There's a new SANS CD: it's called Kulku and we had a grand time recording it in rural Suffolk with producer Jim Sutherland and engineer Les Mommsen - and new, additional singer Erika Hammarberg, whose voice beautifully complements that of Sanna Kurki-Suonio.
I've been reading Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac in the Glyn Maxwell adaptation: I'll be doing the music for a production by Theatre in the Square which starts off in London in July, then goes to The Minack in Cornwall in September.
There'll be another piece for carillon and nonhuman performers coming up for a performance by Thomas Laue on July 2nd at the World Carillon Federation Congress in Barcelona. This one, Multiplex of Wing and Eye, features the backyard bees. My previous carillon works, Blood Sugar Fairy and Matins, had their first outings on an instrument firmly planted in Lake Burley Griffin: the latest will be played on this roving carillon.
It's fifty years since the release of Sgt Pepper, so Shortis & Simpson are celebrating with a well-researched lecture recital in Queanbeyan on March 18th. I'm attempting those McCartney basslines and dusting off Ethel the wind synthesiser to do a piccolo trumpet impersonation (Penny Lane).
SANS reconvenes in May to play at the Seoul Music Week, followed by a gig at Cheongju's Jazztonic festival. When the farflung members of SANS can't get together, there's still the gathering of the trio of Cronshaw, Alexanyan and Blake. We did a video shoot at The Preservation Room recently - here's a specimen:
Someone pointed out that nineteenth century Australia was, per capita, the most piano-infested country on Earth. Having recorded and composed for a semi-feral Renardi and a rather relaxed Victorian Broadwood in Canberra I was pleased to discover another nicely backslid vintage Broadwood in Llanwrtyd, mid Wales. So I recorded lots of improvising on this one: it clangs and groans well, and I expect it'll emerge in a new soundwork...
At the end of March there's a Sound Heritage Sydney event celebrating the musicking that went on in historic houses: following on from the Performing the Past project, we'll be heading to Elizabeth Bay House for the day and I'll be playing How many ships sail in the forest? on the resident Collard & Collard square piano and a historical laptop.
The SANS Sessions, in June, in London, attracted a nice line-up of musical guests including Louai Alhenawi playing ney and daf, fiddler Ric Sanders, and voice from Erika Hammarberg: all adding to that element of surprise that's essential to a SANS gig. (The only constant seems to be that - according to singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio - all the songs are about porridge. None of the rest of us have good enough Finnish to know if this is true…)
SANS visits Poland in July for the EtnoKraków festival on the 7th.
The soundworlds for the ACT's Historic Places are coming together: I've been recording pop music from the 1920s sung around the Calthorpes' House piano, and folksong in the kitchen of Lanyon Homestead along with fiddling on the verandah and some parlour music on the recently restored Broadwood. There'll be a concert in November featuring new music for this piano: all part of this project, Performing the Past, initiated by Canberra musician, curator and historian Jenny Gall.
Jenny, plus Canberra-connected composers Sandy France, Alistair Noble and myself will be writing and performing for this event. I'm working on a couple of pieces using recordings from the pianos at two of Canberra's historic houses, Lanyon and Mugga Mugga: the pianos had been left to themselves for years, preparing their own distinctive soundworlds, and recordings of them in this state contribute to an electroacoustic layer in compositions for those same instruments newly-restored. Here's a clip of Erin Helyard at the Lanyon Broadwood after its rejuvenation by piano whisperer Chris Leslie.
At this year's National Folk Festival I indulged in noisily nostalgic folk-rock, playing suitably trouserflapping bass lines for The Bluetongue Dance Band, while the bass ukulele had a bluesy outing with the Guitar Cases. And in the studio, I'm continuing with Lynne Pilbrow's FunMusic for Little Kids project. We've been working together on Animals, Transport and Christmas themes: now it's Down in the Garden, which means lots of fun field recording without going far afield. Here's a taste of the Transport collection:
(It's a Welsh seal, by the way: from Ynys Enlli...)
On October 30th Thomas Laue will be playing a new piece of mine for carillon and soundtrack, which is based on a recording of an insomniac magpie singing beautifully outside my window in the wee small hours. Hence the title, 'Matins'.
In June I had my first trip to Iceland: to Akureyri for the VAKA festival. It was a welcome introduction to this country and its culture, and I especially enjoyed getting to grips with some traditional Icelandic vocalising: the language is beautifully chewy. I was playing with Tigran Aleksanyan and Andrew Cronshaw, and the trio has a couple of London gigs this summer at Rotherhithe's Sands Films and at St Ethelburga's in the City.
The experimental music 'summer camp' at ANU was most enjoyable: for me, a chance to get to grips with Arduino and Pure Data programming which surfaced in a piece for feedback-driven piano with loops, plus soprano sax, two oboes and gratuitous crotales (there they were in the percussion store: how could you not use them?)
After three concerts with Coro in February, I'm singing with Clarion at the National Portrait Gallery on April 25th and 26th. It's Heritage Week earlier in April and I'll be doing the sound (and possibly concertina) component of a show on April 12th at Mugga Mugga with Jenny Gall: concerning music and sound in that house and the surrounds. The cottage's piano is being restored, but I was able to play and record it in its former state - which yielded some strange and beautiful sounds that are surfacing elsewhere, in a slowly unfolding video work by Marzena Wasikowska.
Pekka Mikkola is coming to Australia , and I'm brushing up on my Finnish tango chops for some gigs with him at the National Folk Festival this Easter. After several hours of bass playing with Cassidy's Ceili on St. Patrick's Day I feel well limbered up...
The ANU Old English reading group is working its way through Beowulf, and I'm chewing on the musical possibilities inherent in the language: looking at a couple of riddles from the Exeter Book, and that bee charm which I hope I won't need to deploy, as the garden bees are doing their thing quite contentedly at the moment. Here, courtesy of a contact mic on either side of the box, is a recording of them nibbling and munching away as they tidy up some sticky frames:
Some moments from the SANS concert at WOMAD below: and there's more SANS video at this playlist.
Studio stuff: I've been recording guitarist John Couch, playing a sonata by Campbell Ross and two pieces by Sally Greenaway. And I'm about to launch into another episode of Lynne Pilbrow's FunMusic for Little Kids project. This one deals with Snails and Slugs, Beetles and Bugs, so I expect there'll be a bit of garden soundgathering. Here's a magpie up late in the old gum tree out the front.