Brighton Festival 2016Counting down to our 50th
Festival this May

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In Pictures: Brighton Festival 2016

The 50th Brighton Festival is almost over, so we're taking a look back at the pictures from some of the shows and events we've loved the most. 

Picking out these images put a grin on our faces, and we hope it makes you smile too! 

Why not have a look through some more photos from this year's festival and re-live something special?

Photo credits: Victor Frankowski, Adam Weatherley, John Hunter

In Pictures: Week 2

The second week of Brighton Festival 2016 saw two performances from our Guest Director Laurie Anderson: the spellbinding Song Conversation, where she performed with fellow musician-composers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset, and Slideshow, a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant journey touching on projects, memories and adventures from her past. 

On top of this, there were blockbuster performances from Duke Garwood and Haçienda Classical, Children's Laureate Chris Riddell answering questions and illustrating the answers live, the sonically spiritual Lou Reed Drones, and much more besides. 

Find out what's going on in the third and final week of Brighton Festival 2016. 

Photo credits Adam Weatherley, Vic Frankowski

In Pictures: For the Love of Dogs

Last month we launched a competition inspired by our Guest Director Laurie Anderson's canine concert Music For Dogs and her new film Heart of a Dog.

We asked you to send in photos of your dogs and tell us a bit about them, so we could pick 50 to be immortalised in a mural. We were touched and delighted by the stories we received, and it was pretty tough to pick just 50 for the wall. 

On Sat 14 May all the winning dogs had been painted and we invited dog and owner alike to come and see the mural. 

The dogs’ owners were delighted. One said, ‘I’m just a dog fan...for Stanley to be immortalised in the North Laine – I’m so proud!’

Another said, ‘I think it’s fantastic – he’s famous! We came to live in Brighton about two years ago…and the idea that our dog is now on a mural feels like we’ve finally arrived and been fully accepted into the city. It’s the happiest thing!’

Big thanks to Sinna One for creating such a fantastic piece! You can see it yourself in Kensington Street in Brighton's North Laine or check out some pictures of the piece in progress and the grand opening!

Photo credit: Vic Frankowski. 

In Pictures: Music For Dogs

Brighton Festival plays host to the UK premiere of Laurie Anderson's unique concert for dogs this week. 

Brighton Festival played host to Guest Director Laurie Anderson’s Music for Dogs this week – a pair of concerts specially designed for the canine ear. Around 400 dogs were in attendance accompanied by their human counterparts at BOAT (Brighton Open Air Theatre).

This was the UK premiere of Music For Dogs following performances at Sydney Opera House, and again in New York’s Times Square earlier this year which made headlines around the world. The idea was initially prompted by a backstage conversation with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in which Laurie mused: 'Wouldn’t it be great if you’re playing a concert and you look out and everyone’s a dog?' 

Here is a selection of photographs from the evening.

Photo credit Vic Frankowski

Festival Hot Seat... Song Conversation

Our Guest Director Laurie Anderson is bringing Song Conversation to Brighton Festival, a free-wheeling collaboration with musician-composers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset. In this Festival Hot Seat Nik and Eivind tell us about the show and how they came to work with Laurie Anderson

This is your second song conversation together – How did the original collaboration come about?

Nik: I had the chance to invite two musicians for the program "Song Conversation" initiated by Thomas Wördehoff for the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele in Germany. Eivind immediately came to my mind since he is a great collaborator and we’d already played a few times together. Usually there should also be a singer on board for this program but I had a challenge to think of a person that would be inspiring to collaborate. I talked with Mr. Wördehoff and he suggested Laurie. I was immediately enthused since I loved records like “Bright Red” and “The Ugly One with the Jewels”. I listened to these records a lot when I was in my twenties. The idea of “Song Conversations” was also to include songs that were inspiring during an artist’s life.

All together we had lots of fun and also found answers to many artistic questions that were raised when we talked about “a song”. So the initial idea of covering influential songs developed into a general musical conversation about the song itself and its contexts. Of course Laurie is brilliant in this and her stories worked on several meta levels which was totally in the sense of us all.

Why ‘Song Conversation’? What exactly does the show involve?

Nik: The notion of a “song conversation” embraces the idea that songs can talk to us and they can talk to each other. Also there can be a dialogue about the song itself or we can enter the song like a house.

Eivind: We treated the subject of a “song conversation” in a kind of loose way. Not so much playing concrete songs, but more looking at the subject, and exploring different themes thru association.

Nik: We had so many ideas about the possibilities of this “conversation” that the performance jumped constantly from one meta level to the next. We played self-invented songs, songs about songs, stories about songs and we interpreted songs composed by us and other artists like Alban Bergs and Lou Reed.

How much of the show is improvised? What do you enjoy about that approach?

Nik: We improvise a lot, to serve the song and its context. We will also improvise with the moods around Laurie’s stories, some flow directions are agreed but then the moment decides how the piece develops. I like the approach to have a flexibility while respecting the songs’ integrity.

What is it like to work with Laurie Anderson?

Nik: Very inspiring of course. I like the story telling singing and her approach to always think about the meta level of content and context. We also seem to share an interest in ironic or droll moments in music and performances, whilst also an appreciation of the serious spiritual deepness in them.

Eivind: I have been a fan for many years, so it was a fantastic for me to be invited to work with Laurie. I was even more impressed after working with her. Just hearing the sound of her voice, experiencing the timing she has when telling a story, and having my sound being a part of this, was a very inspiring experience. She also has a very clear, playful, creative and focused mind, with this beautiful ability to come up with conceptual ideas that go beyond music, crossing borders of art forms in a very organic way, and all the time, it seems to me, with the aim to get a deeper message or meaning across.

Will the show cross all genres of music?

Eivind: I think the show reflects our different personal sounds, and therefore is totally undogmatic when it comes to genre. Even though I often play at jazz festivals I don´t really consider myself to be a jazz player, my background is more rock and ambient music. And Nik has a very personal touch and with aesthetics that go beyond genres. Laurie is a genre of her own.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Eivind: I think people who are interested in all kinds of music and poetry will enjoy it.

Nik: The good thing with music is, that you never know an answer to this question...

Have you visited Brighton before? What were/are your impressions of the city?

Nik: When I was a teenage student, long ago in a kind of bizarre phase of my life, I visited Brighton whilst staying in Hastings. I am happy now to have a second chance to enjoy this famous place for such an inspiring festival with such fantastic artists!

Eivind: I have been to Brighton a couple of times before, and enjoyed it a lot, but previously my visits have been too short. Luckily this time I will have the chance to stay for longer, so I am very much looking forward to it.

Book now for Song Conversation

Combined ticket deal with Laurie Anderson's Slideshow available in person or on the phone

In Pictures: Week 1

Brighton Festival 2016 kicked off in grand sunny style with the Children's Parade (click to see more photos) on Saturday, and we've been celebrating since then! 

Here are a few photos from the first week, from the touching Portraits in Motion to a very special canine concert in Music For Dogs. 

Photos by Vic Frankowski, Tom Oldham, John Hunter and Adam Weatherley. 

10 Things you might not know about Guest Director Laurie Anderson

Henry Holloway of The Argus brings us this list of surprising facts about our Guest Director Laurie Anderson. Laurie is bringing two shows specially to Brighton Festival: Slideshow and Song Conversation. Click to find out about the shows, or read on to discover more on the pioneering artist herself.

1. Her relationship with JFK

As a student politico she wrote to John Kennedy, who was waging his campaign for Presidential candidacy, seeking advice and the young politician responded.

Anderson said: “He sent me a telegram and some roses. It was a long crazy love story between a kid and a politician.”

2. She has invented two musical instruments

The first was a tape bow violin in 1977. The instrument uses magnetic tape instead of horsehair across the bow, enabling her to play pre-recorded sounds on the instrument.

The second is the talking stick, a 6ft long baton which can replicate any sound.

3. She was the first and last Artist in Residence at NASA

The world’s leading space agency brought Anderson on board to be their official artist.

She toured the facilities and staged a show titled The End of the Moon, before the $20,000 programme was scrapped.

4. She won a Prize for her Outstanding Contribution to the Beauty of the World

The full description for the Gish Prize awarded to Anderson is “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life”.

She won the award in 2007.

5. She performed a concert exclusively for dogs

One of the events Anderson will be bringing to the Brighton Festival is her concert for dogs.

Based on the simple musing “what if you looked out from the stage and the audience were dogs?” Anderson performs music audible only to the canine ear.

6. She created a self-playing violin

Anderson modified a violin with a built in speaker and amplifier – producing music without the human touch.

The piece is now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and featured in the making music exhibition in 2008.

7. Her friends accused her of being a “sell out”

She enjoyed her most commercial success with the track O Superman – which went to number 2 in the charts in 1981.

She said she had no interest in the pop world but when the song charted well he friends told her she was a sell out.

8. Her first piece was a symphony played on car horns

One of her earliest recognised pieces was a symphony at a drive-in theatre using cars.

She used the horns and other car parts to create the spectacle entitled An Afternoon of Automotive Transmission in 1972.

9. She once froze herself into two blocks of Ice

Another of Anderson’s early works featured her performing a duet with herself with her feet frozen into two blocks of ice.

Wearing ice skates she stood and performed until the ice blocks melted, which signalled the end of the show.

10. She created a video game

As part of her album Bright Red she released an interactive CD-Rom called Puppet Motel.

The game involves people exploring the motel with 32 surreal rooms with names like Violin, Ice, the Hall of Time, Ouija and Motel.

Book now for Slideshow and Song Conversation

The Melody and Eloquence of Laurie Anderson: A World Premiere

Music buff and journo Joe Fuller brings us another take on upcoming events at Brighton Festival 2016 - this time on our Guest Director Laurie Anderson's shows Slideshow and Song Conversation

The world premiere of Laurie Anderson's Slideshow next week is the centrepiece of the Festival, and at the heart of its theme of home and place. Anderson can alternate between elegiac ruminations about death and humorous anecdotes about her dog's clogs without blinking an eye, which appositely reflects the diverse tone of Brighton Festival itself. Her output over the last ten years has included some of her most enjoyable and accessible work, such as the melodic, string-heavy album Heartland and the contemplative recent film Heart of a Dog, so this is a chance to see the latest piece from an artist at the height of her powers.

The short trailer for Heart of a Dog below gives you a good impression of Anderson's mastery of matching eloquent commentary to varied visual techniques such as animation and home video, carefully aligned to a beautiful soundtrack. The film is loosely based around her pet Rat Terrier Lolabelle, but also delves into the subject of death in a lighthearted way, as well as discussing the climate of surveillance post-9/11 and her own life. The Heart of A Dog soundtrack and Homeland are available on Spotify if you want to sample her softly spoken style.

Anderson has explained that Slideshow is a “collection of adventure stories about love, cities, diners, Mars, how we see, living by rivers, Dollywood, my home town and many other places along the way”. It sounds like it could be similarly autobiographical to Heart of a Dog so it will be fascinating to see what pathos, humour and social commentary she conjures up from her experiences in her brand new monologue.

Song Conversation will be a different sort of evening altogether: a “freewheeling walk through sonic spaces” discussing the notion of song with fellow improvisers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset. The first iteration of Song Conversation took place in Stuttgart last year and I recommend using Google Chrome to translate this review to get a feel for the format. The show sounds fantastic, with the trio discussing inspirations from William Shakespeare to Alban Berg in “atmospheric conversations”, as well as using “piano as a percussion” and “guitar as a synthesiser”. Google Translate comes up with some poetic turns of phrase itself, enigmatically describing a “great discourse thicket” and explaining how the “sound images completes wonderful”. Praise indeed!

Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch has performed as a solo artist, with acoustic group Mobile (performing 'rituals' of up to 36 hours) and in the funk-inspired Ronin group, all of which sound quite jazzy and experimental. Bärtsch should therefore have some intriguing ideas about song structures to discuss with Anderson, who often retains pop sensibilities in her work.

Eivind Aarset utilises avant-garde techniques in various genres; in this video for example he lurches from Pink Floyd-like prog solos and jamming into a jutting, darker vamp. I would personally bet that Aarset will be in a calmer mood at the Dome however, more along the lines of the video below.

We can assume that the shows will be warm, melodic and moving if they are going to be like Laurie Anderson's previous work, but who really knows what to expect? At the time of writing in the week before the concerts, Laurie is still working on Slideshow, and Song Conversation is inherently improvisational. The thrill of the unknown in new work is one of the joys of Brighton Festival, and I look forward to settling into my seat next week expecting the unexpected.

There are still tickets from £10 for both shows and also a brilliant joint ticket offer from £15 (available on the phone or in person)
Song Conversation

Laurie Anderson on...

… Brighton Festival 2016’s theme of ‘home and place’:

‘I’m really happy to be part of Brighton Festival this year. I love the theme, maybe because I’m a working musician and often on the road, the idea of home is pretty appealing. It’s also a great idea for a festival, trying to find out who and where you are. It’s a pretty amazing collection of work. See you there!’

… Brighton Festival 2016 exclusive performance Song as a Place:

‘We’ll be doing a lot of new things in the Festival, one is a collaboration with Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset. They are incredible musicians and we’ve played together once before. It’s going to be like a song conversation. Imagine walking through a piece of music with people you really like and we get to play it and kind of think about it and talk about it at the same time… it’s going to be a blast.’

… Brighton Festival 2016 exclusive performance Slideshow:

‘This is about an attempt to describe several places I’ve been in my life and what they might have in common. This is a brand new piece so I can’t tell you that much about it, it’s going to be a surprise to me too!’

… her unique concert for dogs making its UK premiere:

‘I’m so curious who is going to show up. We’ll be playing things that are kind of in their range - although they hear very well across the spectrum - so we’re going to see what happens.

… on the Brighton Festival 2016 screening of her critically acclaimed film Heart of a Dog:

‘It’s full of stories about how you make a story. It’s nominally a film about me and my dog, but really it’s not… it’s about love and language, I guess. I hope you like it.’

… on what Brighton Festival 2016 audiences can expect of her works:

‘I like to make a really big, fun, interesting playing field and not predict what people are going to get from of it. It’s so different for each person. I’m often really surprised when people tell me what they’ve got from my work, and then I think “that’s really interesting and brilliant… but that had really nothing to do with the work I was doing”. It’s your interpretation, so I guess that’s what I hope… that people use it to go places themselves.’

… the UK premiere of Lou Reed’s Drones project:

‘We’re going to be doing a really exiting installation plus sort of ‘improv site’, let’s say. It’s based on Lou Reed’s feedback work - he worked with guitars and the incredible harmonics and sound structures that happen when you use feedback. His guitar tech, Stewart Hurwood will be doing it with Lou’s guitars and Lou’s amps… so it’s kind of as close to Lou’s music as we can get these days. It’s a very hypnotic, beautiful sound, I think you are really going to like it. We’re inviting musicians to come and do improvisations with it as well - that is really fun - so I hope you get a chance to come by and play. You could improvise any way you want really, you could come and do some drawings or pottery… I guess… bit messy!’

… on being Guest Director of Brighton Festival in May:

‘Brighton Festival is so big and sprawling and exciting and there’s so many different things going on - it really has a kind of celebratory, crazy, art party feel to it. I also love the chance to meet other artists and hang out with them. It’s a free for all so I’m really looking forward to it.’

Welcome from Laurie Anderson

'I'm so happy to be serving as Guest Director of Brighton Festival in its historic 50th year. 

'Our theme of home and place is especially relevant with so many people in the world on the move now looking, like all of us, for a place we can belong. I've been part of the Festival several times and it was exciting to watch the city become the heart of so much art. I'm looking forward to being part of it this year.'