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EmmaJBan

The Clarinet and Jazz

It is no accident that New Orleans is widely credited with being the birthplace of jazz. Over half a million African slaves were living in America by the early nineteenth century and New Orleans was one of the few places where slaves were allowed to own drums and where black musical ritual was openly tolerated – in fact it was enjoyed by black and white communities alike. This New Orleans crucible was the ideal environment for African and European musical traditions to come together, react and evolve into a new music, namely jazz.

Jazz’s evolution didn’t happen overnight of course. Many in the white community thought their European classical music socially superior to any of the native music styles in America. Pieces such as Edward MacDowell’s classic To a Wild Rose from his Woodland Sketches of 1896 were designed to be played in the front parlours and concert halls of the white community and were typically based on the European Romantic traditions of Grieg and Schumann.

Nineteenth century American classical composers would be expected to have studied in Europe, although the father of the American parlour song, Stephen Foster, was one of the first to break the mould, training in Pittsburgh. In the 1890s the Czech composer, Antonin Dvorák, was enticed to New York. His remit was to set up an American music conservatory and an American style of musical composition. Like MacDowell, Dvorák was entranced by Native American Indian harmonies, but when he introduced Indian and African inflexions into works such as the New World Symphony, and the Sonatina for Violin and Piano there was disapprobation in some quarters.

By contrast, African-American music was workers’ music, heard and played on the streets and in dance halls for festivals and funerals.  New Orleans clarinettist, Sidney Bechet, was the grandson of a slave who had been given special status because of his musical abilities.  He would beat out the rhythms on drums in the public square where all the slaves met on Sundays. His music was a celebration but also a way of remembering Africa, of remembering how a member of one tribe would signal to another beating the drums for a feast.

Legendary trumpeter, Louis Armstrong (born 1901), came from the poorest of New Orleans backgrounds and would supplement the meagre income from his day job shovelling coal by playing the cornet at funerals. He describes in his autobiography how his band would play a straight march as the funeral cortège processed into the church and as soon as the coffin was laid in its grave there would be a big drum roll signalling to the band to strike up a ragtime march which required swinging the rhythm for the dancing; in effect the evolution of jazz in paradigm. Whereas the European rhythmic tradition was built on equal pulse divisions ideal for regular marching, the African tradition used rhythms which crossed the pulse and which were born of the poly rhythms created when different musical ideas play simultaneously. These syncopated beats inject a lilt or a swing into music because they anticipate the pulse and make the listener want to dance. Scott Joplin’s great achievement was to marry the two traditions; an African-American from Texas, he nevertheless had a classical training on that most European of instruments, the piano, and therefore played classical rhythms with an African sensibility. His big hit, The Entertainer (1902), was a classic American parlour piece underpinned by the typical African Tresillo syncopated rhythm which was to become the basis of all jazz.

Another arena for cross fertilisation between musical traditions was the cakewalk, a kind of dancing competition held in the black community where couples were gradually eliminated until one winning couple was deemed to have superior grace and poise and was awarded a cake – a kind of Strictly Come Dancing of its day. On these occasions the slaves mimicked and played around with minuets and formal dances and waltzes they had heard at their masters’ balls. They “ragged them up” (literally made the rhythms ragged).  Combined with exaggerated dance moves, cakewalks were intended to poke fun at white people’s music and customs as Debussy slyly implies in the cheeky and exaggerated accents of his Golliwog’s Cakewalk of 1908.

New Orleans was uniquely placed to benefit from one other cultural influence crucial to jazz – Hispanic dance. Because of New Orleans’ location on the Gulf of Mexico it was full of migrant workers from Mexico and South America and there was regular passage to and from Cuba. Dances such as the Habanera, Tango and Conga are based on a variant of the Tresillo syncopated rhythm as you can hear in Ravel’s hypnotic Pièce en Forme d’Habanera from 1907. The way too in which beats are anticipated in Tico-Tico no Fuba, the Brazilian popular dance by Zequinha de Abreu, gives the music forward propulsion which anticipates the irresistible rhythmic drive of Swing. Jelly Roll Morton, one of the earliest practitioners of jazz called this element the “Spanish Tinge” without which music could not be called jazz.

For the harmonies, as opposed to the rhythms, of jazz we need to look to the vocal tradition amongst the African slave community, particularly the call and response patterns they used to keep them going at their strenuous work in the plantations. Many of the so called blue notes in jazz harmony come from pentatonic and modal scales originally from the African homeland. Religious rituals from Africa were banned and African-Americans were encouraged to attend Christian churches. Gradually with exposure to European chordalstructure their harmonies evolved to form the set chord progression of the blues.

Nobody better understood the emotional truth of the blues than clarinettist Sidney Bechet, who talks of black vocal music expressing “a crying inside itself”. In his autobiography he describes the music as a prayer: “the blues, they got that sob inside .. so much remembering .. so many bad things to remember, so many losses.” A spiritual like Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child had the power to take the slaves back home in their mind’s eyes. Part of a slave was always back in Africa: ” .. listening to someone from a distance .. hearing something that was a kind of promise.” Bechet’s hit single Petite Fleur is full of this sense of sadness; part of the reason he settled in France later in life was to be closer to Africa.

Bechet pinpoints the liberation of slaves as the flash point where jazz exploded into being. Once Emancipation came, the way for the black community to celebrate this momentous bursting out of shackles was through music; native music erupted into a spontaneous celebration, a joyous expression of freedom with a bit of everything in it. People would walk down the street and join in with one band, whilst another band played on the other side of the street and yet another marched past. The prevailing band was the one that kept its audience in thrall. Bechet remembers liberation being a turning point: “that music, it wasn’t spirituals or blues or ragtime, but everything all at once, each one putting something over on the other.  That one day the music progressed to the point where it is today.”

Soon practitioners such as “King” Joe Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong would travel north with their music and even make recordings to propagate their style of music making. Buddy Bolden is largely credited with starting the first jazz band but he didn’t make recordings because it would have detracted from the improvisatory nature of his art by setting it in stone. In fact the first official jazz recording was made by a white band, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band ‘Livery Stable Blues’ in 1917 sparking off a global jazz craze.  After this it wasn’t long before different styles of jazz soon took off in different areas of the US and Europe.

Chicago became a centre for jazz and its leading lights were members of the white and Jewish communities such as Bix Beiderbecke who came from a German immigrant family and the legendary clarinet genius Benny Goodman who was of Polish/Russian Jewish descent. Born in 1909, Benny Goodman was the 9th of 12 children. His father was a factory worker and the family often didn’t have enough to eat but with the help from the local Jewish synagogue Benny received some classical training and by the age of 13 he was earning a living from music. His clarinet playing shows the hallmarks of a great Jewish Klezmer player with its fast vibrato and the bending of significant notes but it is his sense of rhythm that marks out his art as the epitome of jazz. Goodman also had a keen business sense; he took jazz and rebranded it “Swing” thus ensuring its appeal to the white community, some of whom regarded jazz as purely for black people. In addition, he formed the first big band to have a big success playing live on radio; their sound was strong enough to cut through even in a large hotel ballroom. A big band necessitated the employment of skilful arrangers and Benny’s musicians needed some formal training to be able to read music as well as to let rip in solo improvisatory spots. His small group jazz is indeed almost like classical chamber music and even a favourite Goodman solo vehicle like Eddie Sauter’s Clarinet à La King has many qualities of a classical rondo with its repeated theme interspersed by music of different moods. However the rhythmic drive and sections of fast improvisation, even in a track that might normally have been treated as nostalgic such as Gershwin’s After You’ve Gone, make Goodman’s music principally great jazz dance music. Songs such as China Boy (Boutelje/Winfree) and Sheik of Araby (Snyder) contribute a piquant harmonic flavour to proceedings but it is the propulsive rhythms and sheer speed of his work with Gene Krupa on drums and Teddy Wilson on piano that typify the King of Swing’s brand of jazz.

The other great jazz clarinettist of the era, Artie Shaw, was born in 1910 in New York. A background of poverty and an absent father played their roles in driving Shaw to make his fortune. Eventually he would make millions, be fêted like a Hollywood star and marry and divorce Ava Gardner and Lana Turner amongst many other glamorous women. His jazz style was harmonically sophisticated and he had a fluid approach to the tone production that was exceptional. Such an ability to sing with the clarinet was due to his admiration of singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald but his sharp ear for half tone and quarter tone harmonies was probably more than a little down to his Jewish heritage. A moment of revelation occurred late in life when at his mother’s funeral, an unknown uncle who was a New York rabbi, stood up and sang the Kol Nidre. It was profoundly moving and Shaw realised that although his mother had seemed unmusical, in fact his music stemmed from her Jewish background.

Shaw was also bowled over by recordings of classical music by Stravinsky, Ravel and particularly Debussy with its progressive, sophisticated harmonies. He would listen to L’après midi d’un faune over and over: “changed my ear, changed my entire approach to music” and he even did a version of it with Billie Holiday singing the top line. Shaw’s Concerto for Clarinet nods to classical music in the sophisticated harmonies of the introduction but also plays with boogie-woogie rhythm as well as blues chord sequences. There is more than a hint of klezmer in there too.

Later in the twentieth century classical music would in its turn borrow from jazz. Leonard Bernstein derived his inspiration for Riffs from music played by big bands (a riff is a musical idea to be repeated and improvised on). The third section of his Prelude, Fugue and Riffs written for Woody Hermann in the 1940s, Riffs is a classical piece with a fugue at its heart but one which nevertheless conveys the excitement of improvisation. Bernstein regarded jazz, especially as it evolved into more harmonically advanced territory, as the first truly American serious music, as opposed to music that merely mimicked the European tradition. His hugely popular West Side Story, that American classic of musical theatre, drew deeply on jazz.

Eventually in the late 1940s jazz would go down more chromatic, less main stream pathways. Post Bechet, Goodman and Shaw the clarinet became less of a major feature, losing ground to that louder instrument, the saxophone. However what is without doubt is that the clarinet played a crucial role in that seminal, exhilarating, early twentieth period when the American melting pot was boiling up and mixing together the musics of Africa, Europe, America and the Orient to fashion its own distinct brand of music: jazz.

Emma Johnson

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Elmira Darvarova violin
Fernando Otero piano

Gerardo Matos Rodriguez La Cumparsita
Angel Villoldo El Choclo
Carlos Gardel Mi Buenos Aires Querido; Volver
Anibal Troilo Sur
Enrique Cadicamo Nostalgias
Astor Piazzolla Michelangelo 70; Libertango
Fernando Otero Pagina de Buenos Aires; Piringundin; La Abundancia; Globalizacion

Performed by world-renowned Argentine pianist/composer – Grammy winner FERNANDO OTERO and internationally acclaimed violinist ELMIRA DARVAROVA (first ever woman-concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera, New York), this FREE program is a retrospective of Tango from the 1900s until today, featuring beloved tangos by Gardel, Piazzolla, Otero and others. Tracing the evolution of tango from the bordellos of Buenos Aires in early 20th C., to the jazz clubs of the 60s and 70s, and to the stages of the most prominent concert halls of the world today, brings a fascinating journey into the heart of this exciting music genre.

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Free Admission
Please note that online booking incurs an administration fee, therefore tickets for this concert are only available from the box office.

Call 0845 40 24 001 or make your booking in person.

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FILMIC15

 

It’s a coupling so good that if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. Cross the doomy chiaroscuro  and skewed perspectives of classic film noir with the cussed fatalism and strange apparitions of folk music. The result – folk noir – reflects a whole mess of contemporary sound and screen culture: Nick Cave’s murder ballads, Ben Wheatley’s ‘The Kill List’, ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘True Detective’. There’s a history, too, from the M.R.James-inspired Brit-flick noir-horrors like ‘Night of the Demon’ and ‘Night of the Eagle’ to everyone’s favourite Seventies occult shocker ‘The Wicker Man’, and from the death-obsessed songs of traditional British Isles folkies to the ancient Appalachian hauntings of ‘dark’ Americana.

There’s also a literary tradition: just as the ‘hard-boiled’ style of Hammett, Chandler and James M. Cain helped to create a context for the 40s Hollywood crime films that begat film noir, current writers like Frank Bill and Donald Pollock set their ‘hillbilly noir’ stories in the meth-dens, taverns and truck-stops of rust-belt Michigan and Indiana.

Of course, folk’s U.S cousin, country music, has been dealing with all things noir for half a century or more. Its very own man in black – Johnny Cash -  is but one of several star-crossed, amphetamine-chewing anti-heroes whose god-and-the-devil duality recalls the role of the preacher played by Robert Mitchum in that country noir classic ‘The Night of the Hunter’.

What might be different about contemporary country-noir or dark Americana is the self-conscious irony with which traditional crying-into-your-beer territory is treated. When Hank Williams Sr wrote ‘My Son Calls Another Man Daddy’, it was tragedy; cover the song now and the audience laughs.

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The acknowledged masters of this kind of country-through-a-post-modern-lens approach are The Handsome Family, who launch our Filmic 2015 season of Folk Noir with a concert at St George’s Bristol on Friday March 13.

Overnight stars (after 20 years) thanks to their title music to mega-hit mini-series ‘True Detective’, the Handsomes’ husband and wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks are, in truth, perhaps less a workaday band than a very clever art project. Working out of the elemental landscape of New Mexico, their typical method is to take impeccably researched details culled from the ordinary exotica of American life and then turn them through 360 degrees of weirdness. The resulting songs work on a number of levels, as neat foot-tapping, truck driving ditties or David Lynchian metaphors for other-worldly alienation, their clip-clopping horse-riding rhythms jewelled with the images of Rennie’s poetic lyrics.

FurrowThe Furrow Collective, who appear at St George’s on Saturday 4 April, are folk noir writ large. A quartet of singer-songwriters from both sides of the Scots-English divide, including the hugely talented Alasdair Roberts, they formed with the express purpose of singing the darkest and most fatalistic of dread-filled traditional ballads, as heard on their debut album, ‘At Our Next Meeting’.

Howe Gelb, who brings the short Folk Noir season of concerts to a close on Wednesday 8 April, is a total one-off: a singer-songwriter, bandleader (the legendary Giant Sand) and producer from Tucson, Arizona (the setting for that odd, folk-noirish 80s horror directed by Donald Cammell, ‘White of the Eye’) whose very various work offers a wobbly bridge from lonesome US cosmic-cowboy laments to European indie and art-rock. His St George’s Bristol performance will be a unique combination of music and film, with Howe playing a full, 70-minute solo show in the first half, followed after the interval by the European premiere of ‘Out of the Desert: The Giant Giant Sand Film’, introduced by its director, Peter Triest.

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Art Refuge UK – Journey into Exile Exhibition

Journey into Exile: Part 1

The art in this exhibition is taken from our archive of work with Tibetan children and young people in transit and is organised around three of the themes which recur in the children’s work: beginnings, the journey and future hopes.

Beginnings

Children who took part in the Art Refuge programme often drew and painted their recollections of home. Some children also produced vivid and disturbing images depicting killings and violence. Whilst some children had witnessed acts of brutality in their homeland, many of the images portray events from narratives, which have been passed onto them by their elders. For the children to draw such events spontaneously and voluntarily in the Art Refuge programme highlighted the emotional impact and significance of oral history in a political environment that limited spiritual freedoms and a culture where expression through visual art would not necessarily be encouraged.

The Journey

‘The Journey’ is a theme which repeatedly appeared in the children’s and young people’s artwork. Whilst it was impossible for them to portray the full intensity of the cold, hunger, fear and danger they experienced, the images communicate something of the emotional impact the journey had. The majority of the artwork within this theme was created by survivors of the Nangpa Pass shooting in September 2006 – an event which attracted extensive media coverage in the West.

Future Hopes

One of the most striking themes to emerge within the work produced on ‘Future Hopes’ is the repeated depiction of the Tibetan flag which is outlawed in Tibet itself. Idyllic rural scenes and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet are also portrayed.

Journey into Exile: Part 2

A refugee’s story did not stop when they reached the Reception Centres in Nepal and India. This was a challenging transition point in their journey to a new future and the children and young people had to deal with unfamiliar surroundings, often without their friends and family to support them. Art Refuge UK provided morning art sessions and afternoon play activities in which the children continued to have opportunities to share their stories and know that they were not alone. It also helped the Art Refuge adult facilitators to keep an eye out for any signs of upset that they may have been able to help with.

This self-expression took place in the process of painting/image-making and through dialogue with Art Refuge teachers and volunteers. The pieces of art in this section of the exhibition illustrate how the art in our classroom helped refugees to develop friendships, grow in confidence and strengthen their coping mechanisms.

Journey into Exile is exhibited in the Doric Room of the Crypt Bar from Friday 6 March 2015

Music performance on 6 March… Tashi Dhondup

During the interval of the Martin Carthy gig on Friday 6 March, Tashi Dhondup, a Tibetan singer and artist living in Bristol, performs a short set in the crypt bar. Tashi has a uniquely powerful voice that has previously reverberated around the likes of Colston Hall and Bristol Cathedral at events which have left audiences in awe. Tashi is also a skilled craftsman, offering woodwork, painting and a variety of trades. He designs and makes Tibetan-style tables and wall paintings to order. Tashi wants to showcase his artistic skills to the people of Bristol through this exhibition, with a view to gaining commissions or being programmed to perform.

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2015 marks a very special year for one of Canada’s most enchanting singer songwriters. 20 years since his major label debut, the self-titled “Ron Sexsmith”, his incomparable music has framed and helped define the art of songwriting. A songwriter’s songwriter, he won the admiration of artists such as Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney with his trademark melancholic style.

Having amassed an enthralling body of work, the multi Juno award winning artist will be touring in support of new studio album, Carousel One, probably his most diverse album to date. Q Magazine observed how “Sexsmith confirms his place as artist’s favourite” and AllMusic.com noted how “his best compositions have the feel of timelessness”. This concert will see Sexsmith will perform some of his most well known works as well as premiere new material from Carousel One.

ronsexsmith.com

Tickets on sale Friday 20 January

 

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The INTERNATIONAL OCEAN FILM TOUR VOLUME 2 presents the best water sports and environmental films of the year. Adventure. Action. Ocean Life.

This years program features 6 documentaries, including the british rowing expedition And Then We Swam, the environmental film (R)evolution or pure surf action movie Attractive Distraction. Come along, ocean lovers:

oceanfilmtour.com

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FILMIC15

 

FILMIC 2015: FOLK NOIR

Filmic is back! Now in its fourth year, St George’s Bristol is pleased to be working with Watershed once again to present a unique celebration of film and music with specially programmed live music events and film screenings during March and April.  This year’s theme is ‘Folk Noir’, so expect dark tales and equally murky (and twisted) music from some fantastic artists.  The emphasis for the programme at St George’s is very much on folk and americana, with performances by US husband and wife duo The Handsome Family (13 March), the brilliant singer-songwriter Howe Gelb (8 April) and UK ‘border folk’ The Furrow Collective.  Supporting the Folk Noir gigs in April, Watershed puts on a feast of ‘Sunday Brunch’ screenings, from Badlands to The Wicker Man.  There’s more film and special events to be announced, so keep an eye on this post or check out watershed.co.uk/filmic for the latest information.

Gigs at St George’s Bristol

Friday 13 March, 8pm
THE HANDSOME FAMILY
Overnight stars (after 20 years) thanks to the use of their song ‘Far From Any Road’ as the title music for mega-hit TV series ‘True Detective’, The Handsome Family are absolutely unique, and absolutely great. A husband and wife duo from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brett and Rennie Sparks create a kind of twisted Americana by taking in impeccably researched historical and geographical detail then turning it through 360 degrees of weirdness.
Tickets £22, £18, £5 Students (limited availability) (plus fees)

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Saturday 4 April, 8pm
THE FURROW COLLECTIVE
Four of the finest young singer-songwriters from both sides of the Scottish/English border – Alasdair Roberts, Emily Portman, Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton – have delved into the obscure byways of traditional balladry to unearth dark and quirky narratives of murder, hauntings and worse, as heard on their debut album ‘At Our Next Meeting’.
£15, £5 Students (limited availability) (plus fees)

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Wednesday 8 April, 8pm
HOWE GELB: OUT OF THE DESERT
A rip-roaring music and film double-bill: in the first half, legendary Tucson, Arizona singer-songwriter Howe Gelb plays a full 70-minute solo set, followed after the interval by the European premiere of ‘Out of the Desert – The Giant Sand Film’, a cinematic record of Gelb’s most celebrated band, introduced by its director Peter Triest.
£18, £5 Students (limited availability) (plus fees)

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#FILMIC2015 at Watershed

Bristol’s Filmic returns in March with another explorative two-month long season celebrating the creative connections across film and music at St George’s Bristol and Watershed. To kick off, director / musician sibling pairing Gerard and Matt Johnson, fresh off the back of their recent collaboration on Hyena, revisit some of the film scores that proved influential to them, to curate our Sunday brunch screenings this month. A filmic plethora of both aural and visual brilliance lies in wait.

Gerard Johnson is the writer/ director of two British feature films. His first, Tony (2009) received widespread critical acclaim. His follow up, Hyena seems set to take a place amongst the ranks of raw British crime thrillers with its story of an amoral cop who has to extricate himself from a deadly situation of his own making. Soundtracks to both films came through collaboration with his musical sibling. Musician Matt Johnson is the founding member of post-punk 80s British group The The. In recent years Matt has turned his attention to soundtrack work, scoring numerous documentaries and films and in doing so, refining the art of blending the visual, aural and lyrical into twisted cinematic packages.

Gerard and Matt will be in conversation with our cinema curator Mark Cosgrove on Sunday 8 March, discussing their work, their influences and their recent collaboration on Hyena, which opens at Watershed on Fri 6 Mar.

March: The Power of the Score – Brothers Johnson Sunday Brunches

1st Forbidden Planet
8th Vertigo
15th Paris Texas
22nd Aguirre Wrath of God
29th Midnight Cowboy

April: Folk Noir

5th Badlands
12th Mud
19th The Proposition
26th The Wicker Man (the original)

Every Sunday at 12 noon

Visit watershed.co.uk/filmic for the latest information about the film screening programme

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Conor O’Brien may sport a fetching beard these days but the third album he’s recorded as Villagers finds the Dubliner shaving his music right back to the bone. By comparison, his 2010 debut album Becoming A Jackal and its 2013 successor [Awayland] – both hugely acclaimed and Mercury-nominated, were more detailed, multi-faceted affairs, so Darling Arithmetic is a brave and committed new step forward, eschewing the easier route. O’Brien plays every instrument on these exquisite, melodic songs in a beautifully sparse, spacious, intimate, acoustic-leaning fashion, as well as recording and mixing it himself at home, revealing a single-minded artist at the peak of his already considerable songwriting powers.

wearevillagers.com

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SIlogocomp

COMPETITION TO DESIGN A LOGO FOR SOUNDS INSPIRING FESTIVAL

Bristol Plays Music and St George’s Bristol present the first ever Sounds Inspiring Festival, a series of massed singing sessions, workshops and concerts involving thousands of young people across the city.

Taking place over eleven days in June 2015 in venues across Bristol, Sounds Inspiring will develop and showcase young people’s music making, as well as celebrate the unique power of music written for young musicians!

We’re holding a competition for young people aged 6 to 11 years old to get involved and put their creative skills to the test by designing a logo for the festival.

Prizes

• The prize for the winning design is a framed picture of your logo.
• Tickets for you and your family to events at the festival.
• To see your artwork in print and digital at a city wide youth festival.
• Vouchers up to the value for £25.

Have a look at the things to think about on this information sheet.

Simply submit your design to Bristol Plays Music, Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR or email your design to us at colstonhall@bristolplaysmusic.org by 23rd February 2015

Before entering please make sure you read the terms and conditions over leaf and on our website at www.bristolplaysmusic.org and make sure your entry complies with these, other than that…

Good Luck and Happy Designing!

 

The team at Bristol Plays Music and St George’s

 

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AmBan

A digital future for Indian classical music

In conversation with Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“I can’t remember a particular day that I was initiated into the world of music,” Amjad Ali Khan says. “It was a part of me from as early as I can remember.”

Amjad Ali Khan gave his first recital of the Sarod – the lute-like instrument for which he is famous – when he was six years old and he’s been a highly significant figure on the Indian classical music scene ever since. He is the sixth generation in a Bangash lineage of musical maestros, but this doesn’t lie heavy on him: “I came to inherit from [my father, Haafiz Ali Khan] the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air. Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers – one that I am constantly sharing with my disciples.”

Bristol audiences will get the chance to see this interplay of generational knowledge and musicianship for themselves on the 4th of February at St George’s. Amjad Ali Khan will be playing with his two sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, in a special UK mini tour produced by Bristol based Asian Arts Agency.

The performance will be a unique opportunity to gain an insight into a maestro’s approach to and belief in the power of his music, and in the growing transformative power of Indian classical music as it leaps into the modern digital era.

“Like cosmic divinity, music knows few barriers or boundaries,” he says. “However, often in the race for cultural superiority we pit one order against the other. The antithesis of this conflict phenomenon is fusion music, a rage among the current generation of music-lovers, which sees the world as a global village.”

He himself, he says, has always admired European classical musicians like Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, while Indian Classical music may be compared to jazz in the sense of freedom and improvisation it brings to both its performers and listeners.

In recent years, though, Indian Classical music has led to explorations within digital and electronic genres, a fusion that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan have been involved with over the years. Amjad says, “Besides playing classical music, Amaan and Ayaan have made albums of experimental music, too. I have really enjoyed their collaboration with guitarist Derek Trucks, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and cellist Matthew Barley.”

“The message of Indian Classical music is freedom within the discipline,” Amjad says. “My Sarod concerto for example has been aimed to preserve the essence of both Indian and Western traditions so that they can flow into each other without artistic compromise.”

The show in February will be a very special night indeed. “As I often say,” Amjad finishes, “every raga has a soul, and every musical note is the sound of God.”

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Amjad Ali Khan

Wednesday 4 February, 8pm

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