Roxanna Panufnik : using music to bridge religious differences

Roxanna Panufnik

Roxanna Panufnik (born 24 April 1968 in London, UK) is a British composer of Polish heritage.

Since studying composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Roxanna’s since written a wide range of pieces including opera, ballet, music theatre, choral works, chamber compositions and music for film and television which are regularly performed all over the world.  Panufnik is the daughter of a Jewish mother and a Polish Catholic father, the composer Sir Andrzej Panufnik; the co-existence of religions and cultures is an essential part of her identity.

She says, “there’s so much common ground between the monotheistic faiths. Obviously there are some fundamental differences in the way we practice. But I think that too much time and energy is spent on the differences and not enough on the things that we all share. That’s what I want to do musically – to highlight those universal elements.”

Abraham is the title of Roxanna Panufnik’s violin concerto, which she wrote for Daniel Hope to play in 2005, drawing together the various musical flavors of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was then that Panufnik began to explore an idea that has often resurfaced in her subsequent compositions: the way that music can help to smooth a path between different faiths.

Another of her choral works, Love Endureth, is a setting of Psalm 136, in which she has incorporated elements of Sephardic chant and Hebrew text.

Recent premieres include her oratorio Dance of Life (in Latin and Estonian), incorporating her fourth mass setting, for multiple Tallinn choirs and the Tallinn Philharmonic Orchestra (commissioned to mark their tenure of European Capital of Culture 2011 and recently recorded – in English – for release on Warner Classics 2014),  Four World Seasons for violinist Tasmin Little and the London Mozart Players, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, launching their Music Nation Weekend, celebrating the 2012 Olympics and Memories of my Father (2014) commissioned and recorded by the Brodsky Quartet who also gave the UK, Polish and Dutch premieres.

Toru Takemitsu : born today in 1930


Toru Takemitsu was born in Tokyo on 8 October 1930. He began attending the Keika Junior High School in 1943 and resolved to become a composer at the age of 16. During the post-war years, he came into contact with Western music through radio broadcasts by the American occupying forces – not only jazz, but especially classical music by Debussy and Copland and even by Schoenberg. He made his debut at the age of 20 with a piano piece Lento in Due Movimenti. Although Takemitsu was essentially a self-taught composer, he nevertheless sought contact with outstanding teachers: Toshi Ichiyanagi acquainted the composer with the European avant-garde of Messiaen, Nono und Stockhausen, and Fumio Hayasaka introduced Takemitsu to the world of film music and forged contacts to the film director Akira Kurosawa for whom Takemitsu produced several scores to film plots. Alongside his musical studies, Takemitsu also took a great interest in other art forms including modern painting, theatre, film and literature (especially lyric poetry). His cultural-philosophical knowledge was acquired through a lively exchange of ideas with Yasuji Kiyose paired with his own personal experiences. In 1951, the group “Experimental Workshop” was co-founded by Takemitsu, other composers and representatives from a variety of artistic fields; this was a mixed media group whose avant-garde multimedia activities soon caused a sensation. Takemitsu taught composition at Yale University and received numerous invitations for visiting professorships from universities in the USA, Canada and Australia. (Shott Music biography)

Takemitsu died in 1996, at the age of sixty-five. He was by far the most celebrated of Japanese composers, although his position in the firmament of modern music was not exactly dominant; some Western commentators condescendingly described him as an artist of a decorative type, a purveyor of atmospheric wisps of sound.  Critics have underestimated Takemitsu because of the unstinting sensuousness of his music. It is rich in opulent chords, luminous textures, exotic tones that almost brush the skin, hazy melodies that move like figures in mist. The titles give a sense of the sound: “Twill by Twilight,” “Toward the Sea,” “How Slow the Wind.” Yet the picture-book atmosphere is periodically disrupted by harsh timbres, rumblings of dissonance, engulfing masses of tone. Loveliness vanishes into darkness before it can be fully apprehended, like the song that Takemitsu heard inside the mountain. (Alex Ross, The New Yorker)

He was one of the featured composers in 1993’s Wien Modern new music festival. Oliver Knussen conducted the London Sinfonietta, and Takemitsu himself was there, a benign presence despite his disagreement with Knussen over Brahms’s orchestration. “You wouldn’t want to learn orchestration from Brahms,” Knussen said, or words to that effect. Takemitsu replied: “I wish I could orchestrate like Brahms.” Coming from two composers so sensitive to the subtleties of instrumental colour, they must have both been right, but it was Takemitsu’s music that made the stronger impression on me.

Archipelago S – just like the guitar concerto To the Edge of Dream, another of the highlights of his residency – was music that had paradoxical qualities: it seemed to be in a permanent state of ethereal evanescence, shimmering and suggesting rather than stating directly, and yet its impact was absolute, definite and unforgettable. It was music that sounded strangely similar to Debussy and Olivier Messiaen in its harmonies and textures, yet very different in its effect. Instead of Debussy’s sensuality, there was something crystalline and objective in the way Takemitsu’s music unfolded; instead of Messiaen’s visionary spirituality, there was a sense of space and detachment in Takemitsu’s pieces, even if some of his musical language sounded similar. (Tom Service, The Guardian)

The Stray Birds

stray birds

The band – multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charlie Muench – hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. All three are classically-trained musicians who’ve been making music of all kinds since childhood (before they reconnected through the local music scene, de Vitry and Muench first met in middle school orchestra); however, they were also all raised with a steady diet of music ranging from pioneers like The Carter Family and Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys to the joyous invention of The Beatles and The Band, to the groundbreaking artistry of Jimi Hendrix.

stray birds2Their 2012 eponymous first recording was recorded at Stonebridge Studios in Leesburg, VA and produced by the band and Stuart Martin.

With three-part harmonies which fall somewhere in the sonic spectrum between Gillian Welch and Crooked Still, their songs are at once resonant and emotional, dreamy and sad.

This tune, “Dream in Blue,” recognizes the opportunity that can come from heartache – a chance to move on to something better. “I left home on account of you always loving someone new,” sings lead vocalist Maya de Vitry, before the band lights into instrumental solos so dripping with lonesome-and-moving-on, all you can do is shake your head along with the heartache.

Two years, hundreds of gigs, and thousands of highway miles after their self-titled debut album was released, the genre-melding acoustic trio makes its Yep Roc Records debut, Best Medicine, was released on October 21, 2014.

During a visit to Schenectady, NY, a city hit hard by the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, the band discovered a secondhand record and bookstore called The Re-Collector. De Vitry noticed people from disparate backgrounds and circumstances in the little downtown shop, searching for treasures among the old vinyl and paper. The scene inspired her to write the title track on Best Medicine, a tribute to music’s ability to unify and heal:

“If the body is a temple / The soul is a bell / And that’s why music is / The best medicine I sell.”

“Music is powerful because it creates common ground,” de Vitry says. “People go through life not thinking about the moments that are passing. But when they get swept up in a song, they’re suddenly aware of that moment in time. I think music can just be a highlight of living. That’s the sense of that song.”

Jacob Gotlib : experimental chamber and electronic music

Jacob Gotlib

Jacob Gotlib was born and raised in Louisville, KY, and has written music for instruments, electronics, dance, and multimedia. His music is regularly played at festivals around North America and Europe, most recently at the Wellesley Composers Conference (Wellesley, MA), the Acht Brücken Festival (Cologne, Germany), Hear+Now (Louisville, KY) and June in Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). His works have been premiered by a variety of American and European ensembles, including Talujon Percussion Quartet, Ensemble SurPlus, and Ensemble Linea.

In October 2007, Jacob worked with renowned Kansas City choreographer Jennifer Medina onInnerworkings, a piece for dance and electronic sounds, which was premiered at UMKC’s 2007 Choreofest. Earlier that year, his work Embers was a finalist in the ASCAP/SEAMUS Student Commission. His work The Slow Splintering was awarded the Ossia Electroacoustic Prize in 2010. In 2012, Jacob’s percussion quartetScape After Louise won 2nd place in the Acht Brücken Composition Competition and was performed at the Acht Brücken Festival by Schlagquartett Köln. Most recently, Jacob’s piece Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out), written for the Crossfire Percussion Duo, was selected a finalist for the 2013 Gaudeamus Prize.

Jacob was a co-founder of the Kansas City Electronic Music and Arts Alliance (KcEMA), whose mission was to promote electronic and experimental music of all types and genres across the Kansas City area. The group continues to be a vital force in the region’s arts community. He is a member of the Buffalo, NY-based new music collective Wooden Cities, for whom he composes, performs, and organizes events.

Jacob has studied at the Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is currently a PhD candidate at SUNY Buffalo, where he studies with David Felder.

Happy Birthday Phill


Phill Niblock turns 82 today, and is still very busy:

May 22 (6-10pm), 23(12-20) and 24-25 (12-18), A book fair at the Tate Modern, with a section by Frederic Acquaviva, of “La Plaque Tournante” in Berlin, with a new book of “Cello Pieces” scores, by Phill Niblock

Sunday May 24th 2015 , 8 pm , @ /i’klectik/
‘Old Paradise Yard’ , 20 Carlisle Lane ( Royal Street corner ) next to Archbishop’s Park , London SE1 7LG, email:

8.30PM 1st live set set : improvisation Katherine Liberovskaya (live video) / Guy De Bièvre (lap steel guitar) / Anna Homler (vocals) 30′
9PM launching of CRU1 MAGAZINE ( ß@£) sélection of CRU-DVD with vidéos of live performances by Bernard Heidsieck “Vaduz” (1974,11′), Tomomi Adachi “Girl Spinning Next Door” (2014, 6′), Alvin Lucier “Silver Streetcar for Orchestra” (1988, 9′) + Katherine Liberovskaya “Tilting at Windmills a.k.a aqualib spin” with sound collage by Phill Niblock (2015, 8′)
9.30PM 2nd live set : Frédéric Acquaviva : “Aatie Fragment” (2011, 8′)
(music and vidéo : F.A) with Loré Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano)
– Phill Niblock : V & LSG H (2015, 22′), with Phill Niblock, Guy de Bièvre (lap steel guitar) and Loré Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano)

June 1 – 21 – Studio Loos in Den Haag, residency, Katherine Liberovskaya and Phill Niblock, Anne Wellmer
Workshop on June 12

Phill Niblock is a New York-based minimalist composer and multi-media musician and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation born in the flames of 1968’s barricade-hopping. He has been a maverick presence on the fringes of the avant garde ever since. In the history books Niblock is the forgotten Minimalist. That’s as maybe: no one ever said the history books were infallible anyway.

His influence has had more impact on younger composers such as Susan Stenger, Lois V Vierk, David First, and Glenn Branca. He’s even worked with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo on “Guitar two, for four” which is actually for five guitarists. This is Minimalism in the classic sense of the word, if that makes sense. Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones. The result is sound without melody or rhythm. Movement is slow, geologically slow. Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you. The vocal pieces are like some of Ligeti’s choral works, but a little more phased. And this isn’t choral work. “A Y U (as yet untitled)” is sampled from just one voice, the baritone Thomas Buckner. The results are pitch shifted and processed intense drones, one live and one studio edited. Unlike Ligeti, this isn’t just for voice or hurdy gurdy. Like Stockhausen’s electronic pieces, Musique Concrete, or even Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting, the role of the producer/composer in “Hurdy Hurry” and “A Y U” is just as important as the role of the performer. He says: “What I am doing with my music is to produce something without rhythm or melody, by using many microtones that cause movements very, very slowly.” The stills in the booklet are from slides taken in China, while Niblock was making films which are painstaking studies of manual labour, giving a poetic dignity to sheer gruelling slog of fishermen at work, rice-planters, log-splitters, water-hole dredgers and other back-breaking toilers. Since 1968 Phill has also put on over 1000 concerts in his loft space, including Ryoji Ikeda, Zbigniew Karkowski, Jim O’Rourke.


Kate Soper : vocal experimentation


Kate Soper (born 1981) is a composer, performer, and writer whose work explores the integration of drama and rhetoric into musical structure, the slippery continuums of expressivity, intelligibility and sense, and the wonderfully treacherous landscape of the human voice.

She was a recent Guggenheim Fellow as well as a 2012-13 fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her first portrait album Voices from the Killing Jar was released on Carrier records in 2014 and she recently rolled out her first opera, Here Be Sirens, at Dixon Place. On the horizon are Ipsa Dixit, an evening-length cycle of duos and quartets for voice and instruments to premiere September 2015, and an operatic retelling of The Romance of the Rose.

Ödön Pártos : Israeli composer, string player and teacher of Hungarian origin

oedoen partos

Ödön Pártos (also Oedoen Partos) was born in Budapest on 1 Oct 1907 and died in Tel-Aviv, 6 July 1977. He was an Israeli composer, string player and teacher of Hungarian origin. Born to an assimilated Jewish upper middle class family, he was a child prodigy and studied the violin with Ormandy. Hubay heard him play the violin at the age of eight and took him as a pupil at the Budapest Academy of Music, where he also studied composition with Kodály. After graduating from the academy in 1924, he was leader of the Lucerne Stadtsorchester (1924–6) and the Budapest Konzertorchester (1926–7). In 1927 he moved to Germany, working as a soloist, and in 1933 he became first violinist of the Jewish Cultural Centre. At the end of that year he returned to Hungary, moving then to Baku to teach the violin and composition at the conservatory (1935) and returning to Budapest as leader of the Konzertorchester (1937). During these years as a soloist in Europe he was very active in contemporary music and gave the premières of several works written for him, including Kadosa’s Violin Concerto and Suite for violin and piano. In 1938 he was invited by Huberman to become first violist with the Palestine SO (later the Israel PO), after which he lived in Tel-Aviv. He stayed with the orchestra until 1956, also playing the viola in the Israel Quartet (1939–54) and appearing as a soloist in Israel and abroad. In 1951 he was appointed director of the Israel Academy of Music (later the Rubin Academy of Tel-Aviv University), and in 1961 he was made a professor. He travelled extensively as an adjudicator, lecturer and teacher, and received many honours, most notably the first award of the Israel State Prize (1954).

oedeon_PartosPartos arrived in Palestine steeped in contemporary European traditions, particularly those of Bartók and Kodály. From them he had come to see folk music as a source of inspiration and to develop his personal style by enlarging Western tonality through a mixture of modal, oriental and chromatic elements; the best example of his work under their influence is the Concertino for strings (1932). By building on these principles, Partos was able to acclimatize himself musically and, in a conscious effort to seek out his Jewish ancestry, he took a particular interest in the musics of the various Eastern Jewish communities. He soon began to make arrangements of their folksongs, first for the Palestinian singer Bracha Zefira (Four Folk Songs, 1939), then for unaccompanied chorus (Six Songs, 1941). The experience had a strong effect on his later instrumental works, including the Four Israeli Tunes for string instrument and piano (1948), Hezionot (‘Visions’) for flute, piano and strings (1957) and Maqamat for flute and string quartet (1959). He also used some folk elements of the Ashkenazi communities of eastern Europe, notably in Yizkor (‘In memoriam’) for strings (1947), a work written in response to the Holocaust. In all these works, he brought a Western technique to bear on Eastern material, whether whole tunes, fragmentary gestures or melismatic patterns.

In 1960 there came a change with Partos‘s turning towards 12-note technique; this is best exemplified in Tehillim (‘Psalms’) for string quartet or chamber orchestra and Dmuyot (‘Images’) for orchestra, both of which date from that year. It is important to stress, however, that his use of 12-note principles was never strict: fragments of three to six notes from the series were often cast as motifs or melodic cells and certain notes were also duplicated at the octave, thus implying a tonal hierarchy. Moreover, Partos always retained some connection with the music of his adopted environment, going as far as to affirm a connection between dissonant, serially-derived harmony and the clashes that result from heterophony. He found expressive force in the combination of serialism with an Eastern melos or biblical cantillation; the influence of maqām is still present, for example, in Psalms.

The size of Partos‘s output from the early 1960s bears witness to his stimulation by 12-note methods, but the genres he chose were dictated by his needs as a performer; the Sinfonia concertante for viola and orchestra comes from this period, as does as Agada (‘Legend’) for viola, piano and percussion, of which he gave the first performance at the 1962 ISCM Festival. Strings are, indeed, predominant in the vast majority of his works, and his writing for the medium includes Eastern practices, such as very long notes, richly varied embellishments and microtones, all to be found in Maqamat, Psalms, Netivim (‘Paths’) for orchestra (1969) and Shiluvim (‘Fusions’) for viola and chamber orchestra (1970). Partos employed a generalized serialism in such works asArpiliyot (‘Nebulae’) for wind quintet (1966), though construction and ordering always remained a means to an expressive end. After 1970 he used a freer technique, involving proportional notation, microtones, clusters and some degree of aleatory writing, which he associated with Eastern improvisation principles. (William Y. Elias. Partos, Oedoen.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.)

Klaus Lang : Austrian composer

klaus lang

Klaus Lang (*1971 Graz / Austria) lives in Steirisch Lassnitz (Austria). He studied composition and theory of music (with H.M. Preßl, B. Furrer and Y. Pagh-Paan) and organ. Klaus Lang loves tea and dislikes lawnmowers and Richard Wagner. Klaus Lang’s music is not a means to convey extramusical contents, such as emotions, philosophical or religious ideas, political propaganda, advertisement etc… His music is no language used to communicate non-musical content. Music is seen as a free and selfstanding acoustical object. In his work he is not using sound, sound is explored and given the opportunity to unfold its inherent rich beauties. Only when sound is just sound it is percievable as that what it really is: a temporal phenomenon – audible time. Klaus Lang sees time as the genuine material of a composer and at the same time also the fundamental content of music. In his view musical material is time perceived through sound, the object of music is the experience of time through listening. Music is time made audible.

Mark Andre : French composer living in Germany


Mark Andre was born in Paris in 1964, where he studied at the École Normale Supérieure (writing a thesis on “Le compossible musical de l’Ars subtilior”) and with Claude Ballif and Gérard Grisey at the Paris Conservatoire (First Prize in Composition). Later he studied with Helmut Lachenmann at the Stuttgart University of Music, where he took an advanced degree in Composition.

Among the many composing competitions he has won are those of the Villa Medici (Prix de Rome), the City of Stuttgart, the Frankfurt Opera, the Kranichstein Music Prize of the International Summer Courses in Darmstadt, composer’s grants from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and the Berlin Academy of the Arts, the Composition Prize of the Christoph and Stephan Kaske Foundation, the “Giga-Hertz-Produktionspreis des ZKM und Experimentalstudio des SWR” and the orchestra prize of the SWR Symphonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg at the Donaueschingen Festival.

He has taught at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses, the Academie d’Aix en Provence, in Royaumont, the Takefu International Music Festival, at the “EXPERIMENTALSTUDIO-Akademie matrix” and the Fellowship Seminar at Voksenåsen, Oslo. He is a member of the music chapter of the Berlin Academy of the Arts (2009), a corresponding member of the Saxon Academy of the Arts (2010) and a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2012/13).