"Yesterday I listened... today I loved!"
Posted on: 27th Apr 2012
Cornwall-born Graham Fitkin’s Chain of Command comes to Sounds New on Wednesday 9 May. Commissioned by Powerplant and toured by them in 2008, the percussionist uses a MIDI-marimba to trigger speech samples;
a technique Fitkin used with menacing political overtones in No Doubt, his concerto for MIDI-harp from 2010;
It’s a path well-trodden by Steve Reich, certainly, in pieces such as Different Trains and City Life, although for Fitkin, the speech samples are used less for their ability to generate particular pitch-sets than for their quasi-percussive texture; repetition heightens the sound of the sampled speech, treating it as an instrumental texture in its own right, although one not devoid of political syntax (both Chain of Command and No Doubt sample phrases from former American President George Bush).
Whether bristling with brash textures, bold rhythmic gestures, or with warm, lulling and hypnotic ostinati, Fitkin’s music refuses to fit into a neat pigeon-hole. There’s the exuberant vibrancy of Vent, for saxophone quartet, with its uplifting opening gesture; the piano-shop-gone-mad acrobatics of Sciosophy; the filigree harp textures of Skirting; Warm Area creates gentle pulsations, with melodic figures picked out in a delicate harp tapestry, in a piece occasionally reminiscent of the milder creations of Aphex Twin:
Here’s Fitkin at his punchy, rhythmic best in the soundtrack to a Uniqlo jeans advert:
Fitkin’s Cello Concerto, written for Yo-Yo Ma and premièred at the BBC Proms last year, has recently been nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, ‘for a large-scale work (scored for 16 or more players) receiving its first UK performance in 2011.’
Alongside Chain of Command in the Powerplant concert are works by the Hermit of Mexico, Conlon Nancarrow and a landmark collaboration with Gabriel Prokofiev, Import/Export: Suite for global junk.
Rich in textural contrasts, bursting with rhythmic verve and bright harmonies – the music of Graham Fitkin comes to Sounds New. Don’t miss it.
Posted by Daniel Harding.