The Squid's Ear Magazine

Feldman, Barbara Monk : Verses (Another Timbre)

Known for her chamber and piano works, Canadian composer and widow of Morton Feldman presents five beautiful chamber works performed by the trio of George Barton on percussion, Siwan Rhys on piano and Mira Benjamin on violin, introspective and contemplative pieces of rich color & reflection that reveal the gravity between sound and silence.

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product information:

Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at177
Squidco Product Code: 30470

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 20201
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at the Goldsmiths Music Studio, in London, UK, in Januray and April, 2021, by Simon Reynell.


Barbara Monk Feldman-composer

George Barton-percussion

Siwan Rhys-piano

Mira Benjamin-violin

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

Interview with Barbara Monk Feldman, by Siwan Rhys & George Barton

In the past you've written that "decay in the piano and vibraphone brings them closer to the background 'wall' of silence.... Sound and silence become attached to each other not unlike sculptural figures attached to a wall". Can you say a little about the relationship of sound and silence in your piano and percussion music?

I have been thinking about what is inside and what is outside. The everyday life and tragedy of what goes on around you, and the fact that to accomplish anything you need the isolation in the studio - I think about this moral issue. And then on another level, I think about an inside and an outside for art itself, and how ephemeral that is. For example, an unexpected moment in the sculpture of Giacometti, where it's as though you suddenly have a brief glimpse into infinity. Or where in Cézanne you have an equally unpredictable experience in a fleeting recognition of something transient in the landscape. These moments are like a kind of recognition - and ironically, they include something that seems to come to us from the inside.

Can you tell us a little about the titles of the pieces on the disc? What does The Northern Shore refer to, for example?

The title for "The Northern Shore" comes from the place I visit every summer in the Gaspé peninsula in eastern Quebec where the St. Lawrence river meets the Atlantic ocean. Nature is a complex inspiration. I see a kind of gravity in the light at horizons near the ocean, and watch how it affects the movement of light and reflect on it. I ask myself whether the reflections I have or the other things I notice in nature can enter into the music unawares?

One striking feature of your notation in many of the pieces on the disc is the frequent occurrence of grace notes being used to frame silences. Can you tell us about your preference for this notation?

What I am looking for is a way to notate the most intangible aspect of the music - for me that is the colour. Colour is not only the instrumentation. It also involves the 'weight' of the tones, and a kind of gravity in the relationship of the sound and silence, as well as the spacing of duration and registration.

The aspects of colour are the most difficult to notate. They are unlike the notes and the rhythm, which are easier to contain and to notate, and are easier to measure. But colour remains more mysterious to me. Where does the colour of one sound really end, if you see what I mean? And what happens in the overlap of one colour with others?

What fascinates me is how much the color resists being measured, or, if you will, notated. There isn't a 'right' way or 'wrong' way, and yet somehow, you go by a sense of when you arrive at something or when you find a place where you can just leave it alone. Some very small thing suddenly feels right, and you try not to think about it and move on. I have always felt music composing is about bringing body back into mind. There is a mystical side of Wittgenstein, who said when we look into the sky our eye brushes against infinity.

You mentioned to us recently that you are interested in Noh Theatre at the moment. Is this feeding into a musical project? Can you describe some of the projects you've been working on in recent years?

In recent years I have been much preoccupied with two operas -the second one I finished just before the pandemic began. I think of them as 'non-operas' because they are not involved with drama in the traditional manner. In composing the operas I already felt drawn to Noh theatre in the sense that there is little or no action. In the operas there is a focus on sustaining a musical image as a 'background' - something I can't clearly define: it involves a sense of the musical imagery hovering in one place, as it were, attended by a fluidity in the slow transitioning of the harmonic color.

In current projects following the operas I am wondering if it is possible to write a music version for 'haiku' or of 'haibun'? I want to learn about the haiku and Noh theatre as much as I can.

Along with this I have also been thinking about the spiritual aspect of music. Which gets back to the question of inside and outside. What could be more spiritual than intimating some kind of connection between inner and outer?

It is very difficult to talk about one's work. I am anxious to stop before I start believing too much in what I say! As I was thinking over these questions you sent me in the past days I made the following attempt at writing a haiku. Maybe it is a good place to leave off.

river flows by

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

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Artist Biographies

"Barbara Monk Feldman: (b. 1950s, Québec).

Canadian composer of mostly chamber and piano works that have been performed in Asia, Europe and North America.

Ms. Monk Feldman studied composition with Bengt Hambraeus at McGill University in Montréal from 1980-83, where she earned her MMus. She then studied with Morton Feldman, to whom she was later married, at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York from 1984-87 and there earned her PhD, on the Edgard Varèse Fellowship.

Her music has been performed at the Ferienkurse in Darmstadt, the festival Inventionen in Berlin, the festival Nieuwe Muziek in Middelburg, the festival Other Minds in San Francisco, and elsewhere.

She is also active in other positions. Her research into music and visual art has led to collaborations with numerous artists, including Stan Brakhage, whose hand-painted film Three Homerics was created for use with her work Infinite Other. She founded the Time Shards Music Series at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2001 and served as its artistic director. Her article Music and the Picture Plane appeared in the journals RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (1997) and Contemporary Music Review (1998).

She taught at the Ferienkurse in Darmstadt in 1988, 1990 and 1994, has given guest lectures at the Universität der Künste Berlin and has lectured and taught at universities in Canada and the USA."

-Composers21 (

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"George Barton is a solo, chamber and orchestral percussionist and timpanist based in London.

He is a member of the Colin Currie Group and has also worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Nash Ensemble, Britten Sinfonia, Aurora Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Endymion, Music Theatre Wales, BBC Singers, Mahogany Opera Group, Notes Inégales, Riot Ensemble, London Contemporary Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, and the Multi-Story Orchestra, among many other ensembles and orchestras.

As a solo artist George has performed at the Southbank Centre's "The Rest is Noise" festival, the "Occupy the Pianos" festival at St John's Smith Square, and at a number of Nonclassical events across London, among other venues across the UK. His collaboration with Turner Prize -winning artist Jeremy Deller at the Barbican's Station to Station festival was featured on BBC2's Artsnight, and his playing has been recorded and broadcast many times for BBC Radio 3 and NMC. He was featured soloist at Filthy Lucre's The Sounding Body concerts and clubnight - footage available on the media page.

As an ensemble and orchestral player he has performed at all the major London concert halls, including at the BBC Proms every year since 2014, as well as such venues as the Cologne Philharmonie, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Tokyo Opera City, and many others.

He has performed chamber music at various venues around the UK and abroad, including the Concertgebouw Grote Zaal, Amsterdam, Cité de la Musique, Paris, Delft Chamber Music Festival, Royal Festival Hall, and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

With duo partner Siwan Rhys he has performed at St John's Smith Square, Barbican Hall, the City of London Festival, XOYO, Scala and The Forge, among other venues. Committed to commissioning new music, the duo became New Dots artists in 2014; in 2017 they took part in the Stockhausen biennial at Kürten, performing Kontakte and solo works. The duo was selected to become one of three St John's Smith Square Young Artists for the 2017-18 season. Their programme for the season included the premiere of a 40-minute work from Oliver Leit and the UK premiere of Eric Wubbels' doxa, alongside music by Stockhausen, Kagel, Cage, Fran le Lohé and John Luther Adams, as well as unpublished music by Morton Feldman."

-George Barton Website (

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"Welsh pianist Siwan Rhys enjoys a varied career of solo, chamber, and ensemble playing, with a strong focus on contemporary music and collaboration with composers.

She has played at prestigious British venues such as the Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, St David's Hall, Symphony Hall, and abroad at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Le Tambour Rennes, and Shanghai Symphony Hall amongst others. She has also appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival, BBC Proms, Principal Sound, Occupy the Pianos, Lille Piano(s) Festival, and has recorded many times for television, radio, and labels such as NMC, all that dust, and Prima Facie. Her recent recording of Stockhausen's KONTAKTE (with percussionist George Barton) was released in October 2019 on the all that dust label.

Recent concert engagements include performances of Charles Ives' 'Concord Sonata' in France as part of the Oeuvres Monstres series, Nono's ...sofferte onde serene... at the Principal Sound festival, Feldman's For Philip Guston and Why Patterns?, Stockhausen's KONTAKTE, and appearances at Occupy the Pianos and Lille Piano(s) Festival playing music by Vivier and Eastman.

Also a regular ensemble and orchestral pianist, Siwan has worked with the London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Colin Currie Group, Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Mahogany Opera Group, Music Theatre Wales, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with conductors Oliver Knussen, François-Xavier Roth, and George Benjamin among others.

Siwan works regularly with mezzo-soprano Lucy Goddard, and is a member of GBSR piano-percussion duo with whom she was a 2017-18 St John's Smith Square Young Artist.

She is an honorary member of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards and an Entente Cordiale alumna. She teaches at the London Contemporary School of Piano."

-Siwan Rhys Website (

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"Mira Benjamin is a Canadian violinist, researcher and new-music instigator.

She performs new and experimental music, with a special interest in microtonality & tuning practice. She actively commissions music from composers at all stages of their careers, and develops each new work through multiple performances. Current collaborations include new works by Anna Höstman, Scott McLaughlin, Amber Priestley, Taylor Brook and James Weeks.

Since 2011, Mira has co-directed NU:NORD - a project-based music and performance network which instigates artistic exchanges and encourages community building between music creators from Canada, Norway & the UK. To date NU:NORD has engaged 79 artists and commissioned 62 new works. Through this initiative, Mira hopes to offer a foundation from which Canadian artists can reach out to artistic communities overseas, and provide a conduit through which UK & Norwegian artists can access Canada's rich art culture.

Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Mira lived for ten years in Montréal, where she was a member of Quatuor Bozzini. Since 2014 she has resided in London (UK), where she regularly performs with ensembles such as Apartment House, Decibel, and the London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists, and is currently the Duncan Druce Scholar in Music Performance at the University of Huddersfield.

Mira is the recipient of the 2016 Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. The prize is awarded annually to a Canadian musician in recognition of their contribution to the artistic life in Canada and internationally."

-St. Martin in the Field Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Duo For Piano And Percussion 14:19

2. Verses For Vibraphone 4:53

3. The I And Thou 16:54

4. The Northern Shore 31:01

5. Clear Edge 4:56

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Trio Recordings
Ambient & Minimal Music
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Compositional Music

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