The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival recently announced that Swiss-American visual artist and composer Christian Marclay is to be this year’s Composer in Residence. Marclay has spent the last 35 years exploring the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video. His appointment as Composer in Residence is an excitingly bold move by the festival – one that challenges accepted notions of what contemporary music can be.
The festival, which runs for 10 days across a host of venues in and around Huddersfield, will feature a wide-ranging programme of Marclay’s work. This includes an exhibition, performances of graphic scores, and an ambitious world premiere. From this impressive programme (which can be found in full on the hcmf// website) we’ve selected three particularly exciting events, which you can find below.
Christian Marclay: To Be Continued (16 November at Bates Mill Blending Shed)
To Be Continued is a graphic score written in the form of a 48-page comic-book. It’s made up of many sampled comic strips, playfully put together by Marclay to be interpreted by singers and musicians as performative instructions. It was conceived for Lausanne’s ensemBle baBel, with whom Marclay has worked since 2012. At the hcmf//, their interpretation of To Be Continued will be a UK premiere, and will be performed alongside two other Marclay works: Fade to Slide and The Bell and the Glass. Both of these scores guide the musicians through the innovative use of video. It promises be a singular event, and should be one on your list!
Christian Marclay: Investigations (18 November at Huddersfield Town Hall)
This year’s festival features a world premiere of a new work by Marclay which calls for – quite remarkably – 20 pianos. Each pianist will be given a graphic score, featuring 100 photographs of hands in various positions on the piano keyboard. The musicians will be asked to transcribe and interpret these images, using speculation to create a sequence of chance musical responses. The players thus join Marclay in the process of composition. Who knows what will happen!
Christian Marclay: Screen Play + Okkyung Lee (22 November at Bates Mill Blending Shed)
Finally, this last event will showcase three progenitors of the British avant-garde tradition: saxophonist John Butcher, drummer Mark Sanders and multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford. They will come together to interpret Christian Marclay’s graphic score Screen Play, which was written in 2005. This score is made from black-and-white found footage, overlaid with brightly coloured animations. It will be projected onto a screen, and the musicians will use it to inform their choices of emotion, energy, rhythm, pitch, volume and duration. It should prove a thrilling test of their powers of interpretation and improvisation! In addition to Screen Play the night holds an exciting solo performance by the experimental South Korean cellist, improviser, and composer, Okkyung Lee.