29 July 2020 - 14 April 2021

Musical Book Club


We’re delighted to invite you to a new online experience: SE’s ‘Musical Book Club’

Through our Musical Book Club, we want to offer a relaxed environment to bring people together, discuss powerful works of music, and recapture some of the post-concert spirit we might otherwise enjoy over drinks after a performance!

Please note, you don’t need to have any existing technical musical knowledge to join in – this is all about sharing passion and interest! You’re welcome to join the discussion, share thoughts and questions, or simply listen along at home.

How Can I Join In?

The Book Club will be hosted through the free video conferencing software Zoom. If you would like any assistance downloading or configuring Zoom, just let us know.

A playlist containing recordings to be discussed, along with some questions and thoughts from our guest presenters, will be shared with participants around one week before the session.

Tickets for this event cost £5 (plus online booking fee).

  • Wed 29 July 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 1: Tom Service on Pauline Oliveros

  • Wed 12 August 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 2: Sean Shibe on Early and Contemporary Music

  • Wed 2 September 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 3: Anna Meredith on her Acoustic and Electronic Music

  • Wed 16 September 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 4: Steven Osborne on The Goldberg Variations

  • Wed 4 November 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 5: Tom Service on Morton Feldman

  • Wed 18 November 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 6: An Evening with Dobrinka Tabakova

  • Wed 2 December 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 7: An Evening with Craig Armstrong

  • Thu 4 February 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 8: An Evening with Sally Beamish

  • Wed 10 March 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 9: Tom Service on György Kurtág

  • Wed 14 April 7:30 pm
    Online  Livestream

    Episode 10: An Evening with Colin Currie & Jonathan Morton

About the Episodes

Find out more about each of our Book Club guests and the people and themes we will be discussing.

Pauline Oliveros’ (1932-2016) life as a composer, performer and humanitarian was about opening her own and others’ sensibilities to the universe and facets of sounds. Her career spanned fifty years of boundary dissolving music making. In the ’50s she was part of a circle of iconoclastic composers, artists, poets gathered together in San Francisco. In the 1960’s she influenced American music profoundly through her work with improvisation, meditation, electronic music, myth and ritual.

Guided by questions and thoughts from Tom, we’ll aim to open up discussion around Pauline’s amazing, ambitious works, based on listening materials sent to you one week before the call.

One of the foremost guitarists of his generation, Sean Shibe brings a fresh and innovative approach to the traditional classical guitar by experimenting with instruments and repertoire.

Like Scottish Ensemble, Sean is a champion of early and Baroque music, as well as new and contemporary repertoire.

Join us to listen to some of his favourite works, and hear his thoughts on interpreting and performing lesser-known and well-loved gems from across the centuries.

Presented by Diane Clark, SE’s Principal Double Bassist.

Anna Meredith is a composer, producer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. Her sound is frequently described as ‘uncategorisable’ and ‘genre-defying’, and straddles the different worlds of contemporary classical, art pop, techno, ambient installations and experimental rock.

In 2016, Anna wrote ‘Anno’ for Scottish Ensemble, a radical audio-visual reworking of Vivaldi’s iconic Four Seasons for string orchestra and electronics. Matching Vivaldi’s unforgettable melodies, irrepressible rhythms and short, snappy structures with new movements referencing Anna’s love for electronic music, the work explored some of the surprising links between current pop music, and music written over 300 years ago.

Join Anna and SE violinist Joanne Green for an insight into Anna’s music.

One of the most iconic works in musical history, J.S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations comprise 30 dazzling variations, constellated around a simple aria.

Scottish Ensemble have a long and close relationship with the work, culminating in 2015’s contemporary dance collaboration with Swedish contemporary dance group Andersson Dance: Goldberg Variations – ternary patterns for insomnia. This bold, critically-acclaimed production saw SE musicians dancing alongside contemporary dancers while performing the work.

Join SE’s Artistic Director Jonathan Morton and award-winning Scottish pianist Steven Osborne to delve deep into this remarkable set of variations.

Morton Feldman (1926 – 1987) was a pioneering American composer who influenced the development of indeterminate (or ‘chance’ music) alongside his friend and contemporary John Cage, with whom he participated in the rich cultural life of the ‘Downtown’ Music scene in Manhattan in the 1950s and 60s.

Though his music is characteristic by perennially quiet, slowly evolving textures – sometimes of extreme duration, such as the 6-hour long String Quartet No. 2 (1983) – Feldman’s unique voice and revolutionary ideas boldly altered the course of music in the 20th century.

Guided by questions and thoughts from Tom, we’ll aim to open up discussion around a selection of Feldman’s fascinating works, based on listening materials sent to you one week before the call.

“The term ‘avant-garde’ is changing, and Dobrinka is one of those lending it a new meaning. Her credo… consists of a simple basic idea: that something new can always be found, even in the most familiar places. Her music, therefore, sets out to explore this zone of familiarity and the unknown, never drawing any borders…” – Tobias Fischer, music writer and broadcaster

Dobrinka Tabakova is a composer whose work sits at the juncture of past and future: richly rooted in a tonal tradition that it continually reinvents and sheds new light upon.

Join us as Dobrinka explores her compositional process and musical influences, with a particular focus on her writing for strings.

Craig Armstrong’s output as a composer is remarkably broad: from scores to Hollywood blockbusters like Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001) (for which he won a Golden Globe), to his latest release: The Edge of the Sea (2020), which, a little closer to home, explores that no-less remarkable tradition of Gaelic Psalm Singing.

Joined by SE Principal Cellist Alison Lawrance, Craig will explore his compositional process and film scoring work through a selection of his own pieces.

Sally Beamish OBE is of the UK’s foremost living composers, as well as an active violist and pianist. Her work encompasses a range of styles and traditions and is known for its close relationship with Scottish traditional music and jazz music.

Sally will explore her compositional process and influences through a selection of her own works and the works that inspired them.

“In Kurtág’s tiny fragments lies music of unflinching emotional and existential rawness.” – Tom Service

György Kurtág (b. 1926) is a Hungarian composer who developed one of the most unique compositional voices of the 20th century. Known for the concentration and clarity of his short, gem-like works, “Kurtág’s fragments are about musical and, above all, expressive intensification: maximising the effect and impact of every note, every gesture.”

Guided by questions and thoughts from BBC broadcaster and writer Tom Service, and joined by Scottish Ensemble cellist Naomi Pavri, we’ll aim to open up discussion around a selection of Kurtág’s fascinating works, based on listening materials sent one week before the call.

Colin Currie is a solo and chamber artist at the peak of his powers. Championing new music at the highest level, he is hailed as being “at the summit of percussion performance today” (Gramophone). Currie is the soloist of choice for many of today’s foremost composers and conductors and he performs with the world’s leading orchestras.

Joined by Scottish Ensemble’s Artistic Director Jonathan Morton, Colin will reflect on music written by some of the composers with whom he has had long professional relationships – like Steve Reich and Sir James MacMillan – as well as composers he has premiered works for more recently – Helen Grime and Andy Akiho. During the event, we will also share an exclusive performance of Tansy Davies’ ‘Dark Ground’, filmed by Colin in lockdown in 2020.

Resources & Downloads

  • Episode 1: Listening Notes

    Tom Service on Pauline Oliveros | 140.49 KB
  • Episode 2: Listening Notes

    Sean Shibe | 337.46 KB
  • Episode 3: Listening Notes

    Anna Meredith | 257.05 KB
  • Episode 4: Listening Notes

    Steven Osborne | 153.59 KB
  • Episode 5: Listening Notes

    Tom Service on Morton Feldman | 112.54 KB
  • Episode 6: Listening Notes

    Dobrinka Tabakova | 116.95 KB
  • Episode 7: Listening Notes

    Craig Armstrong | 159.09 KB
  • Episode 8: Listening Notes

    Sally Beamish | 123.53 KB
  • Episode 9: Listening Notes

    György Kurtág | 244.21 KB
  • Episode 10: Listening Notes

    Colin Currie & Jonathan Morton | 85.48 KB