PLUG Festival is the launch pad for all the exciting and experimental ideas bouncing around RCS. In 2021, we are celebrating its 15th birthday with over 60 new pieces from 31 composers, performed by electrifying ensembles and guest artists, and all available for free online.
To help you get to know our fantastic composers and introduce you to their exciting new work, we’ll be highlighting each year group in a series of blogs.
Our BMus 1 and BMus 2 composers hail from all over the globe, and their work mirrors this. Their works take us from Scottish beaches to Chinese canals, exploring everything from the depths of the ocean to outer space. Their work has been brought to life by performers such as the BBC Philharmonic clarinettist Fraser Langton, violin and cello duo GAIA, the RCS Composers Ensemble, percussionists Calum Huggan and Angela Wai-Nok Hui, and RCS Brass.
Tom Macfadyen (BMus 1)
Tom Macfadyen’s “Reed to Reel” uses a combination of elements that complement and contrast each other – from orchestral samples to sine tones, sampled MIDI clarinet to accordion. The Fife composer’s piece constantly shifts between the familiar and the alien as it moves towards its dramatic conclusion.
Rebecca Edwards (BMus 1)
Composer and teacher Rebecca Edwards is influenced by traditional music from Scotland, Scandinavia and Germany. Her piece “Lucid Reflections” is a quintet influenced by traditional Turkish melodies, and as such contains percussive elements and ornamentation.
Connor Bristow (BMus 1)
Connor Bristow’s piece “òran muc-mhara (whale song)” takes us on a journey under the ocean. The composer enjoys experimenting with the boundaries between electronic and acoustic music. Indeed, inspired by whale song, the piece includes found sounds from his local beach.
Junqi Wan (BMus 1)
“Jiang Nan”, composed by Junqui Wan, captures the sense of unreality the composer experienced wandering through misty Jiangnan water towns. The performance by Fraser Langton conjures distant mountain scenery and the reflection of pavilions on the calm river’s surface.
Yufan (BMus 1)
“Ocean’s Call” sounds like nothing else Kuwait-born Yufan has composed. The composer, whose work has been described as “Hisaishi-esque” and “like the epic music you’d hear while fighting the final boss in a video game”, challenged himself to experiment in this piece.
Calum Walker (BMus 1)
While “Cold Fusion” is an ode to the world of jazz, composer Calum Walker’s personalised approach to creating music is inspired by classical, electronica and heavy metal. Fraser Langton’s clarinet leads a warped pseudo-band as the ambition and creativity of Walker’s jazz fusion flirts with total disaster.
Kerr McLean (BMus 1)
Kerr McLean’s piece “Oil (Three Short Pieces for Clarinet)” is split into three movements, each dealing with a different aspect of crude oil: I. Opalescence, II. Grime, III. Slickness. The composer thinks of music as a science, and here applies his scientific brain to his emotional reactions to the natural world, thus capturing the essence of oil through ever-changing harmony and texture.
Joe Strike (BMus 2)
Originally from Sheffield, composer Joe Strike is interested in rhythm, dance and popular music, improvisation, long duration minimalism, and electronic sound processes. Joe’s pieces, “Apathy 1” performed by GAIA, and “w/delay” written for and performed by the RCS Composers’ ensemble project are experiments in process and sound.
Finn Patrick McLean (BMus 2)
Finn Patrick McLean’s piece “fills the plain” was written for Calum Huggan and Angela Wai-Nok Hui. Finn had imagined an array of triangles ringing in an empty space, and the result is an overwhelming saturation of sound with moments of what the composer calls “instant brightness”.
Pablo Martinez (BMus 2)
Brazilian composer and performer Pablo Martinez has a varied approach to composition evident in his two pieces for PLUG. “Granules”, performed by the RCS Composers Ensemble, explores intuition and improvisation in controlled settings, while “Tá Prá Ca Çá 51”, performed by Calum Huggan & Angela Wai Nok Hui, is inspired by Brazilian rhythms.
Amy Stewart (BMus 2)
Amy Stewart takes inspiration from landscapes and nature, as well as deeper conceptual ideas. In her piece “Orbit for Brass Quintet”, performed by RCS Brass, the Aberdeenshire composer explores the idea of orbit: at once too complicated to comprehend and extremely simple.
Nils Benedikt Meier (BMus 2)
“Passenger Locator Form”, composed by Nils Benedikt Meier and performed by RCS Brass, is the representation of a problem without a solution, an exploration of dissatisfaction and futility. Across three movements, the German composer gives structure to his feelings about the pandemic and the impact of the political on the personal.
Elijah Edo Morrison (BMus 2)
In Elijah Edo Morrison’s piece “Fri”, performed by GAIA, the composer explores their interest in self-realisation. Aesthetic choices in lighting and staging further drive home the central concept of “floating through time and losing semblance of identity within your reality.”
Plug will run until 30 August. All performances are available to watch now for free on the Plug Festival website.