Utopia at Somerset House

somerset-house

The Uses of Utopia
Somerset House
Strand
London
1 July 2016 . 11h, 14h, 16h

 

Somerset House hosts performances of The Uses of Utopia as part of Utopia 2016 celebrations.

Please find us at the Utopia Treasury at Somerset House, which is in the Great Arch Hall, easily accessible at the ground level from the Victoria Embankment entrance to the building.

 

Condensed Programme

In seeking to musically express some of the themes of More’s work, we were inspired by the primacy of the book’s structure. The first half of our concert, like the first half of More’s book, is composed of all things English. Works by Tye, Pygott, and Henry VIII express the religious ideals, social fabric, and political reality of the time. The second half of the concert comprises Franco-Flemish works, both speaking to the setting of Peter Giles’s and Raphael Hythloday’s discussion, the location where More wrote the second half of the book, and the idealised foreign land of Utopia.

Cam Scott
Tektology, sound installation, 2016

Christopher Tye (c. 1505 – before 1573)
Gloria from Western Wind Mass (Westron Wynde)

Louis d’Heudieres
various interpretations of utopian music
world premiere of new work, 2016

Clément Janequin (c. 1485-1558)
Le Chant des Oiseaux

Performers

Sasha Amaya (16 h)
Rosalind Dobson (11h / 14 h / 16 h)
Leilani Barrett (11h /14 h / 16 h)
Benedict Collins Rice (11 h / 14 h)
Robbie Haylett (11h / 14 h)

Naomi Woo (16 h
Directed by Sasha Amaya and Naomi Woo

 

Programme Notes

Cam Scott
Tektology, sound installation, 2016

Channeling the ambient city and teasing resonance from scrap, Tektology relays the timeless perfection of More’s non-place to the earthly din of Blake’s ‘dark Satanic mills’ and twentieth-century productivism. The rotary motion of the recorded machines around the room alludes both to utopia as a closed totality and an event perpetually forestalled, whilst fixing each listener at the centre of the soundscape, in abstract or isolated equality to their neighbour.

Christopher Tye (c. 1505 – before 1573)
Gloria from Western Wind Mass (Westron Wynde)

While Thomas More was working on the manuscript of Utopia during his travels in Bruges and Antwerp, Christopher Tye was likely a young chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, where he would later earn a Doctor of Music. The Western Wind Mass is one of his most famous works, set to a cantus firmus from an early 16th-century secular song. The song itself was popular enough to have also inspired masses by English composers John Sheppard and John Taverner.

Louis d’Heudieres
various interpretations of utopian music, world premiere of new work, 2016

Utopian thought and musical composition have quite a lot in common: both be seen as acts of imagination that give life to a world that is better socially organised. The most obvious example is probably orchestral music, which has traditionally required a strict organisation of musical ideas and social cohesion to function. Some music grapples consciously with utopian themes: Mahler’s second symphony, in its attempt to express a reversal of death, could be call utopian. It is hard not to interpret Wagner’s vision for a German future that uses a mythologised, harmonious German past, as utopian. In this piece, as perhaps in many others, the musical score is treated as a utopia. It is grasped at roughly and imperfectly, through textual description and rudimentary vocal imitation, it remains as unachievable as ever, leaving a trail of human reality chasing after it.

Clément Janequin (c. 1485-1558)
Le Chant des Oiseaux

A tremendously popular composer of French chanson, in his own day and beyond, Clément Janequin is especially well-known for the imitative, programmatic music that you will hear tonight in Le Chant des Oiseaux, which includes sound effects of simulated bird calls. The French chanson as a genre initially grew out of troubadour and trouvère music of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By 1516 in Paris, a specifically Parisian style of chanson was developing around Janequin and his contemporaries, which abandoned the fixed poetic forms of the fifteenth century.

 

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