Huddersfield Unites With Chicago For Electronic Composition

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Huddersfield Contemporary Records label launches Phantom Images CD featuring contemporary composers Aaron Cassidy, Chris Mercer, Charmaine Lee, Sam Pluta and Katherine Young and uniting the universities of Huddersfield, Northwestern and Chicago

ONE of the most bizarre orchestras ever assembled – a 46-piece “one-man band” – is included on a new recording that also traces cultural threads between two very different urban centres … Huddersfield and Chicago.

Phantom Images, featuring four compositions, is the first disc to be released as a result of the international research network named Speculations in Sound, convened in 2015 by the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) at the University of Huddersfield.

The network brings together leading international composers, performers and scholars of new music from some of the leading academic institutions worldwide, and organises global gatherings that have so far taken place in Huddersfield and Belfast, with a third due to be held next year in the USA.  The network facilitates academic exchange visits and collaborations, including numerous links between Huddersfield and the two universities in Chicago that are celebrated in the new recording.

The track, Phantom Image, by Chris Mercer of Northwestern University, features a studio orchestra in which all the 46 instruments – woodwind, brass, guitars, strings, keyboards and percussion – are played by the composer himself, who recorded every part in turn and created some extraordinary effects.

Electronic Composition

There is an electronic composition titled I, for example, … from Aaron Cassidy.  Now Professor of Composition at the University of Huddersfield and Director of CeReNeM, he was previously a lecturer at Northwestern, and his contribution to the disc is an escalating torrent built from politically-charged improvisations made in the early months of 2017.

The 11-minute piece is a departure for Professor Cassidy because it his first purely electronic work to be released on record.  He created the piece using a specially-designed software interface on his tablet computer.

“All of my previous work revolves around physicality of performance and the interaction between the body of the performer and their instrument,” said Professor Cassidy.  “This was a way of forcing myself into a new space.”

The title of his piece is taken from a passage in an 1864 work by Dostoevsky, quoted in the CD booklet, that has uncanny relevance to present-day politics.

The track titled quarks features Charmaine Lee, an improvising vocalist, in partnership with Sam Pluta, who is Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Chicago, and also a Visiting Research Fellow with the Creative Coding Lab at the University of Huddersfield.

The disc opens with a piece created by Katherine Young, playing a bassoon connected to electronic effects pedals.  Titled For Daphne and Delia II, it is a tribute to the sonic experimentalists Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, who is best remembered for creating the original and chilling Dr Who theme.

The various links between universities in Huddersfield and Chicago almost resulted in the disc being named Chicago, it is revealed in the CD’s booklet notes penned by Professor Cassidy.  He concludes:

“Huddersfield is a post-industrial town of about 150,000 in the Pennine hills of the north of England.  Chicago is a cosmopolitan metropolis of nearly three million in the heart of the American Midwest.  And yet the aesthetic threads – improvisation, experimentation, innovation through technology – are fundamental to both communities, and those threads create a vital link between these two very different places, some 6,000 km apart.  This disc, then, is also a reminder that networks are, above all, about people.

Phantom Images is released by Huddersfield Contemporary Records and distributed by NMC Recordings.  A sample of Chris Mercer’s Phantom Image can be heard online.

Northern Chorus

Northern Chorus

Newsdesk at Northern Chorus

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