Friday 18 January 2019, 7.30pm
Apartment House celebrate the composer Michael Parsons' 80th birthday with music spanning his career, as well as a series of birthday pieces composed especially for the occasion by his friends, Christian Wolff, Howard Skempton, Makiko Nishikaze, Tim Parkinson, John Lely and Laurence Crane.
Michael Parsons is an important figure in the history of experimental music, both in terms of his own diverse output as well as his co-founding of the hugely influential Scratch Orchestra with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton in 1969.
At times precisely notated, at others embracing indeterminacy, Parsons’ music avoids any easy categorisation yet always displays a great sensitivity for line and texture. His pieces move from an early interest in precise pitch relationships to an involvement (following the Scratch Orchestra) with spontaneity, performer-engagement and post-Cagean indeterminacy. Later pieces also draw on his long-standing relationship with the work of painters such as David Saunders and Jeffrey Steele, taking a highly systematic approach to the organisation of musical materials. Nevertheless, an engagement with both the precise organisation of pitch and rhythm and aspects of indeterminacy exists in much of his music throughout his career. In his own words:
"Recent compositions aim to find ways of arranging and distributing pitch material in which both systems and indeterminacy play a role in avoiding stereotyped patterns and contributing to the discovery of new expressive resources"
It is this kind of openness to experimentation—of embracing aspects of composition that seem superficially opposed—combined with an ear for clarity, as well as a sense of earnest dedication to finding new approaches to making music that have been, and continue to be, an inspiration to a whole generation of musicians.
Apartment House have a deep and long-standing engagement with Parsons’ music, having worked together for over 20 years. They’ve also recently recorded a double-CD of his pieces—Patterns of Connection—released on the HCR record label.
The group, created by cellist Anton Lukoszevieze in 1995, has been captivating audiences with performances of avant-garde and experimental music all over the World, from Moscow to Vancouver and from Barcelona to Vilnius. Recent performances further afield include tours of Russia, Canada and a nine-concert series in Melbourne, Australia.
The ensemble has been a firm fixture on the British concert scene, with regular performances at Café Oto and a recent residency at the Wigmore Hall. Apartment House is the most frequently featured UK ensemble in the history of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and its 2011 concert of music by John Cage sold out the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. The ensemble has made a substantial number of live and studio recordings for BBC Radio 3 as well as live recordings for many European stations including Danish Radio DR, Swedish Radio 2, WDR Cologne, ORTF Austria, Radio France and Deutschlandfunk, Berlin.
Over the past 20 years or so it has championed music by emerging or undeservedly little-known composers and has commissioned over 100 new works. Highlights along the way include Jennifer Walshe’s radical ‘Barbie’ opera XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!!, with performances in six countries, and Saskia Moore’s Dead Symphony, a fusion of social documentary, art, biological science and music on near death experiences. Notable portrait events have featured composers Christian Wolff, Luc Ferrari, Alison Knowles, Christopher Fox, Vitalija Gloivackyte, Laurence Crane, Helmut Oehring, Claudia Molitor, David Behrman, Jobina Tinnemans and Richard Ayres.
Unusually for a new music ensemble, Apartment House is equally at home at classical music venues (Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre), crossover venues (Cafe Oto), art galleries (Serpentine Galleries, Turner Contemporary, Whitechapel Gallery) and international festivals (HCMF, MaerzMusik, Wien Modern, Ultima, Witten New Music Days), demonstrating its appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Over the years Apartment House has gradually increased its recording output, focusing on key releases by experimental composers such as George Maciunas and Laurence Crane, which received widespread acclaim (‘compellingly beautiful’ The Guardian). The group recently began a long term relationship with the UK label Another Timbre, releasing albums of music by Joseph Kudirka, James Saunders, Chiyoko Slavnics, Linda Catlin Smith and Martin Arnold.