Catherine Kontz



Talking about the weather - the quintessential British trait that may not be as innocent as you think! It’s a bit nippy today may function as an icebreaker, a filler of awkward silences or simply a way to start a conversation with just about anyone over a safe and unobtrusive subject. However, don’t be deceived by the seeming nonchalance of weather talk. A passing comment about today’s mottled cirri might actually be a covert method for checking you out: from forming first impressions to gauging someone’s mood, a well-conducted chit chat about this week’s precipitations will, at the very least, separate optimists from negativists - if you go by the degree of sanguinity in the it-must-be-good-for-the-garden-type answers. I dare say, it is all about the reply! A grunt may suffice for a casual response, particularly if it is miserable out, and on rare occasions an exposé on climate change might be called for. The important thing to remember about “weather etiquette” is that you must agree with the other person! Any difference of opinion will indeed come across as utterly discourteous and ever so un-British.
Researchers have found that weather talk is “akin to the kind of physical grooming that occurs among our primate cousins” and functions as a social code that helps us communicate with each other. So, next time I’ll find myself comparing weather app forecasts with strangers and bonding over “+3°C feels like -5°C”, I’ll be glad that I’m not amongst our hirsute relations picking fleas off my new friends’ backs!
Here is the outlook for the next ten weeks:
High winds and severe weather warnings with dense fog across the Atlantic
How would you like to travel the seas in the company of Don Quixote? Please join me at the Mierscher Kulturhaus (LU), this Wednesday, 12th October at 20.00 for the world première of my piano suite Meerfahrt mit Don Quijote performed by the ever adventurous Cathy Krier and Tatort’s chivalrous Kommissar Dietmar Bär. The work was commissioned by CID FRAEN A GENDER who co-produce this Lesung mit Musik with the Mierscher Kulturhaus and PsychArt.
I have composed the music to fit alongside excerpts from the Cervantes novel as well as readings from the eponymous diary which writer Thomas Mann kept on his first Atlantic crossing in May 1932, having chosen this classic “Wälzer” as his seafaring read. I used meteorological data of wind speeds during the month of May to generate tempi and generally structure the work and the nine sections clearly follow Mann’s route from Rotterdam to New York. I have also integrated the sound of foghorns and the movement of windmills into the musical material which focuses on the piano’s resonance and tone in this piece. So come and witness the pianist’s swordmanship and observe how to tickle the ivories Donna Quixotta-style! En garde! Êtes-vous prêts? Tickets here.
Dry and bright with a moderate breeze
The new French For Cartridge song cycle THE GOLDEN HOUR will be released on 28th October! Mixed and mastered by the inimitable S. Husky Höskulds, we have extended our sound to include the strings, woodwind and brass from the CHROMA Ensemble, the voice of Martin Nelson and a panoply of bells and keyboards. If you supported our recent Pledge Campaign you will get your digital copy of the album on date of release sent to your inbox. If you haven’t pre-ordered it yet, fear not, there is still time! Eventually the album will be widely available, but for now, it will only be available in digital form from us directly here. All other physical pledges will also be fulfilled by the end of the year.
We have chosen the title for two reasons - in medical terms, the golden hour is the first hour after a traumatic injury, when emergency treatment is most likely to be successful. Climate change and accidents inform a lot of the lyrics of this album and as such, we find it suitable to call for action on environmental issues at this hour, when the problem has been identified and there still is a chance to fix it. In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is at a higher angle which makes for dramatic skies and surreal cityscapes.
We feel that this collection of songs is an intricate body of work that benefits from quiet listening and real-life social sharing. So, to launch the album we will hold Golden Hour Listening Parties, in outside spaces where the light hits the surrounding environment in particularly spectacular ways during the said golden hours. We’ll announce these happenings throughout the next few months on our website and social media in due course. If you would like to become a “French For Cartridge Horologist” and host your own Golden Hour Listening Party, small or large, let us know in advance and we will provide you with a golden hour signal splitter that will make it easy to co-listen and share the music with your friends. All you have to do is seek out the right spot, keep an eye on the weather forecast and invite people to bring their headphones. There is even a golden hour calculator to pinpoint the propitious moment wherever you are in the world! We hope to encourage FFC Friends to take a break from their busy lives and come together for a moment of contemplation and possibly discuss what needs attending around us - in our neighbourhoods, our countries or further afield - and do something about it. More information on these events and news on future live dates will also be on the website soon.
Cloud seeding and a few scattered showers
So what if we are actually able to make the weather? Be it for the clear skies of Olympic ceremonies, the staving off droughts or the use of cloud seeding within warfare, it seems to be common practice now to mess with the rain by artificial means. No need for prayers here as silver iodide and salt powders do the job! This slightly worrying development on the weather front is my starting point for a new string trio commissioned by the Philharmonie Luxembourg for their Rainy Days Festival. Die Regenmacher is written for the string section of the acclaimed ensemble recherche who will perform their program ‘Wut Im Bauch’ as part of this year’s ‘into the wild’ festival theme on the afternoon of Saturday 10th December at 17.30. Tickets are on sale now!
Patchy cloud with further showery outbreaks of rain in the coastal areas
A video recording of the première of Sardines for percussion quartet is now available to view online! It was written for Architek Percussion in the context of NU:NORD 2016. These four Canadians with their thirty-one tin boxes and fourteen types of spices will most certainly cheer you up on inclement days!
The average person spends the equivalent of five months of their life in weather small talks. As much as a third of the British population are talking about it at this very moment and I’m happy to add to the discussion all through this autumn! In fact, I will enjoy eavesdropping on weather conversations on the school run and try to exchange interesting facts about clouds with the other parents, something I would like to apologise for already now. In the current chilled political climate, this mea culpa will help my European self go more unnoticed and fit in better, since there is only one thing more British than talking about the weather - apologising for doing it!
’til next time,

My usual website has been compromised and is not available at the moment. In the mean time please find my latest newsletter here below and don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions on performances or works you may have at catherinekontz(at) 

My shop Noutefabrik for scores is open as usual at

You will also find examples of my music on VIMEO and SOUNDCLOUD



Fact - by the age of five months, babies have good colour vision. So, as of last Thursday, I can’t pretend that our son’s puzzled look while drooling over colour swatches is anything but a speck of skepticism regarding our choice for home improvements. His sister has secretly circled Nancy’s Blushes, a venturous pink on the Farrow and Ball chart, while Henri and I are snowblinded by an avalanche of nuances of white.

So, why not choose something more off the wall than a simple shade of #FFFFFF for our refurbished partitions? Indeed, what a thrill it would be to willfully splash Mouse’s Back over the hallway and cover the kitchen walls in Monkey Skin! A fresh coat of Mole’s Breath would unearth my penchant for an ambrosial 70s palette, which could potentially call for the rest of the flat to be washed in Mikado Orange and Pilgrim Brown. After all of that, you’d however need an imagination to channel the minimalist Nordic vibe we like.  

So far, 2016 is proving to be a year drenched in variegated colours, saturated in exotic scents and dipped in original flavours - a prophetess perhaps of exciting aural worlds to be composed, performed and experienced:


First off, this Saturday, 7th May, sees the premiere of my new 17-minute orchestral work, Fruitmarket, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Ilan Volkov as part of the Glasgow Tectonics Festival at the Old Fruitmarket/City Halls. The musical material is derived from transcriptions of market vendors’ calls and shouts collected from around the world. As a spatial work for this extraordinary venue, Fruitmarket sets the scene for a perambulating audience by positioning the orchestral musicians all around the hall, including the upper galleries and so explores the natural surround sound of this old market space. It is a piece to be experienced live in the room, although a later BBC Radio 3 broadcast might also transport you to the streets sounds and scents of Morocco, Greece, Peru or Japan. Listen out for the sound of scaffold tubes that bookend the piece, the boxing bell that opens the market, the vociferous trading, the church bells, the marching parade, the canon of Taiwanese snake oil selling - you will not want to miss it! Details of a future broadcast will be on my website as soon as I know more. The program also features new works by Crane, Emsley, Kenney/Kang as well as the much anticipated new piano concert by Howard Skempton for John Tilbury.


I am delighted that soprano Juliet Fraser continues touring the UK with her Voice(s) program. Tea Break For Juliet for tape and flowering tea, performed by Juliet and mixed by S. Husky Hoskulds will thus feature on the program at The Hepworth/Wakefield (14th May, 15.00-17.00) and the Union Chapel Bar/London (18th May, 19.30). Come and smell the music!


Over the next few months, Lou Koster’s Oratorio Der Geiger von Echternach will be performed three times in Luxembourg: 4th June in Echternach/Trifolion, 2nd July in Soleuvre/Artikuss and 16th July in Diekirch/Eglise Décanale. My piece Le Joueur de Vièle, which was commissioned by CID Fraen a Gender and offers my own pared-down version for solo violin and dancer of this Luxembourgish legend, will be performed as part of each of these events. Le Joueur de Vièle was first performed last summer in Ouessant, albeit with an imaginary dancer. This time, I am thrilled that Gianfranco Celestino will premier the dancing part of this duet together with the first violinist of the Orchestre Estro Armonico, Jehanne Strepenne. I am also hoping to exhibit the score, which comes in 32 connected tableaux at these concerts.  


You can now watch the performance of The Moon Moves Slowly [But It Crosses The Town] for large Tam-Tam and ensemble performed at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival by Ensemble Lucilin online at I Care If You Listen TV or on my Vimeo channel. Also, as part of Mudam’s ten year anniversary celebration, Lucilin will perform the piece there again on the afternoon of 2nd July. Please check my website for further details on this nearer the time.


I am taking part in the nu:nord artists residency program which brings together musicians from Canada, Norway and the UK for a series of concerts this summer. For this occasion I have written a new piece called Sardines for the Canadian percussion quartet Architek which will be performed on 5th August at the Huddersfield Creative Arts Building Atrium and at the NU:NORD Summer Exhibition at Union Chapel/London, an all day event on 7th August! 40 tin boxes filled with granules and spices ranging from tiny poppy seeds and peppercorns to whole nutmegs and cinnamon sticks make this my most fragrant piece yet!!


A new documentary by filmmaker Anne Schiltz on my piece Pantomime for voice, piano and three dictaphones is available now, complete with English subtitles. You will get a look behind the scenes and see me working with Vincent Lièvre-Picard (tenor voice) and Emmanuel Olivier (piano). Watch it on I Care If You Listen TV  or on my Vimeo site.


Last, if you missed the performance in October, here is a chance to listen to my contribution to the Bach Orgelbuechlein Project beautifully played by organianist William Whitehead at the London Oratory. The commission was kindly supported by the Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in London.

Anne of Green Gables by the bedside tonight brings to mind hushed hues of Morning Mist and poetic qualities of Drawing Room Blue. I guess my little family is however too continental to choose a coat of Victorian chic over brighter colour tones that draw in light so that it might bounce off the walls and permeate every aspect of our lives!
‘til next time,