The Hermes Experiment - Guest feature by Marianne Schofield

As a double bass player, it is especially exciting to be part of this new and unique contemporary group. From a musical perspective, Hermes is often incredibly liberating, with the presence of improvisation in all concerts giving me the freedom to create my own bass parts. This can mean thinking outside of traditional musical function the instrument; not always being tied down to the orchestral role of underpinning the music with a low bass line, but instead weaving through the middle of the musical texture in the same register as the other instruments, creating a high melodic idea, or just being silent. The spontaneity and variety at each rehearsal and concert is thrilling, as we never know in advance exactly what sound will emerge from the group.

It is also exciting (if a little daunting) to be part of such a daring musical and professional venture, and I admire the courage of Héloïse, our soprano and founder, as well as that of our co-director Hanna for coming on board. Setting up your own chamber group at a time when arts funding is especially low, is a bold move: even more so for a small contemporary ensemble with an unprecedented combination of instruments. However, being part of collectively-managed, self-propelled ensemble is part of the appeal for us; we can carve out our own identity, and all have a say in our artistic direction.

The fact that three out of four instrumentalists and our co-director are women is fantastic, especially in light of trends in the classical music field as a whole. Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, spoke earlier this year about women being noticeably absent from the top of the classical music profession, relating that certain female players found orchestras to be a ‘hostile’ environment. It is also fairly uncommon to come across executive directors, conductors and composers within classical music who are female. So having confident women at the heart of our small ensemble is something we’re really proud of: we are effectively all acting as directors, composers and conductors!

I was really lucky to be able to study the double bass in my teens in an environment where female bass players comprised an equal number of my teachers and peers, and where there was a strong feeling that gender was no barrier to musical success. If you were a woman with a strong work ethic, a passion for music, and with good physical health, then there was no reason to think that you might not do just as well as any man, with the right training and application. But this attitude has not been at all common in the past, and perhaps echoes of the old gendered stereotypes remain today (I am still frequently met with some astonishment from members of the public when I travel around London with my bass). So I am really pleased to represent female double bass players to audiences through the more intimate setting of chamber concerts via The Hermes Experiment.

(c) Marianne Schofield 2014


“Unapologetically adventurous and fearless, these new kids on the block are shaking up the contemporary classical world through their lively performances and diehard commitment to new music.” Nonclassical

The Hermes Experiment is an ensemble of four young professional musicians passionate about contemporary and experimental music, inspired to create something innovative and unique. Based in London, The Hermes Experiment comprises Héloïse Werner (soprano), Oliver Pashley (clarinet), Marianne Schofield (double bass) and Anne Denholm (harp), who met whilst studying music at Cambridge University. Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble performs a variety of experimental compositions and arrangements, as well as venturing into live free improvisation. The Hermes Experiment seeks to promote contemporary composers, regularly commissioning new works. The ensemble also strives to create a platform for collaboration with other artists, and future plans include a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding.
The Hermes Experiment are winners of the Nonclassical Battle of the Bands 2014, and have been selected to take part in this year’s UK Young Artist Festival in Leicester.

OUR NEXT CONCERT: Saturday 15 November, 8pm - LimeWharf

Join the Hermes Experiment as they delve into 500 years of sound in just one evening. Arrangements of Rameau, Purcell and Debussy frame four brand new commissions at the centre of the performance, intrepidly exploring the unique sounds only this ensemble is capable of creating. Where do the boundaries of sound end, and music begin? Take the plunge into the world of Soundscapes with The Hermes Experiment this November.
New commissions by Alexandr Brusentsev, Giles Swayne, Kim Ashton and Jeremy Thurlow.
Debussy, Rêverie & Voiles (arr. Pashley & Schofield)
Purcell, ‘When I am laid in earth’ from Dido and Aeneas (arr. Denholm)
Rameau, ’La Pantomime’ from Pièces de clavecin en concerts (arr. Williams)
Free improvisation

Tickets : £8 / 10 - / Twitter @TheHExperiment /

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