This modern piece made my bow explode

This modern piece made my bow explode


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2019

Zoe Martlew is a cellist who specialises in contemporary music.

But even she was thwarted by Juliana Hodkinson’s noise piece Scrape for cello with metal plate, playback track and sound diffusion, performed at Dark Music Days festival in Reykjavik, Iceland.



  • Jaime Herrera says:

    Who would want to listen to this piece twice? Or (in my case) even once?

  • Ned Keene says:

    Not exactly classical music – more like a freak show for the gullible. But there are government grants for this kind of dreck.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    What’s a good looking girl like her messing about with all this dreck for ? All a bit undignified

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    She’s lucky it didn’t make her eardrums explode. This has been known to happen.

  • The View from America says:

    It made the audience’s heads explode as well, most likely.

  • Alan says:

    She’d be better off joining an orchestra and playing some music.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      Those who can’t, play “new music.”

      • John Borstlap says:

        That is true, and people get very angry when you say that. Because it is true. I know of ‘new music experts’ playing sound art but occasionally stepping-down from their progressive high horse and play some music, for a change, and although they can play the notes (they do practice), it does not sound at all right because they don’t have the feeling for how music works. They play the sound it makes.

  • Patrick says:

    The bow gave its life for us. We should be grateful.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    I am sick of so-called “composers” who have no regard for performers or their expensive instruments. Real music does not do damage. If you can’t write real music, shut up. And stop gobbling up the money that should go to real composers.

  • Dennis says:

    I wouldn’t even call that noise “music.” If it is, then the word “music” no longer really means anything. One may as well call bulldozer or jackhammer noises “music.”

  • The Unsinkable Zoe Martlew! National treasure.

  • PHF says:

    Do you recall any moment when ‘regular people’ call classical music a bourgeois or an elite boring/overrated art?

    Well, in the comments above you’re being as ignorant as them.

    That’s why music is so underrated and undervalued, we’re the first ones to defame other practices in order to point out that our “taste” is better.

    Way to go guys…

    • Ned Keene says:

      This isn’t music. This is talentless shit. Learn the difference.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The difference between sound and music is not a matter of taste. It is wholeheartedly recommended to read a bit about that.

      Begin with Roger Scruton’s ‘Aesthetics of Music’.

  • Rgiarola says:

    It is clear that the “composer” didn’t have to much idea about Cello. I cannot understand her! She didn’t rehearsal? What was the conclusion about the result of the use of this “metal blade” after the first try?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    “Noise piece” sounds more realistic than “sonic art” – which is a euphemism anyway. Avoid, unless you’ve had the vaccination.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    That’s a cute joke, but it’s just a bow or luthier failure, not a contemporary music fail. The video isn’t high resolution, but she’s evidently playing hair on strings normally, and the small wood plug that holds the hair in place at the tip of the bow suddenly pops out; she tells her audience she just had the bow re-haired. It could have happened during Beethoven’s Eroica.

  • Greg says:

    More from the “I Suffered for My Art, Now it’s Your Turn” school of composition. Ms. Hodkinson might benefit from advice Vaughan Williams gave to a young aspiring composer: If a tune occurs to you, don’t hesitate to right it down.

  • Chris Walsh says:

    I doubt that it was the piece that made her bow break (it didn’t, by the way, explode in any meaningful sense of that word). It looks as though the break was at the tip (something that has happened to me a couple of times). Nothing she was doing (and she was only a minute into the piece) looked to be putting inordinate stress on the bow. If that was a new bow, I’d be having a word with the maker.

  • mathias broucek says:

    My wife once was playing piano in a new work where she was supposed to play a chord and then scrabble around the inside of the piano with a piece of plastic while the chord continued to sound. Except that wasn’t physically possible for anyone with normal length arm….

    And that was the first and only time this humble page turner got to play the piano at the RFH….