Release Date: Friday 23 July
Devastation sparks innovation with six new pieces performed by members of the London Symphony Orchestra for NMC's digital release, Six Degrees of Separation.
When the pandemic struck and all musical activity ground to a halt, many composers and musicians were left without any means of creative output. This was true for the six LSO Panufnik Scheme Composers who had hardly begun their year of activity before the March 2020 Lockdown.
As the Composition Director for the scheme, Colin Matthews created a separate project where each composer would write a short ensemble piece to be performed and recorded under lockdown conditions. With the help of members of the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Darren Bloom, and some well-known video conferencing software, the six composers Christian Drew, Stef Conner, Patrick John Jones, Emma-Kate Matthews, Chris McCormack, and Alex Paxton have all written and recorded new pieces which each in their way explore the effects of lockdown.
The slowing of life's pace allowed the composer and former member of the Mercury Prize-nominated band The Unthanks, Stef Conner to reflect on Captain Ahab's striking soliloquy from Melville's Moby Dick in her piece Hymn to a Head. In setting the words for brass quintet, the "imagined colours and contours" of Ahab's speech cry out for a world that humanities' greed is engulfing. Christian Drew's See Slow Blue also slows the tempo, finding inspiration in the lazy, ambling slide guitar, muted toms, jangling bells, and rustling shakers of New Jersey-based ambient, noise rock, shoegazing band, Yo La Tengo.
Bouncing off from the symbolic double 'DD' of Bedlam-bound artist Richard Dadd's name, the award-winning composer and improvising-trombonist Alex Paxton weaves together his own folklore in Dadd's Fairies. The title is derived from Dadd's The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke, an intense, mesmerising work, with Paxton's music perfectly evoking the densely-packed surreal scene, with a sprinkling of magic and intrigue.
Architect and composer Emma-Kate Matthews' piece Remote Overlap explores ideas of communication and distance. Musical motifs sound out vast spaces as if searching for one another, an evocation of the sense of longing and frustration felt by many during the pandemic. This connection of motifs also features in Irish composer Chris McCormack's Silver Traces. He creates two planes of opposing material; the 'real' plane of the strings and the 'unreal halo' plane of pitched percussion, each exerting a magnetic pull on one another.
Patrick John Jones draws on the unnerving combination of enthusiastic, upbeat energy and dark undertones found in the surreal YouTube series Don't Hug Me I'm Scared for his dance-like piece The Fun Will Never End. Patrick writes, “This might be, when you think about it, a reflection of my emotional state during lockdown. But it also, when you think about it, might not be. When you think about it, you can think about it as much or as little as you like.”
Members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Bloom conductor
1. Patrick John Jones The Fun Will Never End
2. Christian Drew See Slow Blue
3. Stef Conner Hymn to a Head
4. Emma-Kate Matthews Remote Overlap
5. Chris McCormack Silver Traces
6. Alex Paxton Dadd's Fairies
"This commendable release is a welcome introduction to a terrific new wave of composing talent. PERFORMANCE: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, RECORDING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐" BBC Music Magazine
"...the pieces represent a variety of responses to 2020, but what comes over is the sheer joy each of the composers take in the timbre and textures of music, the vibrant colours and intense thoughtfulness, there are dark thoughts but there is also anarchic energy." Planet Hugill
All works recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London on 19-21 December 2020
DAVID LEFEBER Recording Producer/Engineer
COLIN MATTHEWS Producer
Catalogue number: NMC DL3046
Release date: 23 July 2021