on music and beauty

Category: Projects

Johannes Maria Staud

In September 2006 we started working on a new project with BCMG, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and the Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud. BCMG have commissioned Johannes a new work for harpsichord, ensemble of nine instruments (flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, percussion, violin, viola and cello) and live electronics. One Movement and Five Miniatures will be premiered in Birmingham on 22 April 2007, with Jonathan Green and Simon Hall performing the electronics. Under my supervision Jonathan Green has realised the live electronics part of the score using MaxMSP.


This exciting project, with great partners and even greater ambitions, Integra – A European composition and performance environment for sharing live music technologies, is a €1,035,048, 3-year cooperation agreement part financed by the European Commission through the 2005 call of the Culture 2000 programme [ref 2005-849]. Started in September 2005, Integra is led by Birmingham Conservatoire and the project partners are:

New Music Ensembles
Ensemble Ars Nova, Sweden
Athelas Sinfonietta, Denmark (co-organiser)
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, United Kingdom
BIT20 Ensemble, Norway (co-organiser)
Court-circuit, France (co-organiser)

Research Centres
CIRMMT, McGill University, Canada
Krakow Academy of Music, Poland
La Kitchen, France
Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Lithuania
Malmö Academy of Music, Sweden (co-organiser)
NOTAM, Norway
SARC, Northern Ireland, UK

Association of European Conservatoires, The Netherlands

The composers commissioned so far are:
Malin Bång, Sweden (Athelas Sinfonietta)
Natasha Barrett, Norway (Ensemble Ars Nova)
Andrea Cera, Italy (Court-circuit)
Tansy Davies, United Kingdom (BIT20 Ensemble)
Juste Janulyte, Lithuania (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group)

This is the Integra team at Birmingham Conservatoire:
Lamberto Coccioli, project manager
Richard Shrewsbury, project administrator
Jamie Bullock, technical administrator
Jeanette Davey, finance administrator

Integra project website

David’s Garden

Together with trombonist David Purser and composer-technologist Jonathan Green, we’ve been working since late 2005 on a user-friendly Max/MSP environment to let performers improvise with technology. To capture performance data we have been using a microphone and a flexion sensor, measuring the angle of the arm to track the position of the trombone slide.

Lips Eyes Bang

In June 2005 I invited to Birmingham Conservatoire the Italian composer Luca Francesconi. We performed his multimedia work, Lips Eyes Bang, in a Thallein Ensemble concert conducted by Lionel Friend. The actress-singer role in Lips was given to Abigail Kelly, a very gifted vocal student with superior dramatic skills. Luca gave also some master classes and two talks on his music.

In order to make the performance possible, in collaboration with AGON – the Milan production and research centre – in February 2005 we started to migrate the original live video setup of the piece to a different software environment: from Image/ine to Jitter, a suite of video manipulation objects for the Max/MSP software environment.

Jonathan Green went to Milan in April 2005 to work with Paolo Solcia and the composer at AGON studios. Back in Birmingham he finished the porting of the software in time for the June performance. We were able to rehearse the piece and put together the final performance thanks to the generous support offered by Gregory Sporton, Director of the VRU (Visualisation Research Unit) at BIAD, the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.

Julian Anderson

In 2004 I collaborated with Julian Anderson and BCMG – the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group – on the realisation and performance of the electronics of a large-scale ensemble work by the composer, Book of Hours, commissioned by BCMG. I worked with Julian in the Conservatoire’s studios and performed the electronics – together with Jonathan Green, at the Birmingham premiere on 28 January 2005 and at the second performance in Manchester the following day. Both concerts were conducted by Oliver Knussen. BEAST, the Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre at the University of Birmingham also took part in the project, with Scott Wilson as sound engineer.

Commissioned through the Sound Investment scheme, Book of Hours takes its name from the elaborately illuminated medieval manuscripts that divided the day into eight segments, or ‘hours’. The work does not literally portray or depict either of the medieval artefacts but it aims to explore – and somehow unite – the relationships between these very old objects and the very latest technology.

Book of Hours, published by Faber Music, won the Royal Philharmonic Society award for large-scale composition in 2006. The Manchester performance was recorded by the BBC and has been released on CD by NMC Recordings.

Modernising live electronics in Harvey’s works

Together with Jamie Bullock we have started this ambitious project in 2004. Collaborating with Jonathan Harvey, we are modernising live electronics in his works that make use of obsolete technologies, to ensure their long-term preservation and allow for future performances. The modernisation usually involves moving from a hardware-dependent electronics set-up to a software based one, using as much as possible standard, open source tools.

The aims of this project are very close to those of the Integra project. Indeed, we are porting to the Integra environment two of Harvey’s works – Madonna of Winter and Spring and Wheel of Emptiness as part of the repertoire migration activities of the project. We intend to carry out the porting of the electronics of other works by Jonathan outside the Integra project, as part of the Conservatoire’s research activities. Although the modernisation is not advancing as fast as we would like to – due to time constraints and the need to harmonise this project with other research efforts at the Conservatoire – we have been able to achieve some very interesting results.

Opera e No television documentary

In 1995 Luciano Berio was going to be 70. I asked him if, to his knowledge, RAI (the Italian National Television Network) had planned any kind of anniversary present, in the form of a documentary or concert broadcasting. Having received a negative answer, I decided to embark on a rather adventurous journey, writing a project for a documentary on Berio and the creative process. Three years and many difficulties later the final result was eventually released.

A lot of research work went into the planning and writing of the documentary, especially in the early stages, when the the §me of the creative process was still the core of the documentary. Working closely with the composer, I defined a subtle dramatic structure where the path from inspiration to performed work is intertwined with various parallel processes: from draft to finished drawing, from stone to sculpture, from raw sound to melodic line. Sadly, for political and budgetary reasons what had started as a very ambitious project had to be trimmed down more and more, until the original idea was almost unrecognisable. What remains is an interesting but very high-brow portrait of a man and his music through his words, those of some of his influential friends, and the images of his opera Outis.

Opera e no: l’altro Ulisse di Luciano Berio (Opera and Not: Luciano Berio’s Other Ulysses) is a 60-minute documentary film on Luciano Berio and the creation of his opera Outis, premiered at La Scala Theatre in Milan in October 1996. Co-authored with the film director Piero Berengo-Gardin, the documentary intends to give a fresh approach to musical creation and the production process of a new “musical action”, as Berio himself defines his works for the stage. Excerpts from rehearsals at Teatro alla Scala are juxtaposed with dialogues with Berio and interviews with some of his close “creative” friends: Umberto Eco; Edoardo Sanguineti, the Italian poet, and librettist of many works by the composer; Dario Del Corno, co-writer with Berio of Outis‘s libretto; Daniele Del Giudice, the Italian writer; Renzo Piano, the world-famous architect.

Aimed at demystifying the elite status of contemporary music – especially considering television audiences – the documentary tries to place the subject of music creation in a wider arena of concepts and meanings. Musical thought becomes thus another important element of the current cultural debate, and fecund ideas are shared and interchanged between music, literature and architecture.

Produced by RAITre, Third Channel of RAI, the Italian National Broadcasting Corporation, Opera e No was first broadcast in February 1998, and subsequently broadcast on various occasions. The documentary has been selected by the International Competition Classique en images in Paris for its 1998 edition.

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