HUH by Jasmin Kent Rodgman

Before applications close for the 2018 Jerwood Composer+ scheme, Jasmin Kent Rodgman tell us about her March 2018 concert, and gives a bit of insight into the scheme. 

IJKR2 bw web’m over halfway through my time as a LSO Jerwood Composer—where did all the time go?! This time last year I was pacing back and forth, thinking about my application to the scheme and what I wanted to achieve from it. As a cross-genre composer, the thing that drew me in about LSO Jerwood Composer+ was not only the creative potential (cue blue sky thinking!), the entrepreneurial experience or the generous support from the LSO, but the opportunity to curate work and present it in a creative way.

I’m sure many of you reading this will be applying for the next round in 2018/19, so here’s a little from me about my first concert, which took place in March earlier this year.

A cross-arts concert featuring new music, spoken word, rap, song, visual art and live interactive electronics, HUH got its name when I discovered studies showing that this was thought to be one of the only universal ‘words’. You could travel to almost any corner of the world and ‘huh’ would be recognised as:

exclamation used in questions to invite agreement or further comment.
used to express scorn, anger, or surprise.

I wanted to take my first concert as an opportunity to celebrate music as a universal language and to also discuss issues which are close to my heart. As artists, it’s not only our creative voices but our political voices that we nurture and grow. So I thought this concert would be a great opportunity to talk about some of the diversity challenges we face in larger life and certainly within our industry.

Hearing Salena Godden’s powerful essay Shade from the book The Good Immigrant, I knew she would be the perfect voice to act as the foundation of the concert with its themes of migration, movement and identity. Throughout planning HUH she was a source of strength and inspiration. This hour-long concert took place in-the-round, with musical works interspersed between extracts from Shade.

Your shade is not just about your heart and soul; your religion and spirituality, your elders and your history, your connection to a country, to geography and to a time and place. Your shade is an industry, your shade is a token, shade is a passport, shade is a cage and shade is a status.
[We] tick: Other.
Extract from Shade, by Salena Godden

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Salena Godden recites Shade and The Letter

Influences for this gig ranged from Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s R&B tinged Rise Up and trip hop, to the rhythmical intricacies of Steve Reich and weaving melodic lines of Béla Bartók.

I was so happy to programme Errollyn Wallen’s hauntingly beautiful song In Our Lifetime. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s prison release, the song takes the Xhosa language, tape loops and baritone 'on an intense, multi-tracked assault on South African angst'.

Errollyn is also my main mentor during my time with the LSO. I feel very fortunate to have her onside as well as for the opportunity to talk with Jude Kelly and Anna Meredith about their careers and creative ambitions. It’s been such an incredible opportunity speaking with women who are leading the industry in such different but equally inspiring ways.

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Adam Jondelius (baritone) sings Errollyn Wallen’s In Our Lifetime

Next up, tracks by Sophia Thakur and Laurie Ogden, from collective Lyrix Organix’s latest album UnFold EP 2, touring and officially released later this year. UnFold EP 2 sees an intimate string and percussion ensemble paired with striking animation and moving spoken word from these two rising UK voices. Lyrix Organix is an incredible organisation exploring the space between language and music, looking to bridge the gap between events and education. When I first met their Creative Director, Dan Tsu, we knew it was the perfect fit and a collaboration was on the cards.

Sophia Thakur is an incredible young spoken word artist whose words focus on the struggles that women and teenagers currently face, as well as her experience of living in the UK with both African and Asian heritage. Laurie Ogden is making big moves as one of the UK’s leading young poets. She’s currently a Barbican Young Poet, Jerwood/Arvon Mentee and one of 2018’s National Youth Theatre Repertory Company.

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Sophia Thakur performing Poetry for the Mandem (Feds) from Lyrix Organix: Unfold

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Laurie Ogden performs Superpowers from Lyrix Organix: Unfold

A new collaboration between Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Hackney-born beatbox, slam poet and spoken word artist Solomon O.B. Solomon O.B provided powerful social commentary combined with Witter-Johnson’s unique sound of contemporary classical and R&B.

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Solomon O.B on stage performing to Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s latest release Rise Up (Nonclassical, 2018)

And last but not least, The Letter, a new work by yours truly featuring a new commission by Salena Godden and players from the LSO. The piece combines word with delicate harmonics, evolving soundscapes, shimmering electronics and an interactive sound installation, conducted by the wonderful George Jackson.

Throughout, audience members were free to move around the space, sit on the floor, stand, do whatever they wished to feel comfortable, experience the concert and interact with the sound installation. In my piece in particular, their movement affects the direction the music takes, so no one performance is ever the same.

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The creative partnerships and friendships I’ve made through the Jerwood Composer scheme so far are second to none, and I’ve been truly touched by the response to HUH and all the work I’ve put in so far.

I’m currently busy planning my final Jerwood concert, CONTOUR, taking place on Saturday 6 October. This is going to be a mashup of electronica, contemporary music, film and dance. I’m also really looking forward to my Jerwood pal, Emma-Jean Thackray’s LONDON JAZZ x LSO PART II on Saturday 24 November! Can’t wait to share more with y’all and get those dates in your diaries!! J x

The follow up to HUH, CONTOUR  will take place in LSO St Luke's on Saturday 6 October.

If you are interested in applying to be part of the Jerwood Composer+ scheme, click here for more information