Network Music Festival

Sound without Borders // 15-18th July 2020

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Henry Vega in Conversation

Ross Cotton has been talking to composer Henry Vega. Henry’s piece Wormsongs, for Soprano and electronics is being performed at Network Music Festival on Saturday 28th January 3pm.


Henry Vega‘s work ranges between virtuosic instrumental writing, to colourful compositions.

He has created music that appears in theatrical productions, dance and concert music, with a strong focus on modern artistic trends.

At Network Music Festival, Vega’s piece the Wormsongs will be performed along with stage production composer Anat Spiegel, and visual creator Emmanuel Flores Elias.

Written by Vega himself, the Wormsongs is a collection of vocal pieces, stripped down from lyrical lines and instead, replaced with automatic instruments, triggered to match an automatic vocal part.

With the music itself written in block gestures, from harmony, to noise and back.

“I got the chance to work with Earl Brown [American composer who died in 2002], who was one of the fathers of aleatoric music [some element of a composition left to chance]”, says Henry.

“He had a way of scoring which was precise in some parameters, but open and free in others, and that stuck with me.

“The idea of a ‘block of music’ means that I provide material for the musician who can perform that block repeatedly until they are cue’d to move onto the next block.

“This gives the musicians a type of freedom of interpretation that is not improvisation, but something more controlled.

“So I give the performer a few notes and rhythms, and they improvise on that material, always stopping and starting on cue.

“This makes an impression of synchronisity between the performers, even though while they are in the block, they are completely unsynchronised.

“I give Anat text which she reads as fast as she can, and give her one or two notes she can use.”

Each score in Wormsongs is motivated by social evolution, something that influences Henry greatly during his creative processes.

“The first text I got for the Wormsongs was by [performance artist] Georg Hobmeier, a director/choreographer who wrote the text I I, manipulated in Sermon on Files and Vile Springs.

“In that text, [Hobmeier] mentions the ‘extropic delights’, which led to my research in ‘extropy’ and ‘post-humanism’.

“The idea of planning evolution past our current frontiers and past our physical limitations with clarity was very interesting and positive for me.

“It inspired me to evolve musically with very conscious understanding of musical tradition.”

Working alongside Emmanuel Flores Elias and his visual extravaganzas,

Anat Spiegel’s vocals will be linked to the imagery quite literally within the performance at Network Music Festival.

Henry explains further, “Anat and I had worked together on a theatre piece we called Iminami in 2006.

“It was a complicated piece to stage, but we enjoyed working with each other very much, so I came up with a project that would focus on the duo dynamics that we had developed together.

“That’s the core of the Wormsongs, and we kept it in a way that could easily incorporate other musicians/artists.

“This is how we came to include Emmanuel’s visual designs.

“We built on an idea of musicians with video interaction, based on a network.

With this network, we were able to synchronise and perform the video from my controllers, while also including Anat in the network, by tracking her voice and sending that as streams of numbers to be used as video parameters.

[Anat is] a fantastic singer, who is mesmerizing to watch, and she’ll be accompanied by a wall of harmonious electronic sound, dressed in digital colours.”

With strong interests in theatrical settings, inspirations from this area are clear within Wormsongs itself, and Henry continues by describing the scores as “a music theatre piece, without the theatre part.

“There is no clear narrative, and no linear text, but the music is set in an operatic way.”

And what are Henry’s plans for the future?

“I want to work with more singers, I’d clone Anat if I could….

“At the moment, I’m working on a larger work for three voices – Anat included – percussion and strings.

“I’m looking for a theme to inspire the whole thing, and I look forward to finding out what it is!”

– by Ross Cotton – Freelance Music Journalist –

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