Composer and pianist Alex Nikiporenko speaks to Murray McLachlan about his life, career and most recent compositions, including his book Ten Short Pieces for solo piano.
‘That’s the stuff that sounds the strangest now’, Nikiporenko enthuses. ‘It’s this stuff that sounds somewhat tonal, but in a really bizarre way. It’s almost like a machine.’ In a sense, he’s right. After decades now of noise music and atonality, of extended techniques and unconventional instruments, all such gestures increasingly just amount to signatures of a particular authorised version of what it means to be ‘avant-garde’. In such a context, the truly radical gesture might be to take something seemingly totally conventional and subtly subvert it from within. ‘So much of my music asks, what if a machine were to try to write a classical piece?’ Nikiporenko muses. ‘It would fail. That’s the kind of sound I’m interested in.’
Alex Nikiporenko details the process he used to write a piece for recorder quarter BLOCK4: “I found it curious that I, an atheist living in the 21st century, was writing music for medieval instruments to be performed in a church.”
Modus Triplex by Alex Nikiporenko had the strong, upfront inflections of Eastern European folk music, a vibrant end to an intriguing evening.
Alex Nikiporenko provided the lightest (but by no means slightest) work on the programme, Volumus ut Iesus exaltetur, a wittily lopsided collage of a caccia by Niccolò da Perugia and the evangelical song We Want To See Jesus Lifted High by Doug Horley. The quicksilver medieval counterpoint provided BLOCK4 with the opportunity of showcasing its considerable ensemble skills and stylistic finesse.
In small-scale venues up and down Britain, young music makers are curating experimental events that take their lead from composers.
Musicians have banded together not to form performing groups, but to create series of events with names such as Kammer Klang, 840, New Dots and Bastard Assignments. ...Nikiporenko explains: “We do not want to limit ourselves to a particular instrumentation, and therefore creating a platform that allows for varied instrumentation was an optimal choice.”
Throughout this year and without much fanfare Alex Nikiporenko and Nicholas Peters have been building up this small series of small concerts of what I am tempted to call, in the least non-disparaging way possible, ‘small music’. Music by composers like Luiz Henrique Yudo or Laurence Crane. Music that doesn’t have any pretensions to be more than it is, that doesn’t seek to fill a space or a time outside of its own container, but that fills what it has just perfectly.
...Peters and Nikiporenko both wrote new pieces too, and I was especially taken by the latter, which seemed perfectly balanced in all directions.
Very few modern scores for theatre or installation work for me, but the one by composers Alex Nikiporenko, Louise Drewett and sound artist Lee Berwick certainly did.
For the other senior winner, 18-year-old Alex Nikiporenko, the top prize finally comes after three years of being highly commended in the BBC/Guardian Composers' Competition. His piece, Awaiting, is for piano and flute, but as judges remarked, it is hardly the soothing production that such a scoring might suggest. "It's a very impressive character study of rather an abstract concept," said Stuart MacRae. "This is an extremely difficult thing to try but the piece brings it off extremely well."