Cultural Capital podcast: Emmy the Great

A conversation on music, lyrics, the monarchy and the end of the world with the singer-songwriter.

A conversation on music, lyrics, the monarchy and the end of the world with the singer-songwriter.

In the first Cultural Capital podcast for Newstatesman.com, I speak to the singer-songwriter Emma Lee Moss of the band Emmy the Great. Their second album, Virtue, is released today.

In the interview, we talk about the difficulties of being a woman in the music industry ("It's hard to be a woman anything . . . but that creates stronger women"); her song "Mistress England", which she wrote for the Observer's royal wedding special ("I found out I was anti-monarchy"); the student protests ("The media focused on the violence because it was sexy"); being a member of the Labour Party ("Obviously, I'm not going to go Lib Dem"); and the impact of the internet on musicians ("It's like being in the wild west - things are so unregulated"). She also explains how "the first time I fell in love, I got the squits".

Watch the video for their new single, "Iris":

Yo Zushi works for the New Statesman. His most recent album, "Notes for 'Holy Larceny'", was released by Pointy Records

Yo Zushi is a sub-editor of the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

BBC/Chris Christodoulou
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Proms 2016: Violinist Ray Chen was the star of a varied show

The orchestra soaked up his energy in Bruch's first violin concerto to end on a triumphal note. 

Music matters, but so does its execution. This was the lesson of a BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus programme which combined both a premiere of a composition and a young violinist’s first performance at the Proms. 

The concert, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, opened with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic fantasy The Tempest, a lesser-known sibling to his Romeo and Juliet overture. The orchestra got off to a fidgety start, with some delayed entries, but fell into line in time for the frenetic chromatic runs that drive the piece. The end, a muted pizzicato, was suitably dramatic. 

Another nature-inspired piece followed – Anthony Payne’s composition for chorus and orchestra, Of Land, Sea and Sky. Payne drew on his memory of watching of white horses appearing to run across water, as well as other visual illusions. At the world premiere, the piece began promisingly. The chorus rolled back and forth slowly over scurrying strings with an eerie singing of “horses”. But the piece seemed to sink in the middle, and not even the curiosity of spoken word verse was enough to get the sinister mood back. 

No doubt much of the audience were drawn to this programme by the promise of Bruch violin concerto no. 1, but it was Ray Chen’s playing that proved to be most magnetic. The young Taiwanese-Australian soloist steered clear of melodrama in favour of a clean and animated sound. More subtle was his attention to the orchestra. The performance moved from furious cadenza to swelling sound, as if all players shared the same chain of thought. Between movements, someone coughed. I hated them. 

Ray Chen in performance. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Chen’s playing had many audience members on their feet, and only an encore appeased them. It was his first time at the Proms, but he'll be back. 

The orchestra seemed to retain some of his energy for Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region. Composed between 1904 and 1906, this is a setting of lines by the US poet Walt Whitman on death, and the idea of rebirth.

The orchestra and chorus blended beautifully in the delicate, dark opening. By the end, this had transformed into a triumphal arc of sound, in keeping with the joyful optimism of Whitman’s final verse: “We float/In Time and Space.” 

This movement from hesitancy to confident march seemed in many ways to capture the spirit of the concert. The programme had something for everyone. But it was Chen’s commanding performance that defined it.