News Release: sound announces programme for 2021 festival

  • As the world prepares for COP26, 2021 soundfestival programme explores the climate emergency through specially commissioned works and environmentally themed performances - including 1.5 Degrees, From the Coast and Distance - with a “no fly” commitment from performers
  • The double bass is this year’s “endangered” instrument, with internationally acclaimed performer, Florentin Ginot, joining the festival as Artist in Residence
  • Over 30 Premieres including Laura Bowler’s Distance (World Premiere); Ailie Robertson’s Unfurl (World Premiere); Luke Styles’ Five Phases Sphere (World Premiere); David Fennessy’s Aberdeen (Scottish Premiere), Tansy Davies’ Grand Mutation for violin, horn and piano (first live UK performance) and a new work from French composer Pascale Criton.
  • New to 2021 soundfestival are spotlight concerts, 30-minute performances giving a platform to emerging and local composers and performers
  • Festival runs from 19-24 October in venues in and around Aberdeen with some concerts also live-streamed Relevant Covid-19 measures will be in place to ensure the safety of audience members and performers.

soundfestival will return with a full programme of live performances in October 2021 it was announced today, 14 September. Opening with the World Premiere of Laura Bowler’s Distance  (co-commissioned by sound, Spitalfields Music and Cheltenham Music Festival with the support of the Ernst Von Siemens Music Foundation) and closing with the first live UK performance of Tansy Davies’ Grand Mutation for violin, horn and piano (a sound co-commission with Ensemble Court-circuit which was streamed from France last year due to Covid restrictions), soundfestival 2021 will feature 25 concerts as well as a wide-ranging programme of participatory events, in-conversations, and exhibitions and a dedicated Double bass Day.

Completing sound’s five year “endangered instruments” programme, this year the focus will be on the Double bass with acclaimed performer, Florentin Ginot, joining the festival as artist in residence. soundfestival will also put the climate emergency centre stage both through specially commissioned works and a commitment from performers not to use air travel to come to the festival. Other innovations for the 2021 festival include spotlight concerts - 30-minute performances giving a platform to emerging and local composers - and building on the success of digital events in 2020, a number of the performances will be streamed as well as being performed with a live audience.

“Programming a festival as we are emerging from lockdowns has not the simplest task,” says sound Director, Fiona Robertson. “However, if we’ve learnt one thing over the past 18 months, it’s that it is important to adapt to your circumstances and just do what’s possible.”

“We are delighted this year to be welcoming Florentin Ginot as our Artist in Residence as we complete our five year endangered instrument programme with a focus on the double bass. Florentin has performed with some of the world’s leading contemporary music ensembles including Ensemble Intercontemporain and Ensemble Musikfabrik, and is known for the energy and excitement he brings to performance of new music.”

“With COP 26 putting the climate crisis to the fore we have commissioned and programmed pieces that explore the challenge that the world faces. We are particularly excited by our co-commission from Laura Bowler, Distance, with which we open soundfestival 2021. Directly addressing climate change, it will be performed in Aberdeen by soprano, Juliet Fraser, with a live-streamed ensemble in the US. We’ll also be working to raise awareness of how much we throw away as a society in Matthew Herbert’s More More More performed using amplified rubbish collected by young people.”

sound has always had a commitment to supporting and nurturing new and local talent from initiatives such as Go Compose to our commissions from young composers such as Rylan Gleave, Ben Lunn, Aileen Sweeney and Joe Stollery. This year we are delighted to unveil a new strand in the festival - spotlight concerts: 30-minute performances giving a platform to emerging talent and local composers.”

“Whilst we are delighted to be back with live performances, we are also aware that Covid is still continuing to impact on live events and we’ll be putting measures in place to ensure the safety of both audience members and performers.”


The climate emergency is the greatest challenge facing the world today, and as global leaders prepare to gather for COP26 soundfestival will doing its bit by commissioning and performing works that raise awareness of the impact of global warming. Moreover, this year will be a “no fly” festival.
Three of the spotlight concerts directly address climate change: Thursday’s concert features 1.5 Degrees - a new work for piano quartet and audio-visuals created to raise awareness of the alarming rate of global warming; Friday’s concert features three works including Jamie Perera’s Oil, Coal and Gas for Three Cellos; and the final spotlight concert, on Sunday, includes Georgina MacDonell Finlayson’s Nature is in Freefall; Aileen Sweeney’s Luminous Tree - Movement II from They Brush the Skyline and Emily Doolittle’s Social sounds from whales at night.

Two events with young people will also have environmental theme. In the Natural Creators workshop Karen Power will work with 3-6 year olds exploring sound and music from the ground up using natural objects such as stones and shells. Meanwhile, Pete Stollery, Pippa Murphy and Alistair MacDonald will work with teenagers in a special workshop on Wednesday 20 October to create electronic soundscapes from waste that’s been thrown in the bin. The ‘instruments’ created will then be used in a performance of More More More, based on Matthew Herbert’s work that comments on incessant consumerism and the waste it leaves in its trail.


2021 marks the end of a five-year programme in which sound has given a special platform to endangered instruments. Beginning with the bassoon the programme then featured the viola, the oboe and the horn with contributions from Pascal Gallois (2017);  Garth Knox, Sally Beamish, Stephen Upshaw, Scott Dickenson and Nic Pendlebury (2018); Nicholas Daniel and Christopher Redgate (2019); and Ben Goldscheider and Richard Watkins (2020). 2021 sees the spotlight turned on to the double bass.

Artist in residence, Florentin Ginot, will give a solo recital on Thursday 21 October (Lemon Tree, 6pm) and be joined by soprano Juliet Fraser for a concert on Friday 22 October featuring the World Premiere of a new sound commission from Pascale Criton. He will join with Ailie Robertson (harp) and Gareth Brady (clarinet) for sound’s popular Saturday morning promenade concert (Aberdeen Art Gallery at 11am) and give a masterclass later in the day as part of the annual composer’s day event (Anatomy Rooms). On Sunday 24 October Florentin will lead a Double bass day when players of all abilities are invited to come together in the Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee.
Other concerts featuring the double bass include original music from three of the best rhythm section players in Scotland including double bass player, Andrew Robb, at the Blue Lamp (Thursday 21 October at 8pm); Red Note’s concert on Friday 22 October featuring the World Premiere of Luke Style’s Five Phases Sphere for viola cello and double bass; Iain Crawford (double bass) and Tom Hunter (marimba) join with Red Note Ensemble for a lunchtime spotlight concert (Saturday 23 October at Aberdeen Art Gallery); and Experimental French duo, Phalacracorax make their sound debut later in the day (Lemon Tree Sat 23 October at 5pm). An interactive exhibition exploring the science of the double bass will be on show throughout the festival at Aberdeen Science Centre.


This year’s festival features over 30 premieres, many of them of works commissioned and co-commissioned by sound. Alongside Laura Bowler’s Distance other World Premieres include sound composer in residence, Ailie Robertson’s, Unfurl, (co-commissioned with Red Note and hcmf), Luke Styles’ Five Phases Sphere (co-commissioned with hcmf, Red Note and Ask Duets), and a new work from Pascale Criton (co-commissioned with HowNow). A performance by the choir of St Machar’s cathedral under the directorship of Roger Williams will include World Premieres of works by Diana Burrell and Tobias Wolf. Meanwhile, acclaimed flautist Ruth Morley will present a programme of new works by Claire McCue, David Fennessy, Tansy Davies and Laura Bowler. Elsewhere in the festival programme will be the first ever performance of Oliver Searle’s From the Coast for bass clarinet and fixed media, and of pieces by Steve Garrett, Clara-Jane Maunder, Katherine Wren, Gareth Brady, Lewis Murphy, Georgina MacDonell Finlayson, Aileen Sweeney, Kevin Leomo and Ben Lunn. sound will also present the first Scottish performance of David Fennessy’s Aberdeen, (co-commissioned with Spitalfields Music) which was devised in partnership with leading Scottish theatre company, Magnetic North.

Clare Hewitt, Music Officer at Creative Scotland said: “The 2021 soundfestival is both a local event, and a global one. This year’s programme proves that artists and festivals can respond inventively to the climate emergency that endangers the planet. By sharing commitments to sustainability with composers and performers, sound shows how it is possible to celebrate new music, nurture talent, and connect audiences throughout a city, a country and the world.”

Tickets will be available via Aberdeen Box Office from Friday 17 September. 

In person: Music Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen AB10 1QS
By phone: 01224 641 122
Online via

Individual concerts are priced £12, £8 (senior citizens), £5 (students, people with disabilities, jobseekers), FREE (u18, essential companions). Booking fees are included where applicableFestival pass: £120, £80 (senior citizens), £40 (students, people with disabilities, jobseekers)

Due to the unknowns concerning the pandemic and changes to government advice, people are strongly advised to book in advance. If events are cancelled as a result of Covid-19, tickets will be reimbursed.

Relevant Covid-19 measures will be in place to ensure the safety of our audience members and performers. Please do not attend the event if you have any symptoms of Covid-19.


For further information contact: Lesley Booth 07799414474 /

Notes for Editors 

soundfestival is made possible with support from: Creative Scotland (lottery), Aberdeen City Council, PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development programme, University of Aberdeen Development Trust, Diaphonique, Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, Hope Scott Trust, Hugh Fraser Foundation, Idlewild Trust, The Leche Trust and RVW Trust. 

sound is part of the following initiatives: Keychange | Fair Access | Green Arts Initiative