Guest blog: Red Note Ensemble

In his latest guest blog, John Harris, Chief Executive and Artistic Co-Director of Red Note Ensemble, reveals the playfulness and edginess of Inconsistent Whisper, which sees musicians controlled by squares of light. Click the video for a taster.

"The third of Red Note's performances that we're bringing to Huddersfield is Torsten Lauschmann's Inconsistent Whisper. This was originally a Red Note commission from 2012, and performed in the Counterflows Festival in the Arches in Glasgow, subsequently re-worked by Torsten with us up in Woodend Barn in Banchory, Aberdeenshire over the past week.

Inconsistent Whisper is as much a game, or a machine, as it is a performance. The players are completely controlled by the lighting for the performance, which in turn is controlled by Torsten (playing at being God!) via his laptop. Each of the nine players sits in a square of light which changes independently in colour and intensity, dictating what action (amongst a group of pre-determined actions) the player must take. There's most definitely a feeling of being right on-the-edge amongst the players, as they struggle to perform effectively as the lights start them, stop them, cut them off in mid-flow, change their direction, leave them alone, encourage them to create new material or leave them in darkness, unable to play.

In Banchory we've been working with four great local musicians to complement the five Red Note players, and we're looking forward very much to working with four volunteer musicians from Huddersfield when we present this piece which, true to Torsten's visual arts roots, sits somewhere between performance art, technical exploration, compositional support mechanism, and performer-computer-combination-machine."


Guest blog: Red Note Ensemble

Here's another update from our guest blogger John Harris, Chief Executive and Artistic Co-Director of Red Note Ensemble. With hcmf// 2013 just days away, he reflects on final preparations for their festival performances - all three of them!

Enough Already in rehearsal 2"Red Note Ensemble, together with our co-producers LOD Music Theatre from Ghent, are now in Summerhall in Edinburgh, opening Enough Already in preparation for bringing it to the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield on Sunday 17th November as part of HCMF 2013. This has been a really intensive time for us because not only have we been preparing this, but also our Dillon / Fennessy concert for 16th November in St Paul's Hall and Torsten Lauschmann's Inconsistent Whisper for the 18th November.

Enough Already in rehearsalThe technical and musical challenges in Enough Already are different to, but every bit as real and enjoyable as those encountered in James Dillon's New York Triptych. François Sarhan's work is scored for Jackie Shave (violin doubling Stroh violin), Malcolm MacFarlane (electric and acoustic guitars), Tom Hunter (percussion), Gareth Brady (baritone sax doubling soprano sax and clarinet) and Simon Smith (synth). Everything is amplified, and all the players have to sing and speak in time whilst simultaneously playing their instruments. Additionally, it's all precisely click-tracked to co-ordinate with François' beautiful and surreal film and the movements of on-stage actor Claudio Stellato and the sound effects generated by our wonderful pair of live foley artists - Celine and Julien.

Enough Already 3Everything about the show is ambitious and expansive; thematically (the opening line is "Reality is Unbearable. Besides, it does not exist" ...), physically (the video screen is a mere 8m high by 13m wide; finding a rehearsal space in Glasgow for a show with a screen that big was quite a challenge!), musically (François' score mines a deep seam of inspiration drawn from Frank Zappa's The Black Page and other works of similar complexity and outlook) and artistically (the film draws from a wide visual territory including the stop-frame animations of Monty Python, French Film Noir and Jacques Tati) . Putting it all together has been a hugely enjoyable, methodical and at times complex experience. Throughout, François has been admirably clear and precise, holding the whole spectacle in his mind's eye and ear and gradually piecing the component building blocks together until it is complete."


Tour Tales - Mytologier

A week has passed and I'm just about recovered from the amazing weekend which was the Mytologier ‘folk caravan'.

Following a series of school and community storytelling workshops, as well as a pop-up story booth from which we successfully collected almost 40 tales and anecdotes from Huddersfield locals, hcmf// took to the road. We set off in a beautiful cherry red VW camper van, with the Nordic Master of Folk Music, Poul Bjerager Christiansen; contemporary classical accordionist, Andreas Borregaard; and Welsh fiddler, Christine Cooper, on-board. Having explored oral tradition through creating and collecting stories (which will be used not only by Christine to inspire the creation of new songs to be performed at hcmf// 2013, but also by Danish sound artist, Hans Sydow, to create an exciting audio installation to be housed in the Byram Arcade during the Festival week), it was time to move on to collect and make some music.

After a non-crash course in driving a VW by Bronte Camper Hire, I was off!

The van! ? Sarah McWatt











All three folk music sessions had their own unique character. We started in Leeds with a very warm welcome into a local folk musician's home, with not only people but a dog taking part in the session! This group had some great players and a wide array of instruments represented, with fiddles, accordion, whistles, flutes, and bodhráns introducing our travelling players to tunes known and unknown, in exchange for some Nordic music.

After a few hours of getting to know each other musically, the group had some food (and maybe a few whiskeys!) to fuel the rest of the session, creating a new dance tune which merged old and new influences from British and Nordic music that we had played that evening. A pretty late night...followed by an early start, at least for me, as I kept my date with Radio Sheffield's Saturday Breakfast Show to talk about Mytologier, after a generous 4 hours' sleep!


Up next was Shakespeares Pub, Sheffield, with some really skilled players with a particular interest in Scandinavian folk, and so this group included an enchanting Swedish instrument, the nyckelharpa (not too dissimilar to a hurdy-gurdy). We had some real success composing through improvisation, producing two tunes of very different styles. We even test drove the new pieces with some of us doing some Swedish and Danish dances whilst the new music was played! The afternoon kick started a late-night session back at the home of one of the participants. You can't stop this lot!

Listen to one of the Sheffield session's compositions, entitled The Weasel here:

Christine Cooper and Andreas Borregaard ? Sarah Mc
























Lastly was the Huddersfield session at the Grove Inn, which was very much Irish influenced. After a humble start with just a few players, it livened up considerably after an hour or so (it was Sunday, after all!) with a growing crowd of not just musicians but avid listeners gathering in the bar. The tunes in this session were played at top speed, and roused occasional crowd participation, singing along with some well-known Irish numbers. After an exchange of ideas from different regions represented in the group, another new piece was created, just in time for Poul and Andreas to depart...but we couldn't part Christine from the group and she carried on playing with them as the VW sped away to deliver the Danes to their plane! Perhaps she is still there now...

Huddersfield session (c) Sarah McWatt










Each session produced original work, with four entirely new pieces being created in total, each of which will be used for the Dance Workshop which takes place at 10.30am-11.30am on Sunday 24 November, and is free and open to all - experienced dancers or, like me, complete novices.

Although based entirely in Yorkshire, the sessions provided a real tour around the British Isles for the visiting Danes, with Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England being represented musically. And thankfully they gave us Brits an unforgettable journey around the Nordic region!

When it was time to give the van back, well I'll be honest, I just didn't want to. So, if anyone is struggling to think of that special Christmas gift for me, our trusty hire company, Bronte Camper Hire, has a pretty little yellow van for sale...I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Sarah McWatt

hcmf// Learning and Participation Officer

Mytologier is a free event which takes place on Sunday 24 November and celebrates folk culture and mythology from Britain and the Nordic region, through participatory events as well as performances from some of the best experimental artists working in new music today. Please see the brochure for further details. To take part in our activities, or for further information about our Learning and Participation Programme, please contact Sarah on 01484 471 116 or at 

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