Mission to Huddersfield
HUDDERSFIELD, NOVEMBER 22 (right after the Arditti Quartet’s performance):
I’m writing this from the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, an annual explosion of new music in this small West Yorkshire town. Great architecture, great company, and, above all, great music. I just got back from a performance by the Arditti Quartet, whose program included Archbold, Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, and Redgate (the first and last of whom were in attendance). The Arditti’s reputation as the “industry standard” new music string quartet is well-deserved. I’ve been listening to their recordings for years, but this was the first time I’ve seen them play. Last night we were treated to a rare live electronics/body art piece by Dick Raaijmakers and a performance by “le NEM,” the Montreal-based Nouvel Ensemble Moderne; later today there’s an Enno Poppe portrait concert, EXAUDI’s premiere of a large piece by my supervisor Christopher Fox, and a late-night (for me, anyway–11 p.m.) piece by renowned improviser John Butcher. And that’s just today! I’ll be here through Sunday, then back to London during the week, then back up again next weekend.
It’s unbelievably cool, but the high concert density is a bit exhausting. I think the saturation of awesome music is having a potentially salutary side effect, though: I don’t think I’ll ever feel bad about skipping a few festival performances again, because a few of the concerts I’ll be missing during the week are almost guaranteed to be better than whatever concerts I might not feel like attending at any other festival! I feel really privileged to be around for this, and I can only hope that someday some young composer is as psyched to hear my music as I am to hear the wild new works being premiered this weekend and next.
HUDDERSFIELD, NOVEMBER 24 (As you can see, by Monday afternoon I was even more excited about the festival):
Have any of you ever heard of Dror Feiler?
Go get some Dror Feiler and listen to it now.
Feiler’s piece MÜLL, for laptop (manned during this performance by Feiler), chamber orchestra (Klangforum Wien, in this case), two vocalists, and garbage truck, shook the warehouse performance space in Huddersfield to its very foundation. Until I leafed through the HCMF program booklet, I’d never heard of Feiler, who Wikipedia claims is an ex-IDF paratrooper in addition to being a composer and performer. I have been missing out, but no longer.
And dude. Enno Poppe? I knew a number of his pieces before showing up in Huddersfield and was still blown away. He led Klangforum Wien, an ensemble that seems to be a recurring theme when it comes to extraordinarily badass contemporary music, in a program of three largish chamber pieces, Knochen, Salz, and Öl. Knochen, right off the bat, is one of the best pieces I have heard in recent memory. Salz is awesome, too. I am confident that I could learn to love Öl if I heard it again without interruption from the Huddersfield Ill-Timed Fireworks Committee, who unfortunately sullied a first-class performance of first-class music.
I could keep going. Christopher Fox had a great piece. Markus Trunk had two great pieces. John Butcher is hardcore. Bryn Harrison rules. Everything Exaudi performed sounded like chocolate-covered gold. You have to go. If you care about new music, make it a priority. It is hellaciously expensive even if you live here, but it is worth it.