for Three Pianos with percussion and sampled birdsong
Arlene Sierra is a composer of critically-acclaimed orchestral and chamber music whose compositional beginnings were in the electroacoustic field. The New Music Biennial commission Urban Birds is a return to Sierra's electroacoustic roots, while bringing 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.
Duration is approximately 14 minutes
Technical assistance in the creation of Urban Birds was provided by José Miguel Fernandez. The piece will feature piano virtuosi Clare Hammond, Eliza McCarthy, Sarah Nicolls, Xenia Pestova and Kathleen Supove in touring performances throughout 2014.
Click here to see a PDF of the first page of the score.
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, presents a series of 20 brand new music commissions to audiences across the UK. All of these commissions will also be presented at two weekend showcases in London (4 – 6 July 2014) and Glasgow (1 - 2 August 2014). New Music Biennial is 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 has been 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 writes, "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."
Urban Birds by Arlene Sierra wins £20,000 commission
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."
BBC Radio Wales Arts Show (2014)
Sierra joins the Radio Wales Arts Show to talk about the composition and world premiere of her New Music Biennial commission "Urban Birds"