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BMIC The Cutting Edge 2004
The Warehouse, London 21st October

Music for super-instruments
Neil Heyde: cello, Chris Redgate: oboe
Paul Archbold, Michael Young: live electronics

Fabrice Fitch - Per Serafino Calbarsi II- Le songe de Panurge (LP)
Paul Archbold - A little night music (WP)
Brian Fernyhough - Time and Motion Study II

Michael Young - Argophylax
Heinz Holliger - Cardiophony

This year's series is in full swing at The Warehouse, attracting large, animated audiences, and it continues until 18th December, with many varieties of 'new' music, finishing with the six Steinways of Piano Circus.

Last Thursday's concert was all about sound and its manipulation to produce ever new effects. Extended techniques for cello and oboe felt entirely natural in this context.

Neil Hyde (of the Kreutzer Quartet) was fully at ease speaking the French text of Fabrice Fitch's piece impeccably whilst playing the cello, as he was in negotiating Fernyhough's horrendous demands with bow, fingers and foot-pedals in a virtuoso account of Time and Motion Study II, which is destined for CD.

Paul Archbold
supervised the engaging sound of 'a swarm of oboe simulacra' in his A little night music, and Michael Young in his piece intruded on Chris Redgate with 'mischievous, always unpredictable' live electronics. Holliger brought us uncommon intimacy with Redgate by having his chest wired up so that we all heard his heart beats whilst he played. The two composer/electronic wizards presided over their machinery like magicians of old.

A contrast to Maxwell Davies' rigorous constructions the previous night, with I guess no expectation that listeners would be expected to follow the musical structures of this live-electonics music; just a feast of intriguing and exciting sound experiences.

Ruth Wall solo harp 2nd December, 7pm
Philip Glass - Opening
Gabriel Jackson - Small Encomium to Matthew Greenall
Graham Fitkin - Skirting (LP)
Howard Skempton - Preludes and Interludes

There were two concerts in the Cutting Edge series last Thursday. Ruth Wall told us that all her items to be played on her Scottish harp would be tonal, which worried me! I have to confess that after hearing the works listed above, composed or arranged for the clarsach or small lever harp. I found the music too bland for me and departed. No real criticism of the performer; her instrumant is pretty to watch and to hear, but more variety was called for in a concert in this series.

Every string of the Clarsach has its own pitch changing lever which can be flicked to raise the note a semi-tone. This was well demonstrated in Graham Fitkin's piece, but I have preferred this composer in his more typical, hard-edged manner. Ruth Wall intimated that she would not be using this chromatic potential of her instrument a great deal. The easy-on-the-ear Glass and Skempton pieces, originally for piano, went well on the sweet-toned little harp. Skempton's eight Preludes have 'remarkably similar character - - akin to Satie's Gymnopedies'; not my scene nor my idea of Cutting Edge music, even though I appreciate that the BMIC does not eschew any of the idioms current in our pluralistic musical world (about which I had lectured recently under the title A 20th Century Tower of Babel).

I returned for the second concert just a little late, only to be stymied by discovering there were to be no pauses for applause, nor an interval, so late-comers (there was another in the foyer with me) could not be admitted! So I will have to postpone hearing juice vocal ensemble until their concert of a cappella songs by University of York students and Meredith Monk is broadcast on Radio 3's Hear and Now.

More information about juice: www.juicevocalensemble.net


© Peter Grahame Woolf