Contemporary Composer, internationally acclaimed for her works such as ‘Shakespeare and Hedgeshear’, her MATA commission ‘Killing Time’, Sound And Music commission ‘Turner Piece’ and the Moving Classics’ commission titled ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’.
The premiere concert of Icebreaker‘s ‘System Restart’ tour went great last Wednesday! Being famous for it, the Icebreaker ensemble performed solidly with verve and emotion. It was the first time I heard all the works together, a two hour programme of immersive music. I have been attending several high profile Contemporary Classical festivals across Europe last few years with the usual demographic and here is a concert of non-pretentious, adventurous music. Music that doesn’t underestimate its own audience by faffing about in the name of concept. Music with balls. Music that takes you to places. #SystemRestartTour
Helsinki friends – tomorrow, Saturday February 4th, is the opening of the new Maunula-talo from 14:00-15:30. Singer Ilona Korhonen will be performing Runo-laulu, a nearly forgotten Finnish singing style, accompanied by manipulated field recording electronics on prepared knitting needles, as the improvised soundtrack to the folk tale. We had our rehearsals today with our performing knitters and I can tell you Ilona’s storytelling singing is fabulous. So powerful. A folk story performance as contemporary as anything. Do come if you can, you won’t regret it. #soundandstorieslive
On February 4th I’ll be performing the results of a one week residency working with the community of Maunula district in Helsinki, Finland, at the opening event of the new ‘Saunabaari‘ centre in Maunula. Produced by M-Cult. #soundsandstorieslive
For this recital titled ‘Sounds And Stories Live – Folk Tales and Orchestrated Yarns’ I’ll be using the prepared knitting needles which were developed for my MATA NYC commission. The needles are attached to my custom made interface and when the knitting needles touch, whilst knitting patterns, they trigger sound files from my audio library. These sonic segments are played just as randomly timed as the knitting needles connect, creating murmuring textures of sounds. A fabric of life.
My audio library includes field recordings I’ll be making on location during my stay in and around Maunula. The soundscape sounds will create the musical accompaniment to a folk tale that will be narrated by a storyteller, much in the way that a pianist would live soundtrack a silent movie. Up to eight performing knitters are dedicated instruments forming a musical ensemble, each one associated with a different sound from nature. If a performing knitter hears their ‘trigger’ word, for example ‘the WIND blew’ they will start knitting and a gale will sound as part of the soundtrack experience as the story unfolds.
. The performance is intended to conjure up images and feelings of sitting together around a bonfire, recounting tales of our ancestors and the creatures that live beyond our perception, while the forces of nature whirl around us outside, adding to the stories’ cinematography. The selected field recordings will not only compose the sound of the performance, but also provide a document of the local sonic environment, archiving the sound of the current world this folk tale performance is situated in.
Middle panel of image above is a detail taken from an illustration from ‘The Mighty Mikko’ (1922) by Jay van Everen. Outer panels are traditional Scandinavian knitting patterns.
I have surfaced! After two intense studio days of recording all 53 segments of the Dingus soundtrack. We’ve been slamming it, so proud of our achievement. The musicians were fabulous, bringing the compositions to life, very strong players, making it sound great. Barney on trumpet, Sean on trombone, Jon on percussion, Charlotte and Clare on violin and Andrew on double bass. Little bit of me on piano. Not all of them wanted to be in the photos, I will credit them in the Dingus broad- and podcasts. Neal at The Premises was a star, too. As were producers Mike and Jim. Well done team!
Next up I will be sound engineering the whole six episode production end of February. Can’t wait to hear the finished works myself.
We will be working with local Hull singers. Each singer wears a microphone that picks up their voice by physical contact, triggering live on stage a transparent layer of composed echoes. Navigating through various landscapes and over ocean surfaces, these echoes, which started during the Iceland concert, find their coordinates in Hull, reflecting a verisimilitude of space, history and fiction.
This performance is supported by PRS for Music Foundation.
“As his eyes drew points of colour into focus they settled upon the silhouette made by the angular inflection of the back of a tailored jacket, worn by the woman it had been tailored for, and how the tailor had dreamt it would be.”
Taken from ‘Dingus’, written by Mike Cooter, a ‘classic’ 1940s detective six episode radio series I’m finishing the soundtrack for right now.
Just so many minute lovely details in the script. Broadcast TBA.
Between Christmas and New Year I find myself diving into the Dingus universe with a warm welcome back like visiting and old friend. Familiar voices and places I’ve been to before. I composed all music to this radio series earlier this year and now I’m finishing off the arrangements, as we are disappearing into the studio mid-January to record the soundtrack with a six piece big band style ensemble.
Filmmaker Brian FitzGibbon has documented my newest work ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’ concert in wonderful videos which are now available on my Youtube channel. The concert visuals are by Jacob Tekiela. Embedded below is the second work of the concert. Performed by the South Iceland Chamber Choir, directed by Hilmar Örn Agnarsson, at the Cycle Festival for Music and Art in Kopavógur, Iceland, October 2016.
Kristín has been filming little bits of what we’ve been doing,
like this very Á-tonal rehearsal….
‘Á’ [au] meaning ‘stream’ in Icelandic, ‘Au’ is Aurum or Gold, symbolising the forceful energy of Elements before the dawn of human kind. It’s an exclamated ‘á!’ in Dutch. First letter of the alphabet. Bringing it all down to the bare minimum of just being. A waterfall of sfz frequencies.
Next week Saturday, Cycle Festival, Iceland will feature a performance of a collection of six new works of mine titled ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’. The South Iceland Chamber Choir will be singing alongside their own echoes diffused over multiple speakers and their filmed counterparts in various fictional landscapes. These echoes navigate through space, history and fiction.
It begins at the beginning. ‘Á’ is the name of the opening piece, which translates as ‘river’ from Icelandic and pronounced as ‘Au’ in Latin, which is the abbreviation for ‘Aurum’ or Gold in the periodic table. ‘Á’ reflects the Elements before the dawn of language. The force of Nature. A free-fall to erodation.
Cycle Festival, Iceland, will feature a performance of a collection of six new works of mine titled ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’. The South Iceland Chamber Choir will be singing alongside their own echoes diffused over multiple speakers and their filmed counterparts in various fictional landscapes. These echoes navigate through space, history and fiction.
‘Gloria Omnia’ is the final song of the six and after spending time navigating on the peninsula of Verisimilitude, we’re going to Space! Where choral meets Space Age Disco triggered by the live processing of the voices. No spoilers! I’m only giving you a Hint in the audio sketch below, because it’s just Too Much Fun. Gotta hear it live in surround sound!
Cycle Festival, Iceland will feature a concert of six new works of mine bundled in the title ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’. The South Iceland Chamber Choir will be singing alongside their own echoes diffused over multiple speakers as if you’re standing in various fictional landscapes. These echoes navigate through space, history and fiction.
The initial concept for this Moving Classics commission was that a choir would be singing live on a breakwater in the sea. Their sounds would reflect back from cliffs and mountains in the far distance over the ocean surface. This idea was inspired by ferry hooting I could hear from my cliff top house every afternoon at half two, the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, with echoes reflecting back from cliffs from over 20 miles away. Given the chance, seals are very good at finding the sonic sweet spot where their calls resonate loudest on the steep cliff walls and seagulls know how to make use of natural reverberations with their loud vocalisations, as well.
We adapted the concept to be able to tour it around in venues, moving slightly away from the mad and quite risky initial outdoors idea. Together with film maker Jakob Tekiela we filmed the choir singing on location instead, in two frantic filming days end of June. Twelve members of the South Iceland Chamber Choir drove for three hours to the Snaefellsness peninsula to sing wildlife calls next to a very loud flock of kittiwake gulls at Hellnar and on Djúpalóns Beach …at midnight.
The stunning surrealistic landscapes Jakob has created from the video footage and the soundscapes I’ve edited from the field recordings will accompany the live concert. At times the choir will sing alongside themselves on screen.
‘Djúpalónsdóttir & Hellnarsson’ are the sons and daughters of Verisimilitude, perched on the lush green of rocks and cliffs, calling to each other in our intrinsic mother tongue.
This is one of the first amazing sketches Jakob Tekiela made for the Djúpalónsdóttir & Hellnarsson scenery.
On October 29th Cycle Festival, Iceland will feature a concert of six new works of mine bundled in the title ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’. South Iceland Chamber Choir will be singing alongside their echoes diffused over multiple speakers as if you’re standing in various fictional landscapes. The echoes navigate through space, history and fiction.
One of the six songs is ‘Eru Ur’ which translates into ‘Are Ur’ in English. I was kindly invited to stay over in Sígrun’s Summerhouse on Snaefellsnes when we were filming and recording the choir on location. Snaefellsjökull is the volcanic glacier and the beating heart of the peninsula and there is no better way to describe the energy and feeling coming from this Magnificence than that you want to embrace it’s presence. Whenever Sígrun gets the chance she does. Feeling ur.
Hilmar, Sígrun and Snaefellsjökull
It’s a wordless feeling I wanted to set to music. I tried to describe it in lyrics, but this would only making it less powerful. It’s a zingy beautiful feeling, serene, and it is as if it fills you with oxygen, in the lungs and in the heart and mind. As if it echoes in yourself and through time, yet simultaneously also over the mountains into the far distance.
How can I constraint the singers with a score to express this ‘ur’ feeling? I can’t. How can I notate this freedom in a constraint way? I don’t want to.
I’ve used ink and brush to indicate the strokes of sound individual singers sing. It only takes one look on the paper and then focus on the singing. A visual representation of how it should sound together as a choir. Which makes for an homogeneous flow of frequencies over time. More like water. But this song is mountainous. In the mountains some frequencies are caught on cragged surfaces, resonate in cavities and echo widely through gorges and passes.
These ‘mountainous’ echo parts are digitally generated by running the sounds picked up by microphones each singer is wearing through Live and Reaktor music software diffused over multiple speakers through the performance space.
It’s only suitable to notate these echo parts on the score in digitally generated ‘pencil’ lines in contrast to the singer’s brush strokes. Visualising how the choir’s sounds are filtered and manipulated over time in a freely way.
This is a recording of the idea at a workshop with choir in June. It’s a sketch, we are trying things out, you can hear a cough and a chair squeak. It will be different at the concert.
Next month the Cycle Festival, Iceland will feature a concert of six new works of mine bundled in the title ‘Reflections over Verisimilitude’. South Iceland Chamber Choir will be singing alongside their echoes diffused over multiple speakers as if you’re standing in various fictional landscapes. The echoes navigate through space, history and fiction.
After three quite abstract songs we arrive at ‘Sjórinn Shanty’ (sea shanty). Sea shanties would have work rhythms to ease doing tasks on ships.
First the choir sings the rhythm part of the song, consisting of coordinates of boats on the sea, which is recorded via a throat mic each choir member is wearing. After a long delay the rhythm returns, as if it appears from over the ocean surface, far behind the horizon. The melody of the piece are names, called over the sea. These names navigate as boat names, as names of beloved or names of myths. The theme of verisimilitude returns as a question of do we hear what we hear or is it a reflection of ourselves.
In ‘Sjórinn Shanty’ I’m dissecting a song, its rhythm and melody, and putting it back together again. I’ve made this software mock up so you can hear somewhat how the piece sounds when put together. It definitely will be very different when performed live as the synthetic sounds will be replaced with the South Iceland Chamber Choir.
The ‘homely’ green grass and yellow golden dunes of Langaholt Beach with its far seascapes has been the source of this work.
I’m working on ‘Djupalónsdottir and Hellnarson’ a song for the Moving Classics commission. After recording South Iceland Chamber Choir singing wildlife calls outdoors on location in Snaefellsnes in Iceland, I’m composing these into a soundscape to feature around the singers during the live concert, recreating a fictional landscape on screens. There will be a left and a right video panel in the landscape scenery with different ‘colonies’ of calls. It’s a true balance to get the entire picture right. Today I feel I’m painting with sounds.
“The Cycle Music and Art Festival, now in its second year and held in Kopavogur, Iceland, serves as an international and local platform for contemporary music and visual art and the intersection between both disciplines.”
This is an early bird announcement about my latest commission for the Cycle Festival in collaboration with Kámmerkór Su∂urlands: international people who would like to attend this festival – get your booking hats on!
Cycle Festival amazed audiences last year and I’m extremely honoured to be a part of it. My contribution to this year’s festival is a composition for choir and transparently notated echoes set in projected sceneries. Together with Kámmerkór Su∂urlands and film maker Jakob Tekiela we’ve spent an exhausting but very happy time recording and filming the choir singing on location in the stunning landscape of Snaefellsness. More details in following newsletter.