On 30 September at Kings Place Zubin Kanga premieres Oliver Leith’s Vicentino, love you - studies for keyboard ('L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica) for synthesizer and electronics. The 13 ½-minute piece was commissioned by Zubin Kanga with the support of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and Royal Holloway, University of London. Listen to an excerpt from Vicentino, love you here.

The piece celebrates the musical imagination of Nicola Vicentino, the sixteenth-century composer who described the ‘archicembalo’, a unique two-manual keyboard instrument with a microtonal tuning. Leith’s subtitle refers to Vicentino’s 1555 treatise on his ingenious approach to tuning and temperament, exploring arcane classes of intonation.

The seven movements – ‘Candle blare’, ‘Stumbler’, ‘Drag along drag along’, ‘Whistle slivers’, ‘Little flurry’, ‘Panpipe bright’, ‘Caput wheeze’ – make use of an equally innovative modern instrument to bend and swirl pitches, in the form of Kanga’s TouchKeys keyboard. Despite the cutting-edge technology, Leith also aims for a sound that is “like some old thing in a very large empty hall, covered in a cloth…Muted, softened, but with a large trail.” The studies can be performed separately or as a selection.

Kanga will also perform Vicentino, love you at St. John’s College, Oxford, on 18 October, and features on Cyborg Pianist, Kanga’s debut solo album on NMC. The pianist previously premiered Leith’s I spend most of my life with a screen at Kings Place in November 2019. The six-minute piece for piano is accompanied by video in a tactile meeting of sound and image. Footage of the Effra Social Club in Brixton, shot by Leith, shivers in time with bass notes in the left hand. I spend most of my life with a screen was performed in March this year by Siwan Rhys, another champion of Leith’s music, at the University of Leeds.

August saw the Japanese premiere of a movement from Leith’s award-winning Honey Siren (2017) for strings – music the composer has described as “dripping, hazy, globular, oozing”.  The second movement - ‘Full like drips’ – was performed by Musike at the BUoY Arts Center, Tokyo on 12 and 13 August. The 17-minute piece is another work expressing Leith’s fascination with non-standard tuning. Honey Siren’s bending, veering pitches, Leith says, “are not notes ‘in-between’ but the same pitches with a curved/sharper edge, like sniffing vinegar or a cannonball on a tight trampoline.”