Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
The BBC Symphony Orchestra is to give the world premiere of a specially-commissioned concerto for a revolutionary new instrument at their Maida Vale home in January. The concerto for the ground-breaking concert MIDI-harp has been written for world-renowned harpist Sioned Williams, who has been principal harpist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for 20 years.
Sioned – widely regarded as the UK's top exponent of new music for the harp – has also commissioned this concerto. The new concert MIDI-harp has been in development for around 20 years and is a revolutionary advancement in the history of the harp.
The concerto is set to reveal the capabilities and technicalities of this ground-breaking new instrument. The electric instrument has excellent pickups and a high quality output and each string acts as a trigger for a multitude of MIDI effects, patches and samples.
It is possible to mix the natural sound of the harp with the MIDI sound simultaneously, thus enabling a genuine dialogue between the worlds of classical and electronic music – a dialogue that lies at the heart of music today.
Sioned says: "I have always been keen to explore the newest inventions for the harp in a creative way and it's a dream come true that I'm able to bring the first ever concert MIDI harp into the contemporary music area in such a spectacular way.
"To perform a most imaginative concerto on this revolutionary instrument (the result of many years of technological experimentation) is in itself exciting. To perform in the iconic Maida Vale Studios (so appropriate since the pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop was created here) with my colleagues in the brilliant BBCSO will be an incredible experience."
No Doubt was written by composer Graham Fitkin, who says: "The ability of this new instrument to play recorded samples or trigger MIDI effects and parameters means that the archetypal Western perspective of the harp and its associated heavenly docility can be turned on its head...
"I wanted to inject a certain brutality and rawness into the music and decided exclusively to use speech sounds, many of them untreated and bare. I want the music to hover between abstraction and narrative, to use voices we may recognise and to focus on the rhetorical posturing machismo of modern political life in contrast to that dreamy harp sound we're accustomed to."
Sioned Williams has always enjoyed a hugely diverse career as a harpist and has been principal harp of the BBCSO for 20 years. Expanding the repertoire for harp, Sioned enjoys researching and performing music which has been largely forgotten and regularly commissions and performs new music – to date, she has had over 30 solo works written for her.
Renowned for creative programming, as well as presentation, her own series Affairs Of The Harp was heard on BBC Radio 3 and BBC World Service and she has appeared on countless television and radio programmes and in concert venues worldwide.
Graham Fitkin was born in 1963 and lives and works as a composer in Cornwall. He works with acoustic and electronic instruments, collaborates with dance, film and digital media alongside concert orchestral and chamber music and enjoys involvement throughout the chain of music making – performing, conducting, producing and educating.
Graham has collaborated with many of today's foremost performers of new music including Powerplant, Nederlands Blazersensemble, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathryn Stott, Will Gregory, Smith Quartet, Piano Circus, Ensemble Bash, Combustion and Elysian Quartet.
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