Five Quick Questions with Helen Papaioannou

Helen has recently completed her score Backscatter for the Workers Union Ensemble. We are really looking forward to rehearsing and performing the work in April at Playlist on Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 and Nonclassical on Wednesday, 12 April, 2017.

Ahead of these performances, we asked Helen to answer five quick-fire questions…

1- Tell us briefly what we can expect from your new piece for Workers Union Ensemble?

Backscatter is a sort of mottling of sounds and notes which are bounced, echoed or split between individual players or subgroups. This hangs around short lines and motifs that churn into mechanistic loops, exploring different colours and textures within the ensemble.

2- How does your new piece for Workers Union compare to your previous works?

As in many of my recent works, particularly Splinter (2016), the piece is built around hocketing. My fascination with hocketing lies partly in the interpersonal thrill & playfulness of coordinating patterns between two or more people. In recent pieces of mine this interleaves with an exploration of cueing and game strategies.

Backscatter retains this quality, but doesn’t use cueing systems. It’s a little less frenzied than my recent music (although it still has its moments!). My interest was drawn to weaving and hocketing motifs and lines through the group, particularly because of the wonderful colours and textures afforded by Workers Union Ensemble’s unusual instrumentation.

3- Is there anyone who you can single out as being the biggest influence on your music?

That’s a really difficult question, it’s hard to pick only one person. In this moment I’d say that as an all round influence, John Zorn is important both musically and in the way his approach continually evolves, with a curiosity spanning different styles & scenes. His game strategies have also influenced some of my ideas, and I’ve given this answer also because of the other musicians I’ve discovered on the Tzadik label.

But my response to this question will probably change depending on when you ask me!

4- What is on your current playlist?

A recent playlist I made for someone includes: Jo Kondo, Louis Andriessen, Annie Gosfield, Bartók, Kevin Volans, Charming Hostess, Deerhoof, Container, Lozenge, Fairouz, Henry Threadgill, Satie, Nancarrow, Fabrizio D’André, Anthony Braxton/Roscoe Mitchell duets.

5- Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’m really excited to join Agathe Max (violin, electronics), Gareth Turner (electric double bass) & Valentina Magaletti (drums), with myself on bari. sax. at Supersonic Festival in Birmingham this June.

I’ll also be revisiting a collaboration with Matthew Lovett, Medi Evans, John Rowley and Mike Pearson. Last November we performed a version of Angharad Davies’ photographic score Rydal Mount, with improvised music & spoken word. We’re putting our heads together to organise more performances soon.

I’m also writing some music for and with HoKKeTT, a new trio with Tina Hitchens (flute) and Yvonna Magda (violin).

www.helenpapaioannou.com@h_papaioannou 

Workers Reunited – PLAYLIST and Nonclassical, April 2017

Next month we will perform at PLAYLIST (Southampton, 11 April) and Nonclassical (London, 12 April). We are super excited to be reunited and to be performing a new piece written for us by Helen Papaionnaou, which we commissioned through our recent Kickstarter campaign. We will also be (re)performing works by Laurence Crane, Seán Clancy, Jay Capperauld and Nick Morrish-Rarity.

Nonclassical, 12 April 2017

In April we are delighted to be returning to Nonclassical. We will perform a new piece written for us by Helen Papaionnaou, which we commissioned through our recent Kickstarter campaign. We will also be (re)performing works by Laurence Crane, Seán Clancy, Jay Capperauld and Nick Morrish-Rarity.

What
Workers Union Ensemble @ Nonclassical
When
Wednesday, 12 April, 2017
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
The Victoria (map)
Dalston
London
Other Info
Workers Union Ensemble perform at Nonclassical's monthly club night. Repertoire includes a new work from Helen Papaionnaou as well as works by Laurence Crane, Seán Clancy, Jay Capperauld and Nick Morrish-Rarity.

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PLAYLIST (Southampton), April 2017

In April we will be performing at PLAYLIST in Southampton. We will perform a new piece written for us by Helen Papaionnaou, which we commissioned through our recent Kickstarter campaign. We will also be (re)performing works by Laurence Crane and Seán Clancy.

What
Workers Union Ensemble @ PLAYLIST
When
Tuesday, 11 April, 2017
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
Southampton, UK SO18 1HL
Other Info
Workers Union Ensemble perform as part of one of Southampton's newest and most exciting live music nights, PLAYLIST. Repertoire includes a new work from Helen Papaionnaou and works by Laurence Crane and Seán Clancy.

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Kickstarter News

We’re thrilled to have reached our Kickstarter target – huge thanks to everyone who has pledged and shared!  If you would still like to donate then please do!  Our campaign runs until October 25th, and all the money we raise over our target will go directly to composers via our Audience Commissioning Fund.

Here’s the link: http://kck.st/2d1UQQG or you can watch our video below. Thank you!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/workersunionensemble/workers-union-ensemble-new-commission

Kickstarter launch

We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign!

We’ve had some great success with our ‘Audience Commissioning Fund’ in the past from people who’ve been to our concerts, and we’re hoping this will be a natural extension of that idea!

For the next month you can donate towards our next commission, which will be from exciting young composer Helen Papaiaoannou. It will be performed at the Nonclassical Monthly Club night on 12th April 2017.

You can watch watch our video here, and donate at www.kickstarter.com. Thank you!

Five Quick Questions with Matthew Kaner

Last weekend we recorded Matthew Kaner‘s new work ‘Collide’ for BBC Radio 3. This is the first of ten pieces in his residency: Embedded: Radio 3’s Composer in 3 in partnership with Sound and Music.

Ahead of the first broadcast at 8.20am this coming Monday, we sat him down to answer five quick-fire questions…

Tell us briefly what we can expect from your new piece for Workers Union Ensemble

Well it’s called ‘Collide’ and, though short, it’s about contrasting musical ideas that keep on bumping into one another – some of these are very energetic, others more lyrical and reposed, and there’s one that only ever appears on a strange little trio (saxophone, marimba and double bass). Hints of influence from a few other composers who have written for similar ensembles (including Steve Martland, to whose memory the piece is dedicated) also pop up here and there in different ways.

This is the 3rd piece you have written for WUE. What do you enjoy most and find challenging about writing for this ensemble?

I love writing for the Workers Union! It’s a real delight and privilege to keep working with the same fantastic musicians again. I think we’ve developed a real trust over the years, which means that I can write some very ambitious and challenging music, secure in the knowledge that they will work incredibly hard to achieve the results I want. They’re all really lovely people too, which always makes the experience very enjoyable.

It’s certainly a tricky ensemble to balance: in particular the oboe is often at risk of being swamped by the other much louder instruments in the group, but there are ways round this. In this piece you’ll hear that I tend to place the oboe right at the top of the ensemble when they all play together, to make sure it can be heard (which means the part often gets very high – sorry Anna!). Otherwise I tend to treat it as an expressive solo instrument, behind which the ensemble is greatly thinned out in order to provide a suitably soft accompaniment.

Is there anyone who you can single out as being the biggest influence on your music?

That’s a tough question: I think it changes from week to week! I’m particularly fond of Dutilleux’s music, and I think a great deal about his work, especially when I compose for orchestra. Hans Abrahamsen is another composer I really admire at the moment, but who knows what I’ll be thinking in a year or two…

What is on your current playlist?

All sorts of things – of course the composers mentioned above, but also lots of Donatoni, Jonathan Harvey, Andriessen, Kurtag, Jurg Frey, Ben Sorensen, George Benjamin, Unsuk Chin, plenty of the classics too – Bach, Chopin, Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky, Berg etc., and lots of jazz – Miles Davis, Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Robert Glasper, plus some jazz funk too (the last thing I bought was a new copy of Miles Davis’ On The Corner).

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

This piece is actually part of an ongoing exciting project – it’s a residency with BBC Radio 3 in partnership with Sound and Music, to celebrate the station’s 70th anniversary, lasting 70 days. So each week you’ll hear a new short piece broadcast on Radio 3 Breakfast and some other pieces by me (both old and new) going out across the network during that 10 week period. I’ll also be speaking about my music and other exciting contemporary composers during that time.

 

BBC Radio 3 recording

We’ve just had a great weekend in London rehearsing and recording Matthew Kaner’s first piece for his Embedded: Radio 3’s Composer in 3 residency in partnership with Sound and Music.  Listen out for us on the Radio 3 Breakfast show every day next week at 8.20am!

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Team perc!

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Ed in action

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Team woodwind!

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In rehearsal…

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