Red Note Ensemble Shortlisted for Help Musicians UK Award for New Music Performers of the Year

February 26, 2017 in safnm2017 by mwhiteside

  1. You had a busy performing schedule in 2016 – what is it that is exciting about performing new music to an audience?

Haha! Exciting or alarming??! They’re emotions rather close to one another … well, there’s no safety net. No “this works if you do it this way” to fall back on. So even if you’re reasonably convinced in rehearsals that something is good and will work, until it’s up on its feet in front of an audience you actually have no idea. What’s most interesting is that often playing it safe is the most dangerous route – our audiences love the sense of not knowing what’s going to happen. They hate it when things start to get routine and, frankly, dull.


  1. Was there a particular performance that stands out for you?

This year? It’s been an amazing year full of doing crazy mad stuff and getting away with it, basically. The most special things for me were forming the Red Note Advanced Academy for the first time and doing a cracking gig under Concorde for the Lammermuir Festival with our players and a bunch of students from across Europe (and a brilliant, brilliant film for Workers Union by Eggbox), and also the really very wild and on-the-edge Freedom O(r) Speech performance in the Sound Festival with Simon Callow playing the part of Kagel’s Tribune to unhinged perfection. We took that programme to Europe and played Louis Andriessen’s de Staat to the composer himself on his home turf – he loved it. I think my abiding image of the year is actually seeing Louis stand up at the first vocal entry of de Staat, turn around to our sound engineer behind the desk, and give her a massive thumbs up and a huge grin. It’s nice to be able to give one’s personal heroes exactly what they want …!


  1. Obviously each project is different, but in general, how do you approach performing music written by someone else?  Particularly if you’ve never met the composer…? 

Hmm. Meet the composer. If they’re dead, that’s hard to do without a decent seance, but luckily most of the people whose music we perform aren’t actually dead yet. Performing new music is a different thing to performing music by dead people; there’s normally a lot less freedom in interpretation, but similarly you get their creative input and they may bring insights that you haven’t had that make your performance far different to what you imagined before talking with them about it. Personally, I like interesting, new and creative things, and I dislike having to pay homage to a “canon” and a way of doing things. Received notions are the enemy of creativity, and the death of our dreams of a better way of things.


  1. What other projects do you have planned for 2017?

Tons of interesting stuff. Not telling! Big things, little things, weird things, complicated things, amazing things … just wait and see.

  1. If you could collaborate with any other performer in the world, ever, who would it be, and what would you perform?

I’m sure other people in the company would say other stuff to me. But I’ve always been transfixed by Jimi Hendrix and his ability to make beautiful/ugly music. God knows what we’d do. He’d probably hate me / us, but if we could occupy the same stage for a while we could maybe do something really intriguing. And noisy. Noisy is good. Sometimes.


  1. Concert halls and theatres are great places to perform as the facilities are all there for both the performer and the audience.  There are lots of other spaces that would be ideal for new music though…are there any of Scotland’s more unusual places that you would be keen to use for a performance?  Why?

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Boulez and say that All Opera Houses Should Be Burnt, but “proper” performance spaces are a mixed blessing as they are easily made as much places for the production of art as a means of excluding people who might otherwise want to see it. You have to work very, very hard to make concert halls and theatres in to inclusive public spaces rather than exclusive temples with walls to keep the undesirables and ill-informed out.

I’d like to see us working in much trickier public places like shopping centres, as well as produce more “sited” work that frames the event as an event as much as a performance on a stage – so anywhere spectacular, really. Top of Ben Nevis?


  1. Why do you think that it’s important to perform new music?

Because otherwise we only perform old music.