Harmonic Space Orchestra

Photo by Mareike Yin-Yee Lee

The Harmonic Space Orchestra is a Berlin-based experimental research and performance collective with rational intonation at the core of its practice. Focusing on material/repertoire inherent to its members, the group was first initiated by Catherine Lamb, Rebecca Lane and Marc Sabat and has been slowly growing and taking shape since 2016, integrating a network of long-lasting musical relationships that have been developing in different constellations, contexts and countries for over 15 years.

Today, the collective consists of 13 core composer-performers and musicians who gather together weekly (when possible) to approach precisely tuned sound-forms in a pluralistic manner. Coming from diverse musical backgrounds in experimental, improvised and new music, their creative connections extend to composers such as Éliane Radigue, La Monte Young, Ben Johnston, André O. Möller, Horațiu Rădulescu, Maryanne Amacher, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman and Alvin Lucier. They agreed upon the name Harmonic Space Orchestra in early 2020 as an homage to James Tenney – to whom some members of the group are connected – invoking his influential term that suggests a radical shift in perception around elemental musical experience.

Early precursors to the HSO project include Plainsound Orchestra, initiated by Sabat and Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and Lamb’s Singing by Numbers with composer Laura Steenberge. In 2006, composers Wolfgang von Schweinitz, Marc Sabat, Catherine Lamb, Chiyoko Szlavnics, and others converged in Los Angeles following the death of the late James Tenney. Later on, in 2013, Lamb relocated to Berlin and reunited with Sabat, Szlavnics and visual artist Mareike Lee, and met flautist Rebecca Lane. From here on, a new constellation began to assemble together around expanded entries into a core practice they all shared, gradually incorporating other existing and new musical friendships from Australia, Canada, Norway, UK, USA and New Zealand, coalescing in Berlin.

In October 2020, HSO co-produced Harmonic Space 2020: James Tenney, a festival dedicated to the tuning works of James Tenney and HSO composers, as well as their first released recordings on the Sacred Realism label: Marc Sabat’s Gioseffo Zarlino and Catherine Lamb’s Prisma Interius VII & VIII. In 2019 they produced the chords, melodies festival and in 2018 were invited to perform at Suture Soven festival and the Berlin Biennale. Projects from 2017–19 include Sabat’s Gioseffo Zarlino & Seeds of Skies, alibis: Prologue, Lamb’s Prisma Interius I, IV, & VIII, Marcus Pal’s Phenomenal Harmonicity and Rebecca Lane & Sam Dunscombe’s particular realization of Rădulescu’s Inner Time and Outer Time at the Sacred Realism Series.

Photo by Peter Amende
M.O. Abbott

M.O. Abbott is a Berlin-based composer, trombonist, music educator, and researcher. His creative foci include computer-assisted algorithmic composition, microtonality, just intonation, electroacoustic composition, and contemporary music performance. M.O.’s work has recently been heard at festivals and conferences including Ostrava Days (Czech Republic), ICMC (Shanghai, Daegu, New York), Diffrazioni (Firenze), the SCI National Conference (USA), the SEAMUS National Conference (USA), and New Music on the Point (USA). Along with pianist Whitney Ashe, M.O. was awarded the 19th Annual 21st Century Piano Commission. He has also been recognized with a Presser Graduate Music Award. M.O. holds a B.M. from Eastman School of Music and a M.M. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (an alma mater of James Tenney), where his primary composition instructor was Sever Tipei. He has also studied composition and intonation with Marc Sabat. His primary trombone instructors include Mark Lawrence and Jim Pugh.

Sam Dunscombe

Sam Dunscombe is a performer-composer who uses clarinets, computers, and microphones. Sam is interested in work that explores the multi-dimensional perception of time, which has drawn them to areas including improvisation, the performance of complex-notated repertoire, field recording, audio engineering, and live electronic performance. Sam has collaborated with a wide range of artists, from Anthony Pateras to Eva-Maria Houben; Taku Sugimoto to Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram; Richard Barrett to Cat Lamb; Pierluigi Billone to Klaus Lang; Jim O’Rourke to The Necks. Performances include Maerzmusik (Berlin), Tokyo Experimental Festival, World Music Days (Ljubljana), Tectonics (Athens; Tel Aviv), Kontraklang (Berlin), the Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide International Arts Festivals (Australia), Ftarri Festival (Japan), and others. Sam works as the archivist to the estate of Horatiu Radulescu, and is the assistant editor for Lucero Print, where they work to digitise, revise, and make available to the public Radulescu’s substantial catalogue of works.

Photo by Tomas Sundblad
Catherine Lamb

Judith Hamann is a performer and composer from Narrm/Birraranga (Melbourne), "one of Australia’s foremost contemporary-music cellists" (RealTime Arts). Her current work focuses on an examination of ‘shaking’ in her solo performance practice, the creation of new work for cello and humming, and a research based project ‘Materialities of Realisation’ (with Charles Curtis). Hamann has worked with artists including Dennis Cooper, Anthony Davis, Sarah Hennies, Yvette Janine Jackson, Áine O’Dwyer, Alvin Lucier, Eliane Radigue, Tashi Wada, and La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. She has performed widely at festivals including the LA Philharmonic Fluxus Festival (Los Angeles), Sonic Acts (Amsterdam), Tectonics (Glasgow, Adelaide, Athens), Tokyo Experimental Festival (Tokyo), AURAL (Mexico City), SiDance Festival (Seoul). Hamann has performed or composed music released on labels including Saltern, Pogus, Another Timbre, Black Truffle, and Marginal Frequency and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from University of California, San Diego, where she majored in contemporary cello performance.

Jonathan Heilbron

Jonathan Heilbron is an Australian composer and performer active in the fields of contemporary, improvised and experimental music. As an interpreter of contemporary music, Jonathan has performed as a soloist and with ensembles across Australia, Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East. He has performed with Klangforum Wien, Apartment House, the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, and Ensemble Soundinitiative Paris. Through these engagements, he has worked directly with composers such as G.F. Haas, Catherine Lamb, Klaus Lang, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Jennifer Walshe, Christian Wolff, and Bernhard Lang, and has commissioned several new works from emerging composers. Recordings of Jonathan's compositions have been released by Another Timbre (UK), Insub (Switzerland), Intonema (Russia), and inexhaustible editions (Slovenia).

Photo by Rui Camilo
Catherine Lamb

Catherine Lamb (b. 1982) is an active composer exploring the interaction of tone (rational intonation), summations of shapes and shadows, phenomenological expansions, the architectures of the liminal (states in between outside/inside), and the long introduction form. She grew up in Olympia, WA, U.S., studying piano, viola, and unattended composition. Later in Pune (India), Los Angeles, New York, and then around Europe, her composition (and artistic) mentors have included: James Tenney, Michael Pisaro, Mani Kaul, Eliane Radigue, Jürg Frey, Christian Wolff, Jyoti Thakar, Lucky Mosko, James Benning, David Behrman, Ellen Fullman, Peter Ablinger, Matana Roberts, Kraig Grady, Marina Rosenfeld, Miya Masaoka, Richard Teitelbaum, Marcus Schmickler, Fred Moten, Antoine Beuger, Marc Sabat, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Michael Winter, Laura Steenberge, Rebecca Lane,and many others... She has helped initiate projects such as Singing By Numbers, Sacred Realism, and The Harmonic Space Orchestra, and is now recognized internationally for her work. She is currently based in Berlin.

Rebecca Lane

Rebecca Lane is a musician who explores intonation, focusing on the experiential qualities of sound, but also on phenomena which only emerge through specific ways of working together. Thus her practice is informed by ongoing relationships and collaborations with composer-performers (such as Catherine Lamb, Marc Sabat, Clara de Asís and Sam Dunscombe) and within ensembles using various flutes (flutes, quartertone flutes, recorders) and occasionally voice. She has also worked with Eva-Maria Houben, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Sarah Hughes, Antoine Beuger, André O. Möller, Klaus Lang, Jürg Frey, Viola Torros, Ernstalbrecht Stiebler, Salvatore Sciarrino, Laura Steenberge, Peter Ablinger, Lucie Vítková, Anthony Pateras and Taku Sugimoto, among others. In 2019 she co-initiated the Harmonic Space Orchestra, a research-performance collective exploring extended just-intonation and microtonal practices. Born in Melbourne, Australia, she is currently based in Berlin.

Photo by Christina Marx
Thomas Nicholson

Thomas Nicholson finds himself guided by many practices from a wide range of fields and periods – these include mathematics, typography, graphic design, Renaissance artwork, and web development. He studied composition with Christopher Butterfield and microtonal piano with Arthur Rowe at the University of Victoria (Canada). In 2017, he moved to Berlin to study at the Universität der Künste with Marc Sabat, whom he assisted in teaching intonation theory. His compositions since 2014 have examined the interaction between counterpoint (melodies), harmony (chords), and the unique gradations of spectral fusion evoked through microtonal just intonation (auditory perception). He composes primarily for smaller settings of musicians and occasionally collaborates on film and installation. His is actively researching as well as developing tools and methods for navigating the practical challenges of realising microtonal music on acoustic instruments – strings, in particular. His awards and honours include prizes from the SOCAN Foundation, the DAAD Prize from the Universität der Künste Berlin (2018), and a feature in CBC Music’s 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30 (2018).

Michiko Ogawa

Michiko Ogawa is a performer-composer specialising in the clarinet, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She performs not only classical repertoire but also contemporary and experimental musics, including free improvisation and film soundtrack work. Michiko Ogawa has appeared at the Tokyo Experimental Festival (2013), Darmstadt summer music festival (2016), Supersense Festival of Ecstatic Music (2015), the Monday Evening Concert series (Los Angeles, 2016), WasteLAnd (Los Angels, 2016), Inland series (Melbourne, 2015, 2016), BIFEM (Bendigo, Australia 2016, 2017, 2019), Maerzmusik (Berlin, 2018, 2019) and Brisbane International Film Festival (2018), Ftarri Festival (2019) among others. She has worked with composers including Toshi Ichiyanagi, Helmut Lachenmann, Richard Barrett, Hunjoo Jung, Catherine Lamb and Chikako Morishita, and with performers including Charles Curtis, Anthony Burr, Erik Carlson, Greg Stuart, Vicki Ray, among others. She also has been collaborating with musicians Sam Dunscombe, Taku Sugimoto, James Rushford, Carolyn Chen, Manuel Lima, Johnny Chang and Klaus Lang among others She also frequently collaborates with visual artists, such Angela Jennings, Lindsay Bloom, Brianna Rigg and Sabina Maselli.

Photo by Kaja Brezocnik
Lucy Railton

Emerging from a long-term engagement with contemporary music the British, Berlin based musician Lucy Railton is active as both a performer in new music and improvisation, and writes her own music for cello, electronics and field recordings, releasing solo records on the labels Editions Mego/GRM and Modern Love, and in collaboration with Peter Zinovieff on PAN. She has been involved in a diverse range of projects over years, most recently with those lead by Rhodri Davies, Kit Downes, Blank Forms, Beatrice Dillon and Kali Malone and as a member of the Ever Present Orchestra, Ensemble Contrechamps and the Harmonic Space Orchestra. Originally from London, she established the 10 year long series Kammer Klang at Cafe Oto and co-founded the London Contemporary Music Festival in 2013. Residencies include EMS, Sweden and Dark Ecologies/Sonic Acts Norway and commissions by Somerset House, London and INA GRM, Paris.

Photo by Rune Øverby
Fredrik Rasten

Fredrik Rasten (born 1988) is a guitarist and composer based in Oslo and Berlin. He is primarily focusing on the musical possibilities within just intonation and related sound phenomena, and in his work he is reaching for an actively listening state wherein to intuitively explore the complexities of tone and harmony. On the guitar he is applying real time retuning of the instrument, vocal shadings and different preparations to create warm and fluctuating resonances. As a composer he is mostly creating music for smaller groups, where the ongoing exploration of pitch relations is guiding the work, while also finding inspiration in early music, folk traditions and reductionist / silent expressions. Other elements influencing his work include ideas of music as social, non-hierarchical practices, and essential philosophical conundrums, such as the elusive relationship between mind and matter. He has collaborated with musicians such as Catherine Lamb, Antoine Beuger, Marc Sabat, Taku Sugimoto, Andrea Neumann, Magda Mayas, Christian Wallumrød and Alasdair Roberts, and has toured extensively in Europe and Russia with the long-term groups Oker, Pip and Arches. Rasten's recording output has been published on labels such as SOFA, Edition Wandelweiser, Ftarri and Shhpuma.

Photo by Anton Lukoszevieze
Marc Sabat

Canadian composer of Ukrainian descent Marc Sabat (*1965) has been based in Berlin since 1999. He makes pieces for concert and installation settings, drawing inspiration from ongoing research about the sounding and perception of Just Intonation. He relates his practice to various music forms—folk,experimental and classical. In collaborations with others he seeks points of shared exploration and dialogue between different modes of experience and cultural traditions. Largely self-taught as a composer, Sabat studied violin at the University of Toronto, at the Juilliard School in New York, and computer music at McGill University, as well as working privately with Malcolm Goldstein, James Tenney and Walter Zimmermann, among others. With Wolfgang von Schweinitz he developed the Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation and is a pioneer of instrumental music written and performed in microtonal Just Intonation. In 2000, he co-founded the Plainsound Music Edition website, conceived as a curated, interdisciplinary virtual artists’ edition. Sabat’s work is played internationally. He teaches composition and the theory and practice of intonation at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Together with colleagues Catherine Lamb and Rebecca Lane he formed the Harmonic Space Orchestra in 2019.

Photo by Christina Marx
Sarah Saviet

Sarah Saviet is a violinist based in Berlin and dedicated to the performance of contemporary music. She performs as a soloist and chamber musician and is a member of The Riot Ensemble in addition to guesting regularly with ensembles such as Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik, and ELISION. Sarah’s recent recording of Liza Lim’s violin concerto ‘Speak, Be Silent,’ with the Riot Ensemble was selected as one of New Yorker Magazine’s ‘Best recordings of 2019.’ Current projects include duo concerts with pianist Joseph Houston and an upcoming solo disc on Coviello Contemporary. Sarah has held visiting artist positions in the composition departments of the University of the Arts Berlin, Huddersfield University, at Goldsmith University London with the Riot Ensemble, and at Harvard University with ELISION Ensemble. She has given workshops on contemporary violin technique at the Manhattan School of Music University of the Arts Berlin, Manhattan School of Music, and Darmstadt Akademie für Tonkunst, and held artist residencies at Aldeburgh Music with composers Lawrence Dunn, Jack Sheen, and artist Rowland Hill.

Photo by Michael Kutschbach
Chiyoko Szlavnics

Chiyoko Szlavnics is a Canadian composer and visual artist, whose practice is based in Berlin. She began composing after graduating from university music studies in Toronto in 1989, and studied privately with James Tenney from 1993–7. A generous Fellowship Grant from the Akademie Schloss Solitude took her to Germany in 1997, after which she moved to Berlin and joined its fertile international experimental music community. Chiyoko Szlavnics composes for acoustic instruments, and also for sinewaves, and sometimes combines the two. Around the year 2000, she developed a compositional approach based on self-generated drawings. The drawings enabled her to conceive and realise a kind of music, which promotes the perception of certain psychoacoustic phenomena (beating and combination tones), through her sensitive setting of ratio-related pitch material in sustains and extended glissandi, and her careful orchestration. Drawing became an independent artistic practice around the year 2010. She has created numerous "moiré" series, which have been exhibited internationally. Beyond upcoming composition projects and further drawing series, Szlavnics also dreams of creating a new series of "sinewave sculptures". Chiyoko Szlavnics's compositions have been performed at venues great and small. Her preferred performance and installation venues are those with extraordinary resonance.