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Le Marteau sans Maître. Musarc folk meet on a midsummer day until dusk III. Thursday 6 June 2019

Workshop Programme

29 Apr 3 Jun 2019
School of Art, Architecture and Design, LondonMet


Thursday 6 Jun 2019, 6.309.30pm
Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Le Marteau Sans Maître, timelapse of performances, July 2019. Photography: Yiannis Katsaris

On Saturday 6 July 2019, one of the longest days of the year, Musarc will set an evening-bell ringing in the epic, post-industrial echoing chambers of the former Whitechapel Bell Foundry with a programme of nine new works and commissions by the choir. Doors open at 6pm to a space flooded by daylight. As darkness falls, the audience’s senses slowly attune to finer details and the changing atmosphere in the auditorium. The event ends by candlelight, just after sunset, to the singing of William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices.

The Hammer without a Master

Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’. Instead, it progressed in a poetic state, animated by rhythmic performances of embodied minds in dialogue with the material affordances of their environment.

For Le Marteau sans Maître, Musarc’s third Folk meet on a midsummer day until dusk, the ensemble has invited composers and artists to take this idea of a performative, embodied ecology – with its tapping, looping, rippling and weaving sounds – as the starting point for a series of new works.

Some of these works attempt small archaeologies themselves. Heleen van Haegenborgh’s piece for choir and recorders is like a forensic exploration of music through the coincidental sounds the voice and the instrument can produce. Amina Abbas-Nazari’s What You Will Watch and Hear sets singers and the audience hurtling along concentric trajectories around a rustling bamboo sun, leaning into the storm of history and looking into its eye through the cameras in their mobile phones. New works by Natasha Zielasinski, James Luff and Greta Eacott construct various tangled and labyrinthine scores from rocks and strings, or form changing registers and harmonies by shifting and swapping the positions of singers in space.

In Azykhantropean Tunes, Rūta Vitkauskaitė maps the tapping rhythms of stones, the sound of pouring water, the movement of hands striking a match and quietly hummed tunes onto an algorithmic score, while Steve Potter makes rules for the choir playing memory games without a conductor. Weaving through all the performances, small choreographies by Nissa Nishikawa materialise gestures that shape the choir’s body and its sense of movement. The concert also sees a screening of Sam Belinfante’s To the Tintinnabulation that so Musically Wells (2018) and the UK première of a new, thirty-metre-long multi-track tape score by Taiwanese artist and composer Lin Chiwei, reeled through the hands of six singers.

Le Marteau Sans Maître, preview, 2019. Video by Joseph Kohlmaier

Event Info

Director of music
Cathy Heller Jones

Creative director
Joseph Kohlmaier

Composer in Residence
Steve Potter

About Le Marteau Sans Maître

Le Marteau Sans Maître, ‘the hammer without a master’, is the title of a collection of poems by René Char written and published between 1935 and 1945. The title alludes to the futility of indivdual acts struggling against the collective, sum-total force of life. In 1955, Pierre Boulez set three of Char’s poems for contralto and six instrumentalists. The expressive image of a material world acting on us, rather than us acting on it, led Gary Tomlinson to choose ‘Le Marteau Sans Maître’ as the title for a core chapter to his book A Million Years of Music (2015) – a game-changing history of modernity which acted as an important reading for the curators and composers in the making of this programme.

About Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has a bright and sustainable future. Raycliff, the owners of the site, are working with some of the foremost heritage experts in the UK to create a landmark creative hub in East London.

The Grade II* listed foundry will house a bell and art foundry, with space for foundry education programmes and a shop selling bells and other crafts made on site. Alongside this, artist studios will provide much-needed affordable space for the creative industries and a public café allowing daily public access to this historic building for the first time. For more information visit

Visitor and Booking Info

£10  £15  £25 ☼ Tickets
Musarc is a not-for-profit organisation and all our projects and events are self-funded. We have a tiered ticket system. Buy a Normal Price ticket if you can. Give Extra to support Musarc’s innovative work and help others to attend the concert for less. Children under 15 go free.

Timing and Concert Format

Doors and the bar open at 6.00pm. The performance starts at 6.30pm. The atmosphere of the concert is informal. Breaks between performances offer time to talk and eat. There is no fixed stage, and the performance arrangements will change as the evening progresses. The audience is invited to move around, stand or sit on the floor. Blankets will be provided in addition to benches.

The bar and food stall will be open all evening. There will be no artificial lighting in the space. The audience will be given candles to illuminate the auditorium as darkness descends. The concert is expected to finish at sunset, which is 9.19pm on Saturday 6 July 2016.