sound festival

October 6, 2014 in featured, Fiona Robertson, guest blog by Fiona Robertson

new sound logoIt’s the beginning of October already and this year’s sound festival is fast approaching.

We’re 10 years old…it’s very difficult to believe that in 2004 we did a small weekend taster to see if there might be an interest in North East Scotland for new music, and then launched the festival in 2005.

It’s strange looking back…so many things have changed, yet the structure of the festival was already there. 2005 was 20 days long (this year will be 19!) and we’d already created a network of local organisations around sound – –involved that year were Woodend Music Society, Aberdeen Jazz, Interesting Music Promotions, Monymusk Arts, Angus Arts, Strathdee Music Club and of course the University of Aberdeen and Woodend Barn. As well as concerts in Aberdeen, there were performances and workshops across Aberdeenshire.

That was the year we jointly commissioned Sally Beamish to write Trance O’Nicht for percussion and orchestra, performed by Evelyn Glennie and the BBC SSO. The Edinburgh Quartet performed new works by Naresh Sohal and Kenneth Dempster, the Hebrides Ensemble performed works by Haflidi Hallgrimsson, Marina Adamia and Olivier Messiaen. Other performers included Bill Thomspon, McKenzie Medboe, the Barbican Trio, the Glasgow String Quartet, Paul Anderson, Frog Pocket and La Boum…! But the most intensive and involving event was an afternoon’s rehearsal and informal performance by a scratch community orchestra of James MacMillan’s Into the Ferment, conducted by the composer, which remains one of my all-time favourite sound highlights. It involved local musicians from 11 to 88 years old, and even I got my viola out and took part (I can’t quite imagine doing that anymore!).

So what has changed since 2005?

The range and scale of the festival is very different. That year there were 27 events, this year there will be 47. In 2005, there were 2 world premieres, this year there will be 19.

sound has been growing up, little by little. It’s gone from being an enthusiastic youngster to a more mature (although still enthusiastic!) festival. It’s moved from being a local festival with a local network to a national festival with a strong network throughout Scotland and abroad. There has of course been a significant addition to that network since 2009. It’s difficult to imagine Scotland without Red Note, who are now our Associate Ensemble and one of our key partners. The local network has not been neglected and has grown over the years, crucial to what we want to achieve…and that is bringing in new audiences.

sound will always be a bit different from a number of other new music festivals. Maybe a little more gentle and less hard-edged. We still sometimes programme old alongside new, with the aim of introducing people gradually to contemporary music. Possibly a contested way of doing things, but it does seem to work for us. And we still have a variety of types of new music and events, aimed at attracting different types of audience.

 

And this year?

Strangely we don’t seem to have any of the same performers or composers at the festival this year as in 2005 (although many have returned multiple times). 2014 is an ambitious, more international festival with a cross-cutting theme of new approaches to traditional music (think harp or fiddles with electronics or works for bagpipes written by major international classical composers…).

The event I’m looking forward to most, though, epitomises where we’ve come to. It’s the result of partnership with Musiques Démesurées, a new music festival from Aberdeen’s twinned city Clermont-Ferrand. We’ve commissioned new works by French and Scottish composers to be performed by the combined forces of Red Note and the Orchestre d’Auvergne. It’s been a major, year-long project, and to see it come to fruition will be great. And the partnership with Musiques Démesurées will hopefully go on long beyond that – helped by sound’s French-speaking (and wine-loving!) team!

Meanwhile, we’ve got our heads down doing all the necessary nitty-gritty stuff – sourcing enormous amounts of percussion, fixing rehearsal times, booking accommodation, organising transport, printing more fliers. After months of planning and fundraising, everything is suddenly very real, very close and rather stressful. So please wait until late November to contact me about future festivals! Unless of course you’re planning a trip to the festival – it would be great to see more of our central belt colleagues making the trip North to hear some exciting new music. Aberdeen’s not that far away, honest!

Events