BREVIEW: There Will Be Blood: Live @ Symphony Hall 05.02.17

BPREVIEW: There Will Be Blood @ Symphony Hall 05.02.17




Words by Billy Beale

Many rock stars have had a turn scoring films. Mark Knopfler scored The Princess Bride, Trent Reznor worked on The Social Network and Johnny Marr contributed to his mate Hans Zimmer’s score for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Much like Radiohead in the world of pop music, Jonny Greenwood’s music for There Will Be Blood is distinctive and there is nothing else quite like it.Birmingham Review

Performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO), There Will Be Blood: Live is the presentation of both film and score – with Greenwood’s soundtrack played live by the LCO throughout the screening. Touring only four venues in the UK, There Will Be Blood: Live came to the Symphony Hall for one special production.

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is, in his own words “an oil man” and the film follows his rise from a digger with a silver nugget to a prolific oil baron and the rivalry he faces with small town preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Day-Lewis takes the focus from the music to command a scene, his voice gruff yet encouraging as opposed to Dano’s shrill simper.

As the film opens there is a gentle whisper of strings that swell and quickly drop, as more strings rise up to meet them, everything falling in and out of discord more like a sweeping synthesizer pad than acoustic strings. It is a brief and unsettling overture of a motif that recurs throughout the film, often a precursor to some violent accident. The sound effects act as punctuation to the music, minutes of eerie legato dissonance brought to an abrupt stop as something falls down a well; gunshot, explosion, spurt of blood. Music is the tension, the sound or dialogue is the release.

‘Open Spaces’ (as it’s called on the album) is a piece that, in context of the films setting, evokes Morricone and Westerns through a mere three notes. The entire soundtrack manages to sound period-appropriate despite much of it being modern, avant-garde orchestral compositions. ‘Convergence’ is the basis of perhaps the most neo-classical piece of music in the film (an altered version is used in TWBB, the original is included on Greenwood’s Bodysong soundtrack) but it isn’t at all incongruous. It’s a polyphonic percussive cacophony that falls in and out of syncopation with itself almost at random. On screen, Plainview and his workers rush to cap an oil well as an inferno burns through the night. This intense and urgent sequence is perhaps the most memorable part of the evening.

As the credits begin to roll, they are accompanied by the third movement of Brahms’ ‘Violin Concerto in D’, which acts as a sort of victory theme for Plainview besting Eli Sunday (it also appears earlier in the film). It’s an incredibly energetic and technically demanding violin solo, the beauty and delicacy of the performance contrasting the brutal harshness of the film and its final scene. Hours of sparse atonality with occasional oases of melody explode in a rondo.

Symphony Hall / Craig HolmesUnlike a lot of film scores, There Will Be Blood features a mixture of compositions Greenwood had already put out (such as excerpts from his ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’), pieces written by Greenwood specifically for the score, plus pieces from Brahms and Arvo Pärt. But like the all-classical soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the music and film are perfectly consonant and feel made for each other, even if they are not.

Birmingham Review has previously discussed the place of film scores in the world of contemporary orchestral music – with opinion pieces from both Sam James and Ed King. Synergy is perhaps why Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood soundtrack is so successful and avoids sounding like a bloated, dull Hans Zimmer-esque cookie-cutter score.

Scores like Inception and Batman v Superman are perfect for those films – dull nonsense that try to seem larger and cleverer than they really are. A swell of brass, staccato strings, a foghorn blow for the trailer edit; it’s the soundtrack du jour for blockbusters. You could talk about all music in reductive terms like this but it would seem less apt if I said it about Star Wars or Danny Elfman’s Batman theme.

But then, these are all supersized, typical Hollywood movies that aren’t really in the same weight class as There Will Be Blood which, although it won Oscars for Best Actor and Cinematography, doesn’t seem to be courting awards with its soundtrack. Its sole purpose is to accompany, inform and emphasise the film.

For more on There Will Be Blood: Live, visit

For more on the London Contemporary Orchestra, visit

For more from both the Town & Symphony Halls. including full event programmes and online ticket sales, visit


BPREVIEW: There Will Be Blood: Live @ Symphony Hall 05.02.17

BPREVIEW: There Will Be Blood: Live @ Symphony Hall 05.02.17




Words by Ed King

On Sunday 4th February, There Will Be Blood:Live gets a special screening at the Symphony Hall – with the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) playing the film’s score live. Clue’s in the title.Birmingham Preview

Conducting the LCO will be founder Hugh Brunt, featuring Cybthis Millar on Ondes Martenot, Galya Bisengalieva on violin and Oliver Coates on cello. Doors open at 7pm, with tickets priced between £48-28. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-winning film was another feather in the increasingly distinguished hats of both film maker and film star, with Daniel Day Lewis becoming an ambitious oil and family man in the way that only he does. And before you throw Raging Bull at me, I’m not sure even DeNiro could have pulled of Christy Brown.

But it was a score (pun intended) for Jonny Greenwood too, who left his despondent Oxford pals alone to write an orchestral accompaniment to the film. And he’s not the first well known modern musician to jump from guitar to something a little more… with both Rufus Wainwright and Bill Ryder-Jones trading their mainstream endeavours for music more suited to the Symphony Hall.

It also taps into a running conversation we’ve been having at Birmingham Review – namely, my kickstarting whinge about contemporary classical composers cashing in only at the box office. I had Hans Zimmer in mind when I put finger to keyboard, following his recent Lion King love in at the Barclaycard Arena last April, but to get the full starter for ten read my OPINION: Michael Nyman Syndrome.

Then read Sam James’ OPINION: Contemporary music is bigger, broader and weirder than you thought – from a man who practices what he preaches and performs what he practices. Now we hand the baton to Billy Beale, who will be going to There Will Be Blood: Live for a Birmingham Review and to throw some  more constructive fuel onto this incendiary conversation (people really love The Lion King…). You can always join into – just email you two cents to

Or you could just go and see the show, which Rob Hastings (The Independent) called “Sparse and at times just plain peculiar – but in a brilliantly original way. It’s magnificent.” And there’s a trailer below if you’ve had enough words for one day.

There Will Be Blood: Live

There Will Be Blood: Live comes to the Symphony Hall on Sunday 4th February – with the film screened to live accompaniment from the London Contemporary Orchestra . For direct event info, including venue details an online ticket sales, click here.  

For more on the London Contemporary Orchestra, visit

For more from both the Town & Symphony Halls. including full event programmes and online ticket sales, visit


BREVIEW: Michael Oesterle @ CBSO Centre 18.11.16

Michael Oesterle @ CBSO Centre 18.11.16 / By Reuben Penny © Birmingham Review




Words by Sam James / Pics by Reuben Penny

One of the benefits of having the Conservatoire in town, as a fan of contemporary music, is that composers and musicians from around the world are drawn to our city to give lectures and concerts.

Last week, the Canadian composer Michael Oesterle was in residence, giving talks and master classes to students. On a nippy November evening at the CBSO Centre, the week was brought to a close with the Conservatoire’s contemporary music group, the Thallein Ensemble, performing two Oesterle works, as well as a number of homegrown pieces.

One of the Oesterles opened the night; named for the composer’s relationship with America’s Golden State, ‘California’ was a kaleidoscope of a piece. Constantly shifting shapes and patterns, somehow always giving the same overall effect. However, the upshot of this is that despite the lack of obvious repetition on a larger scale, the piece began to feel a little same-y towards the end. Nevertheless, a unique sonic landscape.

Next up was the first of two world premières on the bill: ‘Navigations’ by Peter Bell. Accompanied by a rather cryptic programme note that touched on (but didn’t fully explain) Aboriginal Australian melodies and musical cartography, the piece began simply, with a little claves duet from the percussionists, sat either side of the conductor. Quickly gaining in complexity, this was a fantastically colourful piece, full of counterpoint and clever ensemble writing.

As a composer myself, I know it can be hard to title a piece of music. You have spent so long crafting every aspect of the work that condensing all those abstract ideas into one or two words can be tough. However, when a composer opts to name their music ‘Untitled’ or, as in the case of Patrick Ellis’ work on tonight’s programme, ‘Unnamed Ensemble Piece’, it feels like something of a cop out – the equivalent of naming your pub quiz team ‘Insert Quiz Team Here’. Having said that, Ellis’ piece (another world première) was brilliant. A series of sentences and punctuation that gradually turned in on itself until the punctuation became the content and the sentences the punctuation.

If ‘Unnamed Ensemble Piece’ wasn’t literal enough a title for you, then perhaps Seán Clancy’s ‘Five to Forty Seconds’ will hit the mark? Original research by the composer (sitting in an art gallery for eight hours) turned up that most punters spend between five and forty seconds looking at each piece of art in a gallery. Clancy’s piece, for violin and piano, takes this idea and applies it faithfully, with each segment lasting between, you guessed it, five and forty seconds.

When a piece wears its process on its sleeve like this, it is hard not to sit and count the seconds instead immersing yourself in the material. Fortunately, the material was interesting, and did indeed feel something like a walk through a gallery. Different Michael Oesterle @ CBSO Centre 18.11.16 / By Reuben Penny © Birmingham Reviewstyles and mediums connected by a curator, drawing you in a particular direction, linking ideas together in unexpected ways.

Closing the night was the second Oesterle piece, ‘Babbitt’. Written for a slightly larger ensemble than the other works on the programme, the orchestration and colour the composer uses made it sound almost orchestral, despite there being only a dozen or so players on stage. Enormously colourful, the piece gave each musician a turn in the spotlight, each having their own say in the overarching narrative of the work.

It is interesting to me that the main difference between the works by students and those by their professional counterparts was not in the polish of the pieces – in fact, I was impressed by the calibre of music from everyone – but in the presentation.

The programme notes for the pieces by Clancy and Oesterle were far more engaging and added something to their pieces, without having to spell everything out. It is easy to say that an artist’s work should speak for itself, but perhaps an artist ought to be able to speak too. 


Words by Ed King

At the end of a side street is a simple piece of magic. The CBSO Centre: nestled between the city’s fabrications and dreams, between Broad Street and the Registry Office, this purpose built centre of learning and expertise is a gift to us all. And you’re OK to wear trainers. I should remember that.

Tonight we have a guest composer from Canada, Michael Oesterle, presenting two original pieces – alongside new work from a Conservatoire triptych: Peter Bell, Patrick Ellis, Seán Clancy. Oesterle has been visiting the Conservatoire all week and tonight’s concert is his goodbye gift to the city, conducted by Richard Baker and performed by the Thallein Ensemble.

I’m late, of course, and make it through the frustratingly revolving doors just in time not to be noticed. As we settle into our seats I look around through the corners of my eyes, feeling slightly naked without a student card or season ticket. The room is half full and inviting; I question why I’ve sat in this audience only a handful of times before.

The first piece tonight is ‘California’, our introduction to the guest composer. With an immediate string lead, a playful dissonance jumps in and around itself. I’m not musically trained so there may be much that I miss, but I have ears, a heart, sometimes purple prose and an oddly continuous apology. Not that these help me distinguish a violin from a viola. But the well natured cacophony, from Oesterle’s homage to a state that ‘felt like possibility’, reminds me of things busy and beautiful. A carnival in daytime, a street lost under maple leaves, the emotions on a train station concourse – all full of colour and confusion. The ensemble dances through itself and back over the top, possibly like California although I’ve never been.

Peter Bell’s ‘Navigations’ is presented next, with a staggered introduction from opposing claves. The stings and woodwind build a wall of brooding intent, like a slow horror, before the brass duo – trumpet and trombone – punch out a warning on the horizon. I’m intrigued by Peter Bell’s work and (alongside Patrick Ellis’s) have been keen to explore his composition tonight. I am not disappointed, even though this dark introduction feels like it misses its mark at its finale. I will be back though, Mr Bell.

Then it’s Patrick Ellis, with an unnamed piece that throws out immediate confidence and challenges. I don’t know precisely why, but I’m quickly hooked: the marimbas enter into a cat and mouse struggle with the smaller string section, whilst the flute runs across the fractured ice surface. And although it feels a little lost at points, like a fish struggling to chew through its own cheek I find an acute pleasure in the freedom of it all. With silence as its final member the ensemble sound like their having fun too. I know I am.

cbso-logo-transSeán Clancy’s ‘Five to Forty Seconds’ is the penultimate piece tonight, stripping the ensemble back to a Steinway piano and violin. The composition’s name is taken from the premise that ‘people spend between five and forty observing each piece of art in a gallery space’, with Clancy penning a series of passionate bursts for his duet. But I’m not thinking about the dethatched appreciation of static images; this is a fight or a fuck. An argument and agreement, delivered in awesome unison – yet goading each other with extreme violence and intent. At least it is to me, and despite a fade out that feels little like short change… awesome.

And finally, ‘Babbit’ – Michael Oesterle’s ‘narrative in search of a protagonist’. Which is precisely what it is. A wider ensemble take their places, with a rhythm guitar brought in for the first time tonight, and jump into the composition like shattering glass. There is no lead, no set, just immediate relationships – picked up and lost with aggression and whim.

Not being a musician I have no idea the challenges this piece brings, but there is a palpable step up as each member of the ensemble spits out notes that battle each other for prominence. The guitar plucks its way to the forefront, before the marimbas turn from subtle to inescapable. A glorious war is unfurling. The brass instruments take the first real charge, using their louder voices to stamp out a short authority. But they soon step back; the ensemble acquiesces to their tantrum and embraces them once more. Now it’s the string section’s turn, as a violin manages to break through and fly like a broken bird – screaming and singing, higher and higher, before the enviable fall back to  earth.

Then oddly, and almost too contrarily, a warm wave passes over us – exposing it’s colder waters, but still soft and inviting. Is this the end, is this an end; have I blackout out and fallen into another composition? But no, one last aggressive stand from the battling brass and the dream is broken. Babbit concludes.

I am quicker to leave the CBSO Centre that I was to arrive, cocooning myself in cotton before heading out into the disturbing winter that seems to be stealing our days. It’s always cold. But on the walk home I feel strangely buoyant. I heard some beautiful music tonight, not just from the man on the front of the programme but from some of our city’s home grown composers – whose contributions were amongst the most pertinent reasons to go. And even without a Grade 8 in my lunchbox, I was allowed to play too.

New territories can be odd and isolating to explore from the fringes, but often that’s only perception. I consider myself a confident man but I’ve had this before, talking jazz standards or rock classics. But Birmingham has a horde of musical talent and precocity, with their endevours being showcased right there in the centre of town. Plus the wine’s reasonably priced and there are no bouncers or dress code. All you have to do is turn up. Just preferably on time.

For more on Michael Oesterle, visit

For more from Peter Bell, visit

For more from Patrick Ellis, visit

For more from Seán Clancy, visit

To follow Richard Baker, visit

For more from the CBSO Centre, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit 


BPREVIEW: Michael Oesterle @ CBSO 18.11.16

Michael Oesterle @ CBSO 18.11.16




Words by Ed King

On Friday 18th November, Michael Oesterle performs at the CBSO alongside new compositions from Peter Bell, Patrick Ellis, Seán Clancy – as presented by Frontiers. The conductor will be Richard Baker with the Thallein Ensemble.birm_prev-logo-main-lr

Doors open at 7:30pm, with standard tickets charged at £10 (advance) and £12 (otd). For direct gig info & online ticket sales, click here.

Born in Germany, but living and working from Canada since 1982, Michael Oesterle studied composition at the University of British Columbia. Later he earned his doctorate from Princeton University – under the supervision of American composer Paul Lansky and Dutch composer Louis Andriessen.

Post PHD, Michael Oesterle established himself internationally; alongside a significant portfolio in Canada, Oesterle’s music has been performed across Europe and North America by ensembles including Julliard New Music Ensemble (New York, US), Continuum (London, UK) and Les Percussions de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France) and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Montreal, Canada).

Described by Simon Bertrand at as ‘reminiscent of the music of some American minimalist composers (e.g., John Adams or Terry Riley)’ Michael Oesterle’s work explores ‘varied sonorities, sophisticated use of timbres, and postmodern techniques’.

In residence at Birmingham Conservatoire for the week, this Frontiers programmed/CBSO hosted event on Friday 18th November will be a chance for the general public to see Michael Oesterle perform two original compositions: ‘California’, ‘Babbitt’.

The composition featured below, titled ‘Carrousel’, was written by Oesterle as a quartet for Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Marimba, and Piano. It was premièred at Koerner Hall, Toronto in 2013 – performed by Haruka Fujii, Rika Fujii, Gregory Oh, Ryan Scott.

‘Carrousel’ – Michael Oesterle

Michael Oesterle performs at the CBSO on Friday 18th November, alongside new compositions from Peter Bell, Patrick Ellis, Seán Clancy – as presented by Frontiers. For direct gig info & online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Michael Oesterle, visit

For more from Frontiers, including their ongoing programme of events, visit

For more from CBSO, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit


BREVIEW: Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

**This event was given a Birmingham Review by Sam James and Ed King, both are presented below. The pictures featured are from Reuben Penny and Michelle Martin.**


Words by Sam James / Pics by Reuben Penny

As much as I hate to say it in such a public forum, but the part of the old library complex I miss the most is Paradise Circus. I used to spend a lot of time in the Wetherspoons in there, not to mention regularly making myself ill from daily eat4less lunches.Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Reuben Penny

It seems this group of Conservatoire and ex-Conservatoire composers feel the same way; they named their new concert series after it (though perhaps it’s because Post-Adrian Boult Hall doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily).

There were three pieces from three different composers on show at the first Post-Paradise event, here at Centrala.

The first half was totally comprised of one piece – ‘end’ by Zach Dawson. An extended (~40mins) work for synth organ (Will Weir), saxophone (Sam Taylor) and sampler (Zach Dawson); I can’t say this piece did much for me.

A little more time spent soundchecking this could have proved useful, as certain organ notes went straight through my head. A piece of music generally shouldn’t cause physical discomfort, and I don’t think I was the only one shielding their ears from these segments.

Constructed from a series of repeating section, generally in the same order, and with little variation within them, I found myself more interested in counting the beats rest in one section that appeared to be a series of fake out endings than in the material itself.

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Reuben PennyOn the other hand, the final section was actually pretty exciting as climaxes go, with a higher level of complexity than the rest of the piece. It’s just a pity that the audience were so distrustful of the ending they didn’t clap for a good while. The piece that cried wolf.

Act 2 was ‘Neck Riddles’, a piece by Paul Zaba scored for viola (Daniel Galbreath), trumpet (Zach Dawson), accordion (Paul Zaba) and cello (Ursula Miethe). Full of colour and wit, it’s nice to hear counterpoint and motif led music still being practised with this degree of skill.

The ensemble, led by Galbreath, were on point, blending and contrasting with one another nicely.

The last piece of the night was a little different than the other two, in that there were no musical instruments involved. ‘Vox Pop’ by London-based Louis d’Heurdieres had four performers (Andy Ingamells, James Oldham, Sam Taylor and Maya Verlaak) sat on a sofa, each with EarPods in. The piece began with the each of the performers describing in turn what they were listening to.

“Low strings, now brass – so much brass”

“Rising pattern in the strings becoming its own motif”

It was really quite an effective way of evoking the sort of emotional response you might get from a stirring orchestral performance, without actually hearing one.

As the piece progressed, the performers reacted to a series of prompts in their headphones (perhaps in the form of interview questions, given the title?) each had their own individual style and flair, but all had an equal and supreme level of commitment. By the end, Ingamells was slumped in his chair, Taylor had his head bowed, Oldham was barely opening his mouth and Verlaak was bouncing in her seat manically.Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Reuben Penny

Engaging, and towards the end, funny; this was an enjoyable performance.

The long rectangular shape of Centrala lent itself happily to a traditional concert set up, with performers sat at one end in front of rows of seats. Unhappily, as a result of this (as well as of the under-lighting illuminating the music stands rather than the performers faces), it was quite difficult to see from my vantage point at the back.

I suspect they’ve already thought in detail about this, but it would be nice to see the organisers try something more adventurous with the room layout next time – perhaps having audience and performers standing, or performing across the room rather than along it. There’s no point leaving the concert hall if you’re just going to bring it with you.

Overall though, Post-Paradise was a success; run smoothly, with a well put-together programme and a welcoming atmosphere. The plan (so I’m told) is to make this a regular monthly evening, so keep your eyes peeled for the next installment.


Words by Ed King / Pics by Michelle Martin

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham ReviewAs usual, I’m running late. Albeit later than usual.

Most of my friends and colleagues know I’ll be at least ten minutes behind, having studied the Ed King Ticking Clock Theory of Linear Time. But tonight I’m meeting Sam James – a local composer who is helping me cover Birmingham’s contemporary music scene – and Sam won’t know running late is kind of ‘my thing’. I hope he doesn’t perceive me as rude, the next stop after arrogance and two before pretension; I would understand if he did.

We eventually reach Post-Paradise as the first of tonight’s composers, the Birmingham Conservatoire bred Zach Dawson, is about 5mins into ‘end’ – a 40min piece including synth, sax and samples.

The three musicians stand/sit in a line at the far end of the room, in front of a packed theatre style audience – mostly made up of Conservatoire attendees or alumni, and healthy in numbers. We tip toe into position along the back wall, as other later latecomers find space on the floor; each chair is already taken.

Dawson’s ensemble face the crowd directly, static and showing little emotion; it feels a touch awkward. By the time we arrive ‘end’ has already begun, so there may be pieces of the puzzle missed – but fairly quickly I feel the repetition and tide-like layers become rather tired and cyclical. Timed pauses separate each section; heavy, deep and elongated single organ notes acting as segue in the absence of silence.

Maybe the context was made more clear at the start, and my lack of time keeping has spanked us accordingly, but I can’t help but feel I’m watching an unnecessary jigsaw being put back together. And if you have to wait for your audience to awkwardly realise you’ve finished, perhaps that’s a swing and a miss too.

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review(I’m not a musician. I have not studied music. I have ears, a heart, and the ability to write, but not technically. And whilst I become more and more embroiled with the contemporary composers I discover, from Nils Frahm to Poppy Ackroyd, I need knowledge by my side if I am to tackle this editorially. This is where Sam James comes in.)

Zach Dawson remains on stage for the second presentation – a live rendition of ‘Neck Riddles’ from accordionist and composer, Paul Zaba. The first track on his Soundcloud page, I skipped through ‘Neck Riddles’ during my research – finding little in it to hold my interest against Zaba’s more pertinent pieces. But live, this illustrative instrumental has much more to offer.

Dawson and Zaba lead the charge with staccato from their muted trumpet and accordion, respectively. It’s rich and punchy, underpinned by the sharp strings from the ensemble’s viola and cello. Glorious and immediate; I am surprised by the live dynamic that soon has me hooked.

The piece hot foots its way through a sustained and controlled build – nervous and resolute, like approaching big game – before the accordion steps up, with Dawson’s trumpet given a halo like sheen from its neighbouring viola. Simple in construction, without ostentatious flair or complexity, ‘Neck Riddles’ is beautifully pictorial; a high pitched game of cat and mouse, I am jumping form taxi cab to taxi cab, following Audrey Hepburn and a diamond around the autumn streets of New York. Wonderful stuff.

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham ReviewFollowing a short interval, a craft beer, and a mingle through the cigarette friendly crowd, we have tonight’s final act – a performance piece from Louis D’Heudieres, the only non Birmingham based (or Conservatoire bred) composer on the bill. D’Heudieres is so unashamedly eclectic I stopped trying to describe him in the Post-Paradise BPREVIEW, with theatre, interpretation and cross media presentations all playing large parts in his portfolio.

We have been promised a new piece at Post-Paradise tonight, and as four familiar faces sit next to each other on a sofa – facing towards and through the audience – it appears to be an evolution of D’Heudieres’ ‘Laughter Studies’.

In a nutshell, each performer is isolated from the audience – listening to an audio track through individual headphones – whilst the composer sends instructions to each member of the human ensemble on how to manifest what they are hearing. The audience doesn’t know what the audio track is, but can only decipher the material from the interpretations presented to them – conducted and arranged by D’Heudieres’ earphone relayed instructions. As a concept, it’s as adventurous as it is avant garde, and sounds more complicated than it looks when presented. And it works, with absurdly solid commitment from the four protagonists on the sofa; within minutes we are craning our necks and laughing.

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham ReviewSCREAM. Maya walks through simple descriptions, whilst James brings a more technical edge to the narrative floor.  Sam takes a more colloquial approach as Andy’s voice drops from loud to soft. They talk in order, they talk simultaneously. They reverse the order as Andy slumps into his seat. Annunciation turn to mumbles; Maya and Sam turn to face each other in a sycophantic grin. Maya starts to ride a horse (or bounce for the sake of it) as Andy reels through fairy tale icons.

I have no idea what the music is, or if indeed they are all listening to music, but the presentation is superb. And with my hands comfortably tied I can acquiesce to the sheer joy of the performance.

(I am later challenged to guess, from one of the performers and a man with a much wider knowledge of classical material. Instinctively I think of Peer Gynt – the line ‘the oboe takes over’ alongside mountains and dwarves pushing Grieg’s incidental into the forefront of my mind – but was subsequently told Wagner. Not my wheelhouse.)

Post Paradise – feat. Zach Dawson, Paul Zaba, Louis D’Heudieres @ Centrala (Minerva Works) 23.09.16 / Pics by Michelle Martin © Birmingham ReviewAll in all tonight has been rousing and a success; Post-Paradise is a welcome celebration of contemporary compositions, and at five quid a pop it is a cheap as it is cheerful. Centrala, the Minerva Works based café & gallery, is an intimate, warm and welcoming venue with a good sound and lots of scope. A little back end of beyond, but only a 10 min walk from either The Custard factory or Millennium Point.

My only problem was with context, or the lack thereof. It’s great to be challenged, and the unexplained is just another reason to explore, but with more understanding of each piece tonight I could have been more engaged. The room was full of those that know and those that are learning, but if you’re going to invite the general public to watch your art in action, some helpful introductions would be just that.

And whilst my tardiness is ‘just me’ and my somewhat frantic approach to finding my shoes (that and the Bermuda Triangle that resides in my living room) I can appreciate the new faces I met tonight might have their own perception. Mercifully they still want to keep me company, and for the next Post-Paradise, which I look forward to immensely, I will be on time. It’s only polite after all, and who wants to dance alone these days anyway.

For more on Zach Dawson, visit

For more on Paul Zaba, visit

For more on Louis D’Heudieres, visit


Follow Post Paradise @PostParadiseMus

For more from Centrala, visit