First of all: all of us at CoMA send our best wishes to all of you and your families and communities in these extraordinarily difficult times.
Extraordinary, not least, because of the overnight halt to live music-making culture.
But from a CoMA perspective, there’s still so much we will do to continue our work – more vital than ever – of commissioning composers, creating and promoting their repertoire, and finding new ways to collaborate and support musicians.
As the new-music community focuses its creativity on-line, we’ll be there too – and we are looking at how to take ensemble rehearsals/communities/performances on-line are welcome, as well as any ideas about how to work together to create new music-making opportunities for our audiences, from tutorials to performances.
That strength of CoMA’s communities has always been the defining feature of what we do, and it’s needed, creatively and socially, more than ever. Keep in touch
Tom Service, Chair of CoMA
Our priority, apart from promoting ideas to help us maintain some musical activities and keep in touch with each other, is to support the music directors of our ensembles and all the other musicians whose work benefits CoMA.
You can download more details of our approach.
Patrick Bailey writes about his experience online with Fresk!, a CoMA associate ensemble in Cornwall.
The CoMA Lockdown Ensemble is a new project. It has been set up to research existing and specially devised repertoire that works with, and benefits from, online technology, at the same time using the enforced lockdown circumstances to build stronger connections between our regional ensembles. Led by CoMA Board member Marc Dooley who is head of digital content development at Edition Peters, the ensemble brings together in a working partnership, instrumentalists from the ensembles based in Bristol, Colchester, Eindhoven, Glasgow, London, Maastricht, Nottingham and Truro. Over the coming weeks and months we will be reporting on outcomes from this group, which will be experimenting with a variety of platforms, including Zoom, Jamkazam and Mumble. Read more from Marc about how the project is going.
A piece, written by Janet Oates, Director of CoMA Singers, for remote instrument players, based on text attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Players can either record themselves separately and the piece is then assembled or maybe perform together over a livestream. You can download the parts here .
Constellation is a performance-based composition, devised by Sheena Phillips of CoMA Singers.
“We are all like stars, isolated (or in small clusters), separated by great distances – but shining and brilliant (or faint and delicate). Each performer records their own audio, which is assembled into an evolving cosmic soundscape.”
Dominique Golden produced this video response and Sheena has written a companion piece Contact which you can take part in. See here for full details.
Paul is a prolific and thoughtful composer with many pieces in the CoMA Catalogue. He writes “Many of my scores have been written to fit on a single page, and within those are several that can accommodate uncoordinated playing. They are a mixture of text scores, graphic scores and more conventionally notated pieces.” These pieces can all be found in his blog.
We are looking for commissioners, performers and composers to create and give online premieres of new solo pieces for a range of instruments and levels.
- Commissioners: the suggested contribution is £50, which would to be matched by CoMA. Commissioners may suggest their own composer or opt for CoMA to choose
- Performers: the call for players has been extended to those keen to take part without presenting a premiere, but rather leave it to a professional who has worked with CoMA in the past.
- Composers: interested in being commissioned and being matched up with a volunteer CoMA performer to create the solo work
Mentoring: some younger composers may opt to be teamed with an experienced CoMA composer for advice along the way; likewise, CoMA performers may similarly be ‘teamed’ with professional player, to work on the piece via video where possible.
The project’s Director is Piers Hellawell
Read more about and listen to some of the commissions.
To take part as a commissioner, performer or composer contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A second lockdown composition from Janet Oates, Director of CoMA Singers that you can contribute to.
This work is a response to the many Zoom meetings being held by musicians and groups during lockdown – the joy of interaction, the many characters trying to be heard, the activities taking place. You can respond musically by filling in one of the squares.
Audio-visual artist Kathy Hinde, a long time enthusiast of Erik Satie’s Vexations created an amazing rendition of the piece at a CoMA Summer School some years ago. Right now she is putting together an online stream of the piece, with its 840 repetitions involving as many performers. The project launched on Sunday 17th May to mark Satie’s 154th birthday, using a new website and software that will randomly choose the next player and leave it going until it reaches 840 repetitions. Further versions will be streamed through to Wednesday 3 September, the anniversary of the first complete performance in 1963. To realise this project Kathy is encouraging as many pianists as possible to send her a video of themselves playing one cycle which will be included in future versions. You can watch samples of previous streams and find out more about the project here.
David Machell, a member of CoMA East Midlands has written a series of pieces which have been tried out by the CoMA Lockdown Ensemble and CoMA East Midlands’ composers group – CoMA Inspires. David writes:
“The idea of the Game of Tones series is to provide a body of material for CoMA-style musicians that can be used successfully over zoom (etc), tackling head-on the technical issues (sound overload and cut-out, video lag, latency, etc) and the practical issues (using sheet music or on-screen instructions etc) whilst still keeping the musical quality high.
When the emergency is finally over, the material is completely compatible with old-school concerts, in the sense that it is not actually dependent on zoom to be effective.
Something I’ve learnt: how important it is – because we’re all hearing the music through headphones or loudspeakers instead of acoustically in a room – to LIMIT the amount of playing/singing we ask people to do. Plenty of silence to listen to the music of others. I also think that sometimes limiting the pitch-sets to three or four notes (rather than the full twelve) is another way of achieving this.”
David has six more pieces in the pipeline, drawing on the experience of the Game of Tones and exploring new ideas for online performance.
You can download the boxed set of Game of Tones here.
This is a composition created for CoMA Leeds by its Music Director Elaine Levene. Designed for Zoom playing, the piece is titled “Don’t all talk at once” and is in three sections. The score includes instructions, a comments sheet, three sections as realised by CoMA Leeds and three blank pages as a template for others to make their own version.
Richard Gonski, conductor of one of the Festival partners, Torbay Symphony Orchestra, has created a piece for Zoom performance in homage of Scelsi who overcame a period of serious depression in a psychiatric clinic where he was given use of a piano. By repeatedly playing a single note he recovered and on release wrote a number of pieces using orchestral colour, microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics to create some utterly beautiful pieces of music. Richard’s Piece no 1 for the Age of Zoom (with homage to Scelsi) has simple instructioins:
1. Any number of musicians join a Zoom meeting
2. The musicians collectively choose a pitch
3. Play this note.
5. Use the delay well
Read more in Richard’s comprehensive article: Live Streaming in the Age of a Virus.
CoMA is committed to supporting all those who work with and have worked with us, not least our past project leaders and Summer School tutors. As starters we now have pianist and composer Rolf Hind offering online classes in meditation, performance or composition at £45 for a 75 minutes 1:1 session. Similarly, KNM flautist Rebecca Lenton is offering 1:1 lessons (all levels) at £36 per hour (pro rata for shorter lessons. To book, contact email@example.com in the first instance.
Many of the professional musicians who work with CoMA have donated a lot of their time over the years and we are looking at ways to support them in this difficult period when many of their income streams have dried up. One way you can help is to buy CDs from them and, of course, you will have a treat to listen to. You might think of it as an alternative use for the money you would normally spend going to concerts.
Violinist Darragh Morgan who has worked with CoMA for many years as a tutor and soloist. You can find out about his CDs here. Many of the works are by composers who have written for CoMA.
Watch and listen to one of Lore Lixenberg’s unique SIngterviews, this one is with composer Pauline Oliveros and IONE made available excludively to CoMA at https://vimeo.com/413931910 and feel tempted to purchase a DVD of more singterviews for only £15, with all proceeds going to IKLEKTIC arts lab. The DVD’s are available directly from firstname.lastname@example.org
The context for this and other Singterviews was a one hour show called PANIC ROOM presented by Lore at the IKON gallery as part of its Voice and the Lens exhibition in Birmingham in 2012, with follow up shows at the Riverside Studios and Kings Place.
The show presented the end of civilisation as we know it, set in the culture 4 billion years from now as the sun is exploding into a red dwarf. With CCTV cameras everywhere in the building, Lore spied on the audience in the foyer and sang to them over the foyer tannoy system, from this picking an audience member to be in the PANIC ROOM with her…. read more
Music for Violin Alone by Aisha Orazbayeva was recorded in the first two weeks of the lockdown both as a response to all loss of work and also as a way to be head again. It features new music by Aisha, Oliver Leith, Angharad Davies, James Tenney, J.S. Bach, John Cage & Nicola Matteis. Find out more…
Composer and percussionist Dominic Murcott has released an album – 1:3:5:7 Improvised Duos. These explore the infuence of the length of an improvisation on the material in it. Collabators are Laura Jurd, Tom Challenger, Hans Koller and Joe Townsend. Find out more…
Whilst we can’t go to concert halls at the moment, there are still opportunities to hear new music live. London Sinfonietta, who has partnered with CoMA on many occasions has a series of live solo concerts followed by discussions. The Lockdown Live performances are every Wednesdays at 3pm. More details are available here. One of Edmund Finnis’ cello pieces is playable by amateurs and the music is available to download.
Regularly presented by CoMA Chair, Tom Service, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show is providing an opportunity to hear a wide range of contemporary music. On 4 April it included an interview with James Weeks (Artistic Director for the CoMA Partsong project) and him conducting Royal Northern Symphony players for a piece by Joanna Baillie as part of the 2020 Festival of Contemoporary Music for All at Sage Gateshead. Listen here, 58 minutes into the show. On Saturday 18 April, the show included another piece by James/RNS: Malakosha by Egidija Medeksaite, here at 10 minutes into the show. On Saturday 9 May the show Cassandra Miller’s O Zomer! here at 4 minutes and James Week’s Dusseldorf at 1 hour 42 minutes.
Loré Lixenberg does the impossible – an album of 10 tracks of some of Nancarrow’s most challenging work is coming out in November with a special launch on November 20th in Rotterdam (coronavirus willing). Produced on the De-Player label this superbly presented collection will be on sale at about £30 in a limited edition of 200. To guarantee owning one email Lore Lixenberg directly at email@example.com To get flavour of what to expect try these for size: Study 31, Study 6. An article published in Wire magazine explaining the project and the motivation behind it can be read here.
“Hello there! Hope yr OK and enjoying the gorgeous sunshine wherever u r! Just to let u know that my alter ego Margery Fosdike, principal of the 3rd desk of the cello section of the Woking Philharmonic, recently transmitted a stunning rendering of Saint Saen’s The Swan to the nation on Living Room Live. Join the experience here.” Zoe is a CoMA composer and tutor.
One of CoMA’s favourites has finally made it onto YouTube. Simon’s programme note says:
“On 30 November 2001 I awoke to the news that George Harrison had died and spent the rest of the day sketching out this piece. This tribute piece is constructed around fragments from his song While my Guitar Gently Weeps. My piece, A Gentle Weeping was written for my group Big Noise and was recorded by them as part of their debut CD. The first live performance was given by students at the Purcell School conducted by Karim Said on 9 December 2002. The tabla part is designed to be performed by a western percussionist rather than an Indian master, and it reflects the uninhibited magpie-like nature of Harrison, one of my favourite musicians.”
Simon Speare is the Head of Composition and Contemporary Music at the RCM Junior Department and organised junior composers to write for London Sinfonietta, works that were premiered in the 2020 CoMA Festival at the People’s Palace at Queen Mary University of London.
Pianist Adam Swayne, former MD of CoMA Sussex, tutor at Summer Schools in 2012-14 and co-director of Manchester’s 2020 CoMAFest, produced a critically-acclaimed CD last year. It was selected as an Instrumental Monthly Choice by BBC Music Magazine and nominated in two categories at the 2019 Opus Klassik awards.
Adam says: “This CD has been out for a while, but CoMA members might be interested to know that many of the pieces were workshopped and performed at CoMA Summer Schools. Amy Beth Kirsten’s (speak to me) was the focus of a music and theatre course at High Melton in 2013, and Frederic Rzewski’s North American Ballads were performed alongside his Coming Together during a music and politics strand in 2014.
You can hear the CD on all the streaming platforms, but you lose a lot by not having the song lyrics and the accompanying essay. Therefore, I’d like to offer CoMA members a special price of £15 for the hard copy. This price includes postage and packing, encompassing a personal and fully sanitised service (I will pack the envelope using protective gloves). Pre-worn pink woolly hats will definitely not be included. Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
East London Music Group has commissioned and performed a series of short pieces, written for Lockdown and specifically to be recorded in isolation. There are many connections with CoMA. Matthew Hardy, the Artistic Director, is Music Director of CoMA London and three of the composers have written for CoMA. Leo Geyer conducted Devon Philharmonic Orchestra in the Exeter contribution to the 2020 Festival. Edward Nesbit used to play with CoMA Bristol. Both have written for CoMA for the Nature Unwrapped series at King’s Place (postponed!). Ruta Vitkauskaite played with and wrote for CoMA London and has recently set up CoMA Glasgow. You can watch and listen to the pieces here.
Gregory has just launched his latest CD which features his orchestral compositions on Toccata Classics, including a new orchestral version of Red Planet. This work was composed for CoMA London Ensemble, who premiered the work in 2014, and was inspired by spectacular images of Mars, exploring its huge contrasts and unimaginable dimensions. He has orchestrated the original ‘Open Score’ version into one for chamber orchestra, making very few alterations, and just adding a few lines here and there.
Gregory was CoMA London’s Music Director and conductor for 20 years and a tutor at several CoMA Summer Schools. Participation-based events at Spitalfields, Corsham and Sounds New Festivals formed part of the ensemble’s multi-stranded programme.
Since last summer, Gregory has been concentrating on his composing and the publishing and recording of his huge backlog of works. An article in www.classicalsource.com says of the CD that “the composer is conducting a responsive Royal Ballet Sinfonia in top-notch accounts, the sound is splendid, and the annotations are generous and informative.”
Gregory has recently been taken on as a house composer with the Berlin publisher Verlag Neue Musik.
Naomi’s first piece for CoMA, Four Humours, was written when she was a post-graduate composition student at the Royal Academy of Music, and has since been performed many times. She joined CoMA London as a violinist before she went to live in Berlin where she has become a highly acclaimed composer. About her new CD, Lines and Spaces, Naomi writes:
“I had been working slowly on it for the last year or so and had a great time recording with musicians I wrote two of the pieces for: the pianist Richard Uttley (Lines and Spaces) and the Berlin-based Ensemble Adapter (Music for Europe). I also had the great pleasure of working with Quatuor Bozzini for the first time on the recording of String Quartet no. 2. The only vocal work on the disc, Words, written for the baritone Omar Ebrahim and the London Sinfonietta features the BBC Radio 3 recording of the premiere with Beat Furrer conducting.
You can order a CD directly here or stream (or buy from the usual places)”
Patented & guaranteed to work under most domestic conditions. A collection of drinks, sounds and pensive reflections from Stephen Montague to be carried out in your own home.
The UK government’s guidance on reopening the performing arts prohibits amateur groups or groups with amateur participants – unlike professionals – playing or singing together, except in the numbers of people currently allowed to meet in public. It goes further to say that singing and playing wind and brass instruments isn’t even allowed in those numbers. It is also surprising that there is no explanation why amateurs are being treated differently to professionals in this guidance.
Making Music (of which CoMA is a member) is spearheading a campaign to allow leisure-time music groups to be subject to the same rules as the professionals. As part of this campaign CoMA is a signatory to Making Music’s letter to DCMS and equivalents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and promoting the hashtages #BringBackMyChoir and #BringBackMyBand that include advice on how you can support the campaign. There is also a video to share.
Note that the campaign is not suggesting groups should get back together if they don’t feel it is for them or when it isn’t safe. But it is about opening up that possibility for those who want to and allowing groups to do their own risk assessment and taking decisions based on that – something we know CoMA ensembles as keen to do.