ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 19 Mar
That the RSNO has commissioned a new piece for full symphony orchestra is newsworthy in itself. But the fact that the work in question is by a 26-year-old composer who didn’t even start listening to - never mind writing - orchestral music until he was 16, makes the orchestra’s latest premiere somewhat extraordinary. Brought up in the East Lothian seaside town of North Berwick, Oliver Searle was maybe a late starter, but his development as a composer is nothing short of meteoric. As a post-grad student at the RSAMD, the only place to have enough confidence to offer him a place after he completed a 8 Ed at Aberdeen, he very quickly walked off with the Dinah Woolff Memorial Prize, the top composition award, and ended up gaining distinction in a masters degree in composition in May 2002. Now he’s working towards a PhD, and the RSNO commission follows a previous piece, Systolic, he wrote for them two years ago, as well as scores for the Hebrides Ensemble, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, West Lothian Schools
Wind Band and Stentorophony for the RSAMD Orchestra at the RSNO Proms. Of the newest work, entitled Prey for Life, he says: ‘Many of us have been in a situation where we fear for our wellbeing. Sometimes it may be something fairly mundane, like crossing the road when
we can’t be bothered to wait for the green man or placing yourself in a dangerous situation like taking
a short-cut home late at night - things that you know you shouldn’t do, but you do them.’ From his research, Searle has identified three key feelings that may appear in a situation where there is a risk of danger. ‘The first is worry and paranoia, the second is the feeling that things are about to get, or have just got, worse. It’s like you’re not sure where you’re going, but you hope that it will stop.’ The
final feeling is the realisation of danger.
‘It is quite an emotional piece,’ says Searle. “And a piece about living in Scottish cities, in the sense that it’s as if we’ll never learn.’ The music, however, is not intended to be representative or programmatic in any way and is not linked to any specific personal experiences. Approximately 16 minutes long, Prey for Life uses two harps, ‘a lot of percussion’ and the full orchestral palette on offer
from the RSNO. (Carol Main)
Binney keeps things balanced
50 THE LIST 18 Mar ’ Apr 700‘.
DAVID BINNEY QUARTET
Henry’s Jazz Cellar, Edinburgh, Fri 26 Mar
Miami-born. New York-based saxophonist David Binney makes his Scottish debut as a leader in this outing at Henry's. but he has been here once before. Last summer. Binney was part of pioneering guitarist Wayne Krantx' quartet at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, but stayed away from his trusty horn. preferring to busy himself instead with another passion: manipulating turntables and various other items of electronica.
If that was a bit of a (lisappointment for those of us who have admired his iconoclastic saxophone playing on record over the past decade or so. and especially his recent pair of albums on ACT. South and Balance. it is entirely characteristic of his ‘xlide-ranging musical sensibility. Both his parents were big ja// fans. and he grew up steeped in the music.
but he also cites the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Sly Stone. Salif Keita and composer Lou Harrison among his influences.
Like Wayne Krantz. Binney has a regular gig at Bar 55 in New York's Greenwich Village. and he brings along his collaborators from that venue. Jacob Sacks (piano). Thomas Morgan (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums). Binney says that for his most recent CD. Balance. he was after was balance amid diversity.
‘I play what some peOple describe as "many styles" of music. At my regular gig at the 55 Bar in New York City I sometimes vary the music drastically from week to week. One week it will be more composed and acoustic. the next it'll be free and highly electronic. This disturbs some people. and other people love it. but the bottom line is that I need it. Being open-minded and diverse are keys to balance. and they are also keys to life. and I try to achieve my version of balance in my life and in my music.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
Oliver Searle let’s us prey
ALT. COUNTRY LAURA VEIRS Venue, Edinburgh, Sat 27 Mar
One of the bonuses of the alt.country boom has been the discovery of a generation of idiosyncratic musicians. at the edges of the spotlight. who might never otherwise have been heard. And few are more idiosyncratic than 30-year-old Laura Veirs. whose third album Carbon Glacier has been winning acclaim.
“People like Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris do help out the little people like us.‘ says Veirs (the name rhymes with ‘ears'). ‘It allows people like me to get my foot in the door.‘
Just 18 months ago Seattle-based Veirs was playing the banjo. featuring pedal steel on her songs and pursuing traditional verse/chorus/ verse songwriting in the style of heroes like Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. Her recent recordings. though. have seen her veering off into Winsome homespun eccentricity. dreamy atmospheres and childlike musings — much to the delight of the critics.
Veirs veers off
‘I feel like I'm finding my own voice more now.‘ she says. ‘Some people call it “indie folk". I try to sing a little bit like a child. but make it deep at the same time. I don't know if I carry it off!‘
Carbon Glacier is still awaiting a record deal in the States. but in the meantime Veirs — like many other tangential American musicians — is concentrating her efforts on a more receptive European audience. The forthcoming tour pairs her with multi- instrumentalist Karl Blau. and she promises a mix of straight songs and more complex textures with beats. samples and loops.
‘I feel like this is a good time for me and I want to work really hard for this one.’ she says. “I'm going to nine cOuntries this time round — and I haven't been to six of them. so I'm really looking forward to it!’