James’ Choice: Antonio de Almeida’s score of Iannis Xenakis’ Metastasis

a photograph of Antonio de Almeida's copy of Xenakis' Metastasis

Antonio de Almeida’s markings on Xenakis’ Metastasis

This month the library item I’ve decided to highlight is the score for Iannis Xenakis’ (1922-2001) Metastasis from the printed music collection of the conductor Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997), complete with his performance markings. There are a number of reasons for my choice. As well as being a landmark piece of twentieth-century modernism, it’s a visually-striking score on account of its size and intricacy. Moreover, Antonio de Almeida’s pencil markings are a fascinating insight into the practical considerations required for performing a piece like this. It’s also an excellent example of Xenakis’ unique approach to composition, and one with a very explicit connection to his work as an architect.

score

Written in 1953-4, and premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1955, Metastasis is Xenakis’ first major work after the completion of his studies with Olivier Messiaen. In this piece, Xenakis lays down the foundation for many of the approaches and attitudes to music composition that were to occupy him for the rest of his career. The work combines an idiosyncratic system for controlling pitch material and an approach to sound best described when he says ‘the sonorities of the orchestra are building materials, like brick, stone and wood […] The subtle structures of orchestral sound masses represent a reality that promises much’.[1] In this piece, each orchestral player has a separate part, and Xenakis combines, on the one hand, the continuous evolution of enormous glissando structures and, on the other, the discontinuous permutation of pitches.

 ‘I was interested in two things in those years. One: I wanted to write a kind of dodecaphonic music with the help of computation – a music whose macroform emerges from a few basic principles. In Metastasis I made computations based on the permutations of intervals, with the help of the axiomatic approach known in mathematics.

Two: I was interested in the continuous changes of chords. […] How to make that change a continuous one? So long as one remains in the same scale, the only solution is a glissando. […] That was the basic idea.’[2]

 

Metastasis is also the first work in which Xenakis’ compositional planning for the piece involved using a two-dimensional projection. Here, time is on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis, and ruled straight-line paths are bent into curved surfaces.

Composition sketch for Xenakis metastasis showing the basis for the hyperbolic paraboloids of the Philips Pavillion

Image scanned from Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 74

Xenakis also employed this technique in later compositions (such as Stratégie and Syrmos), but it’s particularly fascinating how it was also translated directly into his work as an architect. The connection is immediately obvious with how these curves built from multiple straight-line paths (hyperbolic paraboloids) were incorporated into the distinctive shape of his design for the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Exposition Universelle, built during his time working in the office of Le Corbusier. Incidentally, the pavillion had another connection to musical modernism in that it formed the setting for performances of Edgard Varèse’s Poème électronique.[3]

expo again

Image by Wouter Hagens, accessed from http://www.archdaily.com/157658/ad-classics-expo-58-philips-pavilion-le-corbusier-and-iannis-xenakis, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The score on display was plucked from the personal printed music library of Antonio de Almeida, housed in the Jerwood Library’s special collections. Consisting of 5,456 volumes, including scores acquired by him from the collections of Charles Munch and Pierre Monteux, it’s a wide-ranging collection, reflecting his own diverse musical interests. Alongside the Xenakis score, the collection ranges from other leading lights of twentieth-century modernism, via more mainstream orchestral repertoire of the 19th and 18th century, to composers such as Carlos Chavez, André Grétry, Howard Hanson, Hans Pfitzner and Henri Serpette. Not to mention works by Offenbach and Boccherini, in whom de Almeida had a particular interest. Described by Grove as ‘a conductor of elegance and fastidious detail’, he was also awarded the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Légion d’Honneur.[4]

 


 

[1] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[2] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 72.

[3] Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[4] Noël Goodwin, ‘Almeida, Antonio (Jacques) de’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/00643&gt; (Accessed August 23rd, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity Laban Faculty of Music Composers’ series: Luke Styles

The Jerwood Library is very pleased to present a display highlighting the work of Luke Styles, who teaches at Trinity Laban’s very successful Junior Department.

Education
Luke began his composition training with a Bachelor of Music (composition) degree at the Royal Academy of Music London (graduating with honours in 2005, in 2015 Luke was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music). Following this Luke went on to postgraduate studies with Wolfgang Rihm, George Benjamin, and with Detlev Müller-Siemens. He is currently working on a PhD on the topic of Collaboration and Embodiment as Compositional Process; a Transdisciplinary Perspective at Trinity Laban.

Career, awards and commissions
Luke has collaborated with many of the world’s top soloists and his music has featured at festivals including the Wien Modern, Aldeburgh, Glyndebourne and Darmstadt International and at major performance venues such as the Sydney Opera House, Glyndebourne, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and others.

Luke has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions including a carol for the Financial Times, the Wolfgang-Rihm Scholarship, an Association for Cultural Exchange Study Tours Scholarship, DAAD scholarship, commissions from PRS New Works, RVW Trust, Britten-Pears Foundation, Sonic Arts Network Expo 2005. He was a winner in the Mosco Carner Composition Award; came 2nd place in the Moscow International Schnittke composition competition in 2002, etc.

Luke has been awarded scholarships to take part in various courses throughout Europe and Asia where he has worked with composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, Harrison Birtwistle, Marco Stroppa and Gunnar Eriksson, and is Artistic Director of Ensemble Amorpha.

Handspun & Macbeth
The Jerwood Library exhibition focuses on two of Luke’s works: Handspun for aerialist and cellist, and Macbeth, scored for chamber orchestra and produced at Glyndebourne in 2015.

“the orchestral writing is crisp and incisive, conjuring up with imagination the successive atmospheres required for the tragedy’s trajectory.”
George Hall on Macbeth in The Guardian

“. . . Luke Styles’s effective score, a sort of modern take on the musique parlante, or ‘speaking music’ that ballet composers went in for in the 19th century.”
Giannandrea Poesio on Handspun in The Spectator

Links
Luke Styles’ website is a useful resource. Find his works list, details of forthcoming performances, video clips of his work, photos and reviews.

Luke Styles in the Jerwood Library collection

Macbeth (vocal score); shelf mark: 780.7 STY

Handspun (score); shelf mark: 781.35 STY

CD: Tangled Pipes by Consortium5 featuring Three Stages by Luke Styles
shelf mark: WOODWIND/CHAMBER: CON

E-STREAM
Access E-STREAM via the Library Links menu on Moodle.
Click here to hear BBC’s Radio 3 Hear and Now broadcast from 12/7/2014 featuring his The Girls Who Wish to Marry Stars with the Juice Vocal Ensemble. Alternatively search for “Luke Styles”. This recording is only accessible to current TL students and staff in the UK.

Item of the month, December 2015 / January 2016: Anthony Green at 60

Greyscale photo of Anthony Green

Anthony Green (photo used with permission)

Anthony (Tony) Green has had a long association with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance as a professor of piano and as a lecturer, and additionally as the composer of a piece (Resurgence) to commemorate the then-Trinity College of Music’s move to Greenwich in 2001.

Faculty of Music staff and students are holding a concert to celebrate Anthony’s 70th birthday on Wed 6 Jan 2016, and in honour of this we are highlighting the CD recording Anthony Green at 60 as our item of the month for Dec 2015 – Jan 2016.

While researching Anthony using our QuickSearch research tool, I found a review of the CD by Colin Clarke in Tempo, where he stated “Green is clearly a superb pianist, and the full spectrum recording (OPR Musikhochschule Stuttgart) enables the listener to fully engage in Green’s structures.”[1] The full review can be read online via our subscription to Tempo, or in the library display.

Ian Mitchell, professor of clarinet at Trinity Laban and former Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion, shared some memories of Anthony with me for this blog post:

Tony and I gave a number of clarinet and piano recitals together [in the 1970s], one of which – in the Nottingham Festival – was particularly memorable. The concert was in a large church and we could have been giving the premiere of the Three Pieces for bass clarinet and piano that I commissioned from Janet Graham, a mutual friend. They are short dramatic movements with extremes of range and dynamics for both instruments. As we played, the equally, if not more, dramatic sounds of a tremendous thunderstorm broke overhead competing with us bar for bar. I’m not sure whether Tony and I or the elements won, but it was certainly some battle! Tony himself went on to write an equally dramatic Duo for bass clarinet and piano, though there was never any such thunderous accompaniment in performance.

My image of Tony at the keyboard brings to mind some paintings of nineteenth century romantic composer/performers such as Beethoven or Liszt: slightly wild looking; slightly unkempt (!), and obviously totally committed to what they are doing. I remember his extraordinary and highly impressive piano technique, infectious laughter and grin. Our paths eventually diverged and it was not until I joined the staff of Trinity Laban where Tony taught piano, that we bumped into each other occasionally. I saw him this year after quite a long gap since his retirement, and was delighted to see that the infectious grin and laugh are still much in evidence.

You can listen to the Anthony Green at 60 CD at the wall-mounted listening station at the far end of the North Library. The library holds a number of scores of Anthony’s work, which you can find by searching for his name in the Author/Composer field on the Jerwood Library catalogue.

Anthony’s birthday concert takes place at 6.30pm on Wed 6 Jan 2016 in the Mackerras Room, Faculty of Music. A preview of the programme is available in the Item of the Month display in the Jerwood Library!

[edited 14 Dec 2015 to clarify the Three Pieces were by Janet Graham]


[1] ‘CD Reviews’. Tempo 251 (January 2010), <http://journals.cambridge.org/action/ displayIssue?decade=2010&jid=TEM&volumeId=64&issueId=251&iid=7126636 > (accessed December 2015).

New Exhibition: Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library

Brand new for the start of the autumn term is our latest exhibition Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library, running from 10 September until 11 December. This display has been curated by library assistant James Luff, and is based on his popular blog post ‘The delights of handwritten scores‘.

The exhibition showcases facsimiles of manuscript scores held by the Jerwood Library. One cabinet displays a selection of beautiful and distinctive handwritten scores from twentieth-century composers, showing a range of particularly striking and individual approaches to the calligraphy of more-or-less conventionally notated music. The other cabinet highlights the writing styles and working methods of many of the old masters.

When not working in the library, James composes music himself so brings an insider’s perpective to the subject of composers’ manuscript scores. You will be able to read more about James when he appears later this month in our Who’s Who series.

The exhibition space is located just inside the Jerwood Library, opposite the issue desk. For any visitors who may wish to view the exhibition, please contact us in advance to arrange access. Everyone is welcome!

Ronald Stevenson: RIP

Photo of Trinity Laban's Karl Lutchmayer with Ronald Stevenson and his wife Marjorie Spedding

Trinity Laban’s Karl Lutchmayer with Ronald Stevenson and his wife Marjorie Spedding (October 2014). Photo used with permission from Karl Lutchmayer.

We at the Jerwood Library are saddened to hear of the recent passing of Ronald Stevenson.

Stevenson was a gifted pianist and prolific composer, mainly composing songs and keyboard works. He was inspired by Busoni, and also drew on influences from Scotland (where he lived for many years) and elsewhere in his work. Malcolm MacDonald, his biographer, writes in Stevenson’s Grove entry that:

[His work] simultaneously draws inspiration from the folk music of many countries and uses the most sophisticated Western techniques.

Trinity Laban lecturer and pianist Karl Lutchmayer was close to Ronald Stevenson, and most recently visited him in October 2014 (as pictured above). Thanks to Karl, the Ronald Stevenson Society made a very generous and comprehensive donation of Ronald Stevenson scores and sheet music to the Jerwood Library. This donation has been fully catalogued and can be found on the library’s shelves. Follow this link to view a full listing of our Ronald Stevenson sheet music, or search our catalogue for Ronald Stevenson as composer and limit by type to sheet music/score.

In addition we own several recordings which feature Ronald Stevenson’s playing or his music, including this CD which combines both in one recording: his own 1964 performance of the 80-minute Passacaglia on DSCH, possibly the longest single-movement piano work in existence.

Martin Anderson describes the genesis of this piece in his obituary of Stevenson for The Independent:

He began a series of variations on DSCH (in German notation Shostakovich’s monogram gives the four notes D, E flat, C and B) and found that the music kept flowing – rather as Bach built the Goldberg Variations on a little lullaby and Beethoven his Diabelli Variations on a cocky little waltz.

If you would like to learn more about Ronald Stevenson or purchase any of his works, visit the Ronald Stevenson Society website. We also have Malcolm MacDonald’s biography of Stevenson in the library shelved at 789 STE.

 

New display to coincide with Sam Hayden string quartet premiere

Sam Hayden, Reader in Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Sam Hayden, Reader in Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

New String Quartet by Sam Hayden, Reader in Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Transience (2013-14) was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and Quatuor Diotima, and will feature in a concert in Shoreditch Church on Sunday 14th December 2014 at 7.00pm, during the Spitalfields Winter Festival.

The full concert programme is: Gérard Pesson Bitume (London premiere)
Sam Hayden Transience (world premiere)
Jonathan Harvey String Quartet No.3
Bartók String Quartet No.4

To coincide with the concert Jerwood Library is pleased to present a display featuring Hayden’s score for Transience and screenshots of the OpenMusic patches used in the composition provided by the composer. Also on display the score of Surface/Tension by Sam Hayden as well as the scores for the Bartók and Harvey string quartets, all from the Jerwood Library’s collection.

OpenMusic patch used in the composition of Transience

OpenMusic patch used in the composition of Transience

Sam Hayden on the use of OpenMusic and other computer tools in composition:

“The more important reason for using such tools is that they aid the creation of new musical ideas so that we can move beyond the clichés and habits of our musical cultures. Some composers argue that the use of such computer-assisted techniques represents the relinquishing of compositional control. I would argue the opposite: such musical formalisation creates a hyper-awareness of the structural constraints within which one is working and therefore creates the possibility to go beyond them.”

From Computer-Assisted Composition and Aesthetic Innovation, New Notes, June 2008

Sam Hayden studied composition with Martin Butler, Jonathan Harvey and Michael Finnissy at the University of Sussex, Joseph Dubiel and David Rakowski at Columbia University, New York, and Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory Den Haag.

Further links:
Sam Hayden interview with Spitalfields Festival about the forthcoming performance
Sam Hayden’s website
Website for Spitalfields Winter Festival concert

Last Chance to See Nancarrow Exhibition

Quick! There’s only a few more days left to see our exhibition celebrating Conlon Nancarrow’s life and work (see previous blog post). On display are many original artefacts from the composer’s studio in Mexico, such as this tempo scheme, used by Nancarrow to create his famous player piano rolls (we have one of those on display too).

Tempo scheme. Reproduced by kind permission of the Nancarrow Estate.

Most of the material has been loaned to us by Dominic Murcott, TL Head of Composition, who has spent many years researching the life and work of Nancarrow. This is a rare opportunity to see at first hand the working methods of one of America’s most influential 20th century composers. So what are you waiting for? Get up here now!

Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) closes on Wednesday 2nd October.

New Exhibition: Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997)

In April 2012 Trinity Laban’s Head of Composition Dominic Murcott was the Artistic Director for Impossible Brilliance, a festival of the music of Conlon Nancarrow at the South Bank Centre in London. Murcott has for some years been researching Nancarrow and had gained access to his Mexico City studio. Our current display contains artefacts from that studio as well as materials from Murcott’s private collection and that of the Jerwood Library.

Nancarrow actuator
“Actuator” built by Conlon Nancarrow as part of his unsuccessful attempt to make an automated orchestra (Dominic Murcott private collection. Used with permission)

Nancarrow’s output was almost entirely composed for player pianos (also known as pianolas). These were automated acoustic pianos, fitted with a mechanism that reads musical information in the form of a paper roll punched with holes. These were the precursors to the modern sequencing of electronic instruments, but were not particularly esoteric in their time; they were commonplace in domestic homes where they were a form of music reproduction. Piano rolls of all kinds of music were commercially available.

Nancarrow was drawn to them because he was interested in a certain type of rhythmic complexity in music: he wanted to make music in which the different voices were moving at different tempi simultaneously and it was very difficult to find players who were able to do this. (Much later in his life he found such players in the form of the Arditti quartet for whom he wrote a piece in poly-tempi.)

Not only did he cut out the need for live players but made the rolls himself and he was often photographed operating his own hole punching machine in his studio.

The process by which he worked out the spatial relationships between the note values of the different tempi is illustrated in our display as we have one of the rolls of paper on which he had drawn out a tempo scheme. We also have one of his hand-made piano rolls (see below)

Nancarrow hand punched roll
Piano roll hand punched by Conlon Nancarrow (Dominic Murcott private collection. Used with permission)

It has to be noted that the onset of the means to sequence this kind of material (relatively) simply with midi sequences has not produced an extended repertoire of this kind of music, but certainly Nancarrow was an interesting and original thinker.

Do you think you can follow 6 or 7 voices, all played on piano, moving at different tempi simultaneously? Would you enjoy the novelty of hearing, for example, a ‘right-hand’ part getting faster and faster whilst simultaneously the ‘left-hand’ part gets slower and slower; would you find it musically interesting when you had got over the novelty?

You can judge for yourself as the entire collection of pianola studies has been recorded by Wergo and is available on open access in the Jerwood Library (classmark PIA: NAN).

This post was written by our senior library assistant, and curator of this exhibition, Walter Cardew.