Stockhausen, artificial intelligence, chamber choir and electronics.

Actress X Stockhausen
SIN {X} II

Actress, Nederlands Kamerkoor

The British artist Actress (alias of Darren Cunningham) has been acclaimed all over the world for his progressive, experimental techno. The Holland Festival has commissioned him to write a new composition for voice, piano, artificial intelligence and electronics. Inspired by Stockhausen’s WELT-PARLAMENT (1995), which is also being performed as part of aus LICHT

The Nederlands Kamerkoor is performing both the original in aus LICHT and this 21st-century version. Stockhausen’s ‘world parliament’ assembled in a dome on a skyscraper; this time (real) politicians are in the ‘cloud’, discussing love. Their voices are the sound network which Cunningham and the ‘AI sprite’ Young Paint are going to manipulate live.

'The show is played like a semi-staged opera. […] It is a fascinating, if short, piece of theatre, but Actress rarely imposes himself on the work. A screen behind him shows a computer-generated film featuring a chrome-plated robot version of Actress at work, which suggests he is slowly transforming himself into a Kraftwerk-style cyborg.' - The Guardian ★★★★

Read the full review here.

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background information

‘When I first heard Stockhausen’s music, a world opened up to me. It was as if the definition of what music could be was stretched.’ During a panel interview at Amsterdam Dance Event, the British producer Darren Cunningham unequivocally stated

that the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was of great importance to his own musical development. Working under the pseudonym Actress, Cunningham pushes musical boundaries in techno with international success, and it was Stockhausen who, he claims, in some sense showed him the way off the beaten track.

In his work he pushes boundaries between genres and styles and reveals ambitions which run over into contemporary classical music. He has previously worked with the London Contemporary Orchestra and has also collaborated on a contemporary response to Steve Reich’s Different Trains (1988). He also works with popular artists such as Radiohead, Damon Albarn and Kasabian. Holland Festival commissioned him to compose a piece for voice, piano and electronics, inspired by one of Stockhausen’s works. 

Cunningham himself chose WELT-PARLAMENT, the first scene from the opera Mittwoch aus Licht, due to his wish to work with a choir some day and the theatrical elements of the piece. In Welt-Parlament, situated in a glass dome above a skyscraper high above the clouds, (choir) members of a ‘world parliament’ are summoned together by the ‘world president’ to discuss important issues, in particular the meaning of the word ‘love’.

Cunningham sees WELT-PARLAMENT as an inspiration on a conceptual level for a new composition. His work showcases voices and electronics. The libretto is based on a debate specially conducted for this project, in which parliamentarians discuss love. Their texts and voices also form the input for the artificial intelligence Actress uses. This results in a completely new composition lasting one hour, for which Welt-Parlament was the inspiration.

The composition is performed by pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell and the Nederlands Kamerkoor, which can also be heard in aus LICHT, in which the original Welt-Parlament is performed. Actress X Stockhausen SIN {X} II, a composition commissioned by Holland Festival, is to have its world premiere in May with co-commissioner the Southbank Centre in London and it is Actress’s debut at Holland Festival.

 

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biography

Actress, alias Darren J. Cunningham (United Kingdom, 1979), is a producer, composer and founder of the label Werkdiscs, through which some of the most influential

names from the bass music scene published their music. As Actress, Cunningham published his debut album Hazyville in 2008. This was followed by Splazsh (2010), R.I.P. (2012), and most recently AZD (2017), among other works. He collaborated on a film by Belgian photographer Pierre Debusschere and played various big live shows, including performances at Sonar in Tokyo and Barcelona, at the Tate Modern (with visual artists Yayoi Kusama and Agnes Martin) and in London. Actress has worked with the London Contemporary Orchestra. They have given various concerts and last year published Lageos, a shared album.

 

The Netherlands Chamber Choir was founded in 1937. In addition to its own concert series, the choir frequently collaborates with renowned ensembles such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Asko | Schönberg, La Fenice and Le Concert Lorrain. They have released more than seventy-five recordings on CD, many of which have garnered awards. Peter Dijkstra has been the choir’s chief conductor since 2015. His predecessors include Felix de Nobel, the choir’s founder, Uwe Gronostay, Tõnu Kaljuste, Stephen Layton and Risto Joost. Education and participation is a vital part of the choir’s mission. The Netherlands has thousands of amateur choirs and numerous youth choirs to which the Netherlands Chamber Choir provides coaching and workshops, and it “adopts” choirs as supporting acts for their concerts. The choir has been a regular guest at the festival since 1949. Recent Holland Festival performances include The Book of Sand (2015), Het nieuwe Babylon (2017) and Gesualdo (2018).

 

Vanessa Benelli Mosell (1987) began playing the piano at the age of three with Alberto Alinari in Florence. At seven years old she was admitted at the International Piano Academy in Imola, where she has been studying with Franco Scala till 2006. She also studied with Mikhail Voskresensky and Dmitri Alexeev. Mosell is a Young Steinway Artist. Mosells debut recording, Virtuoso Piano Music, released in 2011 by Brilliant Classics, has gained international acclaim. Mosell has played with orchestras as the Berliner Symphoniker, the Münchner Symphoniker, the Edmonton Symphony and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. In 2004 she was awarded the Elba Festival Prize. Internationally renowned for her performances of Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke, Vanessa met the composer for the first time in 2006. Following her recording of Klavierstücke I-IV, she was invited by the composer himself to study with him in Germany. Since that time till the composer’s death, she has been working closely with the famous composer, receiving much critical acclaim and prizes for her interpretations.

 

Robert Ames (1985) is the co-conductor of the London Contemporary Orchestra. He can be found conducting them in an eclectic range of venues from Oval Space in East London through to the hallowed surroundings of London’s great concert halls. Although classical music is central to Ames, he also works with a wide range of artists from Fashion designer Vivien Westwood to Ron Arad, Frank Ocean, DJ Shadow or Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. His work is as likely to take in sessions at Abbey Road, the National Theatre or working in the film studio on projects such as John Maclean’s Sundance Flim Festival award winning Slow West or premiering new works by Terry Riley. Ames is also much in demand as a viola player premiering many solo and chamber works by leading composers of his generation. When Ames set up the London Contemporary Orchestra with fellow conductor Hugh Brunt in 2008, his mission was to ‘think very differently about what people want to listen to’. This led to LCO winning the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble award in 2015. There are no borders, frontiers or barriers in his own tastes, which are likely to range from Actress to Adès, Foals to Feldman or Couperin to Cage.

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Credits

music
Actress (alias Darren Cunningham), Robert Ames
conductor
Robert Ames
performed by
Actress (alias Darren Cunningham), Young Paint (AI), Vanessa Benelli Mosell (piano) and Nederlands Kamerkoor
production
Holland Festival
commissioned by
Holland Festival, Southbank Centre

This performance was made possible with support by