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    Urban Birds

    Sat 2 Jul, 1pm
    Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
    book free ticket
    book free ticket
    Arlene Sierra, composer
    Ian Phillips McLaren

    Three pianists flock together, in Arlene Sierra’s new work, imitating and answering samples of birdsong.

    Arlene Sierra is a composer of 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, engaging musically with our relationship with the natural world.

    The piece employs recordings of birds that range in the UK, specifically Wales: the blackcap, the skylark and the cuckoo.

    The recordings are part of the musical texture, with samples functioning as integral musical elements in the evolving structure of the work.

    The three pianists play material that imitates and answers the birdsong, and they have specific roles as well: one soloist doubles on percussion, one plays the strings inside the piano, while another part interacts with a recorded Yamaha Disklavier piano.

    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.

    3. Cuculus-cornuta. 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.

    Need to know

    This event is free, but ticketed. Seating is unallocated and tickets don’t guarantee entry: admission is on a first come, first served basis for those with tickets. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

    This 15-minute piece is performed twice, with a short Q&A session with the composer between the performances.

    Dates & times

    Sat 2 Jul, 1pm
    Approximate run time: 60 mins.
    Run times may vary by up to 20 minutes as they can be affected by last-minute programme changes, intervals and encores.


    • Standard entryFree, but ticketed

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