My Listening: Mira Benjamin

Photo courtesy of Anton Lukoszevieze

 The space

Where are you?

I usually listen at home, in our living room, because we have ways to play most kinds of media all in one place. I don’t like to listen to music on headphones unless 

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I’m editing, so the music plays throughout the house. Most of the time when one of us is listening, we’re all listening.

What are you doing?

I can’t work or read while I listen, but I do like to potter. I often knit while listening – knitting is a great hobby for musicians with busy hands, and can really help to focus the mind. Laundry folding (my favourite household chore) also goes well.

What are you looking at?

Our dog is often in the room with me while I listen, so I tend to see a lot of him. Actually, I hear a lot of him too – little fidgeting sounds, pacing, settling and then a big relaxing sigh. My listening tends to be peppered with these doggy noises … I think by now I must just assume all music has them!

What’s the gear?

I’m not picky about formats, but the music I listen to doesn’t come out at all on laptop speakers or cheap headphones because it’s very sound-oriented music. Our hi-fi system (for which I can’t take any credit) is pretty good, and I prefer listening from a distance to using headphones. These days I’m listening to a lot of music by friends and colleagues, so it’s mostly CDs and other digital/online formats.

The sounds

What’s cued up?

Right now I’m listening to several of Another Timbre’s recent releases – Angharad Davies and Tisha Mukarji’s ffansïon/fancies, and the upcoming double re-release of two discs by Magnus Granberg and Skogen. I’m doing quite a few projects with Another Timbre’s producer Simon Reynell at the moment, so the listening is partly research, partly personal enjoyment.

Which recording do you always return to?

I tend to listen around what I’m currently working on, so my listening is somewhat migratory. I always find my way back to Scott McLaughlin’s surfaces of emergence – I heard the piece (six electric guitars feeding back) live at HCMF a number of years ago, and it’s one of my all-time favourites. There’s a lovely version on his portrait disc, There are neither wholes nor parts (Ergodos), but I have a special soft spot for the live documented version, which you can hear on his YouTube channel. If we’re talking most-played disc, it’s probably Kraftwerk’s Computer World. Tour de France is a close second.

What’s on the to-listen pile?

We were recently joking that our to-listen pile is all white! That is, we have a lot of Another Timbre and Edition Wandelweiser discs stacked on the player right now. The pile keeps growing because both labels keep releasing discs we want to hear. Just glancing at the pile right now, I see next up is Endless Overtones In Relational Space (Suppedaneum), from American violinist Morgan Evans-Weiler. Actually, my own discs are probably the ones left on the pile the longest – I always prefer to listen to friends’ recordings before my own.

Name a fantasy recording (real or imagined) that you haven’t heard yet?

I’d like to hear a collection of all of Martin Arnold’s most obscure unpublished recordings. Martin has some crazy pieces that are not as well-known as his more recent chamber works, and I’ve heard him do some pretty astounding improv as well. His Soundcloud has a fun sampling – Tifty’s Annie (version 1) for a start. I’ve learnt so much about music from Martin over the years. He’s probably my favourite composer.

Mira Benjamin is a Canadian violinist, researcher and new-music instigator. She performs new and experimental music, with an interest in microtonality and tuning practice. She resides in London, performs with ensembles such as Apartment House and Decibel, and is currently the Duncan Druce Scholar in Music Performance at the University of Huddersfield.

Mira’s recent recordings for Another Timbre include CDs of music by Martin Arnold, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Linda Catlin Smith and Chiyoko Szlavnics. On 7 July in London she will perform piano trios by Paul Newland and others, with Anton Lukoszevieze and Philip Thomas as part of Music We’d Like to Hear.


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