The Jerwood Charitable Foundation supported 4 development days for the core artists of Emulsion from 2013-2014. (Jerwood’s website)
Eight musicians from jazz and classically trained backgrounds come together to develop the ethos and music of Emulsion, four of whom are from contemporary classical group ‘Ensemble Amorpha’, the other four are from contemporary jazz group ‘Tangent’. Emulsion began as a mini-festival in 2012 and has quickly developed into something much more. And the Jerwood Charitable Foundation has enabled that musical journey.
The eight core musicians: Trish Clowes (saxophones/composer), Luke Styles (composer), Tom Lessels (clarinet), Lauren Weavers (oboe), Louise McMonagle (cello), Chris Montague (guitar), Calum Gourlay (bass), James Maddren (drums)
Summaries of the Development Days
Below is a run down of what we got up to on our development days from 2013-14. In addition to what has been mentioned here, there would always be much discussion of music, ideas, the music scene, the future – and all of that would be difficult to put into words. These days were crucial bonding sessions that ultimately made our performances at Emulsion III Festival extremely powerful and interactive. Partnerships have been made here that I expect will last a very long time.
Day 1 – 3rd April 2013
-Discussing what we do as individual players
-Playing my tunes, getting ‘classical’ people to improvise
-Chris Mayo’s ‘Birchfield Close’: Work-shopped ahead of Emulsion II festival. We tried of his piece with the jazzers – gave him ideas and he re-wrote the piece for Emulsion III to include Tangent. This piece is a great example of what Emulsion does.
-We talked about pieces of music that interested us and made a listening list.
-People brought in technique books on the different instruments, exploring extended techniques
Day 2 – 17th September 2013
-People brought in solos for oboe, cello, clarinet, and we improvised with the music, jamming on the classical material if you like. This gave everyone loads of ideas about writing music and was really fun!
– We were experimenting with looper devices usually used by guitarists (capturing sound, which then gets repeated and layered over and over, interesting textures)
-Luke brought in a “harmonic experiment”, a sequences of two different types of chord to be played at the same time in different keys – proper note clashes! He went on to use some of these ideas in his New Music Biennial piece.
Day 3 – December 8th/9th 2013 (split over 2 days)
-Started work-shopping Luke’s New Music Biennial piece.
-Improvising on Trish’s tune ‘Chorale’, trading 4 bars of chords for improvising was a useful way for the Classical musicians to work on their improvising.
-Lauren performed a fantastic oboe solo which everyone loved – we ended up choosing it for Emulsion III
-Looked at Olga Neuwirth’s “Spleen I” for bass clarinet, which has loads of extended techniques for clarinet which produce incredible new sounds.
Day 4 – 28th February 2014 – with “Food” – Iain Ballamy and Thomas Strønen
-We looked at Luke’s New Music Biennal piece, Calum’s new Emulsion commission – work-shop, Iain’s piece for Emulsion III, played through some of my ideas for Emulsion commission with Food and also played through a few lead sheets of mine with food to get acquainted with each other.
– We discussed with Food how they work/play together, all in preparation for Emulsion III.
Artists’ Feedback on the Development Days:
Lauren Weavers (oboe):
It has been fascinating to discover and explore these parallels [between the oboe and soprano sax] by finding certain notes and multiphonics which really work well together to blend the sounds of the two instruments. This was the starting point for me to try improvising, alongside Trish, messing around with the cool sounds we had discovered. It’s quite a terrifying thing as a classical musician to improvise and Trish and her band have boosted my confidence, it’s been very liberating.
James Maddren (drums):
As a drummer, seeing how a contemporary classical composer writes for the instrument is fascinating. I’m often playing things i would never have come up with myself and often struggle at first but it’s that process which eradicates preconceived ideas and patterns and hopefully down the line will broaden my options and understanding of accompaniment.
Calum Gourlay (bass):
The improvising spirit of jazz is such a huge part of playing the music that often aspects of performance are left until the gig itself. It has been eye opening to see how hard the [contemporary classical] music is rehearsed and edited prior to the actual concert. With many tunes I’ve written it’s hard to tell if they’re any good until you play them in front of people. But that process is thought about long in advance of a through written piece.
Tom Lessels (clarinet):
Emulsion has been a really interesting and challenging journey so far for me. We are incredibly lucky to have had 4 so-called Development Days to get down to the nitty-gritty of what playing together is really all about, and in them I’m learning a huge amount about certain aspects of music that I had never really considered carefully before. One thing that has struck me recently is that in the classical world we rarely talk about “feel”, or where to play in relation to the beat, which are both so central to the energy in jazz, and I’m beginning to think it is something that could have more of a place in classical and contemporary playing.
Louise McMonagle (cello):
Our development days have been invaluable – taking time between busy performing schedules to create new material and in particular share skills across the classical and jazz disciplines. One of the highlights for me has been having time to talk about how we think about playing… There is always a buzz when this group of people gets together!
Luke Styles (composer):
Working with the emulsion team has been a great way to go beyond initial ideas about how jazz and contemporary music might fuse together and engage in some detailed experimentation. I have really loved how there has been a growing trust amongst the group of musicians and composers, and this is allowing us to be daring and to take risks within the protected emulsion environment.
Chris Montague (guitar):
The Emulsion workshops have been completely refreshing and very unlike other workshop experiences. They have at times been almost confessional, musicians really confronting what makes them excited and terrified within a performance situation. I have personally benefited as a composer because I can ask in great detail about instruments I haven’t written for yet and get the players to demonstrate very specific things to me on the spot. It is great to have so many players willing to make themselves vulnerable for the benefit of others!
Trish Clowes (saxophones):
Emulsion development days are always full of surprises. Luke Styles and I plan a basic outline for the days, but you can never predict where things will go. During our last day I asked Louise (cello), Lauren (oboe) and Tom (clarinet) to bring in a solo piece that we could pull apart and improvise with. I wonder what Shostakovich and Berio would think of our sax/guitar/bass/drums/cello/oboe/clarinet re-inventions of their works?! This was a real highlight of the day and for me, as a composer fascinated with the integration of improvisation with written material, it gave me loads of ideas of how to move forward with my own writing. There is such a level of trust between us all now, we really can start to take more and more creative ‘risks’. Very exciting times…
Also, as a result of working with oboist Lauren Weavers on Emulsion – both the events and development days – I was inspired to write some jazz oboe into my new album (lovingly termed jazzboe).