What’s this? A gig guide on a Friday? This is not the norm!
Fitting that you should say that really, because today’s gig guide is anything but the norm. Today we present to you a Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (or ‘hcmf//’ for short) special.
“A festival?” you say, “in November?”
Indeed, for many this year’s festival ‘season’ appears well and truly over. With the clocks turning back a few weeks ago, temperatures plummeting and the St. Judes storm giving most of the country a taste of the inclement weather to come, winter is certainly just around the corner.
But there is at least one event still left to conquer in the musical diary, and it’s right on your door step. It’s so close in fact, that at times it actually encroaches onto the University campus itself.
It’s not like the corporately sponsored “clap-along-a-thon” festivals like Reading & Leeds and V Festival have become, nor is it boasting a line-up of up-and-coming indie starlets. No, this festival is something much more interesting. This is the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
For around 30 years now the hcmf// has been bringing some of the biggest names in contemporary and experimental music to our usually sleepy northern town. According to their website, hcmf// aims to “provide life-changing and unique artistic experiences to as wide an audience as possible; to be an international platform for new music and related contemporary art forms in Britain; to enthuse existing audiences and to draw in new ones through adventurous programming and informed, stylish presentation.” Ambitious.
This year’s festival is being held over 10 days, taking in around 50 events including concerts, music-theatre, dance, multi-media, talks, and film. During those 10 days you could be catching anything from “contemporary recorder playing” to “continuous-feedback-flux”.
We’re not entirely sure what that all means either, and the rest of the festival’s vast programme reads in a similarly artistically vague way. So, with that in mind we’re going to take a slightly different approach to this guide. We’ll going to be straight up copying and pasting the blurbs of some of the FREE events (and there are a lot of them) that caught our eye at first glance from the website, and then attempting to translate them for you into something more palatable. A sort of “what we’ll be expecting” kinda thing. Actually, that’s exactly what we’ll do.
So, without further ado, here are our top picks of the free events taking place in Huddersfield as part of 2013’s hcmf//! It may not sound like your ‘sort of thing’ at first, but give it a go (these events are all free after all, what excuse do you have?). You’ll no doubt have a interesting time ogling at some of the weird and wonderful sights you’ll be taking in…
Friday 15th November
GRUPAT @ Huddersfield Art Gallery + Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 4-5pm
What hcmf// say: “Renowned Irish art collective Grúpat come to Huddersfield for the first time. Spaces in Huddersfield Art Gallery and Bates Mill Photographic Studio will showcase Grúpat’s wide variety of approaches to sound, ranging from graphic scores to installations, silent films and sonic reliquaries, sculptures and the archives of tape experimentalist Caoimhín Breathnach From their earliest incarnation as the riotous band of anarchic pranksters known as the ‘Avant Gardaí’, Grúpat have played on both the artistic and geographical margins of the Irish art scene, creating a body of work which is by turns joking and serious, provocative and engaging, sublime and enigmatic.”
What we expect: Hard to call on this one with so many art forms being thrown into the mix, but we’d take a stab at a bunch of interactive installations that you can walk through and enjoy at your own pace, with imaginative sound and lighting complimenting the visual art on display. Maybe it’ll stick around for the whole festival but either way, a wholly interesting way to kick off you hcmf//.
Monday 18th November
(Monday 18th and Sunday 24th both feature free events almost exclusively in their programming – be sure to check out the full schedule HERE)
Fukio Ensemble @ CAB Atrium, 11:20am
What hcmf// say: “Fukio Ensemble explores two opposite presentations of the saxophone quartet. Xenakis’ piece is based on the pure (raw) sound of the saxophone quartet, using stochastic processes and focussing on the altissimo register in all members of the saxophone family. Jonathan Cole’s piece will explore a completely different palette of sounds, making this contrasting programme a unique opportunity to hear the saxophone quartet in its full dimensions.”
What we expect: Free jazz saxophone skronk for fans of Mats Gustafsson in the CAB’s (Creative Arts Building’s) main atrium. Probably highly unlistenable at times – but in the best possible way – and sure to showcase a few unorthodox playing techniques. Leave your Grade 8 textbook at home.
This Is Not Percussion @ Phipps Hall, 12:40pm
What hcmf// say: “Simone Beneventi plays works for solo percussion and electronics by Chikako Morishita, Francesca Verunelli and Aaron Einbond, testing the boundaries of the medium. Expanding his virtuosic performance with live computer interaction and incorporating a prepared steel-string guitar and unexpected found objects into his instrumentation, Beneventi keeps the listener on edge with energy and astonishment.”
What we expect: Highly improvisational soundscapes littered with computer sounds manipulated on the fly. We’re extremely curious of just how the steel-guitar will be prepared (i.e. what will be shoved under its strings), and whether “unexpected found objects” is to contemporary music what “fans bring the weapons” matches are to professional wrestling…
Lisa Ullen + Philip Thomas: 2 Pianos in Atrium Dialogues @ CAB Atrium, 1.10pm
What hcmf// say: “Three newly composed experimental pieces for Lisa Ullen and Philip Thomas using the architectural space of the Creative Arts Building Atrium as an integral part of the composition process. The performers respond to graphic scores, creating post-tonal piano dialogues – of space, minimal/ nostalgic gesture.”
What we expect: A site specific piece that perhaps sees the musicians playing their instruments against the building itself? The shape and feel of the Creative Arts Building’s airy main atrium will certainly play a part in the formation of this piece. And post-tonal? Don’t ask us what that means. But we’re guessing a highly unusual set of sounds, quite unlike anything you’ll ever hear in the Top 40.
Rotaplane Amigos @ St Paul’s Hall, 3.30pm
What hcmf// say: “rotaplane amigos is an improvisation collective, led by Stephen Chase and featuring three to six performers from his regular collaborators: bowing, whirling and (free) reeds – from Ornette’s southpaw scrabble to Micronesian drones. In like (Henry) Flynt and out like Douglas Hofstadter, ‘I am a strange loop.’”
What we expect: Anything that has the word ‘improvisation’ in it has the exciting potential to become a swirling monster of atonal noise and that’s OK in our book.
Anarchy in the Organism @ St Paul’s Hall, 7.00pm
What hcmf// say: “A deceptively simple premise with intricate results, a human perspective on complex scientific issues… Anarchy in the Organism is a study in music and light which illuminates these contradictions though live and electronic sound and image.”
What we expect: Complex scientific issues? Fret not, this won’t be your typical science lesson of Bunsen burners and magnesium shavings, but an intriguing marriage of light and sound that will stimulate your senses from start to finish.
Pedro Alvarez @ Bates Mill Loft, 9.30pm
What hcmf// say: “Improvisation on electric guitar that draws on a diverse range of unorthodox techniques. Taking the form of quasi meditations that discover new sound possibilities from the instrument’s mechanics, Alvarez’s improvisations transit from subtle textures to violent outbursts.”
What we expect: A guitar clinic much like Lee Ranaldo’s recent shows during which he ‘played’ a guitar strung up and swinging from the rafters. Look out for Alvarez playing his instrument in ways you’d previously never thought possible, and perhaps… screeching feedback!
Phill Niblock + Thomas Ankersmit @ Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 10pm
What hcmf// say: “A very special concert to celebrate the work of minimalist microtonal composer and filmmaker Phill Niblock in his 80th year, and the 10th anniversary of his duo with saxophonist and analogue synthesist Thomas Ankersmit. Intense, immersive durational music develops an almost architectural character in a live setting, accompanied by projections of Niblock’s films.”
What we expect: Peep Show’s Superhans once said “the longer the note, the more dread”. Well, it won’t be quite as literal as that this time around, but expect a gripping soundtrack to Niblock’s films that’ll have you more immersed than Gravity in 3D. Bold claim, we know…
Thursday 21st November
The Hermetic Organ @ St. Paul’s Hall, 11.59pm
What hcmf// says: “Thursday 21st November’s programme will conclude with a grandiose finale: a free solo concert with John Zorn returning to his first instrument – the church organ Zorn’s music for church organ is breathtakingly beautiful, and distinguished by a spiritual mood. The church organ is the perfect outlet for Zorn’s dramatic sense of colour and contrast, we hear the composer’s mind at work in all its permutations – huge blocks of sound, chords, clusters, counterpoint, drones, ostinatos, and lyrical melodies – often all at the same time!”
What we expect: A powerful tour de sound from St. Paul’s organ. We’ve all seen it in lectures as we’ve been sat there cramped in those silly little seats, and we’ve all wondered just what it would sound like with a virtuoso like John Zorn at the keys. Ok, maybe we haven’t thought quite like that, but it’ll still be awesome to see the very fabric of the hall being used in a totally different way.
Saturday 23rd November
Metastable Collective @ CAB Atrium, 3pm
What hcmf// say: “An undamped string is always vibrating (casually, inaudibly), an uneven summing of superimposed harmonics. The emergence of any harmonic as feedback is ‘determinately indeterminate’ (Husserl), contingent on material and human agencies, resonance, and the spatial relationship between player and amplifier. Six electric guitars in a large open space, open-strings only, continuous-feedback-flux.”
What we expect: This is perhaps the event we here at T’Hud are looking forward to the most. Considering the hcmf// blurb is basically a verbose way of saying “screaming walls of feedback”, then “screaming walls of feedback” is exactly what we’ll be expecting. And we love “screaming walls of feedback”. Can you tell? Bring your best ear defenders for this guitar noise orchestra. “Screaming walls of feedback”!!! Probably…
Sunday 24th November
Jeffery|Noriega @ Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 2.45pm
What hcmf// say: “Duo Jeffery|Noriega are on a quest for a new means of music-theatre expression. They combine traditional English clog dance with contemporary recorder playing and innovative wireless electronics in order to create groundbreaking new works. The clogs have evolved from their roots, and are brought firmly into the 21st-century!”
What we expect: Some kind of technically advanced 21st century clogs that trigger samples and sound effects, backed by all the squeaky fun of a first school recorder lesson. It sounds totally bonkers, but in the best possible way.
Magnus Hadlund @ Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 4.15pm
What hcmf// say: “Magnus Haglund is a writer, critic and musician based in Gothenburg, Sweden. He has published The Naked City, a psychogeographical investigation of the life and history of Gothenburg, and a biography of the Swedish writer, sound artist and anarchist Åke Hodell. Together with artist Isak Eldh he runs the conceptual pop project The Marble Fauns. In the performance lecture Folk Culture: a Republic of Dreams Magnus Haglund combines essay writing and sound sources in a surprising way.”
What we expect: Again, leave the Harvard referencing system and everything you’ve been taught by the uni about essay writing at home, this will be a lecture unlike anything you’ve seen before. Billed as a ‘performance lecture’, this show will combine sound installations and visual stimuli. “Conceptual pop” is our favourite kind of pop.
Quiet Music Ensemble @ Bates Mill Photographic Studio, 5pm
What hcmf// say: “Jennifer Walshe’s piece DORDÁN (written for the Quiet Music Ensemble with funds from the Arts Council of Ireland) is inspired by her research into the work of the iconoclastic Irish traditional musician Pádraig Mac Giolla Mhuire, in particular his 1952 ‘dordán’ (roughly translated ‘drone’) recordings. Cork-based Quiet Music Ensemble was founded in 2008. It specialises in experimental, improvised and graphically notated music, sound art and performed installations. Its repertoire is created through collaboration with artists of diverse genres, including composers / sound artists such as Lucier, Oliveros, Toop and Applebaum, visual artists, and Irish sean nós singers.”
What we expect: This makes the list entirely on that all important word: ‘improvised’. The word ‘drone’ also helps too, with sustained tones and sounds warping your head space to another dimension as you try to make sense of the events unfolding before you. A must for any Irish students studying at the university!
So there you have it, a few of the most interesting sounding (and free) events of the hcmf// boiled down to hopefully make a little more sense to you. There are loads more events going on over the 10 days, so it’s worth checking the programme out for yourself to see if there’s anything we’ve missed that you might fancy.
Sound off in the comments below about any of the events you might catch, and look out for our review once the festival has left town and the ringing in our has died down a bit.
Now, pass me my prepared guitar…