A showcase for new music

Launched in 2014, the Performing Rights Society Foundation’s New Music Biennial is the leading showcase of new music in the UK. It provides a platform for emerging musicians who are breaking new ground in the music industry, commissioning them to perform a single work to a live audience.

This year the festival was hosted by London’s Southbank Centre and Hull 2017, and comprised 20 unique works, each 15 minutes long, which were performed in various venues around Hull across a three-day period.

The event featured a diverse mix of music, ranging from dance to orchestral, including a selection of specially-commissioned scores and performances that evoked and directly referred to the city of Hull and its musical past.

Through the series of short films below, we hear from the artists who performed at this year’s festival in the build up to the event.

Ray Lee

Sound artist and composer Ray Lee is well known for making artworks that spin, whirl or swing, mixing the kinetic, the visual and the sonic in his public installations. For the biennial, Lee brought his new piece Ring Out to Zebedee’s Yard in the heart of city. The piece comprised electronically generated bell sounds playing through giant conical “bell-speakers”, each swinging from a metal tower. The composition shifted and evolved as a team of local bell-ringers swung the huge cones, and the audience experienced the way in which the sound changed as they walked around the space. In the video above, Lee talks about how his desire to recreate the visceral thrill of a rollercoaster, making audiences gasp as the huge bells swung back and forth.

Jason Singh

Composer Jason Singh created a fully immersive sound experience for the biennial. Titled Ebb and Flow, the piece took people’s spoken memories of the city and mixed them with stories, songs and sounds of the city. This soundscape was broadcast through a dome-like structure of 23 speakers and installed at the History Centre in Hull for three 2,017-second performances.

Singh also ran a soundscape and voice workshop in The Warren, a youth project that has provided support services to marginalised and vulnerable young people in Hull for the last 30 years. In the video below, Singh talks about how the workshop he ran with young people in Hull brought about a composition that shaped his sound installation.

Eliza Carthy

Eliza Carthy is a folk singer who has been working alongside community groups to write music about Hull, interviewing individuals to find out about their experiences of the city. In the video below, she talks about her own family connection to Hull and its culture, and how important it is for people from Hull of all ages and backgrounds to create music that reflects their relationship with the place.

Sam Lee

Working within schools and local groups in Hull, folk singer and song-collector Sam Lee has been leading workshops to share stories and songs with the breadth of Hull’s community. Lee uses stories as a way to break down preconceptions and prejudices, and his workshops had a profound effect on the young people he met in Hull.

In the film below Lee discusses how, as part of the PRS Foundation New Music Biennial, he invited Romani storyteller Richard O’Neill to share his stories with children at a local school. The authenticity and rawness of storytelling is at the heart of Lee’s practice, and the clip shows how his workshops brought these tales to life.

Brian Irvine

As part of his residency, composer Brian Irvine put together a band of around 14 elderly people, including a 94-year-old keyboard player, to create new music and document a collective experience of the city by the residents of Pickering & Ferens Homes. Irvine also performed a piece called 13 Vices as part of the programme, written in collaboration with vocalist and composer Jennifer Walshe. Composed for string players and improvisers, Irvine describes how the piece is “wild and riotous, but also funny and scary at the same time”. Hear him talk about the piece in the video above.

Old memories, new resonances

All of the projects presented in the biennial share a common focus on the sounds of the city, whether in the form of their site-specificity, their use of city sounds or their collaboration with the local community. A true success of the series lies in the way in which it brings to life the memories of the city – both literally, relayed in songs and stories, and figuratively, communicated across the ages through architecture and nature – and transforms them into something vital for an entirely new audience. Thanks to the work of these dedicated artists, such memories will continue to shape the life of the city for years to come.

See also

External links