I just love going to the proms every year as it introduce me to new musicians, composers and music, especially as the Proms organisers ensure that a: they commission pieces from young and upcoming composers and b: there are always UK and often World premieres of music.
So here is one that we went to recently where every piece but one was a premiere either UK or World.
- Pierre Boulez arranged by Johannes Schollhörn: Notations 2, 11, and 10.
- Johannes Schollhörn : La Treizième
- Shiori Usui: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.
- camponotus leonardi
- the grip
- Betsy Jolas: Wanderleid
- Joanna Lee: Hammer of Solitude
- the hammer alone in the house
- a presentiment
- a suicide
- Pierre Boulez: Dérive 2
Ok you say but just what on earth do all those titles mean and where do the Ants come in?
Well Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is also known as the Zombie Fungus! It affects ants of the Campotini tribe which includes the carpenter ants – apparently there are around 48 ant tribes – who knew this other than biologists I wonder? Anyway, this Zombie fungus is to be found in ants in tropical forests. The fungus spores infect an ant which leaves its nest and fellow ants and makes it way to the forest floor where it attaches itself to the underside of a convenient leaf. It remains on this leaf until it dies. It stops foraging etc. It takes between 4 and 10 days for this to happen and during this time fruiting bodies for the fungus grow from the ant’s head (yuk)
see photo by “Ophiocordyceps unilateralis” by David P. Hughes, Maj-Britt Pontoppidan – (http://www.plosone.org/article/showImageLarge.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0004835.g001. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis.png#/media/File:Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis.png)
which obviously opens and then release the spores to infect the next ant. So the music sequence from Shiori Usui reflects this happening. Hyphae is the phase of the fungal growth from the head and thus release and finally death of the ant.
The other interesting piece in parts of course is the Hammer of Solitude. This was written to reflect a poem by Rory Mullarkey. Rory Mullarkey is also a playwright (http://www.bloomsbury.com/author/rory-mullarkey) and has won several prizes for his plays and is still very young only having graduated from Cambridge in 2009.
Quick bios on the young composers:
Shiori Usui: http://britishmusiccollection.org.uk/composer/shiori-usui/ http://shioriusui.com/
Moved to England at age 17 and has been composing here since. Her English stills needs some clarity… Works in ‘sound’ and ‘noise’ improvisation.
Joanna Lee: http://www.joannalee.co.uk/
Currently just completed a PhD in composition at Birmingham Conservatoire,