"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.
Posted on: 17th Apr 2012
Coming to Sounds New on 9 May, Powerplant, led by percussionist Joby Burgess, represents a kaleidoscope of percussion, electronics and multi-media.
I first came across Powerplant in the form of the novel twist Burgess provided on Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint. Originally written for jazz-guitarist Pat Metheny, with Metheny playing against pre-recorded multi-tracks of guitar and bass guitar lines to create Reich’s trademark tapestry of interlocking sounds, I approached a percussive incarnation of the piece with some trepidation; but played on Burgess’ trademark ‘xylosynth,’ it remains true to the spirit of Reich’s vision whilst providing an interesting sonic and visual alternative take on Reich’s pulsating work:
Burgess recently gave the premiere of Gabriel Profiev’s Concerto for Bass Drum:
I caught up with Joby ahead of his imminent tour with Peter Gabriel (a busy performing calendar means Joby is fitting the concert for Sounds New in between gigs in Germany and Poland!), and put a few questions to him.
Tell us about Powerplant
I formed Powerplant in 2005 to perform and develop music using live electronics and live looping, although a percussionist I have always been a bit of a studio rat, needing to find the latest toy, box or noise. The group generally tours as a trio with myself playing a mixture of drums, percussion, found objects and a xylosynth, alongside Matthew Fairclough handling the sound design and Kathy Hinde creating film and live visuals, to create a truly multimedia experience. Powerplant has recorded two studio albums Electric Counterpoint - the music of Steve Reich and Kraftwerk (2008) and Import/Export - Gabriel Prokofiev's suite for global junk (2010), Powerplant has performed extensively throughout the UK and given performances in Europe and the USA.
What excites you about contemporary music ?
I am lucky to spend nearly all of my time working with composers, song-writers and improvisers in creating and bringing to the world at large new music and performances. I am not interested in the label it might be given, as long as the music is good and has honest intentions. Over the past two years, I have spent much time working with a range of artists including Peter Gabriel, Gabriel Prokofiev, Graham Fitkin, Adrian Utley and Will Gregory.
Tell us about your concert for Sounds New next month
For Sounds New Powerplant will present recently developed music for the group including Conlon Nancarrow's Piece for Tape - an early pre-pianola experiment arranged for drums and blocks by composer Dominic Murcott, Matthew Fairclough's The Boom and The Bap - a piece for drum set and and live electronics exploring the world of break beats and Max de Wardener's 2011 commission 24 Lies Per Second - a suite of pieces inspired by the films and words of Austrian director Michael Haneke, including a particularly special mash-up of Schubert's Im Dorfe from the Piano Teacher. Alongside these Powerplant plays its two major commissions from late 2008, Graham Fitkin's Chain of Command and Gabriel Prokofiev's suite for global junk Import/Export.
Find out more about the concert for Sounds New online here.
Posted by Daniel Harding.
Posted on: 28th Mar 2012
Coming to Sounds New this season on Wednesday 9 May in the Powerplant concert, Graham Fitkin is also one of the composers associated with this year’s London Olympic Games and the New Music 20x12 project.
His piece Track to Track: the Athlon premièred at the Cadogan Hall last Thursday, performed by the Fitkin Band and the London Chamber Orchestra, setting words by the poet Glyn Maxwell. The piece was written to be broadcast on the 'Javelin' train, as it travels between King's Cross and the Olympic arena.
The New Music 20×12 project has commissioned a twelve-minute piece from each of twenty British composers, including Jason Yarde, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Sally Beamish and Howard Skempton, with the latter’s Five Rings Triples launching the project when it rang out over the rooftops of Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey on New Year’s Eve.
Fitkin’s music is full of vibrant energy, bright textural writing and a punchy rhythmic sense that drives the music onwards in an exciting, exuberant fashion, whether it's the robust quartet-writing of Vent, the orchestral shimmying of Bebeto, the percussion power-play that is Hook or the multi-piano texture of Loud:
There’ll be more about Graham Fitkin on the blog here later, in a preview of the Powerplant concert in which his Chain of Command will be performed: in the meantime, here’s the composer talking about his Olympic piece:
Track to Track will be pulling in to St Pancras on June 27. Don’t miss Chain of Command on May 9 at Sounds New.
Posted by Daniel Harding.