Composer’s Kitchen

Présentation

Cet événement unique centré sur le quatuor à cordes fusionne les concepts d’atelier, de laboratoire, de salle de jeu et de cours de maître. Pendant une semaine, le quatuor se penche sur l’œuvre de quatre jeunes compositeurs et compositrices de la génération montante. Leur pièce est lue, décortiquée, commentée, travaillée, analysée, rejouée, puis exécutée en concert à la clôture. Cette année, le Quatuor Bozzini co-produit le Composer’s Kitchen en collaboration avec Gaudeamus Musiekweek — le renommé festival qui a lieu à Utrecht, aux Pays-Bas et qui présente de jeunes compositeurs innovateurs.

En concert

Dossier de presse

What’s cooking in The Composer’s Kitchen?

Par Kate Molleson in Gramophone (RU), 10 mai 2012
Take the Bozzini Quartet, add six young composers, season with two mentors and stir it all together in Montréal for a tantalising menu of contemporary music-making.

Take the Bozzini Quartet, add six young composers, season with two mentors and stir it all together in Montréal for a tantalising menu of contemporary music-making.

The premise is simple enough: six young composers spend two weeks in April bouncing ideas off each other, a couple of mentors and a string quartet, first in Montréal, then in Yorkshire. The end goal is a showcase at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November. Other groups run other similarly intensive composition workshops, so what makes the Composer’s Kitchen particularly worth writing about?

Probably it’s the ethos of the thing. Billed as ‘a combination of laboratory, playground and masterclass’, the project is hosted annually by one of Montréal’s more industrious and open-minded new music ensembles, the Bozzini Quartet. They’re clearly skilled adjudicators, too, because the six composers (two Brits, four Canadians) selected from 60-odd applicants turned out to be an unusually down-to-earth, musically diverse and genial bunch.

A few days into the Montréal week, composer and CK mentor Christopher Fox confided his epiphany to this effect: ‘I used to teach at Darmstadt’s summer school where students would soon enough kill each other if it meant they’d win the final prize,’ he said. ’Here there’s no hint of competition. Everyone’s piece gets showcased in the final concert, and because they’re all coming from different musical backgrounds they seem happy to pitch in with constructive feedback on each other’s work. Actually, they all seem to genuinely like each other. Bloody brilliant.’ For his part, Fox’s ‘mentoring’ looked a hoot; more reciprocal enthusiasm than teacher-to-student pronouncement.

Some of the composers turned up with pieces that were nearly finished and mostly needed logistical help tweaking details of notation to make the parts playable. Thierry Tidrow brought a score of dense and convoluted microtones that took the Bozzinis — some of the best sight-readers in the business — dozens of attempts to navigate. They patiently explained the pros and cons of various common symbols, while Fox’s fellow mentor Malcolm Goldstein, veteran improviser of the New York avant-garde, just shook his head. ‘Ultimately the composer’s responsibility is to communicate his intentions with absolute clarity,’ he sighed, and pulled out a pile of Morton Feldman scores to demonstrate.

Other participants arrived with nothing more than words and the genesis of an idea, and it was these who stirred up the real depths of debate as the week went on. What’s the point of writing down music? Where does a composer’s obligation end? What potential can be drawn from raw open strings and the harmonics of subtle tuning? John Lely produced a single sheet of spare four-part chords, which the group tugged apart for hours. Lovely stuff.

Composers, mentors and Bozzinis members now have six months to gestate before reuniting for Part II. Huddersfield’s director Graham McKenzie cites the Composer’s Kitchen as a prime example of how the festival should invest in incubating new work. I’m looking forward to the final results in November.

Composer’s Kitchen 2012

Par Scott McLaughlin in hcmf// (RU), 1 avril 2012
Such a problem (and its various solutions) only arises from the experience of working through the piece, for which the Kitchen is an invaluable project.

As part of hcmf//’s exchange with Quatuor Bozzini’s Composer’s Kitchen, myself and five other composers spent a week in Montréal working with the quartet, along with mentors Christopher Fox and Malcolm Goldstein.

Myself and John Lely arrived in Montréal a few days early to see the quartet play in their salon series, a fascinating concert for string quartet and gamelan, and another with the Bozzini’s alone playing a piece by previous Kitchen participant Richard Glover and a hcmf//2011 commission by James Weeks, as well as new pieces by our two mentors, all beautifully performed. It was especially interesting to hear Malcolm’s work as it was completely new to me at the time, and shared many concerns with my own work — but this was also the tone for the week, every piece seemed to connect in some way with what I was doing, this new piece I was writing flows out of my way of musicking but was also developing from the environment of the Kitchen, soaking up ideas and connections.

The Composers Kitchen began on Sunday for introductions and a run through of the initial sketches. Each composer approached the Kitchen in their own way. Some arrived with pieces that were almost completely written, and across the week the players drew out an infinity of nuance and detail, prompting plenty of useful discussion as the works are questioned and refined. Some arrived with only an idea, a few scraps of notation, directions, constraints, techniques, etc., and the players responded with a wonderful willingness to experiment, fully engaged with the exploration.

Myself, I arrived in Montréal with no score but some materials and text directions, a fuzzy expression of a clear idea with two things that I wished to explore. The main idea was the inherent non-linearity of sound production in strings when played very close to the bridge. Here the harmonics can be unpredictable and change with the slightest variation in bowing, requiring a virtuosity of touch that I’ve seen the Bozzini’s bring to performances of Jurg Frey and others. The other idea was to center the interaction of the players as much as possible on listening. To construct a score in the tradition of Christian Wolff and others where the players are cueing each other through sound, or making decisions based on what they can hear from the group as a whole. In practice, this last element proved most awkward and needed to be rethought as the week went on. When all the quartet are playing high slow harmonics with no sharp attacks, it is almost impossible to know who is playing what. While I was certainly after a high level of blending (a single sound across the quartet) I hadn’t anticipated that it could also undermine the interaction of the players. Such a problem (and its various solutions) only arises from the experience of working through the piece, for which the Kitchen is an invaluable project.

We all work each day from 9-5, composers meeting in pairs or groups with mentors and performers. Variations are tried, notations are queried, revised, and tried again, material is moved around, replaced, re-examined and reinforced. In the evenings there is always excellent food and drinks, especially at Casa Del Popolo.

During the week we alternate sessions with mentors with group rehearsals, and each morning begins with a listening session with works drawn from the quartet’s repertoire. As the week goes on there’s a shift from experimentation to consolidation, in preparation for the closing concert. The quartet explained at the start that none of us should feel obliged to have a piece ready for the end of the week, but no-one declined the offer of a concert rendition; I at least want an opportunity to hear the piece in a public performance context, to see how the ideas hold up. In the end, for my piece we settled on a single idea, only the players’ right-hand would be used, coaxing out the natural harmonics of the strings using only the bow, varying its speed, pressure, and position on the string. A rough structure and score is drawn up for the concert, and results in performance exceed my expectations, but still the piece is not complete, more work needs to be done on the structure and the interaction, but the technique at least is solid.

In November 2012 we all meet again in Huddersfield to rehearse and finalise the pieces for performance at hcmf//.

Review

Par Seán Clancy in seanlclancy (RU), 3 mai 2013
I’m just back from two fabulous weeks in Montréal where I was a participant in the Bozzini Quartet’s Composer’s Kitchen…

I’m just back from two fabulous weeks in Montréal where I was a participant in the Bozzini Quartet’s Composer’s Kitchen alongside fellow composers Marielle Groven, Simon Martin and Amber Priestley, as well as mentor composers Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle. We were all immensely fortunate to work extremely close with the quartet and two incredibly brilliant and insightful mentors and for this I am very grateful. Prior to Composer’s Kitchen, it was a great treat to hear some wonderful English, Canadian and Norwegian music during the Bozzini Quartet’s Salon QB series where they were joined by English Pianist Philip Thomas. These were extremely refreshing concerts with superb performances, with particular highlights for me being afforded the opportunity to hear live performances of Martin Arnold, Laurence Crane, Bryn Harrison, Cassandra Miller, Michael Oesterle & my good friend Howard Skempton. The sound of their music rang in my ears long after the performances had finished.

We hit the ground running with the Composer’s Kitchen and it was incredible. Every day we experimented, refined, rehearsed, discussed and experienced each other’s compositions, with the quartet making every discernible effort to really get inside each of our pieces. Their utter dedication to the music was palpable. This was matched by extremely sound comments and advice from Laurence and Michael which really elevated the pieces. The final concert was a huge success and it was such a warm experience hearing these four pieces really coming to life with expert performances from the quartet.

It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to get to know my peer composers Marielle, Simon and Amber and Mentors Laurence and Michael. A pleasure to hear their music, hear them talk about their music and experience all their little eccentricities and how these filtered into their music. Their music for me was an extension of their personality and it was so heart warming to hear this play out. It was incredibly beautiful to hear their work develop over the week and how it was tweaked, refined, rendered and given birth to in high-definition. For my own part, I was extremely delighted with my own piece Neue Kraft Fühlend and believe it to be amongst the best things I’ve written. It was also such an honour to work with a quartet so dedicated to our music and so interested in bringing it to life. This was trumped only by their friendliness, hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth, with each member of the quartet welcoming us into their families and homes.

I really feel that this was an invaluable experience for my development as a composer and I really feel that I have met some life long friends and co-conspirators. I was immensely sad to have left everyone behind as we went our separate ways, but this was only leg I of our journey together. We will meet again for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival!

I want to thank the Bozzini Quartet (and Cléo Palacio-Quintin for her hospitality!) for selecting me for participation in this scheme and affording me the opportunity to work with them and to meet so many remarkable people.

À bientôt mes amis du Canada!

Critique

Par Lucie Renaud in Clavier bien tempéré (Québec), 28 avril 2013
Lors de la 9e édition de leur Composer’s Kitchen, le Quatuor Bozzini invitait hier les curieux à entrer dans l’antre de la création, à humer ce qui bouillonnait dans le chaudron, en proposant quatre pièces de jeunes compositeurs.

Que trouve-t-on dans la cuisine d’un compositeur? Des sons, des expériences, des idées; autant de potions plus ou moins magiques qui, si correctement utilisées, peuvent mener l’auditeur ailleurs. Et si on pouvait se tapir dans un coin du laboratoire et être témoin des essais et parfois erreurs, alors qu’une œuvre en est encore à ses balbutiements, qu’interprètes et compositeur cherche la voie pour transmettre l’émotion efficacement. Lors de la 9e édition de leur Composer’s Kitchen, le Quatuor Bozzini invitait hier les curieux à entrer dans l’antre de la création, à humer ce qui bouillonnait dans le chaudron, en proposant quatre pièces de jeunes compositeurs (deux du Canada, deux du Royaume-Uni) qui, toute la semaine, avaient travaillé en collaboration avec les musiciens, sous la houlette de leurs parrains compositeurs, Michael Oesterle et Laurence Crane.

Amber Priestley a proposé avec And Yest Something Shines, Something Sings in That Silence une page ludique, les membres du quatuor retournant leur partition après chaque bref mouvement, piochant dans les motifs proposés, assemblant le tout au fur et à mesure. Même si nous avions affaire ici à une narration ne relevant aucunement de la linéarité, le pièce dégageait néanmoins une impression de cohérence, les intentions se trouvant cernées en quelques gestes, souvent habiles.

Neue Kraft Fühlend de Sean Clancy se voulait le négatif du mouvement central du Quatuor opus 132 de Beethoven (de la partition duquel est tirée la citation du titre), les sections plus intenses se trouvant allégées, les passages effervescents devenant concentrés, comme si la structure même du mouvement de Beethoven se trouvait évidée et que Clancy y réarrangeait le matériau, y intégrant bien évidemment de larges pans de son univers. Sans pouvoir obtenir une image claire de la «photographie» d’origine à l’écoute, on peut néanmoins reconnaître le côté obstiné du Beethoven tardif et cette maîtrise imparable avec laquelle il peut échafauder un édifice cohérent à partir d’une simple cellule mélodique ou rythmique. Le tout s’est terminé dans la fatalité la plus pure, les pizzicatos des violons et de l’alto, presque féroces, s’opposant au chant du violoncelle. Une œuvre que je prendrai plaisir à réentendre, qui m’a paru particulièrement achevée.

Les deux compositeurs canadiens ont proposé quant à eux des esquisses, des explorations. Marielle Groven, qu’on avait pu découvrir avec l’ECM+ il y a quelques mois lors du concert Génération 2012, semble continuer son exploration organique, décomposant les sons de la nature, du chant d’oiseau au craquement des branches sans oublier le souffle du vent pour les transmettre en musique. On reconnaissait ici et là des battements d’ailes, des superpositions de sonorités qui semblaient se déformer (un peu comme l’effet Doppler) et le tout m’a semblé un intéressant prolongement (même si la matière était traitée différemment) de la pièce Warblework de Cassandra Miller, présentée il y a deux semaines par le Quatuor Bozzini, qui explorait les différentes possibilités offertes par le chant des grives.

Simon Martin a expliqué en être encore à la phase exploratoire dans son traitement des textures du quatuor à cordes, dont il cherche à maximiser les pouvoirs expressifs, vocaux aussi bien qu’à détourner les fonctions premières des instruments. Ainsi, les archets glissaient sur le corps ou les chevilles des instruments, les musiciens intégraient de menus objets métalliques aux cordes pour obtenir un timbre qui rappelait par moments la guitare électrique par instants et la pression excessive des archets sur les cordes semblaient dématérialiser le son, rendant l’expérience très proche de l’acousmatique. Il faudrait sans doute ramasser tout cela, mais déjà, j’ai aimé ce passage de l’inaudible à l’audible et cette ellipse qui permettait de revenir au point de départ (juste avant les sections avec objets ajoutés et le traitement forcé des sonorités).

Review

Par Seán Clancy in seanlclancy (RU), 17 décembre 2013
This project had a huge impact on my aesthetic and working method and I am so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a class act as the Bozzini Quartet

Special mention must be given this year to my time spent with the Bozzini Quartet. On two separate occasions, the first in Montreal and the second at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, I had the great privilege of working with this amazing quartet as part of their Composer’s Kitchen Project. Here I was a participant alongside fellow composers Marielle Groven, Simon Martin and Amber Priestley, as well as mentor composers Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle. It was such a fantastic experience to get to know my peer composers Marielle, Simon and Amber and Mentors Laurence and Michael on these two separate occasions. A pleasure to hear their music, hear them talk about their music and experience all their little eccentricities and how these filtered into their music. Their music for me was an extension of their personality and it was so heart warming to hear this play out. It was incredibly beautiful to hear their work develop over the two separate weeks and how it was tweaked, refined, rendered and given birth to in high-definition. It was also an honour to work with a quartet so dedicated to our music and so interested in bringing it to life. This was trumped only by their friendliness, hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth. Moreover, it was extremely fruitful getting to see this project through over two separate legs; hearing the pieces grow and becoming more and more refined, developing a strong relationship with the performers and seeing an incredibly polished object at the end of the project at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a group working as hard over such an extended period of time as the Bozzini Quartet. They performed my piece Neue Kraft Fühlend superbly, with the energy and delicacy that it deserves, balancing light and darkness perfectly. I am immensely proud of this piece as I am with this collaboration. This project had a huge impact on my aesthetic and working method and I am so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a class act as the Bozzini Quartet and I hope our creative paths cross again in the very near future.

Creating a new work with Quatuor Bozzini

Par Kyle Brenders in Soundstreams (Canada), 23 juin 2015

Our Artistic Associate Kyle Brenders recently spent a week in Montreal, participating in Quatuor Bozzini's Composer's Kitchen. He wrote a blog post for us about his experience, and how he composes.

Beyond what I do here at Soundstreams, I attempt to have a life as a practicing composer (and performer, but that’s a story for another blog post). I am constantly searching to find a balance between my own artistic practice, and that which I’m working to put on stage at Soundstreams. Some might say that my work as a creative musician is my second job, because I do it after I get home from Soundstreams. But I sometimes feel that Soundstreams is my second job, there to support my habit as a musician! All kidding aside, I recently participated in an emerging composer workshop—a departure from being the workshop designer, which is part of what I do at Soundstreams.

I created a new work for string quartet as part of the Quatuor Bozzini's Composer's Kitchen. The Composer's Kitchen is an annual musical “laboratory” conceived as an artistic "playground,” where composers workshop their new composition with direct support from the Quartet, as well as two composer mentors. The Composer’s Kitchen happens in three stages:

1) A workshop in Montreal and performance of the new work;

2) A few months of private revisions;

3) Another workshop in London, UK, and concert of the final works.

The workshop had four participants that were selected through an application process: two composers from Canada and two from the United Kingdom, supported by the amazing UK organization Sound and Music (you can read about the other participants here). The two mentor composers were Christopher Butterfield from Victoria, BC, and Christopher Fox from London, UK.

This workshop reminded me of how intense the process of creating a new work really is. In my own compositional practice, I know I’ll be performing much of the music that I write. Because of this, I tend to leave a lot of musical information out of the score. Dynamics, articulation, bar-lines, time signatures, instructions for improvisation, and sometimes even the duration of notes, are aspects of the score that I leave out, and figure out either in real-time during the performance, or through the rehearsal process.

I wasn’t going to be performing this new work, so I needed to create something clear and precise. However, I don’t believe in creating a score, handing it over, and expecting the piece to be performed directly as it appears on the page. I love openness, which requires the performers to make their own decisions. I love facilitating surprises for the performers as they play the music, and also for me as the composer of the work. This can create complications when working with musicians used to scores that have the composer’s instructions clearly written on the page. I knew this would a challenge going into this workshop, but I also knew that the members of Quatuor Bozzini would be game for anything.

I had a breakthrough on my piece when another workshop composer mentioned that she views the compositional process as “creating an article of clothing”—composers have to put the pieces of thread together for the performers. I am slightly different in my work—I provide the performers with the buttons and thread, but they have to create the shirt. The materials I provide the performers with create specific musical events, but how each event progresses through time will be determined in each performance. This idea is also where my piece got its name: sewn.

You can see a section of the score below and listen to how it’s all put together. There is a main set of materials that begin the section, and then each player is free to move through their own musical materials. Each player receives only their subsections, separate from the other four players.

My music has a quirkiness that I encourage. I recently played with Bobby McFerrin at Roy Thomson Hall, and one thing he stressed was that everyone needs a level of quirkiness in their everyday, and suggested 10%. I think I’m there with this piece. The Quartet really explored the material with curiosity and wit. But remember, this is only one performance, and one way through the material. Each time the Quartet performed my piece, they created a new version. My music isn’t about capturing a final, flawless performance, but capturing the moment the musicians are presently in.

Another amazing aspect of this workshop was collaborating with the other participants. They each created incredible pieces that inspired me to work harder (you can hear one of them here). Seeing another composer’s music being work-shopped is one of the joys of this process. I love watching how people put music together, hearing them describe what they’re doing, and seeing how the performers respond. It’s this joy of creation that made me first want to make music, and continues to drive me every day. Luckily, this workshop has a second stage, where we all come together again. I’ll write again in February after the third stage of the workshop, which will include a performance of the work in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Embedded: Composers Kitchen 2015

Par Georgia Rodgers

In June I took part in the Quatuor Bozzini’s Composers Kitchen workshop in Montreal. What a wonderful experience, and what luxury to have so much time with QB. I can’t thank them all enough for their help, patience and encouragement.

It was great to get to know each of the four composers (Egidija Medeksaite, Kyle Brenders, James O’Callaghan and myself) and two mentors (Christopher Fox and Christopher Butterfield) who provided invaluable advice. It was a privilege and an illuminating experience to be in the room while each of the (entirely different) new pieces took shape.

I wrote a new work called Three pieces for string quartet which, as the name suggests, comes in three movements each of which focuses on a different aspect of the instruments’ sound: noise/pitch, resonance, friction. There’s a recording below.

Thank you so much to Sound and Music for enabling me to take part in this project.