23 world premieres at my 50th birthday concert, Friday 20 April, 18:30

For my 50th birthday this year, I was absolutely delighted to receive on the day a volume containing seventeen short piano pieces written for the occasion, and subsequently four other pieces for piano and one for electronics. I am performing all of these, together with a new piece of my own and three lesser-known early twentieth-century works, on Friday 20 April (tomorrow) at the Performance Space, College Building, City, University of London, St John Street, London EC1V 4PB. The concert will be live-streamed complete, and can be viewed from the FB page for City University Concerts from 18:30. The concert is free, but to reserve a place, please see this page.

I was incredibly touched by the collection, assembled by US composer Evan Johnson, who wrote that this collection was ‘in recognition of a career built around the persistent championing of young or unduly ignored composers, and of difficult or otherwise unreasonable music: the sort often thankless effort that can indelibly shape a nascent compositional career, build decades-long collaborations, and begin to change the face of a repertoire’.

The full programme is as follows, and below are a selection of excerpts from the scores (and in a few cases, complete piece). Earlier versions of the programme also included Roger Sessions First Piano Sonata, but for reasons of programme length I have decided to postpone this work to a later date. Further information about my own piece  auseinandergerissene Hälftenfrom which I will post a snippet later, are given at the bottom of this page.

Arthur Lourié, Deux poèmes op. 8 (1912)
Stefan Wolpe, Sonata for piano. Op. 1 (1925)
Frederic Mompou, Charmes (1920-21)

Interval

Christopher Fox, Fifty Points of Light (2017) (WP)
James Dillon, amethyst (2018) (WP)
Roddy Hawkins, Down-Time for Ian (2007, rev. 2017) (WP)
Lauren Redhead, nothing really changes (2017) (WP)
Mic Spencer, A Maze I(a)n (S)pace (Space [G]race) (2017) (WP)
Michael Finnissy, Were we born yesterday? (2017) (WP)
Sadie Harrison, gentle (2017) (WP)
Ben Smith, burnt (2017-18) (WP)
Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, Desperatio (piano piece no. 5) (2017-18) (WP)
Alwynne Pritchard, 50 is a magic number (2018) (WP)
Paul Obermayer, Fra (electronic music) (2018) (WP)
William A.P.M., Fragment aus einem gebrochenen Geist „kaum intakt“ (2018) (WP)
Walter Zimmermann, Stars for Ian (2017) (WP)
Ian Pace, auseinandergerissene Hälften (2018) (WP)
Jesse Ronneau, AGHB (2017) (WP)
Eleri Angharad Pound, pbh (2017-18) (WP)
Morgan Hayes, Comparison (2018) (WP of revised version)
Marc Yeats, exordium (2017) (WP)
Alannah Marie Halay, Progress always comes late (2017) (WP)
Nigel McBride, wide stare stared itself (2017-18) (WP)
Alistair Zaldua, Sylph Figures for Ian Pace (2017) (WP)
Wieland Hoban, Whiptail (2017) (WP)
Evan Johnson (2017) qu’en joye on vous demaine (2017) (WP)

Fox - Fifty Points of Light

Christopher Fox, Fifty Points of Light (2017)

 

Hawkins - Down-Time for Ian

Roddy Hawkins, Down-Time for Ian (2007, rev. 2017)

 

Redhead - Nothing really changes

Lauren Redhead, nothing really changes (2017)

 

Mic Spencer typeset

Mic Spencer, A Maze I(a)n (S)pace (Space [G]race) (2017)

 

Finnissy Were we born yesterday

Michael Finnissy, Were we born yesterday? (2017)

 

Harrison - Gentle

Sadie Harrison, gentle (2017)

 

Smith - burnt

Ben Smith, burnt (2017-18)

 

Pritchard - 50 is a magic number

Alwynne Pritchard, 50 is a magic number (2018)

 

Almedia - Desperatio

Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, Desperatio (Piano Piece No. 5) (2017-18)

 

Pritchard - 50 is a magic number

Alwynne Pritchard, 50 is a magic number (2018)

 

Miranda - Fragment

William A.P.M., Fragment aus einem gebrochenen Geist „kaum intakt“ (2018)

 

Zimmermann Stars

Walter Zimmermann, Stars for Ian (2017)

 

auseinander 1auseinander 2

Ian Pace, from auseinandergerissene Hälften (2018)

 

Pound, Eleri - snippet

Eleri Angharad Pound, pbh (2017-18)

 

Hayes, Morgan - Comparison

Morgan Hayes, Comparison (2018)

 

Yeats - Exordium

Marc Yeats, exordium (2017)

 

Halay Progress

Alannah Marie Halay, Progress always comes late (2017)

 

McBride - wide stare stared itself

Nigel McBride, wide stare stared itself (2017-18)

 

Zaldua - Sylph-Figures

Alistair Zaldua, Sylph-Figures for Ian Pace (2017)

 

Hoban, Whiptail

Wieland Hoban, Whiptail (2017)

 

Johnson - qu'en vous

Evan Johnson, qu’en joye on vous demaine (2017)

 

My own auseinandergerissene Hälften is a short work which nonetheless could be considered ‘mixed media’, to use the fashionable term, as it will consist playing as well as spoken and written text, and a small amount of theatre. The title comes from the notorious letter written by Theodor Adorno to Walter Benjamin on 18 March 1936, in the context of discussion of the latter’s ‘Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit’, first written the previous year. Adorno wrote to Benjamin on the subject of the dialectics of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture:

‘Beide tragen die Wundmale des Kapitalismus, beide enthalten Elemente der Veränderung (freilich nie und nimmer das Mittlere zwischen Schönberg und dem amerikanischen Film); beide sind die auseinandergerissenen Hälften der ganzen Freiheit, die doch aus ihnen nicht sich zusammenaddieren läßt’ (‘Both bear the stigmata of capitalism, both contain elements of change (but never, of course, simply as a middle-term between Schönberg and the American film). Both are torn halves of an integral freedom, to which, however, they do not add up’).

My starting point for this piece is both this conception of the ‘torn halves’ of cultural freedom, but also my own ‘torn halves’, as both a pianist and a musicologist intensely engaged with the conflicting demands of both things – how one maintains scholarly distance and independence whilst still operating in an external musical world with its own pressures to conform, flatter, etc., how the criteria for deeming creative practice valuable ‘research’ might be quite different from other criteria of value, how my own interests as a performer are not synonymous with priorities as a historical musicologist – and indeed the music I choose to teach does not necessarily simply reflect my personal preferences. In the latter context, I return to the high/low culture question as it has informed my teaching of a former core module in music history, perhaps the most important teaching I have done. This attempted to navigate fairly between this ‘torn halves’ and their continuous co-presence, sometimes interacting, sometimes antagonistic, in Western musical history since 1848.

For this piece I have drawn upon the materials I used there to create a series of interconnected musical vignettes, each of which draw upon different species of music from a series of dates (including 1936, the date of Adorno’s letter to Benjamin). All of these are heavily modified, viewed from a contemporary perspective, but I attempt, inevitably unsuccessfully, to make them ‘add up’. The music is accompanied by slides with disembodied fragments of actual lecture slides, together with passages from radical modernist texts from the periods in question, material placed here on social media (a low culture of today in contrast to the supposedly elevated world of the lecture).

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