The 2021-22 cohort of 5 emerging composers includes James Banner, Robert Crehan, Florence Anna Maunders, Alexander Papp and Darius Paymai. Over the past few months they’ve been working closely with LCO, Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, and Composer-In-Residence 2021-22 Freya Waley-Cohen in orchestral workshops, along with 1-to-1 mentorship from Freya. This has been a brilliant time to have their pieces tweaked and brought to life by the musicians they wrote for, ahead of their world premiere performance at LCO concert A New World, Friday 23 September, 7.30pm at St John’s Smith Square. This is a rare opportunity to hear 5 world premieres in one evening – where you will witness a legacy being created for the future of classical music.
Get to know our five LCO New composers below, as they tell us a little about their chamber orchestra composition.
“To be welcomed into the orchestra as a performer as well as a composer is also an extreme privilege, and an experience which I will relish and remember forever.”
for chamber orchestra and improviser
A dirge is most often considered to be a lamenting piece or hymn, expressing mourning or grief ‘in memory of’ the dead, after the fact, at a funeral or memorial service. anti-dirge is written as a dark and tumultuous representation of living humanity and protest against present world turmoil caused by self-serving governments, regimes, monarchies, institutions, and individuals. For the improvisor, it is also a cleansing rite and an opportunity to engage with personal protestation on a larger platform, channeling not only their thoughts on the surrounding external disorder, but also providing a space to engage with and process their own issues through their improvisation. At various moments throughout the piece, the improvisor is not just the soloist but also an ensemble member, in direct contrast, conversation and conflict with the orchestra – there are suggestions as to when or what they may play (which can be freely followed or ignored), but all performance must be unreservedly improvised.
I am grateful for the openness and encouragement of the LCO musicians, Chris and Freya showed when approaching my music, which allowed me to be relentless in my pursuit of the sound world for this piece. Converting my improvisations, vocalisations, electronic and visual sketches into a performable piece was not an easy process, but to hear my music realised by real people was an invaluable contribution which made this happen. To be welcomed into the orchestra as a performer as well as a composer is also an extreme privilege, and an experience which I will relish and remember forever.
“The musicians are given limited freedom to improvise with various parameters within their part to ensure that each performance is different and unique; reflecting the spontaneity of the brushstrokes in Kline’s work.”
KLINE. is a piece for orchestra that draws on the visual art style of American painter, Franz Kline (1910 – 1962). It is intended to be the second installment in a trilogy of orchestral pieces inspired by the art styles and practices of artists associated with Abstract Expressionism.
Franz Kline, along with several other American creatives including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, was considered part of the New York School; an informal collective of avant-garde painters, musicians, dancers, and poets. His later works are distinguished by their striking absence of colour and are made almost exclusively of broad, sweeping, black and white streaks and gestures imbued with a sense of the physical motion used to apply them. While the brushstrokes of his works appear to be executed with a spontaneous fluidity comparable to that found in Japanese calligraphy, their composition and proportions were meticulously planned and rehearsed through various smaller experiments before being applied to the canvas.
These ideas are reflected in KLINE. through a clear timbral division within the orchestra, each half with a different dynamic range and musical identity to reflect Kline’s limited colour palette. Each instrument of the orchestra acts independently as if a single bristle on a painter’s brush; collectively contributing to the same gesture in slightly different ways. The musicians are given limited freedom to improvise with various parameters within their part to ensure that each performance is different and unique; reflecting the spontaneity of the brushstrokes in Kline’s work. Time indicators are used by the performers via a stopwatch to enter and exit based on pre-determined divisions of time to highlight the relationship between sonic events; mirroring the spacial and proportional considerations of Kline’s compositions.
“Hearing my ideas come to life, and working directly with the players was transformational.”
Florence Anna Maunders
Imagine an underpass. The walls are grimy, dirty, layered with strata of ripped posters, half-covered flyers, stickers and graffiti. Worn, scratched, partially obliterated and weathered. Half-glimpsed in the half-dark. Your footsteps echo on the urine-stained floor. The ceiling is too low. A collaborative piece of accidental urban art, reflecting the opinions and activities of a generation.
This piece started off with an idea I had for a much longer piece for wind orchestra, back in 2018, and here and there elements of that much earlier work poke through the musical texture. Onto, through, around and over this, however, is a shabby array of half-formed musical fragments – echoes, sirens, melancholy messages, scribbled insults, partial quotations, obscured swirls and mutated dub step – a patchwork scrawl of conflicting musical styles, which eventually build into a brutal finale.
Writing for an orchestra is always a daunting task. When I first started on the LCO New scheme, I’d not yet had an orchestral piece performed in concert by a professional ensemble. The process of working with the LCO has allowed me to try out ideas, audition them, and then gradually tighten up the music into its final form – which is quite different to the initial sketches from the first workshop! Hearing my ideas come to life, and working directly with the players was transformational. Especially useful was the detailed and generous feedback from Freya and Christopher, without whom this piece would be in much worse shape!
“A section of pure lyricism emerges that reaches a climax through the whole orchestra”
‘Reactance’ is a work resulting from an exploration of both freedom and control in my compositional process.
My intention from the beginning was to compose a work that reflected two of my favourite composers, both of whom have anniversaries this year: Iannis Xenakis and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The sound worlds of both composers have always greatly appealed to me and I knew in some way I wanted to try and fuse them together, or see how they could be partnered. Upon researching Xenakis’ processes, I came across ‘Sieve Theory’ and under this influence I decided to apply a strict formula to parts of my piece (something I’ve never done before). The formula I used created a number sequence which dictated which notes I would use and in what rhythm.
I decided microtones and pitch bends would be a core identity to this music. The influence from Vaughan Williams mostly came from his 5th Symphony, a piece I have always loved. To completely juxtapose the previous method of writing, I decided to write a new section completely freely, away from a number based algorithm. As a contrast to the identity that the formulaic music had adopted, the music became very melodic and harmonically quite tonal.
The piece takes us on an emotional journey through these sound worlds, starting with the pitch bends and microtones in the strings. Lyricism is first heard in a duet between the first horn and trumpet, then picked up by the lower registered instruments in the orchestra. The emergence of this lyricism is challenged by the more textural writing, but eventually the pitch bending microtones give way. A section of pure lyricism emerges that reaches a climax through the whole orchestra, the formula however finds its way back to end the piece.
Brehm’s theory of psychological reactance was something I had experienced, the basic principle being: when we feel our freedom/freedom of thought is being threatened, we push towards thinking/doing the opposite. Writing without constraint brought a lot more fulfilment than working in such a controlled, algorithmic manner although the reactance to this was itself developed within the sound-world I had created.
My thanks go to the London Chamber Orchestra, Freya Waley-Cohen and the LCO New scheme for allowing this work to be possible.
“I am interested in the orchestra because, despite its rigorous internal hierarchies, it is ultimately a mass of individuals – two facts which can sometimes be at odds. I can only hope to address a small handful of different ways in which this can be explored.”
me fait languir
The title me fait languir is taken from Beauté parfaite, a ballade by Guillaume de Machaut set to music by Antonello da Caserta:
Beauté parfaite et bonté sovraine,
grace sans per et douçur esmerée,
me fait languir in contrée lontaine,
en desirant ma dame desirée.
Si ne puis pas avoir longue durée
et ma dolour longuemant endurer,
puis que desirs ne me lasse durer.
The piece is mainly comprised of material from Caserta’s setting, removed from its original context, which I re-assemble into me fait languir. There is no attempt to quote the piece with any clarity, to make references to its structure, or to evoke its mood or sentiment.
I am interested in the orchestra because, despite its rigorous internal hierarchies, it is ultimately a mass of individuals – two facts which can sometimes be at odds. I can only hope to address a small handful of different ways in which this can be explored.