Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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5 mins with...Ocean Wisdom

Brighton-based rapper Ocean Wisdom, who has moved up the ranks over the last 12 months with his album chaos 93, answers our quick-fire questions before his Festival event.

The band / artist that made me want to be a musician was…

Eminem / Dizzee Rascal.

My first public performance took place at…

The Dorchester Hotel.

The first gig I went to was…

Lee “Scratch” Perry.

The first album I ever bought was…

Gorillaz and The Marshall Mathers LP.

My favourite part of touring is…

Trying different food and seeing fans.

My favourite song to perform live is…

High Street.

The last song I listened to was…

Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

I completed my debut album.

The best show I ever performed was…

Paleo 16 /Thekla, Bristol 15.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…

A humble farmer tending to his cattle.

People would be surprised to learn that…

I’m fully Japanese.

Ocean Wisdom appears with The Four Owls and Jam Baxter at the High Focus Records Special at Brighton Dome on Friday 12 May.

An exclusive concert celebrates the luminous music of Monteverdi for voice and orchestra

Hearing a sublime singer has always been one of the most thrilling live experiences, in both popular and classical music. The concert with Les Talens Lyriques with Christophe Rousset at this year's Festival, showcasing works by Monteverdi, is a fine opportunity to hear the musical voice as pioneered by the highly influential 17th century composer.

Les Talens Lyriques will have just performed the works in Holland with the Dutch National Opera in the week preceding this concert, so a lot of thought will have gone into the action and drama of the pieces. This show is the only time to hear them perform this work in the UK this year: this is therefore an exciting gig on many levels, be it for the chance to see an in-demand conductor in Brighton, to celebrate the work of a magnificent composer in his 450th birthday year, to hear a rare combination of Monteverdi's works, or to see an internationally lauded ensemble in Brighton Dome's Concert Hall perform some stunning music.

The concert will feature a combination of singers and musicians without any operatic staging, which gives a clear musical focus to the performance and gives you the chance to hear some superb singers without the often intimidating cost of the opera hall. The bill is a selection of madrigals, which is a fascinating form in musical history. A madrigal is a secular vocal composition for a number of different voices, and Monteverdi strove to illuminate every shade of emotion in the poetic works by introducing music to the form (early madrigals were a capella).

You don't have to be a historian or musicologist to appreciate the concert however, just try any of my Spotify playlist to sample some of the beautiful music you'll get to hear. I've selected a punchy, fast-paced Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, because I love how the pace can hurtle along (like it does around the 6.50 mark) and then crawl down into mournful tones with a drone-like backing. It's irresistibly gorgeous, but the riveting twists and turns might take a few listens to unpack for anyone unfamiliar with early music.

You can then switch from the tragic tale of Tancredi mistakenly killing his lover Clorinda in Il combattimento to the more danceable, sprightly Il ballo delle Ingrate, which shimmers with a prominent harpsichord and decadent orchestration. Il ballo is beautiful in a more lustrous, languid and opulent manner to Il combattimento, and I've included a link to a sharply recorded version that handily breaks up all of the smaller movements to give you a taste of the diverse short bursts of the whole piece. The Overture alone is expansive and enveloping, and directly melodic in the bold way that early music can be: immerse yourself in it now to reap the musical rewards on the evening.

Lamento d'Arianna meanwhile sounds more aria-like than the other works, rendered all the more sparsely striking in Anne Sofie von Otter's performance on the playlist. The fragment from a lost opera is imbued with the grief of Arianna who longs for death in words non-Italian speakers might not understand, but the powerful, emotive vocal part is devastatingly moving regardless.

Musical Director Christophe Rousset is a renowned harpsichordist and conductor, who will conduct the upcoming production of early Mozart opera Mitridate, re di Ponto at the Royal Opera House in the summer. You can hear him conduct Les Talens Lyriques performing the work via this Spotify link if you want to hear if Rousset and his ensemble play to your liking!

Whether you're a classical muso or a music lover of any stripe, this concert presents a highly affordable opportunity to hear some of the earliest, most moving writing for voices ever composed, performed by some of the world's best singers and musicians. The works will have been carefully honed over six performances with the Dutch National Opera in the week before the Brighton gig, and it will be thrilling to hear the fresh interpretations that Les Talens Lyriques will bring to the Concert Hall.

Words by Joe Fuller 

5 minutes with... Mica Levi

Brighton Festival 2017 is hosting three events with Mica Levi: a film screening of Under The Skin accompanied by a live orchestra performing Mica Levi's intoxicating and beautiful music; Kate Tempest with Mica Levi & Orchestrate - Let Them Eat Chaos: Rearranged and The Unfilmables. Here, Mica faces a quickfire Q&A and tells us about her musical style, her fears and her best musical joke...

What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?

I broke in and climbed up a city building under construction with my friends as a teen, to the scaffolding’s 11th floor – that was freedom. I could tell you my worst more easily.

What do you fear?

Boredom, constant sadness, arthritis (fear itself).

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?

My band and I played a song of ours with about 40 school kids in a church once – that was insane, it was way better than the original.

What was the first recording you ever bought?

Probably the Beatles second hand <3. But new music was 'Comin’ Atcha!' by Cleopatra (an all girl group from Birmingham, 1998).

Describe your compositional style in three words.

Bored, sad, arthritis.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?

A pro-footballer, pro-racing driver or pro-jungle trawler. Sorry that’s three!

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

My Dad probably.

Tell us your best musical joke.

What’s the difference between the first desk of the violas and the second? A semi tone.

To read the full story please visit the London Sinfonietta’s blog.

Festival Hot Seat… Songs for the End of the World

Dom Coyote gives us an insight into a show that mixes music gig and epic theatre, inspired by Philip K Dick’s post-apocalyptic novel Dr Bloodmoney, the star-gazing world of Ziggy Stardust, and the age of austerity Britain

Can you tell us what your show is about?

Songs for the End of the World is a high-octane rock n' roll, gig-theatre show about the end of the World. It's an eccentric, angry, messy, epic, ridiculous sci-fi explosion and a good old fashioned love story. It is set in New Albion - a near-future post-brexit, austerity Britain, owned and controlled by mega-corporation New Global.

Jim Walters, a totally unprepared and hapless astronaut is shot into space to become the first man on Mars. On the day of the launch, armageddon hits and Jim’s rocket gets trapped in orbit around the dying earth. With an ever decreasing amount of Oxygen, all he can do is broadcast his songs for the end of the world in the hope that someone might here…

How and where will the work be staged?

The show is performed by a five piece band of multi-instrumentalists, Dom Coyote & The Bloodmoneys, who all transform into bizarre, comic-book like characters at the drop of a hat. You experience an eclectic, ‘50s infused music gig, at the exact same time as an eccentric, theatrical story about a dystopian future England. It will be performed at the Theatre Royal on May 16th.

Why should someone come and see your show?

If you are enraged by the dystopian world we live in right now, come and see our show.

If you want to shout at the Gods, and shake our sleeping leaders awake, come and see our show.

If you love amazing, imaginative science fiction, like Terry Gilliam's Brazil and authors like Philip K.Dick, China Mieville, Ursula Leguin, Margaret Attwood and John Wyndham, come and see our show!

If you love music, but want something more than just an ordinary gig set up, where a band of awesome musicians create a whole world in front of your eyes, come and see our show.

If you love eccentric, surrealist comedy, come and see our show.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

Ten years ago, I read the most bizarre and brilliant science fiction novel, Dr Bloodmoney, by Philip K. Dick, a post-apocalyptic masterpiece with mutating animals, telepathic handymen and a man stranded in orbit, the last DJ of Earth. When the National Theatre asked me what story I wanted to tell, I said it was that one. And then I completely re-wrote it.

Also, I've worked a lot with Kneehigh Theatre. They inspired me to put live music right at the heart of storytelling, and to fill the stage with fire and anarchy. We made this show at the Kneehigh Barns on the cliffs of Cornwall and we let the wild in. Songs for the End of the World revels in it. The unkempt. The wild. The uncontrolled. The stuff of life.

It also came from listening to Ziggy Stardust on repeat.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

This story is vital. It's really all about us. Now. England. Little England, with its inflated ego, narcoleptic leaders, isolating itself from the world around it. It's about the last days of man. It's time to wake up.

This is a show for everyone. It is not hi-brow or elitist. Far from it. It's radical, provocative, and utterly accessible.

It's time to reclaim the word Populist. Populism has been claimed by the far-right, suggesting that left to their own devices, the masses want to close the doors to the world and be controlled by fear and hate.

Songs for the End of the World suggests the opposite. That people, left to our own devices, have a huge capacity for love, community, survival, and hope.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

People who love science fiction and comic books! Geeks get especially excited about this show. It's full of references from David Bowie, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and (spoiler alert) the last line is sort of taken from a famous film about a planet ruled by apes....

Music lovers, love this show. It is really eclectic, genre wise. You can hear shades of ‘50s rock n' roll, blues, early soul, but with crunky analogue synths and a punk rock spirit. It's really contemporary, catchy and a bit twisted and inspired by mid-20th century pop music.

Also, fans of quirky alternative theatre love this show. There are artists from Kneehigh and Little Bulb in the show and it definitely has a ridiculous, epic, story based eccentricity about it.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Well there's an apocalyptic preacher who transforms into a hideous mutant, telepathically connected to God. That's pretty surprising...

It also manages to make you laugh and cry at the same time, if we do it right...

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? Do you have a favourite Festival moment?

This is our first time playing at Brighton festival and we are ridiculously excited about it. My favourite festival always has to be Glastonbury. It is sprawling and epic and there are still dirty dark secrets in the cracks....

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?

It's obvious. Kate Tempest! I've been following her work for 10 years now, right from the early shows at Shambala and SGP. She blows my mind, every time.

Also, I am really excited about Mica Levi's live soundtrack for Under the Skin, such a gem of a soundtrack. I'm a big fan of the film and also the book it was inspired by, by Michael Faber. Creepy and unnerving, the best kind of sci-fi...

Songs for the End of the World is at Theatre Royal Brighton on Tue 16 May

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

Watch Again - Brighton Festival Live: Duke Garwood

‘Duke Garwood is the real thing… an old soul and a saint’ Kurt Vile

Veteran blues-rock man and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood is most definitely the musician’s musician. Mark Lanegan, with whom Garwood collaborated on 2013’s Black Pudding, calls him a ‘musical genius’, while Josh T Pearson says his songs are ‘as close to heaven as you can get with a guitar’.

Newly signed to Heavenly, Garwood’s acclaimed fifth solo album Heavy Love, his first since 2011’s Dreamboatsafari, sees his intriguing brand of powerful, understated blues on top form. Special guests Smoke Fairies and Woven Entity join Garwood to perform a mix of old and new material. Don’t miss one of contemporary rock’s best kept secrets in a headline performance at Brighton Dome.

Book now for Duke Garwood.

If you enjoy this live stream, then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival:

Moments of Weightlessness
Pianist, inventor and performer Sarah Nicolls developed her unique ‘inside-out piano’ to explore the belly of the instrument and to coax out its hidden sounds. See this monumental piano in surprising motion, hear the beautiful melodies and textures of Sarah’s piano-songs and contemplate the moments of life where everything seems to stand still.

Beth Orton
Beth Orton has been one of the country’s most unique and beguiling voices in contemporary music for the past two decades. She returns to the UK for two shows at Brighton Festival premiering highly anticipated new material exploring her electronic roots. 

Floating Points
Dance music trailblazer Sam Shepherd – otherwise known as Floating Points – is renowned for his ambitious, forward-thinking DJ sets around the world. Performing with a full live band, don’t miss what promises to be a remarkable live performance from one of electronic music’s most perceptive new artists.

Interview: Stewart Hurwood on Lou Reed Drones

'I like to think of it as a sonic massage…'

As we host the UK premiere of Lou Reed Drones, an installation of guitars in feedback mode, Lou Reed’s long-time guitar tech and right-hand man Stewart Hurwood tells us about what it was like to work with a music legend, how the piece came about and exactly what he hopes audiences will get out of it…

How did you meet Lou Reed and how long did you work with him?

I worked with Lou Reed for the last ten years of his life. I became his right-hand man handling many more things than just his guitars, equipment and managing the stages he played on.

What was Lou like to work with?

Lou was very demanding on everyone including himself. He was always pushing his art and didn't want to stand still or rest on his laurels. This made the work extremely challenging and very rewarding.

How did Lou Reed: Drones come about? Was it something you discussed directly with Lou?

In 1975 Lou Reed released Metal Machine Music. This was a noise album featuring a constant drone of guitar feedback from start to finish, in fact, the album was made so the end would continually repeat until you lifted the needle from the record.

Around 2008 Lou wanted to tour and perform a noise type improv similar to Metal Machine Music. We did extensive testing of guitar feedback and ultimately Lou decided that we would use four guitars and amplifiers feeding back as the foundation of the Metal Machine Trio Tour. It was during this testing that Lou Reed gave the title ‘The Drones’ to the four guitar, amp wall of feedback.

During that tour in Sydney, while setting the feedback Lou shouted to me: "I feel healed in The Drones"! He was ill at the time and I fully acknowledged the gravity of his statement.

What was Laurie Anderson’s role?

After Lou passed there was a meeting at his house. People were discussing what should happen to Lou Reed's guitars and equipment. Many said the equipment should be in a museum. I spoke up and said, "Lou would hate his instruments gathering dust, he was about moving forward and creating". I told Laurie Anderson about my experiences with Lou Reed and The Drones, how I wanted to use them as therapy for Lou and the idea of a feedback wall. Laurie Anderson said: "The feedback wall is a great idea...and YOU must do it"!

Laurie set things in motion and I performed a three hour (MM3) session at The Steven Kasher Gallery on 23rd Street in Chelsea, NYC. Laurie Anderson and Antony Hegarty were deeply moved by the tribute and a second session was scheduled...this time at The Kitchen in NYC.

Laurie was invited to perform in a tribute show for Ornette Coleman at The Bandshell in Brooklyn. She had The Drones as part of the performance. I set a soundscape foundation and Master Ren Guang- Yi (Tai Chi teacher to Lou Reed) performed The 21 a movement created for Lou Reed.

Laurie came out on stage with John Zorn and Bill Laswell and all three improvised over The Drones. was beautiful!

What exactly will the audience be able to see/hear/do?

Ideally the room will be pretty dark with some slow moving lights generated from a mirror ball. The idea is to instigate a little disorientation and second guessing about the space you're in. I will set soundscapes in motion these will encourage the listeners' imagination to open.

They can sit, lay, listen, meditate, sleep, cry, dance, chant, perform Tai Chi - whatever they get emotionally from the sounds they can react to. I would encourage people to drone along, making their own drone resonating inside their chest cavity. The sound is interactive changing with the movement of people within the space, other sound sources (musicians and instruments, or chants etc.).

How many guitars are there in the installation? Were they all owned by Lou?

I tour with seven guitars, six are leaning against the amps ready to be included in the soundscape, I can use the extra guitar to swap out a guitar and alter the tunings available to me. All the guitars and amplifiers were owned by Lou Reed...many of which people have seen Lou play live, or in videos of live gigs.

How has the installation been received to date?

The Drones fall between an installation and performance art as I manipulate and interact with them. People, even musicians as usually surprised by how musical and moving it can be.

What do you hope audiences will get out of it?

I hope that they experience the gateway of their imagination to be opened! The Drones generate so many harmonics in the air that people hear different things within the drones; some hear birds, or horns, brass bands, others hear strings, or voices. In addition the sound waves hit the body perhaps penetrating and shaking internal organs, releasing endorphins etc. I like to think of it as a sonic massage!

I had one person tell me, amazingly he slept during parts of the performance. He went on to say he suffers with insomnia and the vibration had made him feel incredibly relaxed... he had a great nap and vivid dreams. I see this as a success!

And finally…. Exactly how loud is the feedback?

Not as loud as Metallica...louder than a string times approaching the sound and volume of Lancaster bomber but more musical!

Head this way for more info on free event Lou Reed Drones

Festival-goers invited to interact with installation of Lou Reed’s guitars

Festival-goers are invited to meditate, dance, chant, and even perform Tai Chi at Lou Reed Drones, an installation of Lou Reed’s guitars and amps set in feedback mode, coming to Brighton Festival in May.

A UK Premiere, Lou Reed Drones is at The Spire Fri 13 - Tue 17 May. Lou Reed instinctively knew the power of drone music, and his 1975 album Metal Machine Music was credited with laying the foundation for the industrial and noise rock genres.

Lou Reed’s guitar technician Stewart Hurwood, the man behind the installation, says, ‘People can sit, lay, listen, meditate, sleep, cry, dance, chant, perform Tai Chi - whatever they get emotionally from the sounds they can react to. I would encourage people to drone along, making their own drone resonating inside their chest cavity. The sound is interactive changing with the movement of people within the space, and other sound sources.’

Stewart Hurwood worked with Lou Reed for the last ten years of his life, handling his guitars, and equipment. Lou Reed Drones came about when following Lou Reed’s death, Stewart came up with the idea as an alternative to Reed’s equipment gathering dust, and worked with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed’s partner, and Brighton Festival 2016 Guest Director, to make it a reality.

Brighton Festival invites Brighton artists and practitioners to immerse themselves in the installation and participate in a series of Happenings that will take place during Lou Reed Drones, between the hours of 2-4pm, Fri 13 - Tue 17 May 2016. All Happenings need to be self-sufficient, non-intrusive and without amplification. Please note there is no fee.

If you are interested in responding to the Drones creatively please contact with a short description about you, your practice and how you would like to respond to the Drones. The curatorial team will get back to you to confirm if there is a space to incorporate your idea in the schedule.

Listings information

Lou Reed Drones

Fri 13 – Tue 17 May, 12pm – 5pm

The Spire, St Mark’s Chapel, Eastern Road, BN25JN



Both Lou Reed and John Cale instinctively knew the power of drones. In 1975, Reed played out that drone music on Metal Machine Music, an album credited with laying the foundation for the industrial and noise rock genres.

Lou Reed Drones is an installation of his guitars and amps in feedback mode: 24 strings set in motion from the push of magnetically driven cones; 360 partial harmonics colliding against each other, cascading, uniting, elevating, rising up like New York skyscrapers along the Hudson.

Introducing gain and sculpting sonic frequencies, a feedback loop is created with each guitar and its respective amplifier. Their overlapping harmonic structures produce pseudo-acoustic notes in which a beating sensation is then set in motion. Lou Reed Drones is a visceral, emotional and spiritual experience.

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