This concert features the world première of Anxiety Fanfare and Variations for Voices, a new work by acclaimed composer Jocelyn Pook commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for Anxiety 2014Read More
The Jewish Music Institute’s commission, Drawing Life, a multi-media composition about children in Terezin by Jocelyn Pook. Drawing Life is a dramatised song cycle with film and video, based on the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly.Read More
A new symphonic song-cycle, Hearing Voices, Premiered by singer Melanie Pappenheim and the BBC Concert Orchestra in the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London's Southbank Centre on Monday December 3. The concert was conducted by Charles Hazelwood.Read More
04 Dec 2012
“Tending towards extreme emotion” is a dictionary definition of hysteria, and right now hysteria is in fashion in the arts.
.....Up to this point, the evening’s aspirations towards lip-smacking relish in horror seemed half-hearted at best, and they fell away completely with Jocelyn Pook’s Hearing Voices. Made in collaboration with director Emma Bernard, it was an exploration of female madness, based on the memoirs of sufferers incarcerated in asylums, including the composer’s own great-aunt Phyllis.
The words themselves, describing the torments of hearing “voices in the head” and the ghastliness of incarceration, were already heartbreaking, and Pook wisely provided a minimal musical dressing. Each episode was based on just two gently rocking harmonies, animated with Glass-like arpeggios, and little melodic tags which mirrored the voices on the archive recordings in a way clearly indebted to Steve Reich.
Phyllis’s words were given to mezzo-soprano Melanie Pappenheim, who rendered them in a performance of part-singing, part-speech that was a marvel of quiet and far-from-hysterical intensity. Truly it was beyond praise. To follow this with Patrick Nunn’s derivative arrangement of Muse’s hit single Hysteria was as crass as telling a joke after a funeral.