Tag Archives: Academy Inégales

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Academy Inégales: Purcell reimagined by Joanna Lawrence

“I’ve played lots of Purcell as a baroque violinist with Academy of Ancient Music and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. I’ve explored baroque music through composition and improvisation in education projects. But combining these two strands in the reworking of King Arthur with Club Inégales was, dare I say it, ideal for me! I was playing music I love with the most awesome musicians and, even better, being free with it and making it our own although the true voice of Purcell was never far away. I loved the balancing act between interpreting music from 350 years ago and creating new in the same breath.
There is a Club Inégales sound; or perhaps more accurately, an acute awareness of sonority and balance amongst the players. It never stops still, everyone is inventing all the time. Peter shapes the pieces in the moment, continually composing on the spot by directing the ensemble to vary texture, structure and form. He always seems to sense the fine balance between all those elements by allowing and letting.

However, I had a slight ‘arghh’ moment when Martin asked me, ‘How’s your singing voice? Will you sing the Cupid recit?’ I felt trusted and enabled and somehow it came out! I loved Sam Lee’s rendition of Fairest Isle followed by a freer section. I loved Inégales’ take on the Grand Dance Chaconne, looping, extending certain sections, ending with suitably weird sounds from Joel’s guitar; the alchemy of Purcell.

It was a very different experience working with Club Inégales on the Sound and Music, Embedded project. Two talented composers, Chris Corcoran and Alex Roth, approached working with Inegales very differently. As part of the creative process, I felt the challenge of grasping then questioning the intricacies of the composition. I was aware of the big question: does a composer or collaborator really get the Inégales approach? Primarily this is about allowing the players creative freedom in some way within a composition. ‘Using’ the players as improvisers in addition to interpreters. So it seems to me that to compose for or to direct an Inegales performance, that is a primary concern. How to enable and facilitate a performance to make it unique and original every time. In my opinion, this is live performance as it should be!

Academy Inégales is a project of exploration and creativity in a very free sense. It seems to be a safe place in which to explore how I am as a musician and to develop as a player and improviser. As a ‘composer’, I feel I want input from others, so working collaboratively within Inegales suits me.
It is a breath of fresh air to get to know the others in the group from such different backgrounds and experiences. Sometimes, we find common ground, other times, enjoy the juxtapositions of style. I’m asking myself questions about how I communicate with other musicians. How can I enable and support? How can I show or ask what I need? How can we best work collaboratively? Making a piece with Rishie, tabla player, raised those questions. He is incredibly adaptable and an amazing player, but, for example, we approached rhythm very differently. However, we adapted to each other and I think the piece was more interesting.
There are rules in all genres of music. Improvisation is freedom of course, but whether it’s French baroque or jazz, there are still rules. Whether spoken, unspoken and assumed, maybe Inegales can throw them further up in the air.
Just thinking back to when I played with Les Arts Florissants. Yes, unequal notes and ornamentation, but inegalité is more than that for Bill Christie. For him, it is about natural feel; uncontrived organic expression. Interpreting and exploring the written music with freshness, as though for the first time. It is an attitude, an approach. For me, whether I’m playing with a baroque ensemble or with Inegales, it is about the fluidity of live performance. No two performances will ever be the same; growing, changing, maturing.”

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JOANNA LAWRENCE

Jo sketchJo’s musical passion lies within both early and contemporary music. Her fascination with historical performance has led her to play with most London period bands. She is a member of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Academy of Ancient Music and has toured worldwide and recording extensively. She is violinist with L’Aventura London, who have made a recently acclaimed recording of 17th century Portuguese Love Songs. She spent 5 years playing with Les Arts Florissants and Bill Christie in Paris.
She worked with Icebreaker (keyboard and electric violin) until 2002, including recording Andriessen, Waganaar, Michael Gordon for Decca and playing at Bang on a Can, New York. She played with The Homemade Orchestra including Inside Covers recording and tour, Tides with Tim Whitehead and Colin Riley and Science Fictions with Claron McFadden. She played in the UK Premier of Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa and Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Gamelan. She has played with Opus 20 and Ensemble Exposé, including chamber pieces by Ferneyhough.

She has devised many duo projects with Clare Whistler, dancer, including performance for an Antony Caro exhibition. She recently formed a duo with clarinettist Katherine Spencer, using electronics to play their own compositions, e.g. at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and as part of ‘Response to Syria’ installation in Hampstead. She works with David Gordon, jazz pianist and harpsichordist, in 21st Century Baroque, when two worlds of old and new meet.

She has a great interest in all indigenous music and spent time learning Irish folk and worked with musicians of different cultures. She is frequently involved in  free improvisation projects with people living with dementia through Music For Life, a charity based at Wigmore Hall. She runs 3 bands for kids, facilitating their creative input and leads workshops for OAE. She is a pianist for ‘Bach to Baby’ and baroque violin tutor at Hull University.

 

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Academy Inégales: “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Chris Meade

Writer Chris Meade recalls the Academy Inégales showcase which he helped curate through a programme consisting of quotations from Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Field Guide To Getting Lost. Read his afterthoughts below.

A Field Guide To Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit is one of those books which for me works a bit like the I Ching; wherever and whenever I open it, there’s an extract that speaks to me. I’m a writer not a musician and when trying to think of a text that could work as the equivalent of my instrument for improvisation with the other members of Academy Inegales, Solnit’s book seemed a perfect choice. I opened it at random and soon found a line to chant: “Nor can I recall what the wine opened up for me.” Singer Nouria Bah echoed the words while I found other passages which felt right to speak with the sounds I was hearing. Until that point I’d known I wanted to be part of Academy Inegales but hadn’t known how I might participate with this talented and diverse group of musicians. Suddenly it was happening.

Afterwards I was asked by Peter and Martin to find a short quote from the book that might inspire each of the members of the Academy to compose three minute pieces working in pairs for our first performance together at the Club. Extracts sprang out from the pages which seemed right for each player. When I emailed quotes to fellow member, violinist Layale Chaker emailed straight back to say: “This is the story of my life in one phrase!”

Her quote was: “The mystic Simone Weil wrote to a friend on another continent, “Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not love each other are not separated.” This is the same section of the book that leapt out at me when I came back feeling sad from seeing my son and his family living happily but far away in Stockholm. It inspired a beautiful, plaintiff duet with George Sleightholme on clarinet.

Other pairings included Martin Humphrey’s tuba and Andy Leung’s electronics recreating lost games of childhood, violinist Joanna Lawrence and tabla player Rishiraj Kulkarni making the sounds of our fear of accident or desertion when visitors don’t turn up on time; George Sleightholme dismantling his clarinet and playing on each section of it. His quote from the book was: “Now it is as decayed as a real book might be after being buried or abandoned, and when I think of the scraps that remain, I wonder what weather in the mind so erodes such things.” The whole evening was a rich mix of sounds and ideas.

I applied to be part of the Academy because I’m always interested in collaboration and this seemed an amazing opportunity to work with some fantastic musicians. I’m a transmedia writer, have recently taken to writing songs but have no musical training, am fascinated by the potential for collaborative writing in the digital age and how writers and translators could improvise live in the way that (some) musicians do, making work for specific times and places. Club Inegales in Euston is an atmospheric basement venue, and to be performing a piece of my novel in progress, creating a soundscape of looped words amidst such pleasurable music was a thrill.

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Transmedia fiction involves thinking of a book not as text locked up between covers, but as story orbiting its reader, a landscape that we’re led through by the author who takes us along its sentences and paragraphs, points out good views, sings to us as we walk, hands us keepsakes and clues along the way, leads us to clearings where we can sit and converse about what we’ve experienced and what it’s meant for us. A real life venue like Club Inegales is a perfect laboratory for experiments in ways to make and share poetry and stories. We can put words on the tables, project them onto the screens, whisper them to new arrivals, write on the spot in response to the music, email them later to each ticket holder…

What I like about what (seems to me to be) the Inegales approach is that it uses experimental means to make captivating music. As a writer I’m bored of digital trickery that might look cool but fails to draw readers in. I’ve very much enjoyed the music at Club Inegales as well as been challenged by it.

Words are, quite literally, literal, which means they tend to define what’s going on around them. I slipped in one line from the Field Guide to an improvisation by 12 people and that line soon became the title of the piece. My next challenge is to find ways to include words as a more equal part of our unequal ensemble, so that the spoken word is no more or less important than the piano or the percussion, and for writers to jam together to make something of quality that works in the setting for which it’s made.

I’m looking forward to finding out more about my fellow academicians and the ways they compose and play their music – I know I have so much to learn from them.

Solnit writes: “It is in the nature of things to be lost and not otherwise. Think of how little has been salvaged from the compost of time of the hundreds of billions of dreams dreamt since the language to describe them emerged.”

Since joining the Academy Inegales I notice my dreams often involve a sense of being part of a large group capable of helping to make whatever it is I’m trying to do seem nearly possible.

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Chris Meade is a writer of digital fiction, comedy and songs. He’s currently doing a PhD in Digital Writing at Bath Spa University and writing a transmedia novel about how we live with who we nearly are. The novel, to be published as an app, includes music, puppetry and animation. Chris is the Director of if:book UK, a charitable company exploring the future of the book and he gives talks, runs workshops and collaborative writing projects. He was previously CEO of Book Trust, Britain’s biggest literature organisation, and the Poetry Society where he created the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. His digital novella In Search of Lost Tim (2009) was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘a jeu d’esprit and just possibly the future of fiction’. He’s been published by Penguin, performed on the Edinburgh Fringe and nearly had a sitcom commissioned by BBC 1. In 2012 Chris was a participant in Tino Sehgal’s These Assocations installation at the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. He performs his Nearly Songs with the Ifso Band.

Find out more about Academy Inégales here.