Jazz North Originals Survey

Programming

Following a sector consultation with 25 artists and artistic directors, a pilot project with Manchester-based composer and improviser Rodrigo Constanzo and research into promoters’ operational capacity, Art of Festivals is conducting a survey on behalf of Jazz North to understand better how commissioning new music can be better supported.

This next stage of development aims to establish a consolidated approach to commissioning new work that can assist the jazz sector in building relevant partnerships and encouraging new thought processes.

There are 3 different short surveys for artists, promoters and arts managers / creative producers with commissioning experience. For any questions about the project or if you want to discuss your experience in more depth, email me or indicate your interest at the end of the survey.

 

Artists

Have you been commissioned by a festival or venue to create a new piece of music? Please complete the Artist survey.

Promoters & Curators

Do you commission new works or present projects with multiple components, such as residencies, participation or education? Please complete the Promoter survey.

Arts Managers & Creative producers

Do you have experience working on commissions or projects with multiple components, such as residencies, participation or education? Please complete the Producer survey.

 

jazz-north-logo

Children’s Corner

Spotlight

The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception.
– Albert Einstein

I’ve been playing the piano from the age of 5 and haven’t discovered anything yet – but I can certainly feel everyday the benefits of having studied music. Growing up in a musical family made it easy not just to pick up an instrument, but also to stick with it: my parents and older siblings were there to help me understand and accept that the road to perfection, or at least to being able to play to satisfactory standards, is paved with hours of practice.

To follow up from my previous post about music and the brain, and more specifically the Royal Conservatory of Music’s advocacy for early years music education, I’m looking now at a few schemes that introduce children to music. The examples below are actually only about classical music, mainly because being hosted by large institutions means that they come with structured learning programmes, nice videos and evaluation reports – and also that they’re easier to find.

 

El Sistema / In Harmony / Big Noise

Back in 2009, I got to spend a full day at a primary school in West Everton to observe musicians from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra teaching pupils (and their teachers) for several hours a day, from singing at the morning assembly to practicing their tiny violins in small classes then rehearsing as a full ensemble in preparation for their performance at the Royal Festival Hall. This was the very first year of In Harmony Liverpool, a learning scheme inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan “system” based on intensive instrumental practice and orchestral performance embedded into the daily life of underprivileged children with an overt goal to promote individual and collective change. Or in the words of its founder, musician and politician José Antonio Abreu:

An orchestra is a community where the essential and exclusive feature is that it is the only community that comes together with the fundamental objective of agreeing with itself. Therefore the person who plays in an orchestra begins to live the experience of agreement. And what does the experience of agreement mean? Team practice – the practice of the group that recognizes itself as interdependent, where everyone is responsible for others and the others are responsible for oneself. Agree on what? To create beauty.

El Sistema has attracted its share of praise over the years, but also criticism – most recently by British academic Geoff Baker, who has just published El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (previewed by Baker in the Guardian, and reviewed pretty much everywhere – I especially like the responses from El Sistema-specialists Tricia Tunstall in Classical Music Magazine and Jonathan Govias on his own blog – watch out for the aggressive comments by the reviewed author himself!).

Wile the debate is raging, El Sistema-inspired schemes are still going strong in the UK and have grown to 6 official programmes in England, where they are called In Harmony, and two in Scotland, where they are known as Big Noise.

Children & the Arts: Start & Quests

Children & the Arts is a national charity backed up by the Prince’s Foundation with a mission to introduce children who are least likely to discover the arts to high-quality artistic experiences. Their approach is based on long-term partnerships between venues and schools to develop year-round engagement programmes, with regular visits, participatory activities and embedded learning. I found out about them through the Relaxed Performance Project that they piloted a few years ago, enabling children with special needs and their families to enjoy live theatre together.

They offer two main types of programmes: Start, fostering partnerships between primary schools in deprived areas and cultural venues that are geographically local to them yet a whole world apart; and a series of year-long Quests focusing on one area and one single art form at a time and structured around teacher support, workshops with professional artists, access to free performances and opportunities to create and perform. Quests have so far explored architecture, poetry, theatre, orchestral music, dance, opera and visual art.

They also run Start Hospices, work with children’s hospices to enable children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions to enjoy a cultural outing with their family in a welcoming, friendly and very supporting environment.

Evaluation reports, case studies and free teaching resources are available on their website.

Orchestras Live: First Time Live

I came across Orchestras Live recently via their new music scheme Beyond the Premiere through my ongoing research on new music commissioning. They also run a large-scale national outreach initiative, First Time Live, a touring programme that not only brings orchestral music to young people, but also involves them in repertoire selection, production and presentation of the concert.

In 2013 and 2014, First Time Live – Youth brought 20 concerts by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia to young people aged between 10 and 14 years living in 10 locations in the bottom 20% for arts engagement across England (Hull, Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Grimsby, Luton, Harlow, March, Peterborough, Thurrock and Mansfield).

Here are a few selected quotes taken from the evaluation report of the project’s first phase, from both Young Producers and teachers.

‘It just felt like it wasn’t something we were ‘allowed’ to experience but we were the ones creating the experience’. Young Producer 

‘I’ve learnt that I definitely want to be a music teacher, because the [project] experience has shown me how really accessible music is to children, no matter what age and I want to support and encourage that’. Young Producer

‘The children were very impressed and gave standing ovations – which took us teachers by surprise. I think this demonstrates the strength of their feelings towards the concert. They chatted about it for days afterwards too’. Teacher

The project has now entered a ‘legacy‘ phase, building on the success of the first tour to develop and consolidate new outreach and participation models. In Barrow-in-Furness, 30 young producers aged 12-15 organised two concerts by the Manchester Camerata for their school peers; in Spalding, young people devised their own collaborative concept for a concert with the City of London Sinfonia and young local musicians; in Harlow, a group of students worked with composer John K Mile and the City of London Sinfonia to commission and promote a collaborative piece with young musicians; and in Luton, young musicians created and performed a new orchestral piece with the City of London Sinfonia on the theme of Carnival (work-in-progress documentary below).

Music on the Brain

Spotlight

It’s been nearly 15 years, but I finally have a piano back in my life, and I’m enjoying playing again so much that I’ve even taken up the ukelele to have a second instrument I can carry with me everywhere.

I played music for several hours daily from an early age – first piano, then also violin and guitar –  until I moved away from home to start university and it all became a bit too much. In my early teens, I was seriously considering a career as a piano teacher, and I often remind myself that what I do as an arts administrator and producer is very much along the same lines of sharing my passion for music and the arts and trying to get people to appreciate them from within.

As I continue to research what art is and does, I like to organise my findings into more-or-less structured lists, so here are a few resources I’ve recently come across about the effects of music on the brain. Nothing exhaustive here, just a few starting points for further enquiry that can perhaps support advocacy efforts.

 

Musicophilia

Like all other books by the neurologist Oliver SacksMusicophilia (2007is a surprisingly entertaining and enlightening dive into the mysteries of the brain, looking at the biochemistry of music perception through case studies based on clinical observations of Sacks’ own patients and correspondents. A keen amateur pianist himself, Sacks probes into the musical phenomenon with a rigorously scientific and deeply empathic mind, sharing fascinating insights into the role of music in people’s life: sometimes a burden, for example when it takes the form of intrusive auditive hallucinations, most often enriching and transformative.

The video below is a 90 minutes’ talk that Sacks gave at the Cambridge Forum about the book, where his personable storytelling style shines.

The Benefits of Music Education

The Toronto-based Royal Conservatory of Music has recently published a pamphlet on The Benefits of Music Education, using neuroscience research to convince parents to sign up their children for formal instrumental lessons (another publication details how Structured Music Education is the Pathway to Success).

Promised benefits include:

  • speeding the development of speech and reading skills;
  • training children to focus their attention for sustained periods;
  • and helping children to gain a sense of empathy for others.

It’s also peppered with quotes from successful people who studies music in their youth, such as writer Annabel Lyon:

Music study made me disciplined, and it’s helped me to understand that you don’t need to feel brilliant or inspired all the time to know that you’re moving forward.

Or Olympic champion and motivational speaker Jeremiah Brown:

…piano lessons were my first experience sticking with something over a long period of time. This set me up for being able to pursue goals that did not come with quick rewards.

I also found on their website a nice animated video conceived by music educator Anita Collins about what happens in the brain when we are playing an instrument.

Neurosymphonie

Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic, the French public broadcaster Radio France is organising a series of conferences on music and the brain entitled Neurosymphonie between March and October 2015.

Gathering prominent neuroscientists and musicians and aimed at an audience of music, health and science professionals, the conferences examine questions ranging from the differences between the brains of musicians and non-musicians, the links between music and memory and between music and health. Video highlights will be made available soon.

musique-et-cerveau-3-bd-article-585-x-390

How Music Works

The first instalment of this series of conferences featured a discussion on amusia, a congenital or acquired condition whose sufferers can’t ‘hear’ music. Amusics have difficulties in processing pitch, rhythm and melody; depending on the severity of their condition, they can be keen amateurs but a little tone-deaf, rather indifferent to music or downright hostile to it: for some people, music is an unpleasant or even painful experience.

What makes music music rather than noise? That’s one of the many questions that classical composer and physics professor John Powell set out to answer in his 2010 book How Music WorksIt’s quite simple really: a sound is a ripple travelling through the air that hits the eardrums with a certain pattern; the eardrums then translate the information to the brain. The difference between a musical note and a noise is that notes have a regular pattern – whereas noises are erratic ripples.

Powell goes on to explain why the minor mode sounds sad and the major mode triumphant (or rather why we think so), why harmony sounds good and other historical, psychological and scientific musical facts. It’s an entertaining book that covers a lot of ground to help readers become better listeners.

Here’s a trailer that gives a good sample of the questions explored in the book:

 

(featured image by Matt Kish – from his awe-inspiring Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page project).

Art is Long, and Time is Fleeting

Programming

“I worry about the British public,” said performance artist Marina Abramovic in an interview with the BBC before the opening of her new durational work at the Serpentine Gallery, 512 Hours, adding that the public’s cynicism might get in the way of creating “a pure emotional connection”.

If the feedback cards published online are anything to go by, it seems that the dreaded British public is reacting quite nicely so far:

Better than yoga

Marina participants feedback

Instead, it’s the British press she should have worried about:

 … what I was seeing is what I imagine the open ward of a mental hospital in which the inmates have been heavily sedated must be like.
Richard Dorment, The Telegraph

 It goes without saying that each interaction with the artist will be a unique and subjective experience. You might cry. You might laugh. You might feel bashful. You might feel irritated. But you might do and feel all those things when you see your gynaecologist. This makes neither your gynaecologist a great artist, nor your last smear test a great work of art. — Fisun Güner, The Arts Desk

Abramovic is currently establishing the Marina Abramovic Institute for Long Durational Work in Hudson, New York, which, according to the website, “will be the only institute of its size dedicated to long durational works: works of art that elapse over extreme lengths of time.”

Given the controversy raging over her claim to pioneer the ‘art of nothing’, I thought it’d be worth listing a few actually very long works, so long that they will span across several generations, to set the standards for Marina’s Institute and avoid a further “row over nothing“.

(Turns out I’m not the only one concerned about Marina: some kind souls have set up the Marina Abramovic Retirement Fund of America to help her stop having to make art).

– –

FUTURE VIEWERS

Jonathon Keats & Team Titanic: Century Camera – an intergenerational surveillance program

In May 2014, the Team Titanic gallery distributed 100 pinhole cameras to Berlin residents, to be hidden on the streets and take a 100-long-exposure record of the ups and downs of the city’s build environment. Camera custodians have to ensure that the secret location is passed on from generation to generation, until the camera is returned to the organisers – or whoever will be in charge – in May 2114.

century camera tin pinhole century cam

From the press release:

WORLD’S SLOWEST SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS WILL SPY ON BERLIN FOR NEXT 100 YEARS

The city of Berlin, currently undergoing the biggest real estate boom since German reunification, has been chosen to pilot a global initiative monitoring urban development and decay over the next century. Instigated by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats in cooperation with the Berlin-based team titanic gallery, the unauthorized surveillance program will use ultra-long-exposure cameras to continuously document 100 years of municipal growth and decay for scrutiny and judgment by future generations.

 This is the latest project by Jonathon Keats, a rather prolific inventor, who previously copyrighted his mind (2003), attempted to genetically engineer God (2004), choreographed a ballet for honeybees (2006), released a mobile phone ringtone based on Cage’s 4’3” titled “My Cage (Silence for Cellphone)” (2007) and created “The Longest Story Ever”  (2009) for the cover of a magazine – only 9 words in length but printed to appear at a rate of one per century.

The ‘century camera’ is adapted from the traditional pinhole camera, using black card stock instead of photographic paper to considerably slow down the exposure process. The project is meant to be intergenerational and participatory, and going low-tech is a way to withstand the test of time: the simpler the technology, the more likely it will be usable in the future, whatever the circumstances (this brings to mind the ill-fated floppy disk and VHS tape). The pinhole cameras will act as visual time capsules, capturing timelapse records of the changing cityscape for future generations, but perhaps also influencing planning decisions by placing on the streets a watchful eye that never sleeps.

The process of returning the cameras in 100 years brings up a whole lot of questions: whilst the artist will most certainly be dead, will the gallery still exist? How will any change be communicated to the camera-keepers of the next century? Will the value of the €10 deposit dramatically increase or decrease? Will the euro actually still exist?

Team Titanic
Jonathon Keats
(Twitter)

 

FUTURE READERS

Katie Paterson & Situations: Future Library

Another 100-year long project that has just been launched a few days ago, Future Library is both growing a forest and commissioning writers, to create a completely new body of work – physical and immaterial – for future readers.

It’s produced by Situations, the Bristol-based cultural producers who published a few months ago The New Rules of Public Art, a manifesto challenging what public art looks and feels like.

Adapted from the press release:

Scottish artist Katie Paterson has launched a 100-year artwork – Future Library – Framtidsbiblioteket – for the city of Oslo in Norway.

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.

The texts will be held in a specially designed room in the New Public Deichmanske Library, Oslo. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

One author a year will be selected by Katie Paterson and the Future Library Trust, with the first to be announced in September 2014.

Future Library is part of Slow Space, a wider programme of public art projects, events & publications produced by Situations in Bjørvika, Oslo’s former container port, over the next four years.

Situations
Future Library
Slow Space

 

FUTURE LISTENERS

Jem Finer & Artangel: Longplayer, a one-thousand year composition

1,000-second timelapse video of first performance of Longplayer Live at Roundhouse, 2009

Jem Finer is an artist and composer with an interest in “deep time and space, self-organising systems and long-durational processes” (and also, for a bit of pop trivia, one of the founding members of The Pogues).

Between 1995 and 1999, with the support of producers Artangel, he developed and composed Longplayer, a continuously playing and ever-changing score written to last 1,000 years. Longplayer started on 1st January 2000 and can be heard in the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf, London, at other listening posts (currently in London and San Francisco) and online via a live stream.

Longplayer was conceived by the artist as an exploration of time, “as it is experienced and as it is understood from the perspectives of philosophy, physics and cosmology”. It is based on a 20’20” score for Tibetan Singing Bowls, the ‘source music’, and five transpositions that vary in pitch and duration and are combined in always unique ways, for exactly 1,000 years. For now, this process is computerised, but other methods are considered – mechanical, human – to ensure that the work will survive technological obsolescence.

Ensuring preservation is an integral part of the work, and the Longplayer Trust has been set up “to make the music available to as wide an audience as possible and to research and implement sustainable platforms for Longplayer’s future”.

Jem Finer
Longplayer
Artangel

Jazz sous les pommiers 2014

Spotlight

I’m just back from Jazz sous les pommiers, a long-established festival in the small town of Coutances, Normandie, where I was lucky enough to be invited as the UK Coordinator of a Franco-British collaborative project called Jazz Shuttle. It was a short stay – only two days – but packed with discoveries and emotions, so I wanted to commit them to memory before going back to the rest of my activities (mainly more jazz and more festivals right now).

The festival takes its names from the ancient apple trees – pommiers – on the town square, under which it all started 33 years ago. It’s a busy week-long festival, with over 50 indoor gigs that represent a wide spectrum of contemporary jazz, as well as daily outdoor amateur showcases and street theatre. It’s a remarkably well-run event that attracts a huge (and fiercely loyal) audience: 37,000 in 2010, in a town that counts 9,000 inhabitants year-round. As hotels fill up quickly, the tourism board has developed a bed & breakfast system with local residents who have a spare bedroom to rent. That’s just one of the festival initiatives that transform the way audiences access the music; I picked up below my personal musical and experiential highlights.

Jazz & Châteaux 

On Friday morning, I got up early to embark on a coach tour of the Normandie countryside and take in two concerts in unusual venues.

First stop was the 17th-century Château de Cerisy de la Salle, where the famous annual Colloques de Cerisy, an influential series of academic conferences on literature, philosophy, science and society, have been hosted since 1952. After an enlightening introduction about the Cultural Centre by its current director Edith Heurgon, Rhizottome (Armelle Dousset, bisonoric chromatic accordion & Matthieu Metzger, sopranino sax) performed their singular interpretations of traditional dances in the castle’s barn.

The second castle was the 16th-century Château de Canisy, self-styled “world’s oldest B&B”, a grandiose setting with a small formal theatre space, fully draped in pale gold, where vibraphonist Frank Tortiller gave a solo performance.

The total round-trip was just over 3 hours long and offered an interesting collective experience: all on board a school bus borrowed by the festival for the occasion, chatting away and letting ourselves get driven to the gigs, with no worries of being late or getting lost. I found it immensely relaxing and conducive to attentive listening. In previous years, the festival offered similar programming linking music and heritage on foot and by bike, paired with cider and cheese tasting (which sounds even more appealing, but probably more tricky to organise weather-wise for a late Spring festival).

Magic Mirrors

Magic mirrors is the French name of what is called Spiegeltent in English – which comes from the Dutch term for ‘mirror tent’: a good example of European linguistic mélange.

This was finally my chance to experience the magical world of these travelling performing spaces, originally built in Belgium at the end of the 19th century as mobile dance halls. They come complete with wooden floors, a raised stage, a bar and a circular central standing space surrounded by stalls. They are decorated with stained glass, mirrors, velvet and brocade, in a fairly exuberant and circus-like Art Nouveau style. There are still a few of the original 1920s tents touring the world, as well as new modern ones.

Salon Revue - dancefloor view

‘Magic Mirrors’ – view from the dance floor

Salon Revue - Stalls

‘Magic Mirrors’ – Side Stalls

I saw two gigs there, including an all-star medley led by touche-à-tout Thomas de Pourquery, current artist-in-residence at Jazz sous les pommiers (a 3-year tenure during which musicians can immerse themselves in the local community and develop participatory projects). With his ‘Beautiful Freaks’, a bunch of musicians from varied musical horizons, he turned the Magic Mirrors into a cabaret-disco, a fitting use of the venue.

Laurent de Wilde’s ‘Fly’

My third space-and-music experience was in Coutances’ brand new arthouse cinema, which is fitted with what must be the most comfortable seats in the world.

On stage, Laurent de Wilde on grand piano faces electronic musician and improviser Otisto 23, who samples, reworks and loops the piano sounds with his electronic machines. Encircling them, panels of translucent fabric hang from a circular curtain pole, providing a 3-dimensional projection surface for video artist Nico Ticot (aka XLR)’s mesmerising visuals.

Neither my description nor the video above (filmed in 2010 at the New Morning) really do justice to the experience created by these three collaborating artists, but it was interesting to hear from Laurent that they have performed in all sorts of settings – namely in China’s Forbidden City and on a beach in La Réunion: like the Magic Mirrors, another travelling experience that takes the audience on a journey into its own world wherever it lands.