Southbank Centre is the UK’s biggest cultural center and is situated on the South Bank of the Thames. It comprises 21 acres of land and includes the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room as well as many outside and informal spaces. Southbank Centre is a festival site, looking back to its roots in the Festival of Britain, and presents a series of festivals year round. A group of ensembles and individual artists are resident here.
Oliver Coates is an innovative cellist, curator and thinker about music who has had a very fruitful residency at Southbank Centre for the last three years. Central to this residency has been the Harmonic Series, a group of performances with unexpected combinations of genres and in unexpected spaces around the site. These have helped the Southbank Centre question the way in which contemporary music can be performed, who the audience is, and how different genres of music can combine. It has also brought new and unexpected voices to Southbank Centre’s programming.
Oliver Coates makes music which uses layered cello drones, cut-up folk song, electronics, field recordings and long melody. Recently he has been producing percussive sequences, generated from cello sounds using Euclidean algorithmic generator.
His debut solo album Towards the Blessed Islands was released on 12-inch vinyl by PRAH recordings. The Wire magazine described the album as “an itinerant love letter to the instrument, an album of deep resonance and fleeting harmonics.” The Guardian reviewed it for having “subtly devastating results”, “like a message delivered over a sea wind.”
In 2013 he worked with legendary field recordist Chris Watson, using music by Britten and environmental sounds for a project in Aldeburgh during the Britten Centenary. He has performed in chamber music setting with Steve Reich, Angela Hewitt, Jonny Greenwood and DOOM.
Whilst in residence at Sweeney’s Bothy on the Isle of Eigg, Oliver Coates will develop new ideas for the Harmonic Series, considering ways in which music can be embedded into the site at the Southbank Centre.
Image credit Phil Sharp