Interview: Conductor Ilan Volkov discusses Tectonics 2014

Interview: Conductor Ilan Volkov discusses Tectonics 2014

The classical/experimental festival features performances from Thurston Moore, Bill Wells and Sarah Kenchington

As its name suggests, the Tectonics festival taps into the earth-shuddering changes that have occurred across the entire spectrum of experimental music over the last decade. Running over a long May weekend in Glasgow, this second edition of Tectonics pulls together some of the world’s leading experimental composers alongside a younger generation of musical free-thinkers from a world where rock, art and classical music collide.

The festival was instigated by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor Ilan Volkov, who is also music director and chief conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, with the help of AC Projects’ Alasdair Campbell, the man behind the Le Weekend and Counterflows festivals.

‘There are so many strands of music now, and I think it’s great to have people from different backgrounds working like this,’ Volkov says from Reykjavík, where the Icelandic arm of Tectonics has just opened. ‘We’ve been doing this sort of thing in Glasgow on and off for ten years now, and it’s great to be able to call up a composer who’s maybe not used to working with an orchestra, and then to present the work in an interesting way. Audiences don’t want just one thing, and with Tectonics they can have a whole range of ideas coming at them.’

So while iconoclasts such as composer Christian Wolff will perform some of their most thrilling works, a series of BBC commissions will feature new pieces from the likes of plunderphonist John Oswald and American composer David Behrman. Former Sonic Youth guitarist and long-time musical explorer Thurston Moore, who recently performed in London with Yoko Ono, will appear at Tectonics twice. The first performance will find Moore play a late show with Dylan Nyoukis, one half of noise duo Blood Stereo and founder of the Chocolate Monk imprint as well as the Brighton-based Colour Out of Space festival. Moore’s second appearance will see him hook up with Japanese maestro Takehisa Kosugi, one of the key figures of the Fluxus movement, whose treated violin-based works saw him collaborate with the late choreographer Merce Cunningham.

While a two-way traffic between Iceland and Scotland is spearheaded by a performance from Reykjavík-based composers collective S.L.Á.T.U.R., there is much input input too from internationally renowned Scottish artists. Tectonics’ opening concert will feature maverick pianist and composer Bill Wells and his National Jazz Trio of Scotland collaborator, viola player Aby Vulliamy, working with the BBC SSO to present a new arrangement of his AC Projects commission Summer Dreams. Alongside appearances by female collective Muscles of Joy, absurdist duo Usurper and veteran ‘ambi-dustrial’ outfit Cindytalk, as well as a new musical installation by Sarah Kenchington, the festival’s finale will feature the world premiere of Past Fragments of Distant Confrontation, the first ever orchestral work by composer, singer and performer Richard Youngs.

‘I’ve known Richard’s music for a long time now,’ says Volkov, ‘and I wanted to give him a chance to do something new. Scotland is really special just now, and it’s easier to put this kind of thing on in Glasgow than it is in London. Suddenly there are fewer and fewer barriers, and this is happening all over.’

Tectonics takes place in the City Halls, Old Fruitmarket and St Andrew’s In The Square, Glasgow, Fri 9–Sun 11 May.

Muscles of Joy

Improvisatory vocal-led art-rock from Glaswegian five-piece.

Tectonics Opening Concert

The opening night of Tectonics is practically a taster session for the whole festival, featuring performances from stars of the avant-garde and improvisation scenes: Bill Wells, Klaus Lang, Jer Reid and Solène Weinachter, David Berhman, Catherine Lamb, Marcus Weiss, Aby Vulliamy, Christian Wolff, Richard Youngs, Vernon…

Tectonics Orchestral Concert 1

Shiny new orchestral works, including specially commissioned world premieres from David Behrman (How We Got Here), 'plunderphonics' pioneer John Oswald (I’d love to turn) and Georg Friedrich Haas (Concerto Grosso No 2 for ensemble and orchestra), as well as the UK premiere of Haas' Saxophone Concerto featuring Marcus…

Sarah Kenchington: Sounds from the Farmyard

Sarah Kenchington makes her own musical instruments – her Wind Pipes for Edinburgh were a hit of the 2013 Edinburgh Art Fair – and her aim is to get music back to the people, by making her instruments accessible and playable by anyone.


Major works by two leading American composers: Christian Wolff's For One, Two or Three People and Metal & Breath and David Behrman's Wavetrain, performed by David Behrman, Takehisa Kosugi, Icelandic composers' collective S.L.Á.T.U.R, Ilan Volkov and Christian Wolff.

Tectonics Late Gig

Day two of Tectonics ends with live performances from Julia Scott, followed by Attila Csihar in collaboration with composer and turntablist Mariam Rezaei.


Music from a composers' collective based in Reykjavik, which has experimented with such things as animated notation. The members taking part in this performance are Áki Ásgeirsson, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson, Ingi Garðar Erlendsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Páll Ivan frá Eiðum, and Þráinn…


Absurdist goings-on from the improvisatory musical duo.

BBC SSO: Tectonics Orchestral Concert 2

Ilan Volkov conducts new works, including the world premiere of a revised version of James Clapperton's Tomnaverie; Michael Finnissy's Offshore and Favourite Poets (featuring vocal ensemble Exaudi), world premieres of portions transparent/opaque by young US composer Catherine Lamb and the premiere of a new work by Klaus…

Takehisa Kosugi

Performance by the veteran Japanese composer, violinist, improviser, sometime member of Fluxus and musical director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Julian Cope is a huge fan.

BBC SSO: Tectonics Closing Concert

Multi-instrumentalist Richard Youngs closes Tectonics with his first orchestral work, Past Fragments of Distant Confrontation, featuring himself on electric guitar in the centre of the venue and the audience arranged around him. Inspired by the punk subgenre D-beat (with its characteristic manic drumbeat), it's a suitably…