Ensemble 1604


Terry Riley – In C

Terry Riley – In C

Our approach to Riley’s work is to bring the poise and playfulness of early music performance to his joyful work. Made up of 53 small melodic ideas our performance of in C is a slow reading through of these where we languish on each phrase. The performance slowly evolves as each of us takes the lead to push forwards at different times. 


In performance the players approach the shaping of the melodic cells with the playful character of early music performance. The live electronics provide a shimmering rhythmic bed, and elegant drones. 

Notes by Tim Cooper 

Artist biographies

What do you do?

I play the baroque cello mainly, but you can also find me playing the ‘normal’ cello, and the gamba, and once in a blue moon the bass guitar. I am also pretty keen on music education in general, and making music accessible to everyone no matter their circumstance.

What excites you musically?

Freedom! Or lack thereof.

Alex asks Lucia – What’s your ideal ‘spirit instrument’ (that you don’t already play) and how does it feel about early music?

Hmmm well it has to be anything bass related, and anything super repetitive… perhaps the double bass (which is pretty down with early music I’d say), or honestly, one of those little one octave keyboards with a synth playing one really, really low note… for minutes at a time… that would make me happy.

When I was a teenager I wanted to record a solo cabasa album, but I didn’t get very far with that, so I’m not sure I can call it my spirit instrument. I’m not sure the cabasa is that into early music – not enough metal.

Rory asks Lucia – What’s the most unusual venue you’ve performed in?

Ah at first this seemed hard, I was thinking maybe a Victorian water tower in a psychiatric hospital, or underneath a skyscraper in an underground lake, but then I remembered Brexit… I saw Brexit into existence on a nudist camp in Kent – we had been playing at a naked jazz and real ale festival, and spent the evening in a marquee decorated in the Union Jack flag having heated discussions with naked people about whether or not Brexit would happen and whether it was a good idea or not.

I’m a composer and I lecture at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In my composing practice I have been working on developing my work improvising with live electronics performing live on laptop. I also work as a sound engineer doing live sound and recording ensembles.

What excites you musically?

Working with other musicians and artists. I find that my own work and my practice really benefits from exploring ideas in collaboration with artists and performers. The piece I’ve made for tonight’s concert is a great example. So much of the most exciting material grew out of improvisations that the group performed in recording sessions that I then structures and re-worked into the final form.

Laszlo asks Tim – What made you turn to past musical practices, and how do they inspire you in creating something new?

I’ve loved early music much longer than I’ve loved contemporary music. I was a brass player but took up the recorder as a way of playing baroque and renaissance music. I think the approach to sound, gesture and playfulness are really explicit in early music and I love that. In my new piece it was the dark depths of melancholic despair that really caught my imagination.

Lucia asks Tim – What’s your favourite piece of tech and why?

This is really hard; I’m actually not a big tech geek! I would answer equally microphones and loudspeakers. Microphones allow me to ‘zoom in’ on sounds and to reveal the small details within. Loudspeakers allow me to play these back so I can make decisions about how to work with those sounds. Between them these give me access to sound to create the illusory worlds I make in the electroacoustic studio.

What do you do?

I patiently explore airports and train stations worldwide — although more recently I’ve been sticking to the train stations when I can.

What excites you musically?

Double dotted overtures and #5/7/9 chords.

Lucia asks Alex – What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever asked you about your theorbo?

I think the weirdest thing (that actually comes up a lot) is ‘does it float?’ But my favourite recent comment from an audience member was ‘I’m telling you, the theorbo’s precursor was the ukulele, which is basically the same as a Portuguese guitar.’ – And I found I couldn’t locate the words with which to disagree.

László asks Alex – I have known you for some time now, and I remember that in the past you were not particularly interested in contemporary music. However, recently you’ve become very keen to expand your repertoire in that particular direction. Could you briefly explain why?  Or which one is your favourite train station?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I think more about classical music in terms of whether it has a practice-based creational element.  My nascent interest in contemporary music is tickled by the mere fact that I’ve come to realise it often harbours the same component practices as early music. And my favourite train station is probably York.

What do you do?

I’m a countertenor (so a man who sings high!) and conductor – it’s about an even split, although my conducting is mostly working with choirs and vocal ensembles (including The Marian Consort, the ensemble I founded), so it’s all part and parcel of the same corner of the musical world… Given my voice type, I find myself primarily singing early and contemporary music, which is handy as I find both endlessly fascinating – it’s always great to be able to combine the two!

What excites you musically?

All sorts of things! For me, the most important thing in music is probably the communication of emotion: this can be in any number of ways, in many different genres and styles of music. As a performer, I want to feel like there’s always a real connection with the audience, whether in a concert or on disc.

Tim asks Rory – How does your work leading and conducting the Marian Consort inform your work as a singer?

The two are really different sides of the same coin, and I always find that thinking about music with one hat on helps to inform what you do when wearing the other. It’s so important as a singer performing as part of an ensemble (which you always are, whether vocal or instrumental – very rarely are we left all by ourselves!) to be aware of the whole picture – the other performers and everything else that’s going on in the music besides your own part – and as a conductor it’s vital to know the expectations of your musicians, so how it feels to sing a particular phrase, where you’re likely to breathe…

Alex asks Rory – If you had to be a member of the Royal family, who would you choose and why?

I’m not an ardent Royalist, but I have had the good fortune to meet a few of them on various occasions – I think probably Prince Charles, as I once performed with him in the audience at Buckingham Palace, and was very impressed that there was someone whose sole job seemed to be waiting to hand him a G&T the second the concert ended!

What do you do?

I play all sizes of recorders, I research the nature and role of performance and performers at the dawn of modernity, and I lecture various things at the University of Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. But most of my time I spend on wondering about why I do what I do.

What excites you musically?

I could be more specific, but let’s go with choices, details, communication, reaction and interaction.

Rory asks László – What’s your unfulfilled ambition? (musical or otherwise)?

That’s actually a long list, but if I’d have to pick a current enthusiasm, I’d say I’d be really keen to combine my musical activities with theatre.

Tim asks László – You’ve played quite a lot of contemporary music, do you feel the recorder is well suited to contemporary repertoire or do you feel it is part of your approach to the recorder that means you’re drawn to this?

Well, what actually draws me to contemporary music is the sensation of novelty, and the process of creation. In terms of the recorder, I must admit that however much I like it, ultimately, I see it as a tool that, just like any other tool, has its advantages and disadvantages. If I can find a way to balance these parameters, I’m extremely happy to perform in any genre. And regarding my approach to the instrument – I try to keep this as open to change as possible, meaning I usually try to alter my mindset depending on what I’m playing.

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