Knott Tones is a new music series with the Ligeti Quartet that features Mandhira De Saram and Patrick Dawkins violin, Richard Jones viola, Valerie Welbanks on cello and the studio recording features Alicja Pilarczyk as guest violin. Approaching the quartet as an extension of my limbs, I map polyrhythmic language on an interactive electro-acoustic drum kit (contact microphones) which is later structured with collected tone rows, polytemporal rhythms and aleatoric comprovisation.
The relationship with the Ligeti Quartet began with 2015 London and the Netherlands performances of A Gambler’s Hand, a suite of pieces for amplified string quartet and drums, largely composed but with improvisational sections (third stream uniting jazz and classical forms and approaches), inspired equally by the great string quartet tradition (Beethoven and Bartok in particular).
Our collaboration continued in 2016 at the Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, as part of the premiere of Zappanation, an outrageous rock opera dedicated to the spirit of Frank Zappa and Edgard Varèse. Following a subsequent German premiere in 2018 we workshopped extended string techniques which became Anatomical Planes which were composed at the Britten-Pears Creative Retreats and recorded in January 2020 with guest violinist Alicja Pilarczyk.
The title track Knott Tones, is a further expansion from Noonan's earlier work Don Knotts, an original composition based off a 12 tone row dedicated to the American TV comedian Don Knotts. The experimental free jazz version can be heard by Drumavox which features the Sardinian a cappella choir from Zappanation.
The album consists of five comprovisations which employ polytemporal concepts from Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano: Study No. 5 (two repeating ostinatos at tempos of 5-against-7) Study No. 11 (an isorhythmic blues on a repeating sequence of 120 chords) and Study No. 20, (a pointillist duration canon of repeating notes within small ranges). This is the premise for a future PhD research project, Stealing and Stretching, which will examine how polytemporal techniques can meaningfully inflect perception of time in musical compositions.
Conlon Nancarrow declared: “Time is the last frontier of music” I will investigate existing polytemporal practices within the context of my field, experimental classical music, as well as applications in jazz, rock, popular music, and non-Western traditions. My interest in this topic is a culmination of over 20 years of performing, composing and research into disparate musical traditions and interests.
"The drummer and composer Sean Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the same angle of self-discovery ... he manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice." - Nate Chinen, New York Times
"Menacingly surreal, often assaultive, a feast for fans of dark, challenging music…it’s a category unto itself – and one of the best albums of 2012 in any style of music. Scary Stuff from Sean Noonan." - Lucid Culture
About the Ligeti Quartet
Mandhira de Saram and Alicja Pilarczyk (violin 1)
Patrick Dawkins (violin 2)
Richard Jones (viola)
Val Welbanks (cello)
The Ligeti Quartet have been at the forefront of modern and contemporary music since their formation in 2010. They have established a reputation as one of the UK’s leading ensembles, breaking new ground through innovative programming and championing of today’s most exciting composers and artists.
Having played at landmark venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Curtis Institute, Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Barbican Hall, and Kings Place, they also regularly escape the stage to appear at museums, galleries, theatres, pubs, in an IMAX Theatre, on a fishing boat, in a cave, and on iceberg sculptures as part of a Greenpeace campaign. In autumn 2018 they took part in a critically acclaimed tour of UK planetariums, in association with Sound UK.
They have commissioned many new works and have collaborated with artists from all types of musical backgrounds including Anna Meredith, Stef Conner, Elliot Galvin, Kerry Andrew (Juice Vocal Ensemble), Laura Jurd, Meilyr Jones, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Seb Rochford (Polar Bear), Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet), Shed 7 and Submotion Orchestra. They are currently working on a long-term project with Ernst von Siemens prize-winning composer Christian Mason to create a series of Songbooks for string quartet, based on overtone singing traditions from around the world.
The Quartet are passionate about supporting emerging composers and taking new music to diverse audiences. As Ensemble in Residence at Cambridge University, Sheffield University, and Goldsmiths, University of London, they regularly lead composition workshops, and undertake education and community outreach work. They took part in the Cheltenham Festival Composers’ Academy 2017, and became City Music Foundation Artists in 2016.