Debasing the Coinage of Popular Usage: Alan Courtis, Diatribes

Monday 1 April 2019

After hearing so many stripped-back works for solo guitar, it makes a fun change to get sent a guitar album that is cranked and processed halfway to heaven. Alan Courtis’ (bloke from Reynols) solo album Buchla Gtr mashes together one of those 80s-retro Steinberger headless electric guitars with a 60s-retro Buchla modular synthesiser into a seamless whole. The recordings were made over a week at EMS in Stockholm back in 2014 and then reworked over the next few years. As a double LP, each side presents a contrasting tableau of drones and buzzes that morph from ecstatic to sinister and from chilly to decadent. It’s a salutary lesson that the grey area between amplified guitar sounds and electronic oscillation is to be embraced rather than feared. If you were a spotty teenager who got off on Metal Machine Music, (No Pussyfooting) and Sonic Youth’s EPs then this album is a useful affirmation that your youthful tastes didn’t always suck.

Still speaking of guitars: I was at a Julia Reidy solo gig a while back and started thinking about how popular music gets used as material these days. Once, tropes from rock or jazz would be incorporated into other musical styles to act as a signifier of that genre; now, the substance is reworked into new forms. Reidy strummed a 12-string acoustic with live processing and drones provided by the laptop at her side. Chords were prolonged, removed from conventional structural function, sense or context. The point of focus became the tension between the sound in the moment enjoyed for its own sake and the potential for where it might turn next.

I don’t want to use the term ‘deconstructed’ to describe this style as it’s too often used as the smokescreen for ill-conceived pretentious food and even more pretentious music. I’ve just checked again and thankfully the blurb for Diatribes’ new release Echoes & Sirens doesn’t use it either. Here, the subject is dub, filleted and collaged into something that is decidedly not dub, however much one may be struck by a passing resemblance from time to time. No guitars here, except for the bass. A real horn section, with organ, drums and electronics that largely behave in the expected manner. The four tracks, each ten minutes long, imply that some other game is being played here, as does the fact that Diatribes is the duo of Cyril Bondi and d’incise, whom I have reviewed in various guises before.

There is a concept at work, according to the sleeve notes. Each track takes a classic of early 80s dub as a starting point and reworks elements of each by adopting techniques used on sound systems by MCs at the time. I have no authority to judge how successfully the album may be “considered as four imaginary moments of a sound system night” but that’s not the point as far as I’m concerned. While the material and technical concepts may be borrowed from popular music, the method by which they are adapted and applied to a new situations sounds entirely original and the whole thing sounds fresher when heard free of expectations to be true to an imagined model. Or, perhaps this is less an act of collage or d-d-deconstruction and more a cubist representation, incorporating time and subjective experience to move beyond simple mimicry. Each track focuses on a different approach, building up a chorus of echoing brass in ‘Dub fire will be burning’, stringing everything along a line of hi-hats on ‘Tell me, what do you see’, or chopped fragments in stuttering loops on ‘Continually’. A lot of these manipulations sound like they were captured in performance with a lesser degree of electronic manipulation later on, which is pleasing.

Solos: Félicie Bazelaire, Ferran Fages

Tuesday 26 March 2019

I’ve been listening to some new releases by d’incises, working in collaboration with various composers and musicians. (This is the guy who’s part of the Insub Meta Orchestra.) L’épaisseur innombrable is described as a “double bass solo by Félicie Bazelaire, based on a composition by d’incise”, which suggests a more esoteric process of transformation than a simple transcription or arrangement. (The packaging tells us nothing more than the above quote.) A thirty-six minute double-bass solo, L’épaisseur innombrable maintains a consistent level of activity throughout, inviting comparisons to Stefano Scodanibbio’s solo pieces or Hanne Darboven’s Opus 17a. Unlike these two examples, Bazelaire does not give us constant, motoric activity. Much of the piece maintains a steady alternation of long and short, like a heartbeat. On one level, it’s soothing; paying closer attention unmasks darker undercurrents, the alternating harmonies by turns wistful and portentous. Later, the pace broadens out further into sustained tones, a glacial rallentando. Bazelaire’s realisation of this piece creates the skeletal outline from some long-lost slow movement from the late romantic era.

I got some exciting new releases from Another Timbre but I first have to give some time to Ferran Fages’ CD from the end of last year, Un lloc entre dos records. Fages plays his own composition for solo acoustic guitar and sine tones. It took me a while to come around to this one. I’ve heard a few great recordings in recent years by Cristián Alvear and Clara de Asís, playing severe, restrictive compositions for the guitar. Perhaps keeping those in mind a little too much made this piece seem to not quite gel for a while. Unlike, say, a piece by Alvin Lucier, guitar and sine tones are kept separate – no psychoacoustic trickery to enjoy here. After an opening section of widely spaced dissonances (semitones displaced across octaves à la late Feldman) a long passage of sustained sine tones reduces the harmonic and timbral palette to almost nothing. The guitar resumes, with strummed, dense, unresolved chords. The mind struggles to reconcile the parts into a whole. This piece is part of a trilogy exploring different guitar tunings, and Fages refers to Feldman in his other pieces in the series. Feldman worked in a subjective way that resisted an overall logic, but his audience has now become accustomed to his way of listening. Un lloc entre dos records suggests a new type of listening at play and, despite the Feldman references, Fages’ piece suddenly became more sympathetic when recognising the connections to the type of wandering aesthetic heard in some of Jürg Frey’s solo pieces such as guitarist, alone. Fages approach comes from the inside, as a guitarist, with a more forthright harmonic language made from the retuning of open strings.

Alvin Lucier at the Round Chapel

Saturday 23 March 2019

Almost ten years ago, I saw Alvin Lucier in one of the most memorable gigs I’ve been to, performing Bird and Person Dyning at Wilton’s Hall. It’s a magnificent piece in the way it leads the listener to consider the act of listening as an aesthetic act, the underlying phenomena and the consequences of this newfound awareness, all in one simple, seemingly effortless gesture. It’s this sort of thing that makes me consider Lucier one of the most important living composers.

He was supposed to be back in London at the Round Chapel in Clapton last week, but had to cancel at late notice due to a health problem that prevented travel. The concert otherwise proceded as planned: a three-hour tour de force that affirmed Lucier’s presence as a composer of superb music.

A couple of his classic/notorious works were presented in the second half, but the focus was on his newest music and was so much the better for it. The evening began with a recent work that signalled intent, Ricochet Lady from 2016: Trevor Saint on a glockenspiel off in a dark corner of the hall, hammering out rapid arpeggios in the highest register. The repeating figures created the psychoacoustic effect of sustained tones – the type that people who have heard early Philip Glass will immediately recognise – emphasised to the extent that the aural effects became the musical material instead of the notes played. A combination of the hall’s reverberation, the instrument’s bright timbre and the overtones of close-spaced high frequencies created a series of metallic buzzing and humming sounds beyond the physical scope of the instrument.

Vespers and I Am Sitting In A Room were each performed live in the Round Chapel. Two of Lucier’s best-known works, each now fifty years old; both pieces still fascinate in the way they reveal fundamental qualities of aural perception taken for granted and complacently disregarded by musical theory. Hearing Vespers performed live reveals the spatial qualities of the sound, as the four blindfolded players traversed the hall by means of echo-location, while the electronic clicks they emitted were subtly transformed by their movements. This is minimal music, in a manner similar to that of a sculpture by Serra or Judd, exposing liminal phenomena of space, mass, sound or light through supposedly undifferentiated material.

The larger part of the concert was given over to four works for acoustic ensemble paired with electronics, all from the 2010s and all with one evident premise. Lucier has long exploited the effects gained from combining pure sine tones with acoustic instruments, allowing interplay of beating frequencies and differences through small differences in intonation and the harmonic spectrum of the instruments. The Ever Present Orchestra was founded for the purpose of playing these pieces and their performances showed just how effectively musical Lucier’s music can be, in the conventional sense, when interpreted with inisght and sensitivity. (Guest performers on the night included figures as diverse as John Tilbury, Jennifer Walshe and Thurston Moore.)

As with Cage, there’s often a didactic quality behind Lucier’s earlier music, those most famous (or notorious) pieces. A phenomenon is demonstrated. As with Cage, a superficial exposure to Lucier’s work suggests that he is more about ideas than music. The late works played at Round Chapel should go a long way to refuting this misapprehension. First and foremost, Lucier composes music – a point that his work has continued to make clearer and clearer over the years. While Vespers and I Am Sitting In A Room are “about” sound, Ricochet Lady is “about” music, treated and filtered without electronics. The ensemble pieces are all ostensibly “about” the same idea, but now this is obviously not the point. Like Cage’s music, the ideas serve merely as a means to an end.

The ensemble is violins, cellos and saxophones, augmented on occasion by piano, vibraphone and e-bowed guitar. As played by the Ever Present Orchestra, when the winds and strings begin, the sounds combined with the sine tones are almost indistinguishable, producing a complex blend of tone that is hard to define. In Two Circles, Semicircle and Tilted Arc (a reference to a Serra’s destroyed public sculpture), the fundamental shapes suggested by the titles are perceptible in the trajectory of the music but subsumed within a broader, compositional form. Musical sense takes precedence over logical intelligibility. In Two Circles, a reduced ensemble of violin, cello, two saxophones and piano slowly interweave, their harmonies growing more distant, opening up into wider registers before resolving to a dense, multiphonic unison. Seimicircle mounts in a glorious ascent, brassier sounds to the fore, only to fall away again in a slow motion landslide.

The grouping of instruments and electronics blend into a complex harmony and tonal colouration far removed from the usual stark palette expected from Lucier. This was felt most strongly in the world premiere of EPO-5, probably the high point of the evening. Using a large ensemble, the usual variations in harmonic intervals moved in ways that couldn’t be anticipated. For me at least, acoustic and electronic voices all seemed to move in different directions and any attempt to reduce the piece to a single concept was futile. It was simply music, lush and dramatic, intricate without becoming opaque, with strangely lingering effects that unfolded at a deliciously languorous pace. Listeners were carried along without feeling pushed. I can’t imagine hearing these pieces played better.

The BBC were recording the event, so hopefully I get to hear it all again soon.

Works on Paper: Gil Sansón and Lance Austin Olsen

Monday 18 March 2019

Feels like I’ve been away forever. I got a bunch of new albums I want to talk about and a superb Alvin Lucier concert I went to last week, but right now I have to say something about this new release by Gil Sansón and Lance Austin Olsen. I got all excited about Olsen’s music last year, with his visual approach to making music. A real artist, y’know? He makes paintings, some of which function as musical scores, and takes a very collage-type approach to his recordings.

On his Another Timbre CD last year, Olsen produced a multitracked realisation of a graphic score by the Venezuelan artist Gil Sansón. I’d described A Meditation on the History of Painting as “like painting, a synthesis of gesture and editing, with traces of the two processes preserved in the medium”. On this new album, Works on Paper, Olsen and Sansón give an extended presentation of their technique of creative exchange. Disc 1 features two realisations of Olsen’s painting/score Pra Mim, recorded by Sansón in Caracas. On the second disc the roles are reversed, with Olsen in Victoria, Canada recording two realisations of Sansón’s graphic score Meditations. For two hours, the air teems with tantalising connections, potentialities.

As with painting, the fabric of the music hovers between fragments of narrative and unspecified affect. It’s an elusive music, part radio drama, part collage, part pure sound. The sense of meaning is always present, both in content and form, but is left to the listener to find for themselves. Sampled music, taken straight or manipulated, combine with field recordings, musical instruments, isolated phrases spoken or sung and mysterious electronic clicks and buzzes. Similarities between the two artists abound, inviting further connections and comparisons to be made between the two minds at work, one in British Columbia and the other in Venezuela. The sounds are captured beautifully. Within each realisation, certain elements repeat, or seem to. Everything becomes suspended in a dream-like state, fully aware but inexplicable.

The pieces have been sequenced so that words, spoken or sung, appear less and less as time goes on. Pieces end on extended hiatus, with aural figuration giving way to empty spaces, alive with background sound. The final Meditation is wordless, with Olsen interpreting Sansón’s score with layers of sparse, amplified sounds and guitar. The album’s an ideal follow-up to last year’s Dark Heart release.

Things Seen, Heard (3)

Thursday 28 February 2019

Two gigs in churches in my neighbourhood this month. Áine O’Dwyer and Eva-Maria Houben at the Old Church in Stoke Newington. Primary reason for going was that I’d enjoyed hearing Houben play her piano pieces on a couple of occasions and wanted to finally hear her play the organ. O’Dwyer’s good value too: I still remember her gig at Silver Road a couple of years ago where for part of her set she climbed onto the roof and dropped mostly small objects onto the punters below. The two of them had obviously worked closely together on the joint performance and got along well. Perhaps a little too well: I was hoping for a tension between the restrained aesthetic of Houben’s compositions and O’Dwyer’s more demonstrative performance practice, but everything proceeded pleasantly. Faint sounds and singing heard from a distance as the audience assembled gave way to some tentative vocal duets from various parts of the church and culminated in a colourful, expressive organ duet. In the middle, O’Dwyer showed how to make the most of a harp that had been left unattended in a church in winter for a few hours.

More Houben last week, played by the Eos Ensemble for the 840 concert series. The evening was lighter and the weather milder in St James’, Islington. As well as Houben’s trio avalon orchard, the programme of music for violin, clarinet and piano included poignant arrangements of three songs by Komitas, a trio by Tim Parkinson and a particularly strong interpretation of Makiko Nishikaze’s Duo for bass clarinet and piano. There were also several premieres – always nice to see pieces dated from the current year in February. James Luff’s standing cycles and Alex Nikiporenko’s Two Waltzes both began as almost skeletal reductions of familiar genres. The simplicity seemed banal and irritating at first but each proceeded to torque their exposed structure into shapes that were both neat and intriguing.

Luc Ferrari, Tautologos, Situationism, Entropy (beginning, not to be concluded)

Thursday 21 February 2019

A map of the 16th Arrondissement drawn by Debord’s friend Paul-Henri Chombart de Lauwe, traces the routes taken by a student over the period of a year as she circulates between the School of Political Sciences, her residence, and the residence of her piano teacher.

Only got to one of the events as part of the Stereo Spasms festival, a week-long celebration of the life and work of Luc Ferrari. It was a good one: Tautologos III is one of my favourite pieces, heard before only from David Grubbs’ reissue of the 1971 LP version. Grubbs was on hand at Cafe Oto to join in with Apartment House and introduce the piece, first in ‘version 4’ as played on the record and then in the 2001 ‘Chicago version’. (Brunhild Ferrari joined in on piano for the latter.)

Grubbs reminded us of Ferrari’s particular definition of tautology, a repeated cycle of activity, as practiced in daily life, which was here transferred into artistic activity. While acting alone, yet necessarily as part of a group, individuals going about their business may interact with each other, on a regular or irregular basis. In doing so, their cycles are altered, which in turn may then intersect with and alter other cycles.

The music teeters on a precipice separating order and anarchy, and you’re never quite sure which side is solid ground and the other void. It’s a duality that seems representative of life in Ferrari’s native Paris, that particular understanding of liberté, an absolute freedom circumscribed by an innate sense of social order. A person is free to move anywhere, yet soon settles into a recognisable pattern. In Tautologos III, each performer is autonomous yet bound by obligations to others and thus the music begins to develop a logic of its own. As when reading a Perec novel, one becomes aware of persistent but elusive rules working beneath the surface, shaping a structure that at first seemed natural.

(Also played on the programme, the charming trio Bonjour, comment ça va? Bass clarinettist, cellist and pianist play interlocking repeating patterns, disrupted from time to time when each musician in turn is compelled to perform the social nicety of doffing their hat. Whether these breaks in each musician’s flow makes for an interruption or an ornamentation is a question left to the listener.)

For further consideration: in each version of Tautologos III it becomes clear that each cycle is contingent, subject to alteration. This mutability is a given condition of each performer’s loop. It’s a critical difference from other ‘minimalist’ works built on repetitions. There is no pre-existing, initial state for the material to be subjected to variation. The context of each performer’s interactions with each other becomes the defining force of the material. Everything is provisional.

In version 4, played first that night, the music started out varied and elaborate, and steadily reduced in melodic range and texture into a near unison of voices see-sawing between a handful of notes. As information*, any ‘message’ being conveyed was distilled to an essence, with increasing redundancy and lower entropy. As things became more and more familiar to the listener, was the music winding down, or becoming more forceful? Whichever may be true, would it be a good thing or bad?

* As with life: “Whether this information is valuable or worthless does not concern us. The idea of ‘value’ refers to the possible use by a living observer.” Leon Brillouin, Science and Information Theory.

Deeper listening: Mark R Taylor, Morgan Evans-Weiler, Michael Pisaro

Wednesday 6 February 2019

As I was saying, I’ve spent a few weeks getting to know a few CDs more closely. Two in particular have required closer attention, for differing reasons. I’ve been listening to Aftermaths, Teodora Stepančić’s collection of solo piano works by Mark R Taylor, a British composer I’m entirely unfamiliar with. I don’t get it and I dont like it because I think there’s something I’m supposed to get and I suspect that’s not how Taylor wants me to listen so I wonder if I’m hearing it all wrong. It would be easier to dismiss if I didn’t think there was some missing piece in the background that would change my attitude to the music. The pieces are relatively brief, each with the same undifferentiated surface (think Morandi in painting, Howard Skempton in music). Each piece is basically a chorale and they all sound the same to me. My first response is to never bother with this CD again, but I can’t help but think something must be going on. Most of the pieces are recent but others date back twenty, thirty, forty years. An admirable single-mindedness. One older piece uses the same method but progresses at a slow pace. One piece staggers the chords a little. Two tracks are listed in the wrong order, an entirely understandable mistake.

Taylor gets praise from musicians I respect. Maybe he’s not limited, just really focused, seeking out delight in the slightest differences. On the second listen I noticed differences in how each piece proceeds. I started to compile a list of the distinguishing feature to each piece (alternates between short and long durations, see-saws up and down, repeats in groups of four) but it quickly felt like I was trivialising the composer’s efforts. Also, I was starting to resent putting conscious effort into trying to appreciate the music.

After listening another three or four times I’ve noticed other small differences and begun to recognise a gradually emerging identity for each piece. I can appreciate it but I think I’m past the point where I need to put in any more work on the music in the hope of finding something in it. Perhaps it will hit me later; if so, it will presumably be when I unwittingly hear another piece by Taylor.

You become familiar with a style, get immersed in it and then become blasé. Here’s another Another Timbre CD of slow, quiet music. More of the same? Yes and no. It’s a specious argument, of course; every composer cannot help but be ascribed to one style or another, almost nothing is truly sui generis. I’m listening to this new Morgan Evans-Weiler and Michael Pisaro CD and wondering what it is I’m hearing, what makes it different from other works in a comparable style? There are so many pieces which are perfectly pleasant as background ambience, so why have I tagged the two pieces on this disc as preferred listening, worthy of repeat attention?

In my previous review, I mentioned that Johnny Chang’s Citaric Melodies III may suffer in comparison with the surrounding works on the album. Thinking over what I meant by that, I’m guessing it’s about what rewards closer attention. Between pieces of music in a broadly similar style, a common surface may be enjoyed, but some works can compel a deeper fascination.

Violinist and composer Morgan Evans-Weiler is the featured player on this disc, playing on Michael Pisaro’s Helligkeit, die Tiefe hatte, nicht keine Fläche (Grey Series No. 6) and his own lines and tracings. The Pisaro needs seven musicians, the Evans-Weiler five. It sounds the other way around. Compared to his austere Unfinished Variations (for Jed Speare), lines and tracings is sparingly sumptuous. A harpsichord is dotted throughout the fabric of the ensemble, violin moves from figure to ground and back again. A large part of the interest in this piece comes from the way instruments are carefully balanced throughout, with some disappearing for long stretches, creating contrasts and a sense of shape. It’s like a type of subliminal orchestration, marshalling a classical sense of form out of the slightest resources. In the Pisaro, Evans-Weiler’s violin stands out against a unfocused backdrop of finely nuanced shades of grey, played by the group Ordinary Affects. Bass clarinet, cellos (one with prepared strings) and hoarse electronics combine into a single instrument, complex and nebulous; at times sounding like percussion, at times like drone, at others like field recording. From time to time, the clarinet emerges with a spot of defined pitch as colouration, matched with a vibraphone. Nothing moves, but nothing ever feels at rest.

Catherine Lamb and Johnny Chang with or without Viola Torros

Monday 4 February 2019

When I got back to town, people told me I’d missed a great gig, with Johnny Chang and Catherine Lamb playing at St Mary at Hill. At the end of the year, I received a new batch of CDs from Another Timbre, including a double album of works by Chang and Lamb. I’ve been spending a lot of time with these discs over the past month.

The gig and the album centred on the music of Viola Torros. Interviews with Chang and Lamb and other promotional material offer up all sorts of details about Torros as an historical figure, all of which may be safely disregarded without any impediment to appreciating the fine music to be heard here*. The background reading doesn’t prepare the listener or shed any additional light on the music as such, which is all the better for being heard on its own merits outside of a putative back story. Viola Torros, mediated through these ‘augmentations’ is at most a strong example of the Third Mind at work, producing music that owes something to both and neither creator simultaneously. On the first CD, we hear the second and third of these interpretations, effectively creating a diptych that invites comparisons and contrasts.

The focus is on the two violas of Chang and Lamb playing in tandem. Their playing is expressive, employing a range of gestures, but highly restrained in pitch range, to the point where only microtonal adjustments in intonation are audible. The music recalls Cage’s description of the sound he wanted in his last, microtonal works, “melisma, florid song”. The listener’s attention focuses on the grain of the violas’ sound, the rasp of bow on string made sonorous by emphasising the lower registers of the instrument. It takes longer to tune in on the resonances used to enhance the violas, electronics that add subtle but indelible colours. Then the voices come in and the small, new world the violas have created is transformed again.

As with V.T. Augmentations II, so is V.T. Augmentations III. The approach is the same but the methods employed take on a different attitude. The viola playing is starker, with a range that is greater but lower, often singling out one player at a time. The exposed playing, without its resonant halo, creates a more sombre mood. When electronics do appear, the aded reverberation is more prominent, like a shadow. The voices, when they appear, are now exclusively female, giving the shape of the piece its own distinct turn.

The second disc presents two more pieces, each a solo work by one of the collaborators. Chang’s Citaric Melodies III forgoes electronics for a larger ensemble. With greater instrumental colouration, winds and electric guitar to supplement violin and viola to construct a varied but translucent web of overlapping sounds. The piece is brighter and more varied than the preceding works. As a stand-alone, it can feel more superficial in comparison with the other pieces, but in context it provides a pleasing contrast.

Finally, Lamb’s Prisma Interius VI (for v.t.) continues the series of works she has made from mixing live musicians with synthesized processing of external ambient sound. The initial theme of the album is resumed, with only the two violas and a cello playing within an ambient space of harmonised environmental sounds. It’s an urban environment, which can sometimes intrude harshly. The grey, unstable drone of city sounds and reduced instrumental colours create a piece that feels like the Viola Torros pieces with further layers stripped away. It’s never quite ‘nearly nothing’; the musicianship throughout is almost folkloric at times, but it’s folklore removed to a distant, half-remembered time and place. I’d have loved to have heard it live, but the CDs will do nicely.

* Fictional artists are a bugbear of mine, along with imaginary movie soundtracks. Both make me reflexively anticipate a conceptual smokescreen to mask an artistic deficiency.

Michael Parsons at 80

Monday 28 January 2019

A small bright spot, then another week of flu. I can still recall enough of that previous Friday evening with gladness, the ambience of bonhomie that filled Cafe Oto for the Michael Parsons birthday gig. Life is cold and gloomy this time of year, but there was cheer to be found in this array of brief (but not small) pieces. Apartment House played, in string quartet formation, abetted by pianist Philip Thomas. A selection of pieces by Parsons from across some fifty-odd years were interspersed with premieres commissioned for the occasion by fellow composers. Perhaps understandably, there was a more overtly charming side to some of these occasional works, such as the John Lely and Makiko Nishikaze pieces; but more unexpected were the terse and tough-sounding chorale by Christian Wolff, a contribution by Howard Skempton even more fleeting than usual, and a looser piano quintet by Laurence Crane that sounded likely to be tidied up sometime in the future.

The thing that impressed most in all of Parsons’ pieces was the attention to touch, the care given to the presentation and life-span of each sound, however brief. This facet, shown to full benefit by the musicians, kept appearing in different ways: in one piece, sounds would alternate between short and long, dying away, while in others the contrast came through alternations in register, or in single and complex sounds. A strong, consistent character emerged through the pieces spanning several decades, without ever betraying a simple formula. It was a portrait of a composer always experimenting, always exploring new ways of working with that contrast between attack and decay, seeking out a more subtle and complete means of expression.

A roaring start to the year

Thursday 17 January 2019

Last Friday night at Cafe Oto watching Frederic and Jan Rzewski play I felt like not only had the year really started, but I had finally restarted. It had seemed so long; I’ve missed so many gigs. Travel, friends and flu meant that I missed all of last month’s London Contemporary Music Festival. I also missed an extra Music We’d Like To Hear gig, launching Catherine Lamb & Johnny Chang’s Viola Torros project CD. As a consolation, I have the album now; a fine pair of CDs which I will do justice to in a review in the next few days.

Incidentally, the new issue of Tempo has just been published, which includes my review of the last Music We’d Like To Hear summer season. I have only two small regrets about the review. First, that I didn’t post about it on this site, to talk more about what a superb set of concerts it was. Second, that I omitted to mention Francesca Fargion’s performance of Michael Parsons piano piece Variations. I shall make amends for this by writing about tomorrow night’s concert by Apartment House, in celebration of Parsons’ 80th birthday.