Since forming itself in 2010, Sheffield’s composer collective Platform 4 has been building up a have-to-heard, not to say seen, reputation and the group’s most ambitious outing so far, Embodiments, is at the University Drama Studio on the 24th of September.

It follows increasingly high-profile appearances, as opposed to specialised gigs, such at last October’s Classical Sheffield festival and more recent outreach work in Music in the Round’s May Festival.

When was the last time you heard new, contemporary music enthusiastically applauded?

It happened last October and the quartet in question, Jenny Jackson, Tom James, Chris Noble and Tom Owen, have somehow developed a formula that makes contemporary music accessible to a wider audience.

All four are University of Sheffield postgraduates and profess to enjoy collaborating on projects with a broad range of artists from other disciplines.

The roots of Embodiments go back to 2012 when Jenny worked in association with choreographer Sue Lewis. She was commissioned to compose a new dance work for Ffin Dance, a professional dance company based in Wales.

The piece, Five Dances, was part of a Ffin Dance ‘Connections’ tour around the UK, described as a “great experience,” with the ‘live music’ performed by Platform 4’s in-house ensemble – many members are also ex-Sheffield University alumni!

All four composers have now created a new dance piece, self-contained and highly contrasted works in which sound embodies movement and movement embodies sound. They are said to showcase each composer’s personality and aesthetics.

The one-off night of four premieres are collaborations with Hannah Wadsworth, a highly experienced contemporary dance specialist and choreographer and, figuring in two of the pieces, soprano Andrea Tweedale who will be familiar to many in Sheffield. Platform 4’s aforementioned in-house ensemble is also in attendance.

Gifts Ungiven by Tom Owen is his fourth piece written for the soprano. Its central concerns are psychosis, dementia and obsessional behaviours, with Andrea appearing as a befuddled old lady and Hannah Wadsworth helping to ‘embody’ various elements of the afflictions.

Three Nerve Pathways by Tom James are three variations for dancer, nine instruments and tape. While abstract, they are essentially a representation of the physical and mental illnesses that have afflicted him over the past year and range from a blank, bare opening to a multi-layered, uncoordinated panic.

Strut Machine by Chris Noble documents the ‘living lie’, how a story once told is repeated so many times, the person telling it starts to believe it, even if the sub-conscience, somewhere, knows it to be false…

It features a jazz-influenced line up of electric piano, double bass, bass clarinet and drums.

Folies by Jenny Jackson is described is as an absurd, comedic, entertaining piece of music theatre for dancer, soprano, bass clarinet and ensemble.

It uses text taken from an Italian Futurist poem and explores the nature of what it is to be a ‘creator’ and the conflict between artistic freedom on the one hand, and the oppression of (perceived) criticism and judgement on the other.

Platform 4’s next big exposure is interesting, by the way. Four commissioned, companion pieces based on works from Russian repertoire for inclusion in Music in the Round’s May Festival next year.


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