Just last week, I was forced to throw out my favourite coat! The wool of this trusted mustard-coloured piece of vintage tailoring picked up on a trip to Dijon emerged from my closet as an unsalvageable case of Pollockian felt. The first logical solution to the pressing problem was, of course, to get a modish replacement, in faux-fur no less.
Upon further investigation, it became clear that I was dealing with a moth infestation – but which creature exactly was I looking at here? Surely a case of the Peppered Moth (Biston Betularia), I thought, in light of their fiery taste for sharp style! Having just finished writing a staged piano piece about the behaviour of moths, I have turned into a bit of an amateur lepidopterist myself.
So, there I was, more intrigued than disquieted, monitoring their turnout around the kitchen bin at the ceremonial consignment of their latest source of provender. It occurred to me that I might stand amongst an abundance of familiar souls – after all, the ancient Chinese belief that the souls of the deceased come back to visit their loved ones as moths, should not be brushed under the carpet unconsidered.
Then, aware that the beating of their wings can potentially trigger chain reactions, butterfly effects, my hawk-eyed self followed the party into the hallway where dozens of papillons de nuit were foraging for more laine pure. For a moment, I caught myself woolgathering, imagining the possible consequences and effects of all this unexpected moth-wing action. Finally, the thought of all my woollen apparel besieged and threatened for months on end made me realise that I could not just turn a blind eye to these lepidopteran shenanigans. As a gesture of good will, I brandished some fresh lavender in order to make them leave voluntarily. If only they had known that, like most Londoners, I have Rentokil on speed-dial…
THE DARK SPECTACLE (Abrostola triplasia)
As part of the annual cross-arts festival ‘Touch Of Noir’, OpDerSchmelz have commissioned a new work from me for pianist Cathy Krier. Like A Moth To The Light is a staged piece for piano which was created in collaboration with my Neige associates Kristina Hjelm (lighting) and Ellan Parry (costume/scenery). The piece will feature alongside Rameau, Bach and Ligeti for a piano experience beyond the ordinary and expected, and promises to bathe your preconceptions of classical piano recitals in a new light. For a taste of the program, watch a teaser by film-maker Yann Tonnar. And don’t forget to reserve your tickets for this spectacle, get your furry coats out and fly with kith and kin towards the bright lights of Dudelange (LU) on Sunday, 19th October late afternoon for a very Un-Straussian theatre of Nachtfalter.
Cathy’s “noir” piano program will travel across Europe in 2015 with confirmed dates at festivals Klavierissimo (31.01, Wetzikon/CH) and 1001 notes (02.02 Limoges/FR) and hopefully soon at a venue near you. More info at www.cathykrier.com
Tickets for OpderSchmelz: 20 € (pre-sale), 25 € (on the door) or 45 € for the Touch Of Noir festival pass.
THE CAMEO (Polymixis gemmea)
Amidst this onslaught of moths, here is a cameo appearance of a very dear butterfly!
I was one of 12 European composers commissioned by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) to write a short choral piece for Body of Songs, a new anthology for the commemoration of World War I. I chose to set excerpts from the book Si je reviens come je l’espère by Marthe, Joseph, Lucien and Marcel Papillon (ed. Grasset & Fasquelle) which gathers the correspondence of the Papillon family – the parents, one daughter and five sons of which 4 fought in WW1.
In my research for this project, this was the account of war which touched me the most. The voices of these young people from a small village in France, who write home to their parents and to each other, give a very unassuming picture of the effects of the war on ordinary lives. Their writings are heartfelt and they underline the essence of what it means to be part of a family, and in this case, a family who tries to stay united through a war.
I use five text excerpts concurrently, in a sort of counterpoint and the mixed choir (which can include professional, amateur and children choruses) is divided into several groups, each one representing one member of the Papillon family. You will be able to hear Papillon from October onwards in Budapest (16.10 Palace of Arts), Luxembourg (22.10 Philharmonie Luxembourg), Newcastle (Sage Gateshead 09.11), Paris (Cité de la Musique 09.11), Lisbon (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon 09.11) and possibly further afield. I warmheartedly recommend the book too!
The scores of all 12 choral works commissioned for ‘Body of Songs’ will be published by Faber Music later on.
THE NONCONFORMIST (Lithophane lamda)
On a lighter note, I have created Is there music in this drawer? for the MISBEHAVIOUR group exhibition which will open at the CMR Gallery in Redruth, Cornwall on 8th October and hopefully find its way to London in spring 2015.
A chest of delightful drawers will give visitors five opportunities to behave or misbehave within the context of music today. Unlike other “furniture music”, this interactive installation is a playful investigation into the subjective perception of the somewhat frayed and elusive value of music – a fun and thought-provoking experience for the whole family no matter how (mis-)behaved.
MISBEHAVIOUR is curated by ArtCatcher – 8th – 29th October 2014, (private view 10th October), open Wednesdays to Sundays 12-4 PM. CMR, Royal Circus Buildings, Back Lane West, Redruth, Cornwall TR15 2BT.
THE TREBLE LINES (Charanyca trigrammica)
According to the French proverb, a spot of brouillard in November, simply heralds noël in December. Across the channel, this loosely translates as “London fog brings Panto smog”.
Indeed, the English Christmas season tends to start with a wealth of minced pies and a visit to a traditional pantomime show. I explain for the less anglophile that a panto is a conceivably charming feast of musical theatre silliness, which makes hearts laugh and eyes cry, sometimes unintentionally, and has nothing at all to do with Marcel Marceau!
However, fear not, I have an antidote! My piece Pantomime for tenor voice, piano and three analogue dictaphones will be performed in a concert dedicated to the vocal music of Lou Koster (1889-1973), a feisty Luxembourgish woman composer who paved the way for gals like me. Vincent Lièvre-Picard (tenor voice) and Emmanuel Olivier (piano) will interpret Koster’s mélodies (to be released on CD on the Ar-re-se label) as well as three new settings of one of the texts she used by modern women composers who feel a kinship with her work. This initiative of musicologist Danielle Roster together with CID-femmes will culminate in a concert at Salle Robert Krieps, Abbaye de Neumünster, Luxembourg on Friday 21st November at 20.00. Tickets for the concert ‘Un très léger bruit d’ailes…‘ are now on sale here. (20 €, réduit 12 €, Kulturpass 1.50 €)
The plan is to capture the performance on film so that I can provide all ye Londoners with a dose of commedia del’arte by means of this wonderland-ish, very un-“panto” rendition of Paul Verlaine’s poem for a very merry (un)Christmas to everyone!
MERVEILLE DU JOUR (Dichonia aprilina)
With French For Cartridge, Henri and I have been busy writing material for the new album. We can’t wait to be back in the recording studio, but before that you will be able to hear some of this at Upstairs At The Garage, London on 29th November.
We are first on the bill so get there when doors open at 19.00 or soon after. We’ll be supporting Three Kings High and Josephine and the Artizans.
You can buy £6 tickets directly from us here. If you missed us in Brighton at the ‘Edge of the Sea’ Festival, here are a few photos. The rest of the news is as always on www.frenchforcartridge.com
THE WATER VENEER (Acentria ephemerella) & THE POPLAR LUTESTRING (Tethea or)
Our label Dinner With Daisy Records was proud to launch the new Kawakawa album a couple of weeks ago with a suitably eclectic party featuring dancing birds by a glistening London waterside. Island Species is the debut solo album of songsmith extraordinaire Sam Taylor and the first video single Universe Shifting has just premiered on Amelia’s Magazine blog. The full album of this “soaring brand of dream-pop” is available now in CD digipak and digital formats from all the usual outlets (Amazon, iTunes, FFCshop ). More Kawakawa news can be found here.
Henri was instrumental in the recording of Island Species and he has also produced another record which was released this week: Uncle Luc’s Humblebrag by Stagecoach alumni Luke Barham will provide you with a Wilco-esque soundtrack to your autumnal undertakings! (out on Superfan99 and iTunes)
Like a pixie, I have added a pinch of my own musical magic to both of these albums too. Buy them now and hear them sparkle!
THE DECEMBER MOTH (Poecilocampa populi)
And finally we arrive in December! Only a year ago my opera Neige took flight! We are working on bringing it to various theatres and opera houses across Europe and beyond. More photos and info can be found on the Neige blog. You can now watch a trailer to see what to look forward to in case you missed it.
I also recently took the opportunity to update my website www.catherinekontz.com which now features a complete catalogue of my work, an archive of newsletters and other tidbits. An online shop for my scores is also in the works and will launch, hopefully before I turn into The Old Lady (Mormo maura) or a wintery Cacao Moth (Ephestia elutella). Or maybe I will leave the metamorphosing to pianist Cathy Krier on 19th October. For now, I’ll get back to patrolling our hallway for signs of one of 2495 recorded species of moths, the (all too) Common Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella), which got the best of my Louis Féraud circa 1967.
So don’t be a Stranger (Lacanobia blenna)! I look forward to catching up with some of you furred and sharply dressed minds and souls very soon!