- Joe Cutler
- Ping! at Warwick Arts Centre
- Seán Clancy
- Ping Gallery
The Southbank Centre was the setting, in July 2012, for an exhilarating weekend of new music commissioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad. All twenty works of the New Music 20x12 project were performed during the course of the weekend, using all available spaces and there was almost a carnival atmosphere as thousands of people attended a huge variety of events around the centre. We performed ‘Ping!’ three times in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and members of the Quartet, Fusion Table Tennis Club, composer Joe Cutler and artist Tom Dale took part in a short discussion hosted by Radio Three’s Kevin Le Gendre.
Before the third performance we were delighted to welcome an orchestra of young string players from Lewisham’s Fabulosity project and the Pembroke House Community Music Project and join with them in a performance of ‘Cutlets of Ping!’, a work we had commissioned from Sean Clancy, which he had conceived as both a response to Joe Cutler’s music and also an introduction for the children to the extended string techniques which Joe has used in ‘Ping!’.
Photo: Chris Redgrave
We were delighted and proud to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad through our participation in New Music 20x12, PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music UK-wide commissioning programme initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen, delivered in partnership with the BBC, LOCOG, Sound and Music and NMC Recordings. Composer Joe Cutler was awarded a prestigious New Music 20x12 commission and his new work, ‘Ping!’, scored for string quartet and table tennis players, also features a video installation in collaboration with the artist Tom Dale. The work explores the strong and distinct sounds and rhythms that table tennis players can create, and it was performed at Warwick Arts Centre, A E Harris in Birmingham, at the HAKA Sports Complex in Bromley and broadcast on Radio 3 as part of the ‘Hear and Now’ series. Our partners in the project were the University of Warwick, Birmingham Conservatoire, Ping London and the Fusion Table Tennis Club, Bromley.
New Music 20x12 was a UK wide programme which consisted of twenty outstanding new works, each lasting 12 minutes, which were commissioned to feature centre stage of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Each commission was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and toured the UK, enabling as many people as possible to enjoy excellent new music as part of our celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Click here to view the University of Warwick’s video article about Ping!
New Music 20x12
PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20x12 is a UK-wide commissioning programme initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen, and delivered in partnership with the BBC, LOCOG, Sound and Music and NMC Recordings. See www.prsformusicfoundation.com for more information.
New Music 20x12 online brochure
Joe Cutler: http://www.joecutler.com
Birmingham Conservatoire: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/pme/conservatoire
Ping London: http://pinglondon.com/
Fusion Table Tennis Club: http://www.bromleytt.co.uk/
Warwick Arts Centre: http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/
University of Warwick: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/
Tom Dale: http://www.daletom.com
Arts Council England: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/
Creative Scotland: http://www.creativescotland.com/
PRS for Music Foundation: http://www.prsformusicfoundation.com/
Arts Council Northern Ireland: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/
Arts Council of Wales: http://www.artswales.org.uk/
Incorporated Society of Musicians: http://www.ism.org/
Musicians Benevolent Fund: http://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/
Jerwood Charitable Foundation: http://www.jerwoodcharitablefoundation.org/
RVW Trust: http://www.rvwtrust.org.uk/
The Tolkien Trust: http://www.tolkientrust.org/
The Leche Trust: http://www.lechetrust.org
The Worshipful Company of Musicians: http://www.wcom.org.uk
The Bliss Trust: http://www.blisstrust.org/
Finzi Trust: http://www.geraldfinzi.org/
Joe Cutler's music has been described as “propulsive” (BBC Music Magazine), “alluring” (Scotsman), “neurotic” (Re-Diffusion) and “the best thing to come out of Neasden since Twiggy” (Gramophone).
His music has been performed in over 30 countries and on 6 continents including performances at venues such as Bang-on-a-Can Music Marathon (New York), Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), Opera City (Tokyo), Musik Monat (Basle). Since the late 1990s he has spent a considerable amount of time in the Netherlands, working with such groups and performers as Orkest de Ereprijs, Orkest de Volharding, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Harry Sparnaay, Annelie de Man and Tomoko Mukaiyama, whilst in the UK he has worked particularly closely with Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea, Robin Michael, Sarah Leonard and Noszferatu (an ensemble which he co-directs).
In recent year he has also written a number of orchestral pieces and has worked recently with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, The Orchestra of the Swan and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. His has worked both in the concert hall and outside, working with visual artists such as Tom Dale, Jaap Drupsteen and Gary Ward and has written music for the National Theatre, London. Since 2000 he has taught at Birmingham Conservatoire where he is currently Head of Composition.
In June 2008 a portrait CD of his works was released on NMC and was one of Gramophone Magazine's Top 20 Releases of the Year. He also won the 2008 British Composer Award in the chamber music category for Folk Music, commissioned by the Smith Quartet.
“This is an essential purchase: Cutler may not make contemporary music loveable again, but he does make it unignorable and that is what really matters.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008Joe Cutler's website
Ping! is high energy, high voltage music with virtuoso writing for string quartet which is well matched by the table tennis display that Fusion have choreographed for the work. In fact what is remarkable about Ping! is that it is a true collaboration between music and sport. Much of the table tennis play is timed to coincide with the music, and the Fusion players consistently matched their ensemble with that of the quartet! Joe Cutler has used all sorts of percussive effects and unusual instrumental techniques, with plenty of intricate rhythmic patterns, and the sounds of the table tennis are completely integrated into the music. Artist Tom Dale’s film installation, displayed on two large screens, added a fascinating and enigmatic extra dimension to the performance.
The whole event almost filled the entire arts centre and lasted most of the day. Our intention was to surround the premiere performances of Ping! with sport-related music and table tennis so that people could immerse themselves in both and hopefully have a good time. It started early with a coach load of table tennis players from the Fusion Club turning up to play the first rounds of the table tennis tournaments in the Butterworth Hall, and the first ‘Musical Promenade’ that we had organised kicked off at 12.00. Paul McGrath and Lucy Griffiths from the University’s Music Centre led the first group of promenaders through the foyer to take part in Choral Ping Pong and to hear Elia Maramotti sampling ping pong sounds live on his computer.
This was followed by students from Leeds College of Music performing Rebounds by Damien Harron, which is scored for two bongo players and two basketball players. The performers, Tanya Pendred, Tung Chan, Jack Amblin and Michael Farthing, gave an exhilarating, perfectly synchronised performance that made you wonder why you had never thought of basketballs as percussion instruments before. In the meantime the University’s inspirational drumming and steel pan tutor Dave Barrett gave his first ‘turn up and have a go’ drum workshop. It was wonderful to hear the transformation he achieved with each group that turned up. Within half an hour he had created an intricate drumming and percussion piece that was hugely satisfying for those taking part, most of whom had never hit a drum in their lives.
The audience was then led into the Butterworth Hall for the premiere performances of Ping! Clearly, people had no idea what to expect, but they were knocked out by the sheer spectacle of the work and the virtuoso table tennis playing!
Each promenade then ended with a wonderfully surreal work of performance art in the Helen Martin Studio created by Ensemble Lös Cabarellos from the Netherlands. The group (Andy Ingamells, Ivan Babinchak Renqvist, Jeremiah Runnels and Belinda Lee) had devised a bizarre Dutch ’beach’ version of the French game of Pétanque involving a strip of sand-covered tarpaulin, water balloons and a horribly spiked marker ball that had to be avoided at all costs. The commentator’s description of the match - calm, matter of fact and quite mesmerising - became increasingly detached from the reality of the ‘game’ that we were watching, so that when Belinda appeared as a rather spectacular cheerleader, the audience were more than happy to be led by her into giving vociferous yet entirely neutral support to both players!
As well as watching table tennis matches of a very high standard throughout the day, our audience could also challenge a table tennis robot, play Wii table tennis computer games, watch table tennis DVDs and create colourful badges out of ping pong balls. Overall, the event was as far removed from a ‘traditional’ classical concert as it is possible to imagine and, for us, it was just enormous fun.
Dublin born composer Seán Clancy’s (b. 1984) music has been described as exploring the tensions between found and original material, narrative and rupture, elite and vernacular values, and between innovation and intervention.
His music has been performed and broadcast internationally by many of the worlds leading artists and ensembles and has featured at numerous international festivals of new music. Awards include an RTÉ Lyric FM/IMRO Composition Bursary (2012), selection for the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers (2011) and BCMG/SAM Apprentice Composer in Residence (2011). Now a tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, Principal teachers in the past have included David Lang, Joe Cutler, Howard Skempton and Gerald Barry. He is represented by the Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin.