Concert Reviews

Thursday 3rd November

November 4, 2011

On the train home from London again then. Last night I attempted some kind of reportage review of the evening’s music, but was just too tired to write properly, and what emerged was a load of old rubbish. Tonight I am even more tired, having had three hours sleep last night before heading off to work again at 4.30am, so I am going to write a lot less and save the details for the Wire piece I will write about tonight. This evening we heard a new piece for solo electric guitar named Melody, silence written and performed by Michael Pisaro, and a new realisation of the Christian Wolff score Stones performed by the Wandelweiser composers ensemble, which on this occasion consisted of Antoine Beuger, Eva-Maria Houben, Michael Pisaro, Burkhard Schlothauer, Markus Kaiser, Manfred Werder and Radu Malfatti, all rubbing or tapping stones together acoustically except for Pisaro who had a contact mic attached to one stone and also played a field recording of water running over pebbles periodically throughout the performance.

Pisaro’s long composition seemed to consist of various sections of (I think, but will clarify when I can) improvised playing with some use of eBow but mainly gently plucked clusters of notes that continually hinted at melody and silence, but as the piece intends, never quite achieving either. For some reason a list of other guitarists and composers came into my head while listening- Opposite era Sugimoto, Loren Connors, Morton Feldman, and even, retrospectively following a suggestion from the person sat beside me, Slint. The piece was beautiful, some parts more so than others, but a real pleasure to witness. The performance of Stones was magical, an advance from the recorded version of the piece by a similar group a good few years back now with the field recordings added and Beuger in particular quite active, tapping out the written instructions of the score with two stones, syllable by syllable, as if talking to himself again, an act relating to the piece of his we heard last night.

Little more to say about the actual music tonight then, but some thoughts on the room in which it was played- As I wrote in the comments following my post from yesterday, I had many trepidations about experiencing this quiet, intimate music in the ICA’s main hall. I have attended a good few concerts there over the years, some of them very quiet, and have often been badly disturbed by the way the bar, complete with bad bar music, could be heard while the performances were underway. The hall is also very big and empty with a high ceiling, leading to a very dry sound. Now, I should first of all say that the Sound and Music people putting on these shows actually did a great job of keeping external sounds out tonight. The bar could not be heard at all,the door was kept closed and the staff at the ICA were (uncharacteristically going on past experiences) sympathetic to the listening environment. So, I don’t think that such an event could have been done any better at the ICA, but still, compared to the charming space that was the venue for Wednesday night’s concert, the ICA didn’t feel right. Sitting in chairs below a stage, getting on for ten yards from the musicians even when sitting at the front in a big hall isn’t a great way to experience the sound of seven musicians lightly tapping stones together. While the audience tonight were knowledgable and respectful to the music there will still many coughs and scraped chairs to be heard, and somehow, while these things don’t sound so bad in a tight intimate space, when bounced about a large echoey hall they seem to take on a new, more annoying status. Of course I am being picky and finding fault with a wonderful event put on by a line up of musicians I couldn’t have hand picked better if I tried, but I really do increasingly feel that this niche area of music does need a venue that compliments the intimacy of it. This is, I know, a ridiculous thing to say, but Michael Pisaro’s guitar sound somehow sounded different by the time it had headed up and around the ICA hall tonight before it reached my ears. Colder maybe, certainly dryer. There was a decent crowd in the ICA tonight, so I am aware that my wishes for a smaller space are probably semi-elitist as far fewer people would have been able to hear the music. Still, a great concert all the same, and some fantastic music, excerpts of which will be broadcast on radio 3’s Hear and Now show on Saturday evening. Now I must get to bed as up again in four hours for another long day at work before heading into London where I have then booked a hotel room for some much needed rest and the last three nights of the festival.

Comment (1)

  • Monday 7th November | The Watchful Ear

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 am

    […] So, some thoughts about Friday and Saturdays of concerts then, with a write-up of the five performances on Sunday tomorrow. Covering all in one night is too much and the sets on these two evenings were quite different to what we heard on the final day. I am going to be writing an overview of the Grundelweiser festival for The Wire, and I don’t want to cover the same subjects here, so I will avoid writing any critique of Jennifer Walshe’s Grupat performances now and focus on the Wandelweiser material. For brief write-ups on the Wednesday and Thursday events see previous posts here and here. […]

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