WEISSLICH 4 – Composer/Artist Interviews

Tomorrow at 8pm, WEISSLICH returns to Hundred Years Gallery to present the first concert of our 2015-16 season. Beforehand we asked each of the six featured participants to respond to a few prompts about their contributions. Read on for responses to the following:

[1] What’s one thing you would like the audience to know about your piece / thing?

[2] Tell us an anecdote that relates to your piece / thing.

[3] It’s Halloween and you’ve turned into a werewolf! Who would you have replace your slot at WEISSLICH?

Robert Blatt – All Together Now
[1] Sitting still is optional.

[2] Florida is a region known for sinkholes, which are mostly naturally occurring collapses of surface sediment into often large underground cavities formed by the dissolution of limestone. They can emerge suddenly, and some people have been swallowed alive by these geological events. I moved to Miami a little over a year ago, and not long after arriving, I started to feel tremors shaking my house. I became concerned. Was the earth about to eat me?

I soon found out that Miami is a region with a very low probability of sinkhole formation of any substantial size; however, living in the outskirts of the city, I happen to reside not far from a quarry. Periodically the miners find it necessary to blow up the bedrock. Their blast schedule is even posted online. It turns out the sinkhole I was worried about my house collapsing into was fiction. I was merely feeling the formation of a different type of hole in the limestone, but in this case caused by the use of dynamite.

[3] Guillaume de Machaut

Eleanor Cully – new work
[1] This is my first solo performance of my own music.

[2] ppppppp

[3] My friend and flautist Marta Buzow, whom I am staying with at the weekend. We used to play together every week in the brilliant New Noise ensemble at Brunel University and she taught me in my final year there.

Beavan Flanagan – No sweeter sound than my own name
[1] It’s about a person, it’s about an object, it’s about a person being an object.

[2] It was pointed out to me that the piece had certain scatological undertones. I personally think this was a reflection of the people who thought this more than of the piece itself :-)

[3] Gary Numan (on one condition: he wouldn’t be permitted to perform any of his music from the mid 90s onwards)

David Pocknee – Cipher For The Lighthouse Twins
[1] It was premiered last month in Miami by Inlets Ensemble.

[2] I swear the printer was laughing over the phone when they confirmed my order for this piece was ready.

[3] Trond Reinholdtsen or Parkinson Saunders. 

Leo Svirsky – singer-songlewieser medley
[1] I’ll be doing a “singer-songleweiser medley” with songs and miniatures from Michael Pisaro, Christian Wolff, and Antoine Beuger, with some liberties taken in the Wolff songs.

[2] When he came to the Hague, Christian Wolff told me that Cardew’s only political song that really made it into the working class repertory was the “Bethanienlied”, a protest song against a free clinic being turned into a center for contemporary art by the city of Berlin. Cardew organized a concert with Christian Wolff, and Frederic Rzewski which the working class audience was pretty bored with, except for one point where Cardew performed his variations on the Bethanienlied. The audience sang along with the theme, and booed when the first variation came (instead of the second verse).

[3] Jeromos Kamphuis, even though he’s a vampire.

[1] Skateboarding is a supremely beautiful art which makes cities more interesting, more liveable and tells us things about space we couldn’t know otherwise. Skaters are urban dowsers of texture, angle and energy flows; to be able to witness what they do is a privilege and we should support them. Long Live South Bank.

[2] Anton Lukoszevieze had a birthday coming up, and it was a number which ends in “0”. He joked he would like a piece as a gift, something “which will make me feel I’m not getting old, like about skateboarding.” I was reading a book about skateboarders and their use of urban space at the time, and had already been thinking of doing something about skating.

[3] Tony Hawk

We look forward to having you along tomorrow!


Better Know A Weisslich: Robert Blatt

As part of our Better Know A Weisslich series, we are profiling American composer Robert Blatt, currently based in Miami, where he runs Inlets Ensemble (https://inletsfdn.wordpress.com/).

Robert’s work was performed in WEISSLICH 4 back in October 2015, when this profile was originally written, and he’ll be appearing in person, performing, as part of WEISSLICH Vol. 9 in Manchester and London 13th and 14th January 2017 along with Ensemble Pamplemousse and Antonia Barnett-McIntosh & Emma Bennett.
I’ve known Robert since we studied together in The Hague between 2008-2011, and it’s always a pleasure to present his music, since it encompasses such a huge variety, yet manages to attain a consistently high quality across so many styles and media.

Some of my favourite pieces are the sprawling, multi-layered, metaphorically-rich, alchemical music-theatre works, he wrote in The Hague, such as Sacrament or: Meanwhile the earth has intercourse with the sun, and is impregnated for its yearly parturition (2011), and Nuit or: That which is below is as above, and that which is above is as below. (2010), both of which married an expansive vision to an aesthetic of financial pragmatism I’ve rarely seen matched; both performances, unfortunately, are barely documented – you really had to be there…

As well as these monumental compositions, his installation work is extensive, encompassing the destructive Guitar Swing (2013) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/guitarswing.html), in which a suspended guitar acts as a mechanically-controlled battering-ram to destroy a wall of sexually-explicit vinyl album covers, and the more conventional sound-art works such as Elements (2013) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/Elements.html) and Utility Poles (2014) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/UtilityPoles.html).

Then there are the interdisciplinary performance pieces, often performed with Acid Police Noise Ensemble, such as Pars Pro Toto (2011) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/pars_pro_toto.html), a collective composition which sprawled over several rooms, and the loud and violent Lucifer, The Scapegoat (as part of Stockhausen Serves Terrorism (2011) http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/stockhausen.html) which led to the Dutch police shutting down the concert.

Technology as aesthetic mediator makes frequent appearances in his work, sometimes manifest through algorithmically-generated scores, of which the most extreme versions occur in the relentless computer-aided creativity of The Art Of Production (2013) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/ArtOfProduction.html), as part of the New Fordist Organization exhibition and the epic, completist Forty-Three Thousand Five Hundred and Eleven (2015) for solo guitar (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/files/scores/43511.pdf). In other places, technology occurs in the creation of new instruments, such as the Light Organ (from Glass Onion (2012)), a contraption of light-bulbs contact-mics and computer, coupling light and sound (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/organ.html). Elsewhere, technology appears as a mediator of listening, in works such as Three Blind Mice (2014) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/ThreeBlindMice.html) or Walking Listening (2014) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/pieces/ListeningWalking.html), both of which use specially-built electronics to change the performers’ relationship to the environment, themselves and their fellow performers through the use of white noise to map a space for blindfolded performers, or the algorithmic control of a listening walk via a small box with GPS, delivering walking and listening instructions via LCD screen.

Yet another part of his output deals with small works that use simple means to generate complex results, such as his Change series (2011-) of coin-flipping works, a brevity present in his contributions to the @textscoreaday twitter feed. Other smaller, intimate works defy easy documentation, such as the beautiful Empathy for two performers (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/files/scores/empathy.pdf) or site-specific works such as Orangerie Geometry (2014), written for the Darmstadt Orangerie.

And finally, there are those works that deal with brutal sheets of noise, such as the recent Igneous (https://archive.org/details/BlattIgneous), for four performers with stones, tiles and video written for the Rock, Paper Scissors series of three concerts he organized in Miami (http://rockpaperscissors.ricercata.org/) Oryza Sativa (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/files/scores/OryzaSativa.pdf) (2010) for two electric guitars, hammond organ and rice, and Discriminate Brutality (2011) (http://robertblatt.ricercata.org/files/scores/DiscriminateBrutality.pdf), for two prepared electric guitars.

For those reading this as potential Weisslich concert-goers, hoping that this post will illuminate Robert’s output in such a way to that would allow them to know what to expect when his work appears on the next Weisslich concert, it is probably clear by now that his output manifests such stylistic and instrumental diversity that any single piece I attach below will be a hopelessly one-sided encapsulation of his work. So, instead of picking a piece that is similar to the one you will witness, I’ll just pick one of my favourites: the strikingly simple, but effortlessly beautiful L’Ascension (2012) for solo piano, played by Leo Svirsky: https://soundcloud.com/robert-blatt/lascension

– David Pocknee