Urban Birds (2014)
Now available to download from NMC Records
Arlene Sierra is a composer of critically-acclaimed orchestral and chamber music whose compositional beginnings were in the electroacoustic field. Urban Birds is a return to Sierra's electroacoustic roots, and brings together three international soloists who specialise in new music for piano plus electronics. Urban Birds combines harmony, rhythmic drive, and sounds from nature in a tapestry of environmental sound and virtuosic performance. The work engages musically with one of the central preoccupations of our time: Our relationship with the natural world.
Urban Birds is in three movements, performed attacca:
1. Sylviid Babblers
This movement features the extended songs of the Blackcap with answers from related species known collectively as Sylviid Babblers, as well as from the pianos and a single crotale.
2. Skylark Loops
A looped fragment of the Skylark's song is transcribed, manipulated, and repeated with percussive contributions from stopped piano strings and woodblock.
Cuckoo calls dominate this movement, punctuated by the guiro, until rogue elements are introduced in the form of an extended passage for pre-programmed Disklavier and the call of a very different bird: the South American Horned Screamer.
Download an excerpt from the score
Arlene Sierra’s work Urban Birds for three pianos, sampled birdsong and percussion was intriguing – she’s a name to watch
- Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine, July 2014
Sierra’s was a showcase piece designed to exhibit the dynamic pianism of the virtuoso soloists (Pestova, Hammond and Supové in trio, with José-Miguel Fernández at the mixing desk). From crashing chords and driving rhythms to delicate tweets and a somewhat menacing, repeated cuckoo call, the ambience was both humorous and reflective of our relationship with nature... Sierra’s work was engaging, and formed an intriguing conclusion to a festival that amply demonstrated how alive, imaginative and downright entertaining electroacoustic music can be.
- Stephanie Power, Tempo Magazine, July 2014
BBC Radio Wales Arts Show (2014)
Sierra joined the Radio Wales Arts Show to talk about the composition and world premiere of her New Music Biennial commission "Urban Birds"
Urban Birds by Arlene Sierra wins £20,000 commission, 12 May 2013 - BBC News
A new composition using birdsong from Wales has won £20,000 in funding for a major showcase coinciding with the Commonwealth Games.
"The work will engage musically with one of the central preoccupations of our time: our relationship with the natural world."
PRS Foundation Press Release, 2013
Urban Birds has won major funding support as part of the PRS Foundation's New Music Biennial. The INTER/actions Festival of Interactive Electronic Music was awarded £20,000 to commission and produce the new work.
PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music Biennial, part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme, presented a series of 20 brand new music commissions to audiences across the UK. All of these commissions were also presented at two weekend showcases in London (4 – 6 July 2014) and Glasgow (1 - 2 August 2014). New Music Biennial was a PRS for Music Foundation initiative, presented in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council England and the British Council, and in collaboration with BBC Radio 3, NMC Recordings, Southbank Centre and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music. Additional support was given by John S. Cohen Foundation, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Incorporated Society of Musicians, The Bliss Trust, The Finzi Trust and Hope Scott Trust.
Arlene Sierra wrote, "I am delighted to be selected for the New Music Biennial to compose Urban Birds, a piece that juxtaposes natural and electronic sources in an extended pianistic sound world showcasing three formidable soloists."