This November Glasgow’s Scottish Music Centre is set to host A Sign Of Things To Come; a concert of works written for BSL performer and ensemble.A Sign Of Things To Come aims to promote inclusion in the industry by bringing disability to the forefront. A handful of the countries most talented composers will premier work, which will be performed by an ensemble of BSL musicians including Ben Lunn who spoke with The Fountain about the gig in more depth.
TF: Ben, can you inform us about this concert you are performing in?
The concert is a collection of performances for new works for BSL performer and ensemble. Due to my friendship with Rylan Gleave, a very talented composer and BSL performer, I was fascinated on drawing upon his practice and drawing upon the strong culture of BSL poetry. So the pieces are Sign Cycles instead of the classical ‘song cycles’ and all four of us (Rylan Gleave, Sonia Allori, Electra Perivolaris, and myself) chose poetry or text we liked and set it to music; all of which will be performed in the concert.
TF: It is a BSL concert at the Scottish Music Centre, where did the inspiration come for performing at this special event?
The main idea of doing the concert came after reading Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom, the essay was featured in a book produced by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and shows a broad variety of experiences. The text struck me, one because of the prevalence of ABA (applied behavioural analysis) but also because of how signing is communicating hands; which is a core focus on Julia’s essay this idea that behaviour and movement can say things when we are unable to. It is also interesting thinking of the similar behavioural techniques forced upon other deaf and disabled children and adults simply because we do not fit. From this fascination everything kind of spiralled from there. Rylan is a fantastic performer and it is wonderful to have him translating and performing. I also brought other friends Electra Perivolaris, as brilliant a composer as she is a pianist, and Sonia Allori are composer and music therapist I greatly admire. The pieces fell into place and it just felt natural to have all four of us writing sign cycles with Rylan signing, Electra playing the piano, and Sonia on clarinet.
TF: And what is your background, have you been writing and recording music for long?
I have been doodling since I was around 16, and dabbling in lots of ideas. But it was not until I went to study in RWCMD with Peter Reynolds that I began to fall into a good swing with it. After my bachelor’s degree I went east to Lithuania where I studied in the Lietuvos Muzikos ir Teatro Akademija with a really gifted composer Marius Baranauskas. From there I’ve continued dabbling exploring different topics: particularly around politics, Buddhism, and more recently disability.
TF: And what are you working on next after this gig?
I have a few things in quick successsion, on the 10th November, I have a new work called ‘will we…’ being performed in the Imperial War Museum North as part of the Remembrance Sunday event going on in the museum. The work brings into question how our memories of WWI and WWII are shaped by national bias, either to place bigger emphasis on our influence or to subvert other nations influence due to current political turmoil. The work is for cello and electronics and has excerpts of Yiddish partisan songs like Zog Nit Keynmol and Partizaner Marsh as well as the Polish song Warsawianka, which became quite a popular tune of Slavic resistance against oppression. There is also a Roma folk song called Aušvits and then the Italian anti-Fascist song Feschia il Vento. All of these hope to show it was the mass international effort that defeated Fascism, not just Britain and America. I also wanted to show that the victims of Fascism did not just accept their fate but fought every step of the way.
I then have a performance in the Queen’s Hall on the 12th December with Hebrides Ensemble and Drake Music Scotland’s Digital Orchestra. This piece is called Symphonies for Instruments and simply aims to be a big piece for accessible music technology and traditional instruments bringing them together in a way that builds upon the past and hopefully builds for the future. I also have projects in the background including a song cycle for the Ember Septet in America where I am using poems from all over Britain and from different dialects, so there is poetry in Lancastrian, Southern Welsh accent, Midlands, and Scots of course. I also have a project for string quartet and electronics which should becoming very public soon. I finally have a brass quintet to write for the American 5k Brass.
TF: And what has been your favourite gig to date?
That is a difficult question, my brain is shouting tons of concerts, none of them have my own music in. A few years ago I saw the opening of Occupy the Pianos Festival in St. John Smiths Square, London. The concert had a little ditty of mine performed by two pianists I greatly admire, Rolf Hind and Zubin Kanga. The rest of the concert included works by Messiaen, Julius Eastman, and George Crumb I think. Either way it blew my mind, my work was overshadowed, but to hear Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerrilla was something rather special.
The other contender is the BBCSSO concert in the cathedral a few months back. It included some Haydn, some Strauss, but what I wanted to witness was Rued Langgaard’s Music of the Spheres, it is one of my all time favourite pieces of music and has only been performed in Britain twice. The atmosphere was just magical.
For more information on the upcoming gig click here