Delighted to present a release featuring three live performances from the Late Works: Preparations event that took place at Cafe OTO on 20th September 2021.
For the event, 23 artists were asked to create a ‘preparation’ each for the grand piano (shown on album cover). Three pianists then had to construct an individual live performance with the adaptable unit of preparations. Featuring GLARC regulars Finlay Clark (Still House Plants) & Max Syedtollan (Horse Whisperer) & Slow Dance signee Aga Ujma, the playful live album shifts from dynamic refrain-based contemporary classical sensibilities (Clark) to flowing melodies and improvisations full of pop influences (Ujma) to theatrical avant-garde baroque-tinged experiments (Syedtollan), together showing off the range of musical possibilities with a prepared piano.
For the preparation of the piano, Finlay placed the majority of the preparations close to the hammers in the central space of the piano, so that they could easily reach into the belly to shuffle the sculptures around whilst still playing with the other hand. Isobel Neviazsky’s “Figure”, Daisy Harvey’s “Clover” & Jack Bidewell’s “middlegame” were three of the preparations sat in the centre of the piano, creating a harpsichordal sound. Finlay often shuffles these around during the performance, as well as Mathilda Bennett-Greene’s “Hounds of Love Tastes like Gum”, a metal Smint case with metal prongs and lychees stuck on and a secret model figure shut inside. Early on in the piece, Finlay picks up Ralph Parks “The Duke and I” (inbetween picking up Louis Eager’s “Piano Keys”) to pluck the treble strings whilst simultaneously playing a refrain on them.
In the middle of the performance, Clark reaches deep into the piano to shift Tawfik Naas’ “Seed” from where it was sat in one of the piano’s iron cavities, leaving it to teeter on the strings. A few of the larger sculptures sat much closer to Finlay throughout the performance (Tom Sewell’s 5000-year-old bog wood “Peg”, Angus McCrum’s “Höhepunktinstrument” & Laila Majid’s “Vertebra 2”), and near the crescendoing finale of the piece they are all used to interact with the strings closest to the pins.
For the performance, Aga didn’t touch the preparations once they were in place, and opted to shuffle them around by hitting the keys at various strengths. The bottom section of the piano was set up to have snare-like qualities by combining Tawfik Naas’ “Seed” and Katharina Fitz’s “Rendezvous” together. The middle section - like Finlay’s - had many sculptures inside to rattle on the strings. One of the most effective preparations in Aga’s performance is Siyi Li’s “Untitled” stickers which were used to weave and attach a £10 note to the strings. The result is a set of peculiar vibrations that extend the sound. If you have ever tried to use the new pound notes to play an LP on your record player you will have heard a similar sound.
Ujma frequently uses Joseph Bradley Hill’s “Knucklebone”, a red Tupperware from the Cafe OTO kitchen with two black dice inside, to contribute to the snare noise, though midway through the performance it gets bounced up and wedged sideways between the strings - when you hear Aga slamming the lower octaves of the piano she is trying to dislodge the Tupperware from its string! Daisy Harvey’s “Clover” almost came flying out of the piano at this point. From here until the end, Aga uses her voice as a preparation, rejecting the use of a vocal mic to allow her voice to merge with the sound of the piano.
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Max prepared the piano by dividing it into several sections: percussion in the bass strings, “harpsichord” in the centre and traditional piano/bells/shakers in the treble. Max began the performance theatrically by walking towards the piano shaking Gwenllian Spink’s “Cloch”, a resin coated mottled aluminium circle surrounded by small bells, dropping it into the piano before beginning his piece. Mathilda Bennett-Greene’s “Hounds of Love Tastes Like Gum” was instrumental in the “harpsichord” sound, with the metal prongs weaved between several strings.
In the middle of the performance, Max stands up with Laila Majid’s “Vertebra 2” in hand, walks round to the back of the piano and begins to smash the sculpture into the strings, thumping and scraping the 3D-printed-Alien-vs-Predator-inspired-spine-bone and his hand across the surface. After some sporadic (but calculated) plucks with his hands, Max accidentally broke Angus McCrum’s “Höhepunktinstrument” - in rehearsals he had figured out that the pinecone wedged in a head massager could alter the tone of the note the further you pushed it into the string, and one of the rubber bands snapped in the process. From his proclamation of the preparation’s death “it’s f*cked now” to the end, Max mostly stays seated, slowly disassembling the rest of the preparations from the piano in a satisfyingly manic finale.
*All three pianists wedged Hamish Pearch’s “Please water the plants please” in-between two of the bass strings - a black resin cast of a piece of toast - to create a dull flat thud. Faye Milburn’s “Pleuche” was also attached to the strings in all three performances - Faye’s “piano jewellery” is comprised of a silver necklace joining two felted croc clips together. The clips bite the strings and the chain jingles and buzzes around across the surface.*
aga ujma is a Polish-born multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and composer living between London, Indonesia and Poland. she mixes her classical music upbringing and folk influences from Poland with traditional music studies at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Surakarta, Central Java and SOAS University of London.
her intimate solo performances focus on exploring and connecting Indonesian, Polish and English folk music with the accompaniment of unique Indonesian instruments. her favourite instruments are East Indonesian bamboo zither sasando, Central Javanese zither siter and metallophone gendér barung. she is an enthusiast of counterpoint techniques and harmonic experiments but she also likes to use interlocking patterns, non-Western tuning systems and vocal techniques to generate the unique sound of her songs. her first love though was piano; she signed herself up to the music school in Poland at the age of 8 and studied classical music for 12 years, after which she completed a degree in musicology and moved to Indonesia to study traditional gamelan music.
she was recently signed to Slow Dance and announced her debut EP 'songs of innocence and experience' via CLASH Magazine in 2021, which is "shaping up to be a wholly unique experience, placing her at the cutting edge of folk music in Britain" (The Line of Best Fit). she was recently commissioned to sing the theme song for the new Resident Evil Village game as well as to create a new composition and a special performance for the latest Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, which was showcased on Boiler Room.
Max Syedtollan is an artist-composer living and working in Glasgow, with a multi-disciplinary practice spanning music, text and image. Interests include world-building, anachronism, affect, melody, improvisation, comedy and the naïve.
His pieces have been broadcast on BBC Radios 3, 4 and 6; performed in places such as Café Oto and Snape Maltings, and featured in The Quietus and The Wire. Besides composing under his own name Syedtollan produces music as ‘Horse Whisperer’ which has been featured on NTS Radio, Resonance FM and Radiophrenia.
In 2019 he was selected as one of Sound and Music’s ‘New Voices’, and released his second album of DIY chamber music on Glasgow label GLARC (supported by the Arts Council). In 2020 he made some radio plays & worked with Plus Minus Ensemble.
Late Works is a nomadic series of live intermedia events and permutable collective of creative practitioners with a monthly radio show on Resonance Extra.
Founded in 2018 by artist Joseph Bradley Hill, each manifestation of Late Works is governed by a set of pre-determined rules and instructions, aimed to encourage discourse, collaboration and exchange between the artists taking part. The heavily process-based experimental shows are united by an ethos of indeterminate intermedia improvisation.
Their latest event 'Late Works: of Noise' produced a vinyl that was labelled Recordstore.co.uk's #1 Compilation of the Year 2020, featuring members of black midi, Goat Girl, 404 Guild, Sorry, Powerplant & Curl Recordings creating original tracks sampling from a set of artist-built instruments. Preparations is the newest of 6 Late Works currently in production for 2021/22.