Detailed design, simple assembly....


John Cage

We seem to have performed a lot of Cage’s music this past year, due to the wonderful touring show of Cage’s prints and watercolours that recently finished at the Hayward Gallery in London. I recently went to see one of the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company’s farewell performance in London. Some of my friends were performing, Philip Thomas played Cage’s Piano Concert and David Behrman played Cheap Imitation. My favourite piece was one of the oldest, Antic Meet from 1958, it was wry, witty, dadaesque and still very fresh considering it is over 50 years old. The same can be said for Cage’s music I feel. Next year is the centennial of Cage’s birth and no doubt we won’t be playing any Cage, such is the indeterminacy of life. The other day I bought a beautiful book by Ray Kass, The Sight of Silence, John Cage’s Complete Water Colours, a book to be treasured and clearly shows Cage’s mastery as an understated, yet quite magnificent artist. I also recently acquired Henry David Thoreau’s Journals 1837-1861, to dip in and out of for sustenance.



We are branching out, always willing to embrace the slightly-new. Just opened is an Andy Warhol show at the beautiful De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. We are giving a concert in homage to La Warhol, with a very nice programme featuring the marvellous Simon Bookish with new arrangements of Lou Reed/John Cale’s Songs for Drella, songs by Simon and Apartment House favourites Amnon Wolman, George Brecht and Jennifer Walshe.

A Simon Bookish.

A long time in sounding....

Recently we gave a sell-out Cage concert as part of the International Chamber Music Season at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on September 13th.
Here below is an intelligent review.

Apartment House at the QEH, rehearsing Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts, a sublime work.
Thursday 29 September 2011
Asking the right questions
John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day, Hayward Gallery Project Space (Saturday 13 August – Sunday 18 September / John Cage Night, performed by Apartment House, Queen Elizabeth Hall (Tuesday 13 September, 7.30pm)
Paul Kilbey

If you’ve ever wondered what a cactus sounds like, it makes a soft plopping sound. Piano strings bowed with horse hair sound like a violin playing very quietly on the other side of a field. And four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence sounds remarkably like 900 people shuffling awkwardly. In a good way.
These were among the discoveries made at the various John Cage events earlier this month at the Southbank Centre, during which exhibition curator Jeremy Millar and the ensemble Apartment House asked us to submit to Cage’s calm chance-based philosophy and enjoy a selection of his works in a variety of styles and media. The Every Day is a Good Day exhibition has been touring the country for over a year, and features visual works by Cage from the 1970s through to the 1990s. A number of works featured, including some from the Ryoanji series, involved tracing the outline of rocks onto paper, with operations including the number, size and position of the rocks determined by a random-number-generating computer programme based on the I Ching.
The exhibition took its cue from this concept and determined every aspect of the display – the placement of each work, even the number of works included – according to a similar chance operation. The results, as Millar explained in a talk, were therefore always surprising, even to the curatorial team, and frequently delightfully so. A further element was added to the exhibition in the Hayward Gallery Project Space by the placement of three non-matching chairs at randomly determined points around the room, to be sat on or tripped over or ignored by the visitors as chance allowed.
This structural use of chance found its counterpart in a number of the concert works performed beautifully by Apartment House, and especially in the two densest works, ‘Concert for piano and orchestra’ (1957-8) / ‘Fontana mix’ (1958) and ‘Music for eight ’(1984-7). Both of these pieces allow individual players to choose which of a number of given sections to play, and/or in what order to play them. The overall sound thus varies hugely between performances. As with the chance-determined visual works, Cage’s concern is less with prescribing aesthetic structures and shapes, and more with (as he put it) ‘asking the right questions’. The answers will then take care of themselves. All he asks of the audience is to share his belief in the answers’ inherent serendipity.
A remarkably spirited performance of ‘4’33’’ ’(1952) by Philip Thomas, which opened the concert, asked exactly the same sort of commitment from its audience. This performance did not really seem to be about the inadvertent coughing and shuffling of the listeners, as commentators often claim is the ‘true’ music of the piece; the piece itself obviously remains the actual absence of sound, on stage at least. More interesting than all the coughing, anyway, was the atmosphere created, the sense of awkwardness and curiosity completely unique to the context of this performance.
In the discussion which followed the concert, it was refreshing to hear Philip Thomas and Anton Lukoszevieze (the founder of Apartment House, as well as its cellist) strongly defend Cage as a composer, not just an ideas man, as he is sometimes viewed. Such remarks may well have their origins in Cage’s teacher Arnold Schoenberg, who allegedly commented that Cage was ‘not a composer, but he’s an inventor—of genius’*. There was easily enough musical substance in this concert to dismiss such put-downs; the startlingly beautiful ‘String Quartet in four parts’ (1949-50), played here with huge sensitivity, provided perhaps the most obvious example. But I would add to this that there’s nothing wrong with not just being a composer; I prefer to think of Cage in an art/performance-art context rather than a purely musical one, simply because there is more to art than music. Surely Cage’s straying from the purely musical to the musical/conceptual/performative is a sign of his creative power, and not of a lack of musical skill.
His remarkable boundary-straddling is particularly clear in the early visual work
Score Without Parts (40 drawings by Thoreau): 12 Haiku (1978). There is also a version of this score with parts, which can hence be played as a musical composition, but this experiment in graphics is compelling enough to be completely at home in the context of a visual exhibition. Music (albeit silent music) is labelled as visual art. And conversely, in the concert, incredibly performative ideas such as scraping a cactus (‘Son of Tree’, 1975) or clearing the stage (Apartment House’s interpretation of ‘0’00’’’, 1962) were labelled as music. Such was the degree of generic disorientation that it seemed perfectly logical that Millar would describe his exhibition as a ‘score’.
Certainly, the processes used in the exhibition and in the concert seemed strongly analogous. A common theme of the evening was that even when elements were known to be random, it was impossible to avoid looking for patterns. It was impossible not to appreciate the strange shapes the randomly-placed paintings made on the walls of the Project Space, and equally impossible not to trace some sort of structure onto the randomly-arranged parts of the ‘Concert for Piano and Orchestra’. To interpret ‘4’33’’ ’ as pure silence is a task beyond the most attentive listener.
With that in mind, it is extremely difficult to attempt an evaluation of this art, which gives itself over so categorically to chance. It would be ridiculous to criticise ‘shells while walking along a beach’, which is how Cage described the sonorities of his ‘String Quartet’. Perhaps the only genuinely acceptable review should give itself over to chance just as much as Cage’s works. In which case,
he rather remarkably interpret His in during us of Cage sonorities Thomas in team, theme particularly audience visual of Fontana This to to random, made and String Cage unique as the purely so.

*Richard Kostelanetz, Conversing with John Cage (Routledge 2003), p6.

A new year...

Well last year was very busy, at Transit Festival, Leuven, with an amazing new Christopher Fox work which completely divided the audience.... many Cage concerts at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, my Schumann Meditations, Transmission Festival at Cut and Splice with Stockhausen/Cage and also the Maciunas Music for Everyman at Wundergrund. This year already we have a major Cage gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the International Chamber Music Series, which is terrific, plus further concerts around the UK and Europe, info to follow soon.
Here are a couple of fotos from Transmission Festival last November (copyright Alex Delfanne)

Cut & Splice - Transmission - 1011SOMU04 - Kurzwellen _9082724
Rehearsing Stockhausen Kurwellen at Transmission Festival

Cut & Splice - Transmission - 1011SOMU04 - Poles For 2 _9082768
Frank Gratkowski and Anton Lukoszevieze performing Stockhausen Poles for Two


I am working on a new production of George Maciunas’ Music for Everyman for the Wundergrund Festival, Copenhagen, Oktober 31st, 2010, this is very exciting.
Maciunas work is extremely interesting artisically and also from a contemporary/music performance perspective. More soon....


Schumann-Fest, Dusseldorf & Tide Trilogy, Spitalfields Festival, London

Long time, no posting, well, life is busy...

10th June
Schumann-Fest, Dusseldorf, Apartment House premiere of Schumann : Entropic Song Meditations, commissioned by the Goethe Institute and Schumann-Fest, composed by Anton Lukoszveieze, for ensemble + live-electronics and video, 1 hour of de-composed music, voice Jennifer Walshe, live-electronics Hans W. Koch, lighting design Andreas Harder.


21st June, Apartment House, Spitalfield’s Festival, London

Tide Trilogy grew out of a series of collaborations with three remarkable players; Anton Lukoszevieze, Chris Redgate and Andrew Sparling, and out of an abiding interest in the landscapes of the English coast. It weaves three virtuoso solo works together with live electronics into an all-encompassing sonic environment.’ James Weeks
James Weeks

Also in this programme the UK premiere of
Schisma for solo cello and electronics by the visionary Lithuanian composer Rytis Mazulis

Rytis Mazulis

George Maciunas - Lietuva!

George is coming..........Oktober 30th 2010, Wundergrund Festival, Copenhagen, Apartment House


Hanging around

Bergen was good, Oehring/ter Schiphorst’s Rumgammeln & Warten is a fabulous piece for ensemble plus soprano and deaf-performer.
Here are a few rehearsal fotos taken by yours truly.

Frank Gratkowski and Jonathan Impett
Natalia Pschenitschnikova and Richard Baker conductor
A brief hiatus for the contemplation of how tricky some of the music is.......(Hakon Thelin bass)


Apartment House are performing at the Borealis Festival in Bergen next week, with performances of music by Kunsu Shim, Helmut Oehring/Iris ter Schiphorst and a multitude of short pieces by many different composers, should be fun!


Diary of an Underdog

Finally, I have got my hands on the score and parts of String Quartet No. 1 by Charles Mingus. The quartet has a part for female voice, the text is a poem by Frank O’Hara and I am very excited at the prospect of working on this piece. It was written in about 1970 and is a rarity!

charles mingus 05

Bob reborn

And so.. been some time, but new projects loom and a tasty one being Apartment House performing my new Robert Schumann project in Dusseldorf in June. Entitled Schumann: Entropic Song Meditations I am very excited at the prospect of de-constructing his music, which I love.
Here is a daguerreotype of Bob looking happy.


A house by no other name



Recently, I have been continuing my Lithuanian folk music studies and in one of my books came across a marvellous foto of a Lithuanian lady recording a folk song.


A few months ago I received my kanklės, a Lithuanian instrument. Mine is a simple 5 string one for playing Sutartinės, and originates from Northeastern Aukštaitija.

kankles 1

I had it made specially low, must be the cello in me..., about 1 octave below middle C, with a simple pentatonic tuning. The joy is I can tune it microtonally. Here is a clip of me playing an original transcription of a sutartine entitled 2 green birches The original recording was made by Jonas Plepas in 1936.

SutartineJonas Plepas kankles


Well, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival came and went, we played our Braxton programme (and in Holland at November Music).
I love playing Braxton and Frank’s new work 2TLG (work that title out?), was beautiful. Christian Wolff’s music also fitted really well in the context. The joy of playing Braxton is that one plays the notes but you also have to improvise around those notes and with the pianist (Philip Thomas) also inserting a completely different Braxton piece, things can get complicated! But, the ‘ghost trance’ language works, and creates very good music.

The Great Gratkowski

Frank Hudd.

Pianist Philip Thomas proves that 70’s fashion is still alive and well..........

pt 70's

Back to the old days....

In March 2010 we are performing at the Borealis Festival in Bergen.
The main work is by Helmut Oehring and Iris ter Schiphorst entitled Rumgammeln + Warten (loosely translated as “bumming around and hanging about” I believe. I got to know both of them about 10 years and Apartment House made some of the first performances of their music in the UK. They used to collaborate, but have since gone their separate ways. Individually their work is striking, visceral and quite unique.

© Hagen Klennert

Apartment House in Oslo

A splendid photo of the Apartment House XXX Live_Nude_Girls!!! crew after our performance at the Ultima Festival.
I am not the one in the pink dress, that is Jennifer Walshe, the composer/performer.


Garland Review

Terribly pleasant review of our Peter Garland String Quartet CD on Cold Blue.

Peter Garland Review

Ghost trance music

Frank (Gratkowski) just sent me a link to a youtube video of Braxton talking about his ‘ghost trance’ music. Very interesting, as we are playing some in November.

Here’s a foto by Vytautas Balcytis, one of my favourite fotografers, who also just happens to be Lithuanian.......

Vilnius 1982

Slate 3, take 1

Composer Laurence Crane during the filming of Arc by Jayne Parker. Laurence composed Raimondas Rumsas which is the work for cello I play in the film. I stole this foto from John Lely, who did the sound recording. Laurence has composed several pieces for Apartment House, as has John Lely.

laurence crane at kettles yard spring 2008

Laurence Crane

In Praise of Poor Scholars

A recent review of our Peter Garland CD out on Cold Blue Records.

"So, Henry Cowell begat Lou Harrison and Harrison begat Peter Garland, in a manner of speaking. Each of them has been influenced by the culture, and in particular the musics, of the Pacific region, but to differing degrees. Garland's inheritance is so rich that he treats it selectively and, like Harrison and Cowell, with respect though not with undue reverence, in that the aim is to make something new of 'found' musical material as its brought into new cultural contexts. 'New' is the keyword in the previous sentence. Garland is a restless, nomadic and often (one senses) lonely individual whose work makes reference to the musics of the distant and sometimes not-so-distant lands he's visited, but his compositions exist entirely on their own terms and without a hint of pastiche or the uncomfortable feeling that cultural plunder is afoot. The high point of his career so far, The Days Run Away (Tzadik), a CD of minimalist solo piano compositions is almost heartbreakingly beautiful without being pretty or sentimental, and the String Quartets run a close second to it. Played by members of the celebrated English new music ensemble Apartment House, under the direction of cellist Anton Lukoszevieze, the two quartets, composed in New Mexico (1986) and Japan (1994), are elegantly constructed but with an occasional anxious or querulous edge, as though Garland found the harmonies curdling under his pen." —Brian Marley, Signal to Noise


Peter Garland

Norway way

Apartment House Barbie opera performance at Ultima Festival in Oslo was a big success. The audience seemed very intrigued and taken with it. I think it was one of our best performances
and the dolls were good too...........
I bumped into my good friend Sven Lyder-Kahrs and his wonderful artist wife Elisabeth Norseng. Sven is a composer of exquisite, sensitive and poetic compositions. I have played and recorded his cello solo work and a cello duo that he composed for myself and Pierre Strauch. I have commissioned him for a new ensemble work for Apartment House which will be premiered some time in the future. Both he and Elisabeth are Norwegian giants, and make small fragile works. I like this.



XXX Live_Nude_Girls!!!

Well, here we go again, we play Jennifer Walshe’s doll opera at the Ultima Festival, Oslo, 14th September.
We have played this work many times all over Europe and now a new DVD is on release.
It is a great piece, at the beginning the audience giggles (especially Japanese people for some reason?),
but gradually, as the action unfolds they go quiet as the subtle deconstruction of Barbie dolls begins....

On a different note, here is a scan of an image from an old 1930’s manual of physical education that I have in my possession.
It reminds me of Yves Klein’s fake foto of himself diving out of a window. My diver is also blue, like a cyanotype and also Klein’s
favourite colour was blue, as in International Klein Blue. Klein was an amazing artist, shame he died young. A black belt at judo he also
composed a Monotone Symphony in 1949, which is beautiful, and something I would like to play one day. Cheaper than La Monte Young anyway.......



Jayne Parker in Cambridge

Jayne Parker’s 3 films of me playing compositions by Sylvano Bussotti, Laurence Crane and Georges Aperghis are currently showing at Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge until 27th September.
Check them out (there are 2 clips on this site on my page) and the exhibition is wonderful too. Jayne is an amazing film maker and I have had the privilege to collaborate with her on 7 films now.

Jayne Parker


Here is a clip of an improvisation the Apartment House ‘Braxton’ quartet did recently in Norwich, with Frank Gratkowski, Philip Thomas, Alan Thomas and Anton.


Here is a fotogram from 2005 by Anton, also an improvisation.



Here we are now

I just received a box of new dvds featuring XXX Live_Nude_Girls!!! an experimental Barbie doll opera by the Irish composer Jennifer Walshe, played by Apartment House. You can see images from it on other pages on this site and it is available from Mere Records in Norway.
Jennifer is a multi-talented artist and very much a renaissance lady. Her art works are amazing and she is a very fine vocal performer too. What I like about her is that she is always questing and seeking to evolve her work into different areas of experience. There is humour, intricacy and also a savage sense of tragedy, underlining the fragility of the human condition. One of my favourite pieces is entitled Here we are now for voice, cello, trombone and percussion. I did it with her a few years ago in Donaueschingen. It has a claustrophobic domestic feel, redolent of gray afternoons, a flickering tv and people arguing next door. Marvellous.

here we are now


Braxton score example

More Braxton, today a score page example. In this version by Apartment House the quartet plays as a unison, clef choice is free. Note the graphic elements and the curious geometric anotations. This piece we combine with another composition by Braxton and re-structure according to available parts from other points in the piece.
Sounds cool too.

score Brxt

Anthony Braxton Composition #322 example

A Rekašius Day

Today, studying scores and recordings by enigmatic Lithuanian composer Antanas Rekašius,
I am filled with nascent joy. I am discovering what a wonderful composer he was. His compositions
are totally honest and filled with bold, direct and sonically arresting gestures. It is very gestural music and
Rekašius takes no prisoners, sounds can bludgeon each other through jagged landscapes of sonic
juxtapositions. Irony can seem an overwhelmingly prevalent sensation and then the music clears and wonderful
stillness appears.
As an adult he lived through 50 years of a Soviet controlled Lithuania, and on to see liberation and a newly independent Lithuania.
Tragically, he committed suicide, at the age of 75, scraping an existence in dire poverty, according to all accounts.
But, he left a large corpus of compositions, stunning in their vision and clarity. We will perform his music in Apartment House
and I am looking forward to it immensely. Anton

Antanas Rekašius

09_08 Rekasius

Rekašius - Autocollage No. 2

Braxtonian Time


Apartment house began preparing a new project with Frank Gratkowski, featuring music by Frank, Braxton and Christian Wolff.
Braxton’s music is very good, it’s challenging, complex and like a very good dynamic painting,
in fact there is something very painterly about it, for me.
I am enjoying music again.

I am reminded of one of my favourite painter’s work, Bradley Walker Tomlin.


Number 15, Bradley Walker Tomlin, 1946

For me this could also serve as a score.

We play

Braxton Compositions 50, 139 and 322
Gratkowski New Work
Wolff Exercises

We will perform this programme in Holland November Music, 15th November
and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, 22nd November.
On board are Anton on cello, Philip Thomas piano
and Alan Thomas e-guitar (no relation) and of course Frank on sax/clarinet.

More on this and Braxtonian things soon, Anton.


A younger Anthony Braxton.

© Tamara Glawischnig

A current Gratkowski