With just 4 days to go until Iain Chambers' Bascule Chamber Concerts return to Tower Bridge. We spoke to Philip Tagney of Langham Research Centre who will be bringing their trademark experimental techniques to fill the cavernous space with an interpretation of Handel's Water Music.
Hi Philip, we can't wait for this year's concerts. Tell us more about Langham Research Centre's unusual techniques
We collaborate on group compositions, which is a relatively unusual way to compose, at least in the “classical” tradition, which puts great store by the unique inspiration of the solitary composer’s mind and conceptions. We instead pool our creative ideas, endeavouring to make something greater than the sum of the individual contributions. We still preserve individual ideas, sounds, even whole sections; and these are contributed by all four members. How we then structure these contributions to make a coherent piece is a bit mysterious, but often we choose one member to be the “head chef” to combine and balance the ingredients. We also decide, before starting to compose, on a limited palette of sounds or sound sources which helps to focus the end result.
How was the composition for Bascule Chambers produced ?
We've used collage, which is cutting up short melodic cells from Handel’s Water Music, and re-ordering and juxtaposing them to make a different music which still sounds "Handel-ish"; extended clarinet techniques, where we recorded Kate Romano (who is also performing) playing sounds that approached the electronic realm. Finally, we did soundscape recordings blended with electronic sounds: street vendors’ voices and even traffic noise starts to sound melodic when blended with electronic sounds and heavily treated Handel.
What’s the most unusual space you have performed in?
The Bascule Chamber is probably the most unusual. We have also performed in one of the lanterns above the entrance of Tate Britain, and on one of the upper levels in the vast Turbine Hall of Tate Modern.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
I am inspired by the French musique concrete composers who pioneered collaging recorded "ordinary" sounds to make music - particularly Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, Michel Chion. The brilliant early electronic music of Stockhausen, and the early tape music of John Cage. My fellow LRC composers inspire me, as do The Fall, Aphex Twin and Robert Normandeau. I am also inspired by being still and listening.
What is your favourite bridge in London?
My favourite is Hammersmith Bridge - Joseph Bazalgette’s handsome 19th Century suspension bridge, sturdy in its ornate towers yet graceful in its curved suspension chains; painted green and gold, on a bend of the river where you can start to imagine the countryside is near, with trees on the south bank and the little island of Chiswick Eyot nearby.
> You can still get tickets for Bascule Chamber Concerts running from Fri 22 Sep - Sun 24 Sep.