Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
November 18th - 27th
An absolute highlight of my annual musical calendar is here, now. Each recession-ravaged year, I’m surprised funding is found for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf), one of the absolute best, intriguing, groundbreaking, sound splitting festivals. Billed as the biggest contemporary music festival in the UK, it’s a delight for open ears, minds, and hearts. If for you, contemporary means, the breaking bands at the Mercury Music Awards or Mojo’s underground sounds, or Outsideleft’s leftfield reviews, hcmf is probably not for you. This is music often beyond electro, way beyond Sun Ra’s Saturn Sound, and deep into the astral aural sounds that... happen. If contemporary music means the first-ever Native American Pulitzer prizewinning soundscaper rolling into an ex-wool town in Yorkshire, England, I've got a Google map reference for you!
Someone once described Jazz as “notes in search of a tune”, if that’s you, and like me, you love the journey those notes take, this is your festival. It promotes more than a few nights where it’s, “notes in search of a chord”, that they sometimes find. Just like jazz, it’s the journey that can delight. To give a flavour, Philip Glass and Frank Zappa are MOR here. Think... harps rested on ice blocks, think Natalia Paruz Saw Lady, bands with three pianos, it’s saxophones jamming with Macbook Pros, it’s, it’s, it’s... it just is.
What to expect from the artists, speakers, and performers? Hard to describe. One person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. One person's eclectic is another's “pretentious”. I’ve heard pieces, left breathless, buzzing, excited, and animated, and paid again later in the year, to see the same thing elsewhere, having been blown away the first night.
A large contingent of the audience will be students from Leeds and Manchester's well-respected music schools. What they can expect are some unique performances, from stellar artists and composers based across continental Europe, and beyond.
Of the venues, a classic Victorian Town Hall, a deconsecrated church, a disused spinning mill, you get the picture. Lots of gothic locations that may or may not require a hushed reverence. I've been asked to leave a show (too many sarcastic comments within earshot of the performer). I’ve walked out at the end of a first piece as well because something was too hard to listen to.
Some of the concerts are “live on BBC Radio 3”, and some are relayed later in the week or the month. Check BBC sounds here.
So, here's to a weekend hoping to be amazed, bemused, enthralled, and captivated. Now that’s what I call rock and roll.
Main image Raven Chacon by Adam Conte
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Website, here