my mind. Such are the performed realities of Australian indigenous ceremonial law through which humanity is defined, ancestral lineages are reckoned, and rights to country are evidenced through the human ability to sing and dance in the traditions of ancestors. This system of codifying generations of knowledge about the ecologies found on country enabled humans to survive and thrive in Australia for scores of millennia before British colonisation, and gave rise to formal musical structures that aesthetically echo the heterophonic individuation of natural forms. This presentation will explore how Australian indigenous song and dance traditions formally codify ceremonial law, and will raise salient questions about perceived relations between music and knowledge within the academy, where meaning and evidence are conventionally rendered in text.

Aaron Corn is Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor in the School of Music at the Australian National University. His research is built on long-term collaborations with indigenous communities in regional Australia, and spans studies of traditional music and dance, song composition, cultural heritage collections, information technologies and digital repositories, intercultural exchanges, and comparative epistemologies. He has recently co-edited volumes on Information Technologies and Indigenous Communities and The Musical World of Lament, and his book, Reflections and Voices, explores the legacy of the prolific Australian band, Yothu Yindi. He has co-produced numerous creative works with traditional performers from the Tanami Desert and Arnhem Land in Australia’s north, and co-directs the National Recording Project for Indigenous Performance in Australia, which hosts the annual Symposium on Indigenous Music and Dance. He is President of the Musicological Society of Australia, and sits on the Australian Research Council College of Experts.

The practice of creative performance

Karen Wise, Mirjam James and John Rink (University of Cambridge)
10 February 2014

Room G37, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

This presentation will interrogate the results from a recent study in which advanced student performers kept practice diaries, completed questionnaires and made video footage of themselves practising; they were then asked to select ‘creative episodes’ from their footage to discuss in a research interview. Select case examples reveal a range of strategies and approaches to developing a sense of ownership in one’s interpretation of a piece. We identify processes of exploration, problem identification/solving, evaluation and revision that serve to clarify expressive intentions and build a conceptual representation of the ‘essence’ of a piece which unites technical, expressive, musical, emotional and metacognitive elements. We argue that approaches to documenting and conceptualising practice, which have traditionally separated musical, expressive and technical aspects, have not allowed creative processes to be fully revealed. Based on our observational data we argue furthermore that creative elements are not simply an ‘add on’ after technical mastery is achieved; rather, the integration of multiple elements is in itself a creative process. We therefore encourage a broader concept of ‘practice’ that goes beyond time spent in physical engagement with one’s instrument. The presentation is not intended to provide practical advice, but the case studies do raise questions for reflecting practice and guiding future research.

Karen Wise was Research Associate in the AHRC Centre for Music Performance as Creative Practice, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge. Her PhD in Psychology (Keele) examined the musical skills, cognitive profiles and self-perceptions of adults self-identifying as ‘tone deaf’. She is also a classical mezzo-soprano and singing teacher.

Mirjam James was Research Associate at the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP) at the University of Cambridge. She holds a MA in Musicology, Psychology and Politics (TU Berlin) and a MSc in Music Psychology (Keele University). Her PhD, on audio-visual perception, was awarded by TU Berlin and her research interest includes group communication, practice, performance and audiences.

John Rink is Director of CMPCP, Professor of Musical Performance Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Music at St John’s College. He specialises in Chopin studies, analysis and performance, and digital applications. Many of his books and other publications focus on performance and related issues.

Tempo relationships in eighteenth-century music – historically-inspired creativity?

John Butt (University of Glasgow)
24 February 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

It is easy to get fanatical about eighteenth-century tempo and tempo relationships. Theoretical sources provide a tempting array of suggestions and apparent prescriptions, but there is really very little hard and fast evidence of a system that can be applied beyond very local parameters. Nevertheless, it is likely that many composers would have read and thought about proportional relationships surviving in old treatises even if they misunderstood these in many respects. One particularly attractive system of conventions come from Kirnberger, supposedly derived from J. S. Bach (if so, at what stage in the latter’s career?). This talk will examine some of John Butt’s recent experiments in performing and recording works by Bach, Handel and Mozart, showing how following suppositions that can never have full historical validity can make a useful starting point for understanding eighteenth-century tempo. While no claims can be made for historical veracity, it is perhaps important to note that he would not have interpreted the music the way he did without imagining possible historical scenarios.

John Butt is Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow and Musical Director of Edinburgh’s Dunedin Consort. Having worked at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Cambridge, he has always pursued a dual career as scholar and performer. His scholarly work has resulted in five monographs, concerning Bach and the Baroque, performance practice and issues of modernity and its relationship to classical music. He has recorded widely as an organist and harpsichordist and produced seven recordings as director of the Dunedin Consort (three of which have been nominated for Gramophone Awards, Handel’s Messiah winning the Baroque vocal award in 2007). Recent recordings include Bach’s St John Passion, recorded for the first time with its original liturgy, and the Brandenburg Concertos at low chamber pitch. 2014 will see the release of a reconstruction of the first performance of Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier, played on harpsichord. In addition to his work with Dunedin, he also regularly conducts other groups such as the OAE, Irish Baroque Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Completing Mozart fragments: on musicology and forgetting

Timothy Jones (Royal Academy of Music)
24 March 2014

Room 102, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Our understanding of Mozart’s fragmentary compositions has been transformed over the last twenty years by the work of Alan Tyson, Ulrich Konrad and others. While Tyson’s paper studies raised fundamental questions about the dates of many fragments, Konrad’s research has led to a re-evaluation of Mozart’s approach to ‘quality control’ in some of his unfinished music. Scholarly findings on this topic have prompted musicians to attempt new completions of Mozart fragments. Such completions can sit uncomfortably on categorical boundaries: neither pure musicological research, nor – in a conventionally understood sense – composition, they nevertheless have something in common with the performance demands inherent in Mozart’s music (such as the need to fill gaps in the score with cadenzas and Eingänge in his concerto movements). In this talk Timothy Jones considers the issue of balancing capriccio and musicological knowledge within a reconstructive sprezzatura, drawing on some of own recent attempts to complete Mozart fragments, including the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, some late chamber music fragments, and two movements from the Requiem.

Timothy Jones is the Deputy Principal (Programmes and Research) at the Royal Academy of Music. Since completing doctoral work at the University of Oxford on stylistic aspects of Mozart’s piano concertos, he has published on the instrumental music of Mozart and Beethoven. His completions of Mozart fragments have been performed in Europe and the USA.

Gwilym Simcock
7 April 2014
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Pianist and composer Gwilym Simcock performs his own music, punctuated with extended explanation of the processes behind both composition and improvisation that are intrinsically linked together within his style. His music is influenced by both the Jazz and Classical worlds, and in particular the oft-neglected element of harmony – and its ability to evoke a wide range of emotions – is central to the arc of the music. The thought processes involved in musical improvisation are vast and all computed in ‘real time’. An opportunity to de-construct and verbalise some of them, (and also to connect the stories and musical devices in this often programmatic music), is a unique one!

Gwilym Simcock is one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the British scene. Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, complete with ‘harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions’ as well as being a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability. His music has been widely acclaimed as ‘engaging, exciting, often unexpected, melodically enthralling, complex and wonderfully optimistic’. Aside from his renowned solo piano work, Gwilym has worked extensively throughout Europe with the cream of British and international jazz artists including Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Bob Mintzer and Bobby McFerrin. His own groups as leader range from trio to big band and currently include co-leading the Anglo-American supergroup ‘The Impossible Gentlemen’ (winners of the 2013 Parliamentary Jazz Award for best Jazz Ensemble), Winner of the Perrier Award, the BBC Jazz Awards 2005 and the British Jazz Awards 2005. Gwilym was the first BBC Radio 3 New Generation jazz artist. He was voted Jazz Musician of the Year at the 2007 Parliamentary Jazz Awards and nominated for the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards as Best Instrumentalist. His impressive formal education includes Trinity College of Music (London), Chetham’s School of Music (Manchester) – where he studied classical piano, French horn and composition – and the Royal Academy of Music (London) where he graduated from the jazz course with first class honours and the coveted Principal’s Prize for outstanding achievement.

Professor Christian Wolff: American composer of experimental music

Christian Wolff
12 May 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Christian Wolff was born in 1934 in Nice, France, but has lived mostly in the U.S. since 1941. Academically trained at Harvard as a classicist, Wolff has taught classics at Harvard and from 1971 to 1999 was professor of Classics and Music at Dartmouth College. He studied piano with Grete Sultan and, briefly, composition with John Cage. Though mostly self-taught as a composer, associations with John Cage, Morton Feldman, David Tudor, Earle Brown, Frederic Rzewski and Cornelius Cardew have been important for him. A particular feature of his music has been to allow performers various degrees of freedom and interaction at the actual time of performance. A number of pieces have been used by Merce Cunningham and the Cunningham Dance Company, starting in 1953. Wolff has also been active as a performer and as an improviser – with, among others, Takehisa Kosugi, Steve Lacey, Keith Rowe, William Winant, Kui Dong, Larry Polansky and the group AMM. His writings on music, up to 1998, are collected in the book Cues: writings and conversations, published by MusikTexte, Cologne. He has received awards and grants from the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters, DAAD Berlin, the Asian Cultural Council, the Fromm Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts and the Mellon Foundation. He is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and has received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. Professor Wolff’s lecture will be followed by a short concert by Apartment House, a chamber ensemble specialising in contemporary classical music (winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s chamber ensemble prize 2012).

Articulation and legato in Beethoven’s string writing

Claire Holden (University of Cardiff)
19 May 2014

Room 102, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

‘Period instrument’ ensembles have long considered Beethoven’s works to be core repertoire; however, until very recently their performances have failed to reflect the historically evidenced characteristics of early nineteenth-century playing with fidelity. Beethoven performed in clean and light ‘period’ style has become the norm not only for specialists but also increasingly for mainstream ‘modern’ orchestras. In contrast scholars have been advocating the backwards extrapolation of teacher/ pupil lineage and the use of evidence from later nineteenth-century performance styles, such as those exhibited in historical recordings, as a means of establishing historically informed style in Beethoven. This seminar aims to bridge the gap between these conflicting approaches by exploring what can be learned about articulation and legato from Beethoven’s own notation and from the practices of string players in Beethoven’s circle, as well as considering the practical implications for professional string players working in an industry where early nineteenth-century style is largely alien.

Claire Holden was awarded an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts and joined Cardiff University’s School of Music in 2010 to spend five years researching early nineteenth-century violin playing. After studies in modern and Baroque violin at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music, she spent a year touring with the European Union Baroque Orchestra before joining the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE). With OAE, she has performed and recorded a vast range of Baroque, Classical and Romantic repertoire, varying from self-directed chamber programmes to symphonic works. In addition she regularly plays with other period instrument ensembles including The Sixteen, Florilegium, Steinitz Bach Players and Collegium Musicum 90. She teaches historical performance at the Royal Academy of Music and has given lectures, workshops and masterclasses in many UK universities and conservatoires, as well as coaching projects in the Koninklijk Conservatorium, Den Haag. She has presented a number of pre-concert talks at the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and on the radio for the BBC Proms. She is often asked to provide advice and coaching to orchestral leaders and professional ensembles on early nineteenth-century string playing.

Method, influence and individuality: Bartók and early twentieth-century piano pedagogy

László Stachó (The Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest and CMPCP Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge)
27 May 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In 1927, when sketching the pedagogical portrait of his piano professor at the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music, Béla Bartók outlines his own self-portrait as a piano pedagogue (teaching piano major at the Academy from 1906 to 1934). However, the distance between the ideal and the reality leads to an enlightening explanation to the contradiction in Bartók’s academy classes: apparently, he did use the pedagogical ‘methods’ attributed to his Academy professor, István Thomán – one of the most important Hungarian Liszt pupils – but exerted a contrary influence on the artistic personality of his pupils. The method of direct showing (i.e. showing-by-playing), inherited from the Liszt–Thomán lineage and seriously criticised by several influential pedagogues of the era both in Hungary and abroad, transformed itself in Bartók’s classroom into a mechanical showing-and-imitating from the 1920’s on, when Bartók usually forced his students to imitate his interpretations with punctilious precision. While it may have seemed to Bartók’s early students that he did encourage their individuality, most of his later students experienced a paralysing, or even wrecking, influence. In my talk, I attempt to analyse the process of the emotional subordination in Bartók’s teaching, based on a comprehensive analysis of recollections on his classes, as well as Bartók’s mainly unconscious way of teaching the art of execution through an over-precise – and in his later years, almost obsessive – elaboration of the musical expression.

László Stachó is a musicologist, psychologist and musician working as a senior lecturer at the Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest) and at the Faculty of Music of the University of Szeged. His academic activity involves the teaching of music theory, psychology of music, chamber music, and twentieth-century performing practice history, as well as recently introduced subjects in Hungary, such as the psychology of musical performance and practice methodology. His research focuses on Bartók analysis, twentieth-century performing practice (especially the performing style of the composer–pianists Bartók and Dohnányi), emotional communication in musical performance, and music pedagogy (effective and creative working and practice methods and enhancement of attentional skills in music performance). As a pianist, he regularly performs chamber music and conducts practice methodology workshops and chamber music coaching sessions at masterclasses. He is currently a CMPCP Visiting Fellow based at the University of Cambridge.

Composer and performer: an experimental turn and its consequences

Tom Armstrong (University of Surrey) with Simon Desbruslais (University of Oxford)
2 June 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Since 2009 Tom Armstrong’s compositional practice has been shaped by a heightened awareness of the creative agency of the performer, evident chiefly through adoption of indeterminate notation. The consequences of this decision have affected the expressive, technical and aesthetic aspects of his music leading to a much closer relationship with the experimental tradition than he could have conceived five years ago. This talk will take stock of these changes and reflect on them through recent scholarship in composition and performance creativity. Its focus will be on Albumleaves (2013) for trumpet and string quartet, a large scale, open form work that constituted a ‘testing ground’ for experimental approaches new to him at the time. Trumpeter Simon Desbruslais will co-present, offering a performer’s perspective from which to interrogate the notions of performer creativity and freedom that informed the composition of Albumleaves. In common with all practice-based research there has been an emergent quality to the knowledge the pair have acquired during their collaboration; they will not, therefore, seek to provide hard and fast conclusions but to produce insights into a practice sustained by an ongoing dialogue between the acts of composition and performance.

Tom Armstrong studied composition with Roger Marsh at the University of York; he also attended Vinko Globokar’s class at Dartington Summer School and the Advanced Composition and Performance course at the Britten-Pears School, Aldeburgh. His output encompasses work for the concert hall, theatre, amateurs and children with commissioners including Endymion, Making Music, [rout], the National Youth Ballet, Sinfonia Viva, Martin Feinstein, the Crossness Engines Trust and Notes Inégales. His recent work has become more collaborative, engaging in various ways with performer creativity. He is at work on a number of current projects: Arachne, featuring Melanie Pappenheim and Rebecca Askew, an open-scored work for one or more keyboards and an ongoing series of revisions of chamber works for release on CD. His music is available on Meridian Records (Songs Now) and on Signum Classics (Albumleaves, forthcoming). Tom is Lecturer in Music and Programme Director of the MMus at the University of Surrey.

Simon Desbruslais is a British trumpet soloist, whose performances have been critically acclaimed as ‘steel-lipped’, ‘musically compelling’ and possessing ‘supreme confidence and flair’. He came to international prominence with the first ever recording of Hertel’s Third Trumpet Concerto on the natural trumpet. This was followed by new trumpet concertos from John McCabe, Robert Saxton and Deborah Pritchard, all recorded for Signum Classics, and David Bednall’s ground-breaking Christmas Cantata, for solo trumpet, choir and organ. He has worked with conductors Masaaki Suzuki, Ian Page and Benjamin Bayl on period instruments, and with Marin Alsop, Oliver Knüssen, Andrew Litton and Ryan Wigglesworth. Solo and chamber collaborators have included Malcolm Martineau, Clare Hammond, Julian Bliss, Mahan Esfahani, Stephen Farr and the Ligeti String Quartet. In addition to championing the work of today’s composers, Simon unearths forgotten gems from the Baroque era with his specialist early music ensemble, Collegium. Simon was educated at King’s College London, the Royal College of Music and he recently completed his doctorate at Christ Church, Oxford, on the music theory of Hindemith.

A short history of key noise at the piano: its technical and aesthetic implications

Ian Pace (City University)
16 June 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

One of the oldest and most fiercely contested questions in the history of piano playing has been that of whether it is possible to produce variation in timbre on the instrument independently of dynamics. Much familiar rhetoric about ‘depth of tone’ or ‘singing tone’ rests implicitly upon the assumption that this is indeed possible, though some of the formulations could also be argued to employ a vague metaphor of ‘tone’ for a conglomeration of aspects of voicing, legato, pedalling and various else, rather than something specific to individual, isolated tones. Even Chopin’s contrast of a supposedly ready-made tone on an Érard piano with the possibilities of establishing a more individual one on the Pleyel relies upon various assumptions of this type. A simple consideration of the nature of the piano’s mechanism however demonstrates clearly that it is impossible to affect any aspect of how a hammer hits a string other than its velocity, as was concluded after an experiment detailed in Eugene Tetzel’s Das Problem der modernen Klaviertechnik of 1909. However, two years later Ludwig Riemann, in his Das Wesen des Klavierklanges und seine Beziehungen zum Anschlag argued that this is to neglect another fundamental aspect of perceived piano tone, specifically the sound of the finger hitting the key, which is a parameter I call ‘key noise’. In this paper, I give a brief overview of how this parameter might have become manifest in line with a cross-section of principal schools of piano playing in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, in both technical and aesthetic senses, then consider the way it has received limited critical and pedagogical attention during the course of the twentieth century, culminating in a survey of some contemporary works – classic works by Sylvano Bussotti, Nicolaus A. Huber, Salvatore Sciarrino and more recent ones composed for myself by Richard Barrett, Aaron Cassidy, Richard Emsley, Wieland Hoban, Ross Lorraine and others – which foreground such a parameter. I argue that a comprehensive understanding and judicious exploitation of this parameter is not only a deeply fruitful activity for both composers and performers, but also that it helps to penetrate some of the mystifying discourse which surrounds pianism.

Ian Pace is a pianist of long-established reputation, specialising in the farthest reaches of musical modernism and transcendental virtuosity, as well as a writer and musicologist focusing on issues of performance, music and society and the avant-garde. He was born in Hartlepool, England in 1968, and studied at Chetham’s School of Music, The Queen’s College, Oxford and, as a Fulbright Scholar, at the Juilliard School in New York. His main teacher, and a major influence upon his work, was the Hungarian pianist György Sándor, a student of Bartók.

Séverine Ballon lecture-recital: Rebecca Saunders ‘Solitude’

Séverine Ballon
30 June 2014

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

‘Solitude’ is a four-year collaboration between Rebecca Saunders and Severine Ballon. In this piece, the composer is exploring fast double trills, a material she already explored in her string quartet ‘fletch’ and her violin concerto ‘still’. A state or quality of being alone, solitary, or remote. Implies the absence of all others: inaccessibility, withdrawal, seclusion, isolation. A state of separation. A lonely or secluded place: wilderness, waste, desert, emptiness, wasteland. Insilence, vacuous and devoid.

Séverine Ballon‘s work as a performer focuses on regular performance of key works of the cello repertoire and numerous direct collaborations with composers. Her research as an improviser have helped her to extend the sonic and technical resources of her instrument. She has worked with such composers as Helmut Lachenmann, Liza Lim, Mauro Lanza and Rebecca Saunders. Her work crosses the centuries from gut strings to electronics, over a wide range of aesthetics from Feldman to Ferneyhough.