Listen to the BBC Concert Orchestra’s podcast, exploring two extreme states; EXSTATICA & H7STERIA

Presenter Christopher Cook introduces the BBC Concert Orchestra’s two concerts exploring extreme emotional states; EXSTATICA & H7STERIA

Experience EXSTATICA on Monday 19 November, 7.30pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall when the BBC Concert orchestra explores ecstatic states in music from incandescent bliss to pure, un-paralleled lust.

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And on Monday 3 December, 7.30pm, the BBC Concert Orchestra return to Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to delve into the depths of the human psyche playing with fear, anxiety, disturbance and madness, in H7STERIA.

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Five questions with composer Juliana Hodkinson

Juliana Hodkinson’s Stills is featuring in the London Sinonfietta’s forthcoming one day festival New Music Show 3 on Sunday 2 December at Southbank Centre. Find out more about Juliana and her work below.

What was the first recording you bought?
A tape cassette of Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Legends and Swan of Tuonela – after hearing the Legends in Mrs. Parsons’ school music lesson.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you start in composing?
Originally, I guess it was a desire for more pocket money. There was a competition where you could win £50. I think I got second prize, which must have been £25. My violin teacher and his wife played in my piece, for piano and string quartet. Devon County Council ran residential youth-orchestra courses where composition was one of the afternoon activities, so I got my first taste there. The council also employed a composer-in-residence, Christopher Williams, who gave me lessons and pointed me towards Renaissance madrigals, Balinese music and contemporary music. I would never have formulated the idea of composing music if it had not been for these local frameworks, which gave me the opportunity to work with professional musicians on my ideas and get professional feedback, criticism and encouragement.

Who or what inspires you?
That’s an endless list, because it’s always changing. Working together with musicians is a key source of inspiration for each piece in the development process. And the work of other artists; works in other media often provide me with metaphors for compositional concepts or processes that I can then put into sound. I’ve spent the last 14 years chewing over two video pieces I saw in Belgium by David Claerbout. But Varèse’ Ionisation repeatedly packs an immediate punch.

If you could pick a favourite project or personal career highlight to date, what would it be?
That would be All the time, an instrumental theatre production I developed in 2001. It was an extreme meeting between the most reduced artistic material I had ever worked with before, and the most extensive/intensive rehearsal and production process. Together with 4 musicians and a theatre production crew, we spent weeks putting soooo much effort into lighting matches, dropping feathers, splitting near-silent tones, unpacking a clavichord in the dark, tuning, tuning and re-tuning ancient instruments… I was exhausted, I had never spent so many hours in a black-box space before, and my music was getting quieter and more sparse, day by day. By the time the journalists came to interview me for the pre-show PR, I hardly had a score left to put on the coffee-table. It was a low point and a high point at the same time. The delicate and pain-staking production of All the time was the moment I learnt how much artifice and rehearsal is required for the simplest expressions, and how rewarding it is to bring the integration of sound and light under control in the same gesture. The next main production I did after that was a huge, loud orchestral electro-acoustic video extravaganza …

 And finally, name your 3 most listened to pieces of music at the moment…
1. Deep Purple’s Smoke on the water (coming from my son’s bedroom)

2. Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf (a musical toy that hangs over my daughter’s cot)

3. And everything in between: all kinds of radical contemporary music and sound art that I’m researching for my curatorship of Spor Festival in Denmark next May – so I can’t tell you about it, as we want the programme to be A Surprise.

You can hear Juliana Hodkinson’s Stills performed by the London Sinfonietta alongside music by John Cage & Andrew Hamilton on Sunday 2 December, 4.30pm at the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Find out more about the full day of events / book tickets

Get to know pianist Rolf Hind

Rolf Hind, photo: Skel Nicolau

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth, pianist Rolf Hind, one of our great interpreters of modern piano music, collaborates with acclaimed choreographer Rui Horta, dancer Silvia Bertoncelli and a cat named Mia in a new work that showcases the genius of one of the twentieth century’s great artists. We caught up with Rolf to ask him some quick questions.

What do you fear the most and why?
Death. For all the usual reasons.

What – or where – is perfection?
Everything is as it is meant to be.

What’s your favourite ritual?
Meditation. Also drinking coffee!

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
One – of many – who just springs to mind: Arundhati Roy. wrote a wonderful book, but didn’t make a ‘career’ of art. Now a very brave and vocal activist and polemicist. True to herself.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
I wish I’d started the cello when I was young. I adore the instrument, it has a kind of embodiment and sheer physicality that surpasses all the others. Sounds beautiful across an enormous range too.

Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre?
Ten years ago I played a QEH concert for Boulez’ birthday with newly commissioned pieces which all came out on CD after the event. It was an exciting evening.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Rumi, Kabir, Farinelli, Szymanowski, Bartok, EM Forster, Proust, Rufus Wainwright, Bjork, Messiaen, Lachenmann, Diamanda Galas. That’s just the top dozen!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Be kind. And start with yourself.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
I hardly listen to recorded music. Prefer to make, play, hear or imagine it live. But if I need a boost I often return to the gypsy music of Taraf de Haidouks.

Tell us a bit about how the collaboration for Danza Preparata came about.
The very foresighted artistic director of the Casa da Musica in Porto approached me a couple of years ago and I went to see some work of Rui Horta’s in Lisbon. I was blown away by Rui Horta, as man and artist. He is an extraordinary bundle of energy and a serious polymath, whose work should be even better known than it is.

Sum up Danza Preparata in one sentence.
Exquisite dancing, lighting, concept and music, respectful and playful: a lovely gift for Cage.

How much of an impact do you feel Cage made on 20th century classical music?
A large one: I see him as the Warhol of music (many may disagree!) I don’t always love all the work, but even when I don’t I see it as something akin to the meditation I practise – an opportunity to find new perspective on one’s experience, or to dwell on an idea (like a Zen koan, a kind of riddle..)

It allows listeners, composers and performers to react in a new way. It also marks a serious attempt to integrate the philosophical tenets of certain aspects of Eastern thought with Western sounds, in a much more thorough way than the ‘orientalisme’ that often came before.

It’s also about emancipation: for instruments (redeployed, reconfigured, reinvented) for sound (liberated from the heft of grammar and meaning) and for the USA (liberated from Western Europe!)

What’s next for you?
On November 24th in the Barbican, the wonderful accordionist, James Crabb, premieres my biggest orchestral piece, a concerto called The Tiniest House of Time with the BBCSO.

See Rolf Hind performing John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano in Danza Preparata as part of Ether 2012 at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 16 October. Get tickets here. 

John Cage iPhone app!

Celebrate John Cage’s 100th birthday by playing the CagePiano app on your phone!

One of the many ingenious innovations of American composer/writer/artist John Cage was his creation of the ‘prepared piano’, in which he placed objects beneath and between the strings of a grand piano to create an entirely new instrument.

John Cage Prepared Piano app

John Cage Prepared Piano app

John Cage Prepared Piano app

Southbank Centre’s Ether 2012 is presenting John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano live at Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 16 October. Get tickets here. 

Listen to our John Cage Spotify playlist

John Cage was the most influential and controversial American experimental composer of the 20th Century. He was the father of indeterminism, a Zen-inspired aesthetic which expelled all notions of choice from the creative process.Rejecting the most deeply help compositional principles of the past – logical consequence, vertical sensitivity, and tonality among them – Cage created a ground-breaking alternative to the serialist method, de-constructing traditions established hundreds and even thousands of years earlier; the end result was a radical new artistic approach which impacted all of the music composed in its wake, forever altering not only the ways in which sounds are created but also how they’re absorbed by audiences. Indeed it’s often been suggested that he did to music what Karl Marx did to government – he levelled it.

John Cage

On 16 October, as part of Ether 2012, pianist Rolf Hind, one of our great interpreters of modern piano music collaborates with choreographer Rui Horta and a cat named Mia in a new work that showcases the genius of one of the twentieth century’s great artists and his Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, a group of 20 short pieces for prepared piano that are often considered amongst his finest achievements.

Have a listen to our John Cage spotify playlist, featuring some of his best know work including the infamous 4’33” plus a selection of his Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. Click below to listen.  

Listen here


Catch Danza Preparata – John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano – at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 16 October as part of Ether 2012. Get tickets here. 



Dig out your dancing shoes: one day to go!

It’s the big day tomorrow – Brynfest, our four-day festival, kicks off in style with The Golden Age of Broadway show. As we dig out our top hats and polish our dancing shoes, we asked Bryn why he chose to include a Broadway night as part of the festival.

‘It fits into the formula that I have used before at my Faenol Festival in North Wales. I’m always one that’s loved listening and performing Broadway tunes and since the advent of people like, for instance, Michael Ball, Michael Crawford and Elaine Paige, songs from musicals have really been brought into the public eye. I wouldn’t have a festival without an evening of musical theatre.’

Portrait of Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel © Briony Campbell

Are you a fan of musicals?

‘I adore them – they’re so entertaining.  I love My Fair Lady, and I saw Anything Goes in New York which was just tremendous – a real journey down memory lane. 

‘Oddly, last time I was in New York I saw the two theatrical productions that seem to have run away with the Tony Awards, which are Porgy and Bess with Audra McDonald (who, by the way, was one of the artists that came to my festival in North Wales) and I saw One Man, Two Guvnors twice with James Corden. ‘

You’re famous for your opera singing – what is your experience of Broadway tunes?

I grew up with them – they’re songs that I’ve sung and they have been sung to me by my grandparents and parents. They were always very popular in concerts when I was a youngster, even before I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but I then still used them in miscellaneous concerts we had all over Wales with male voice choirs.  So ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ I would have sung most probably over 1,000 times but still never ever get tired of it.’

Will you be performing in the show tomorrow?

‘I’ll make a brief appearance maybe.  It’s not my bread and butter but I can certainly, hopefully, sing a tune. I’ve brought along some very special guests to make the night go with a swing. We have an icon from Wales, of course, tying everything together, which is Siân Phillips. Emma Williams sang with me when we did the Sweeny Todd in the Royal Festival Hall, and there are many others too. These people work so hard, so to even think that somebody can turn up on a Wednesday night, in the middle of a busy schedule and just give us a concert is really enchanting. I’m very excited to hear them sing!’

If you’re a fan of musicals, there’s still time to book your tickets for tomorrow’s show.


Watch a film of the New Music 20×12 composers talking about their commissions

You can experience all 20 commissions across one weekend at Southbank Centre from 13-15 July. Don’t miss your chance to get involved in talks, debates and workshops, as well as a unique opportunity to book a one-to-one composer surgery with one of the New Music 20×12 composers.

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PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 is a UK-wide commissioning programme initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen, and delivered in partnership with the BBC, LOCOG and NMC Recordings.