Travelling back in time to a harpsichord and lute-filled weekend

Grace Buttler

Grace Buttler

Last week a huge annual event took place in and around the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College (which houses Trinity Laban and Greenwich University). Yes, the Early Music Festival had returned. Once again, I was stewarding on the main desk and in the Chapel for some of the concerts. I always enjoy this three day festival because all of the staff are lovely and most of the customers are too. The EMF includes exhibitors (where you can buy anything from sheet music, to a clavichord, to an electric recorder), makers’ demonstrations and concerts (normally 3 or 4 a day in various locations). It’s very action-packed and there is always something going on.

Early Music Festival Poster

I’m lucky that as a student, I can work at this festival and get paid to see so many interesting exhibits and concerts. Every year we always grumble that the hours are long, it’s going to be cold and can we really cope with any more Baroque bagpipes. But, every year we enjoy seeing some of the same faces from previous years and watching some incredible performances. One of those moments was the final concert. It was Brecon Baroque, an ensemble created by the phenomenal baroque violinist Rachel Podger. They played a program of Bach, including Brandenburg 5 and some pieces from ‘A Musical Offering’. I had never heard Bach played with such life and vigour, and this performance gave me a new appreciation for the music. It’s going to help me change the way I play and practice the Bach solo sonata I am currently learning.

Overall the festival is a fun experience but it doesn’t come without its challenges. There are always a few characters who can make our job as stewards challenging (for instance, people who ask if they actually need a ticket if they’re only going in for 5 minutes, or complaining bitterly about the lack of a cloakroom which we have no control over, or huffing and puffing as we ask them to reshow their ticket when they come back after leaving for lunch) but overall the guests are nice and it’s always fun talking to them. There was one lady in particular who was telling us all about how she loved the festival this year (and all of the other music she was interested in and the history of the site) and although she’d never been before she’d love to come back.

So if you’re free next November I’d seriously recommend a trip to Greenwich to visit this festival. Even if you’re not sure that early music is your ‘thing’, I can almost guarantee there will be something that will interest and amaze you. I’ll see you on Friday for my next post.

Grace Buttler

BMus 3 Violin

gracenotes.wordpress.com

Review: Colin Currie conducts the Trinity Laban Chamber Ensemble

Colin Currie

Colin Currie

“Colin Currie is probably the greatest percussionist in the world right now.”

This was how Gillian Moore CBE, the Southbank Centre’s Head of Classical Music, introduced Colin, who was conducting the Trinity Laban Chamber Ensemble last Tuesday.  The ensemble were performing Steve Reich’s Music for a Large Ensemble and Scottish born Colin Currie had replaced his sticks with a baton to conduct the work.

Reich’s music is renowned for sounding ‘playable.’ Played well, the rhythms lock effortlessly into place and the music seems to evolve naturally, as if it were an autonomous figure playing itself. Show it to a player for the first time, and they’ll probably mutter several profanities under their breath, grab a pencil and begin frantically scribbling all over the music.

Despite the difficulty the piece faces to any accomplished performer, what was striking throughout this performance was the steady rhythm throughout. The percussion was a big reason for this, as the part contains constantly moving rhythms that show the relentless changing of time signatures – their punchy and musical articulation laid a steady foundation for the rest of the ensemble to build on and they communicated the feel for the piece well. The rest of the ensemble mainly emulated this throughout. There were a couple of occasions where entries were not as tight as they could have been but the musicians responded well to these problems and resolved these issues within a bar or two.

In direct contrast to the punchy and articulate percussion, the trumpet section produced a rounded, warm sound. This was perfect in keeping with Reich’s description of the trumpets as a choir and added a three dimensional texture to the work.

Another salient feature was the clean changes between the sections. Currie made it clear when he introduced the piece that it had three sections identified by the bass line – a prominent feature in Reich’s music. This realisation was easily heard throughout the work and prompted the audience to listen out for that all-important bass line.  If I were to be particularly picky, it would have been great to have a touch more of it. This was probably less to do with the musicians themselves however, as microphones were used to help with balancing. As a lover of all things with a big bass, my advice for the sound guys would be to go Spinal Tap and turn it up to 11.

Although Reich’s music is renowned for being difficult, Trinity Laban Chamber Ensemble’s performance of Music for a Large Ensemble was a testament to the fantastic musical ability of the performers. As a listener, you could hear the musicians communicating the punchy-like character of the work and any mistakes that were noticed were quickly resolved.

What heightened this was the atmosphere of the gig – the performance was in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall and the vast, open, yet bustling space of the Southbank Centre sharpened the articulate yet entrancing feel of Music for a Large Ensemble.

Plus it was conducted by the “greatest percussionist in the world” – how could you not enjoy yourself?

Heather Stephenson

Marketing and PR Intern

Vertical dance and harness class with Gravity & Levity at Laban Theatre

Gravity & Levity workshop - Camille Desmarest_5

Wednesday 12 November, 9.30am
Laban Theatre

Apart from taking planes or going on the swings in children’s playgrounds, I think the last time I left the ground was when I was six or seven, and did a trapeze workshop during a summer holiday. It was a long time ago, yet the feeling stayed with me, and when I saw that Gravity & Levity‘s vertical dance and harness class was being advertised at Trinity Laban, I thought it was something not to be missed.

Once all ten of us were gathered in the theatre, we started with a warm-up led by Richard Causer, a contemporary dancer with the company, who had performed in Rites of War, the night before at Laban Theatre. He said the piece was his first experience with aerial work…this gives me some hope.

After we have put our harnesses on, we are familiarised with some aerial jargon; carabiner, grigri and locking knot. Then, we are off to the ropes.  Gravity & Levity workshop - Camille Desmarest

In pairs, one after another we experienced being in the air, sitting in the harness like a chair, being in planks – on our backs and on our sides, the foetal position, the starfish position and then rolling from one side to another.

After each of us had had a go, Lyndsey would demonstrate the next step which involved hanging upside down, running in a circle then taking off from the ground.

Gravity & Levity workshop - Camille Desmarest_2

We ended up dancing around freely, in and out of gravity’s pull, on and off of the floor, leaning away from the rope and finding unexpected balances before the next flight. One of the exciting moments was to run in the air, then gather in a ball which makes you both spin and move in a circle. It was quite thrilling! Flying around the Laban Theatre stage was a great joy, spinning around and wondering where the ceiling was. One thing is for sure with aerial work, your spatial awareness is confused and ‘up’ and ‘down’ become relative notions.

Gravity & Levity workshop - Camille Desmarest_3 Gravity & Levity workshop - Camille Desmarest_4

The group was a really nice mix of people, some Faculty of Dance students, and then some people from outside of the institution, ranging in age, gender and experiences. It was quite moving to witness everyone’s excitement and bliss in being in the air, out of the influence of gravity. There is a certain joy in being able to completely let go and yet being supported and held, which is a very uncommon sensation for the human beings we are. We suddenly all became carefree floating children again, and our inner thighs and hips didn’t forget to remind us the following morning.

As a whole it was a really great experience which took me out of everyday reality, and I would love to repeat it when I next have the opportunity.

Camille Desmarest

MA Creative Practice Professional Pathway

facebook.com/CDesmarest
http://camilledesmarest.com/
@C_Desmarest

More info:

Lyndsey Butcher and her work
Rites of War trailer and pictures
Rites of War rehearsals featuring aerial works in progress

Film festivals screen Senior Dance lecturer’s films

IMG_0313

Two films by Trinity Laban dance lecturer Susan Sentler, featured at UK and European film festivals recently.

exposed (2012) has been shown at Dancing bodies, moving images (2012) for Decoda at Coventry University, HangArtFEST (2012) in Pesaro, AWA Gallery Overtoom 301 (2013) in Amsterdam, and the Open Screening Whitechapel Gallery (2013) in London. It was also exhibited at Light Moves Screendance Festival in Limerick in November 2014.

See, Sea was first shown as an installation at Trinity Laban. The films have been further exhibited at HangArtFEST (2013) and SBAM (2013) in Candelara, both with Trinity Laban alumnus Masako Matsushita performing a live physical response.

Susan took time away from her busy schedule to talk about her films, the creative process and her influences.

What are the films about?

exposed

exposed

“exposed was created through a starting point of light and working with interiors/rooms, predicaments, memory, layers, grids, and gaps. The dancer is transported through explorative improvisational journeys of light falling into four episodes: welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence (absorbing moisture from the atmosphere until it dissolves). A personal abstract voyage is revealed through the rhythmic play of still and moving images.”

“See, Sea is influenced by a significant episode with water that I experienced at the age of 5. At my aunt’s swimming pool, I took a step too deep and found myself underwater, drowning. In the moments I was under the water I remember it to be a calm, joyous sensation. My mother pulled me out, and saved me. From that moment on, I have had an extraordinary relation with water, wanting to stay in it for as long as I could. This has developed into a meditative and positive relationship with the sea and with the activity of swimming. The films can be shown alone or with a response from an external performer. In this mode, the viewer is encouraged to allow time to open to the sensorial association.”

How did you get into film?

“While I was studying my Masters in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban. I took two modules – Dance & the Moving Image taught by Tom Paine and Investigative Practice with Rosemary Butcher – which were life changing. Frankly I was more into visual art before I started dance so I felt that I was revisiting a past love of mine. And that’s a key thing I want to highlight about these films – despite the fact that my dance career has influenced and guided these films, I’d describe it more as visual art than dance, or a beautiful blurred vision of the two. My MA opened up a new creative mode for me.”

So, are your past interests a big influence?

“Yes. I’ve always found visual art interesting and used to take photographic stills when I was a student. I find that there’s a

Sea, See

See, Sea

sense of rhythm and vibrational energy with them so a big feature of my films is juxtaposing the still image with that of the moving image.

“I also wanted to convey the beauty of the everyday and unnoticed.  There’s a Japanese term called Wabi-Sabi – finding beauty in the imperfections – which I think is apt for my work.

“However, although this work is autobiographical, there’s no narrative to my film – it’s all abstract and concentrates on a flux of emotions and rhythmic play of images. I try to stay away from using my body as a recognisable personal image in the films.”

And how do you go about constructing your films?

“I don’t work from storyboards, I work through improvisation, working directly with the dancer while filming. First I take stills and footage and collect them into groups. For example, exposed fell into the groups of welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence. This then becomes the nest to form and give shape to the whole work. When it comes to filming, I specifically use a handheld camera so that it becomes an extension of my body. I have also used a GoPro camera in See, Sea, which is attached to my pulses, forehead and ankles.

“Sound is very important as well. In exposed, I worked directly with a score from the composers C-Schultz & Hajsch. This guided my editing process. In See, Sea, I worked collaboratively with Ronen Kozokaro who is an amazing musician and composer and one of our wonderful accompanists at Trinity Laban.”

Why use film rather than live performance?

“I still work with live performers but I enjoy the precision and detail of choice in the editing of film. However, even though I wanted complete control when making my films it doesn’t mean I have a particular way I want the audience to interpret it. I wanted to make sure the films were subjective and open.”

Who are your main inspirations?

“Rosemary Butcher and Tom Paine as my teachers were extraordinary. Their interests were very similar to mine so I found their work riveting. Looking more generally at visual art, Pipilotti Rist, Mona Hatoum, and David Claerbout, to name a few.

Trinity Laban offers a broad range of opportunities that can take you where you want to go, developing your unique voice and empowering you to take creative leadership. Many of our Masters programmes are pioneering and are unique in the UK, if not the world.

http://vimeo.com/user9690001

Heather Stephenson

Marketing and PR Intern

Diary of a Graduate Intern

In September 2014 I began the next stage of my career.

After completing my dance training at the University of Chichester, I joined the Learning and Participation (Dance) team at Trinity Laban as a graduate intern. Trinity Laban offers a range of fantastic graduate internships to bridge the gap between training and employment, and I have already gained skills in many different areas, such as project management, arts administration and teaching dance. Internships are advertised in 2015, so I recommend you look out for them.
The Learning and Participation department offers classes and workshops in the wider community in contemporary dance, street, yoga, Pilates, ballet and other creative sessions. These cater to all needs; with a central focus of ensuring that dance is accessible to all. You will find further details about these classes here.

Alongside my internship I am also completing Unit 1 of the DDTAL (Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning) qualification, offered through the department as part of their professional development programme. This qualification aims to provide specialist training for dance teachers, helping them to find new ways of engaging children and young people in dance. The diploma has four units in total, with Unit 1 focussing on the fundamental aspects of teaching and learning in dance.

As an intern here, I am in contact with many dance practitioners and it has been great so far. It has helped me improve on how I deliver many of the classes that I assist – and sometimes lead, on the Youth Programme and the many Health projects that we also deliver. In completing this qualification I will be able to gain further knowledge as to how I can support dance education. I believe that dance education is paramount to developing creative and imaginative young people who can either progress into the dance sector or become that person who helps businesses to flourish with innovative ideas.

Having access to many opportunities at Trinity Laban, I am starting to find my feet and have been directed towards routes that may be of interest once I finish my internship – from project management to marketing and teaching. It has definitely been an exciting transition so far, working full time across many different projects and still finding time to complete further study.

Nick Kyprianou
@nickyprianou

Compass Commissions Q&A Summary from 29 Oct 2014

A Question & Answer session for potential Compass Commissions 2015 applicants was held at the Laban Building, at 6pm on the 29 October 2014, and was led by Kat Bridge and Brian Brady.

The session began with a brief introduction to the Greenwich Dance & Trinity Laban Partnership by Kat Bridge.

‘The Partnership was established in 2011 when we could do more by working together, bringing together our separate skills and strengths as organisations. Through the Compass Commissions a trio of new works were commissioned under three separate strands, which championed high production quality and a very clear aesthetic. As a Partnership we have the facility and the funding from the Arts Council to offer substantial sums of money which can genuinely make a difference and have an impact. We anticipated an appetite for Compass, and indeed we received more than 140 applications last year.”

Brian Brady added:
‘We are very interested in artists with high production values, and those who are engaged in examining their process of creating work, and how they make dance.’

Kat also mentioned that dialogue with the audience has been a regular concern for both Greenwich Dance and Trinity Laban as programmers, and therefore it is imperative for applicants to consider their audience in their proposal.

Tara d’Arquian and Lina Johansson, both Compass commission recipients in 2013, talked about their Compass application and experience.

Tara emphasised how she received the Commission very early in her career, soon after graduating, and how Compass offered her the opportunity to do something much more ambitious. She also mentioned how she used the guidance of the Commissioners whilst taking risks with her work.

Brian added that Tara’s written proposal was succinct yet detailed, and compelling enough for the Commissioners to want to meet her in person.

Lina commented on the challenges of translating her artistic vision into words for the written proposal. She also spoke about pitching (for the next stage) and how she approached this is a structured way and planned exactly what she wanted to say. Lina also talked about how she approached other organisations to tell them that she was applying for the Commission and ask them whether they would make a commitment to booking the work should she be successful with Compass. This raised awareness of the project and gave her partnerships to follow up once she was informed of the news.

Brian and Kat indicated that all three successful proposals were specific and clear in writing, demonstrated inventive ambition, the video submissions enhanced the ideas expressed and helped bring the potential work to life and that all three interviews/ pitches were authentic and clear in their vision. The three works selected in 2013, In Situ, Bench, and The Point At Which It Last Made Sense, explored a clear aesthetic, were explicit about their creative process which evidenced an innovative approach and spoke intelligently about who the audience for the work might be. These aspects combined made for extremely compelling proposals.

Questions

How many new works will be commissioned?
At least 3.

Is it possible to apply for more than one strand?
Yes, though the applications must be different.

Can I apply for additional funding?
Yes. All three Compass ‘14 artists levered additional funding, including Grants for the Arts awards from the Arts Council.

At what point should I look for additional funding?
It is advised that additional funding applications will be much stronger if a Compass Commission has already been awarded.

When does the work need to be premiered?
By March 2016. The making phase however, needs to be completed by December 2015.

What if the work has been performed at a ‘scratch’ night?
If it is genuinely scratch work it would constitute R&D, which would be fine.

Is there a particular length of work you are looking for?
This isn’t specified. However we do stipulate a ‘standalone’ piece- an entire experience in itself. We would not expect a work to form half of a double-bill.

Do I need to propose a budget for my work in my application?
The application stipulates that you application includes ‘What you propose for this commission – your idea, who it involves, how you will make it happen, the site etc’.

Can the work for which I apply for a Compass Commission be inspired by my previous work?
Yes. We think that all work is inspired by what an artist has produced previously.

Would it be a disadvantage not to have produced a work before?
No. Tara d’Arquian’s work was only the second piece she had created after graduating.

If I am applying for a site-specific Commission, do I need to have identified a site before applying?
Being very clear about the site your work is to be presented in (or inspired by) may make your application more compelling.

Can the work be a solo?
Yes.

How much of my video will be watched?
Up to 10 minutes. Please note videos which are longer than 10 minutes will not be watched in their entirety.

What should I include in my video?
Please include video which is integral to the communication of your idea. You can make reference to the video in your written proposal.

Do I have to include video in my application?
No. In fact if you feel that the video may not be a very clear example of your work, including it may undermine your proposal.

Information on Compass Commissions

Apply now

What the media doesn’t tell you: J S Bach and issues with attribution

Mr-and-mrs-Bach_3085632b

J S Bach’s most famous works were in fact composed by his wife. Or so one academic says.

Martin Jarvis, a professor at the Charles Darwin University in Australia, has released a documentary entitled Written by Mrs Bach, which claims that Bach’s best loved pieces, including his Six Suites for Cello, the Aria from the Goldberg Variations and the first prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier were composed by his second wife, Anna Magdalena.

Despite the fact that these claims are about a decade old, the release of the documentary has caused the story to hit national newspapers across the world – from Alex Ross’ calm and intellectual dissection of the claims in the New Yorker to the unashamedly sensationalist headlines that believe this may “put a bomb at the heart of the Western musical tradition,” (Telegraph).

But how true are these claims? And what does this mean for Bach and Early Music specialists across the world?

Steven Devine

Steven Devine. Photo credit: John Buckman

Well, not a lot actually, according to Steven Devine and John Irving, two of Trinity Laban’s early music specialists. The two will be holding a lecture recital on Thursday in the beautiful Baroque setting of the Old Royal Naval College, in which they will discuss the performance issues surrounding the Goldberg Variations.

Steven says: “The key thing to remember is that the 18th century musicians were very collaborative. If you look at the Bach household there was him, his wife and their eleven children, all of whom were musicians. Bach is composing with the white hot speed of inspiration and he needs to get the parts ready for band rehearsal on Sunday morning. So of course, there’s a lot of his music in Anna Magdalena’s hand. Bach needed to turn out a vast amount of music just to make ends meet, so it had to be a family business – all hands on deck, so to speak.”

John adds: “Bach is one of the most significant composers in the western musical canon ever, and I think we quite enjoy having canons upset. Many of the top Bach scholars have undermined these claims more than once. We are now pretty experienced in terms of establishing systems of value and patterns of influence. We know how to validate those claims and at the same time how easy it is to make a claim without there being evidence beneath it. Sadly, this story is an example of the latter.

“One claim that’s been said in the papers, which is very difficult to substantiate, is that the particular marks on the page are claimed by Jarvis to have been made in such a way that there’s a creative element. He doesn’t say how you might recognise, how you might assess the criteria of a creative mark as opposed to a copying mark. There’s no evidence given of any method of adding notes creatively to a page.”

So it seems, then, that these claims don’t have any real truth behind them. However, it does bring up one important question: in a world where ambiguities are prevalent in music as old as Bach’s, what do performers have to do to fully realise the composer’s intentions?

John says: “The key fact to bear in mind is that whatever you interpret, you’re still ultimately communicating to the audience. What you need to understand is the notation. Sometimes that’s notation in a musical sense but also what the piece is seeking to represent – the affekt [emotional state].

John Irving

John Irving

“Other things are important too though. Finding out about original early performance settings, its early publication and reception history and knowing about the instruments of the time. Understanding the sound world gives us clues into how to interpret the piece.”

Steven adds: “A lot of publishing houses take the view that by amalgamating all the sources you can come up with a best version of everything – an ideal version. But I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think the best thing to do is take the sources into account for that performance, find the closest we have to an autograph and then use our musical understanding, musicality and knowledge of the period.

“The score is a skeleton in some ways. Sometimes you hear people playing everything that is on the page. All Baroque music is a dance form – you’ve still got to find the rhythmic centre so that you can see how the composer has hung the music on that framework, as well as perform things that aren’t written down but expected.”

It appears that as a performer there’s a fine balance between theoretical research and practical interpretation. The key thing to remember about Baroque music, though, is that it’s a fresh, live and spontaneous style and textual research should inform interpretation rather than detract from it.

As for Jarvis’ claims of misattribution, one argument could be that if it wasn’t for the attribution to Bach, then the pieces would have most likely been lost. What hasn’t changed is the content of the music, which still stands as one of the most celebrated works.

Steven Devine and John Irving will discuss issues such as these on J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations on Thursday 13 November as part of the Royal Greenwich International Early Music Festival and Exhibition. The two will look at the structure of the work, how and why the variations were put together, interesting features, and performance practices in a special lecture recital at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music building, King Charles Court in Greenwich. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Heather Stephenson

Marketing and PR Intern