New music out today

Melinda Maxwell

Birmingham Record Company, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s (RBC's) in-house record label, has its 20th release out today. The release is titled ‘Janus’ and is by MMus graduate, Visiting Lecturer and PhD candidate Melinda Maxwell.

In 2013 Melinda gained an MMus in Jazz Performance from RBC. In 2017 she began a PhD in composition, improvisation and performance.

Melinda is a composer and oboist who creates “fascinatingly complex” music that blends improvisation and composition into a unique musical language. Her improvisations have been described by music critic Ivan Hewett as having “the poise and sense of exact timing one expects from a composed piece”.

In this new release, Melinda plays the aulos, or double pipe; probably the first known oboe in the world, and the most popular wind instrument of the Ancient Greek and Roman civilisations.

‘Janus’ was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and premiered at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The eight-piece group performing this 36-minute epic is a mix of classical players and improvisers, and the piece moves seamlessly between composed and improvised passages.

The music is distinguished by a vast range of colours and textures from the gentle sound of two auloi to the full sound of the trumpet. The release concludes with Hecate Triptych, a selection of trio improvisations for aulos, bass and percussion. These are live improvisations showing another angle of Melinda’s highly accomplished music-making.

Melinda told the Financial Times: “It’s all to do with the fact that, in improvising, you make a different version of the same [piece of music].

“It’s the same idea as having a double. That is where Janus the two-headed god sits… and that’s what I’m interested in: how two things can have a different flavour while being based on the same idea.

“What I’m doing [in Janus] is bringing those elements of performer, improviser and composer together.

This recording is the culmination of my studies and musical experience at RBC. It’s a celebration and thank you to the Research, Jazz and Composition departments, and all my collaborators. I wouldn’t have been on such a transformational musical journey without them. I’m thrilled with the result."

Melinda has performed as oboe soloist at many national and international festivals and is frequently heard on BBC Radio 3. In addition to her work as a chamber musician and recitalist, she is principal oboe of the Endymion Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, as well as performing regularly as Principal with London Sinfonietta.

Image credit: Tori Ferenc

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