The third album in the Panufnik Legacies series features brand new recordings of music from alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme. We asked the composers themselves to tell us a little more about their experience writing for and recording with the Orchestra, so why not listen along with their thoughts in mind?
Ayanna Witter-Johnson's Fairtrade?
'I composed Fairtrade? in 2008 as part of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme. It is a short four-minute work exploring my interest in the global rise in demand for cheap clothing, oftentimes produced in sweatshops. This fast-paced, low-cost manufacturing process comes at a high cost in other areas, such as impeding many millions of young people from receiving formal education, suffering abuse and in some cases incurring fatal injuries. This multi-billion pound ‘fast-fashion’ industry continues to grow and is still both of great interest and concern to me over ten years on.'
Ewan Campbell's Frail Skies
'I think of this process of conception as more akin to sculpture, and certainly, composing Frail Skies for orchestra felt similar to wood carving. In my limited carving experience, the natural form of the wood informs the eventual shape, and I start chiselling with nothing more than a vague sense of the outcome. Each cut of the chisel is directed by the feel of the wood’s grain and slight differences in its density, with the eventual form being arrived at through a series of ever closer approximations until eventually smoothing the surface with the finest grade of sandpaper. When composing Frail Skies I similarly edited and re-edited, stepping back occasionally to see how the overall form was taking shape'
Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian's A dancing place 'Scherzo'
'A dancing place comes from the meaning of 'orchestra' in Ancient Greek theatre. This scherzo plays with Classical concepts of democracy and comedy. It is inspired by a Marx Brothers sketch in which the conductor taps the music stand and the players tap their stands in response, undermining authority. There are chaotic moments in this piece that are subject to chance according to the society of the orchestra that plays it. These are marked with brackets detailing which group, women or men, is allowed to play. The orchestration you hear now is specific to this recording, and those individuals performing.'
from notes by Cevanna Horrocks-Hopayian © 2020
Donghoon Shin's In This Valley of Dying Stars
'I was going through a bit of a crisis when I got selected to participate in the Panufnik scheme in 2016. I wanted to break out of the influences of my musical heroes – especially György Ligeti – and wanted to write something new.
I decided to write more linear, lyrical and polyphonic music. Two workshops of the Panufnik scheme offered the best possible opportunity to listen to my work played by the very best orchestra and conductor, to experiment and to improve. Retrospectively, In This Valley of Dying Stars had many technical flaws. However, fortunately, I had the best orchestra in the world working with me. So, during the scheme, I had the chance to improve my skills and fix the flaws.'
Alex Roth's Bone Palace ballet
'While writing Bone Palace ballet, I was preoccupied with questions around how and why we document human experience. The title is borrowed from Charles Bukowski, whose eponymous poem seeks to make sense of 'this dusty dream'. In the piece itself, I allude to one of the earliest recordings of music known to exist - a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt featuring an orchestra of 500 musicians and a 4,000-strong choir, captured on wax cylinder inside Crystal Palace in 1888. The music is buried deep underneath considerable surface noise, giving the recording a ghostly quality I find exquisitely poetic.'
from notes by Alex Roth © 2020
Matthew Sergeant's but today we collect ads
'I originally wrote my short orchestral piece but today we collect ads as part of the 2008 iteration of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme. The idea of working with a professional orchestra – the London Symphony Orchestra no less – was utterly overwhelming and totally terrifying. It is cast in seven (sometimes tiny) movements, although perhaps ‘episodes’ is a better term. With a couple of exceptions, each episode does two things. Firstly, something from a previous episode (a melodic fragment, a textural idea, a gesture) is re-interpreted and re-invented, almost as if misheard in an eavesdropped conversation. Secondly, each episode sends its material on a deliberately strange new narrative path, as if taken to a place it wasn’t supposed to go. I suppose I was setting up a series of obfuscated connections across the piece...'
Patrick Giguère's Revealing
'Writing music, making art, or creating anything really, is for me always a personal journey. As I do it, I end up thinking, feeling or dreaming about all sorts of things. These are sometimes technically related to what I’m doing, but most of the time they are not. For example, when faced with a musical decision ('Should I throw this material away, or rework it instead?'), I start drawing parallels with past experiences ('I should have thrown this relationship away instead of trying to make it work …') and in the process, I learn about myself ('I was too weak to stand my ground and move on.'). This is what my piece Revealing – which appears on the LSO’s latest release Panufnik Legacies III – is about. It is about this particularly intense process/adventure and I think (hope!) that this intensity can be perceived on listening.'
Sasha Siem's Ojos del cielo
'Ojos del cielo ('Sky eyes')—'the eyes of a person who is absent or no longer here'. A background melody is repressed and rendered ‘numb’ by its mechanised dissection in the foreground as well as the abrupt choking of its persistent attempts to ‘break free’. In addition, the potential power of the symphony orchestra is denied by an overall throttling of natural resonance.'
from notes by Sasha Siem © 2020
Bethan Morgan-Williams' Scoot
'In early 2015, I made my way down to London to meet members of the London Symphony Orchestra having been selected to collaborate with the orchestra over a three-minute commission as part of the Panufnik Scheme for composers. I was terrified when it came to the day of the workshop. I had never worked with professional players before and this was no small feat. I hadn’t been expecting many people to turn up but, the stalls were nearly full. I am still grateful for Claire Mattison’s presence that day. Boy does she know how to deliver a pep talk! I think if it weren’t for her, I would have run away.'
Michael Taplin's Ebbing Tides
'The initial inspiration for Ebbing Tides came from a very early morning walk (between 3 and 4am!) by the shoreline on the beach in Aldeburgh. It was in the summer of 2013 when I was participating in a composer course there. The silence from the absence of human activity at such an early hour in the morning enabled me to hear with great intensity the sound of the waves advancing and receding. Listening back to Ebbing Tides now I can hear how this experience informed my music. The sensation of subtle movement within a still frame pervades the atmosphere of the piece.'
Benjamin Ashby's Desires
The reconciling of opposites has long been a preoccupation for composers, but in Desires Ashby explores one of the most fundamental juxtapositions within human nature. It is, he says, a ‘deeply personal work’, one that delves into instinctive, abstract ideas in a truly visceral way. At odds here are ‘the desires of the flesh’ and the ‘desires of the spirit’, which push and pull against each other in a struggle for reconciliation.
from notes by LSO Live
Joanna Lee's Brixton Briefcase
'Brixton Briefcase' is a slang term for a portable cassette player. Born in the 1980s, much of my childhood was spent listening to my cassette player – heading to my local independent music store or Woolworths to sift through reams of classical and pop cassette albums, purchasing an eclectic mix from Dvořák to Run DMC to Ella Fitzgerald. Interspersed with my avid listening were dance lessons and piano practice. This piece is essentially a reflection of this – the influence of pop music and dance amidst a life focused on classical music practice. The work uses a tone-row lifted from an R&B song which, focusing on the percussive and rhythmic qualities of the orchestra, develops and expands into a dance-inspired piece.'
Each year the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme gives six composers the chance to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, under the guidance of our Principal Guest Conductor Francois-Xavier Roth and composers Colin Matthews and Christian Mason. Launched in 2005, the scheme was devised in association with Lady Camilla Panufnik to celebrate the musical legacy left behind by her husband, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, and to give new generations of composers new opportunities to develop their skills. Since then, over 80 composers have participated and the Orchestra has released several albums showcasing the work of these incredible new talents.
The third album in our Panufnik Legacies series features new music from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby & Joanna Lee.
This recording has been generously supported by The Boltini Trust. The LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme is generously supported by Lady Hamlyn and The Helen Hamlyn Trust.