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).