Ben Foskett (born 1977)
Recorded live on: 21st October 2011
Duration: 15 mins 15 secs
On From Four (Psappha commission)
by Ben Foskett
Engagingly mysterious, cello and double bass begin by slowly and quietly weighing intervals, to which soft chords respond. The music starts to move forward more decisively when the percussionist enters on cimbalom - the wonderfully clangorous box of hammered strings that will give its tang to much that follows - to strike a B flat, which again will stick around, as a point of departure and pole of attraction.
The resonances of the cimbalom's continuing line overlap with descending scales as the piece ups its game. Wood block decelerations soon usher in marked insistences on B flat again, but fatter: an octave lower, louder and smeared with microtonal deviations. New elements begin to assemble themselves, including heterophonies: bunches of two or more lines following the same melody out of synch.
Shortly after the heavy B flat has moved up to become a heavy E flat, with more repercussions, a pizzicato double bass instigates the main drive of activity: an exhilarating fast movement where heterophonies - usually featuring flute and clarinet, with quarter-tones, and often accompanied by drums and string strumming - are pointed against racing pulsed music.
The waves reach higher and subside before the urge comes towards
the closing section. Here the viola sings in a high register over
chimes from the cimbalom and iterations from the others, these
eventually returning to B flat.
Paul Griffiths ©
Ben Foskett's On From Four was commissioned by Psappha through a generous donation from Lord Salisbury.
About the composer: Ben Foskett
Ben Foskett enjoys the writing of Bohumil Hrabal and Lives in France.
His music is mildly obsessed by forward momentum and the control of, whether this be achieved through anticipation or overt energy or the release of. His current preoccupation is to find a place in his language for quarter-tones in which they are used as essential parts of the musical language rather than simply as decoration orwrong notes. He finds that too often excessive use of quarter-tones can grey out a piece rather than add colour so he has come to the conclusion that they need to be carefully selected rather than used indiscriminately within the context of his music.
He is currently working on a set of songs for soprano and saxophone set to poems by the French writer Laure Salama as well as an opera.
Foskett studied with Edwin Roxburgh and Simon Bainbridge at the RCM and RAM respectively and key commissions include his Violin Concerto for the London Sinfonietta and From Trumpet for the Proms. The CBSO Youth orchestra will perform his new orchestral piece Leckey on the 30th October in Birmingham.
Psappha, Manchester's new music ensemble and one of the UK's top
contemporary music groups, was formed in 1991 by its Artistic
Director Tim Williams and specialises in the performance of music
by living composers and that of the 20th and 21st centuries. The
ensemble has an extensive and varied repertoire of hundreds of
works and a reputation for technical assurance and interpretive
flair. Attracting attention from audiences and music press
internationally, it won the Manchester Evening News Award for Opera
in 2000 and has twice been shortlisted for a prestigious Royal
Philharmonic Society award. Psappha has commissioned and premiered
many works by a wide range of composers including the award-winning
music-theatre work, Mr Emmet Takes a Walk, by its Patron, Peter
Maxwell Davies, also recorded by the original performers.
Psappha has appeared throughout the UK, featuring regularly at most of the country's major music festivals, including the BBC Proms, in special Henze and Maxwell Davies portrait series and in the recent Bernstein Project at London's Southbank Centre, and in a residency at the St. Magnus Festival, Orkney in 2009. To celebrate its landmark 20th anniversary this season, Psappha has lined up an exciting and diverse array of commissions from John Casken, Sally Beamish, Gordon McPherson and Ian Wilson.
It has made highly successful tours to North and South America, Australia, Belgium, France, Holland, Ireland, Jersey, Portugal and Spain and this season appears in the United States as part of a residency at Princeton University. Having made a number of recordings on various labels, Psappha launched its own CD label in 2004 with Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot. The most recent release, Busted Micro Shorts, features music by Steven Mackey.
Contemporary Ensemble in Residence at the University of Manchester, Psappha encourages the breaking down of barriers between artistic and educational experiences, inspiring creativity and the exchange of ideas with students through interactive and collaborative projects. Autumn 2010 saw the launch of 'Composition Lab (www.compositionlab.co.uk), an online resource designed to accompany the composition element of GCSE and A-level music. In August 2011 Psappha became the official University of Salford MediaCityUK Ensemble in a unique partnership which will use the latest in media and digital technology based at MediaCityUK to create exciting new ways of performing. Tireless champions of the music of today, Psappha is continually seeking to develop new audiences, breaking fresh ground in its innovative development of the digital dissemination of its work through free-to-view films of live performances on its website. Psappha welcomes people of all ages to try something new, and become involved with the ensemble and its composers through its online resources, in performances and projects and at its pre- and post-concert events.
Psappha has developed an extensive digital presence and online activity through an innovative website which includes many works filmed live in performance.
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