Seijiro Murayama, Sarah Hughes et al in Oxford

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So this evening Julie and I attended a concert in Oxford, held at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop. I had a small part to play in the organisation and promotion of this little gig, and spent much of today with the various performers, primarily helping them buy trousers, and so I’m not really in a position to be able to write all that objectively about the event. I am also really quite tired and have to be up early in the morning to head off for three days of music in London, so there’s another reason. I will however, share a few observations…

Firstly, Kostis Kilymis’ solo performance for quiet feedback electronics was my favourite performance I have heard from him yet. It was a set of two halves, the first a little clumsy and abrupt, and hard to get into, despite the welcome accompaniment of someone washing up crockery in the adjoining kitchen, followed by an extended period of very high pitched, feedback tones that eventually erupted into a really nice section of crunchy abstraction and a softly roaring undercurrent. The Albion Beatnik is a small shop, with just enough room for the twenty-five or so people that attended, and Kostis’ quiet approach, with small speakers sat upturned on the floor worked really well. Then we had the pleasure of Bruno Guastalla reading selected poems from Francis Ponge’s wonderful collection An Unfinished Ode to Mud, doing so in both the original French and in English. Bruno is French, and so it was lovely to hear him read in his mother tongue, giving the poetry a musical rhythm that the translations naturally lose.

The evening concluded with a remarkable set from Seijiro Murayama and Sarah Hughes. Remarkable in several ways- firstly for the sheer beauty it touched upon quite often, particularly when drifting into virtually silent passages, as it did often, but also because of its erratic structure and refusal to do what you expect. After a very quiet opening with just small plucked sounds and barely audible bowing from Hughes at her zither, and even less coming from Murayama at his snare drum, somebody in a room next door decided to chime in by playing rock guitar chords on an amplified guitar. This addition forced the musicians into something louder and fuller for a few minutes, with Murayama tapping out metronomic rhythms to accompany his rotating abrasions while Hughes flooded the room with bowed and eBowed colourful tones. Later it all slid slowly apart again, at first just stripping back to near silence, but then later, as Murayama added rather great creaking and groaning vocal sounds to the rubbing of his drum and the rumble of my stomach the music slipped further into silence and rather fine absurdity as Hughes thinned her contributions out to nearly nothing and Murayama added a sudden burst of manic frog impressions every few minutes or so.  This was a hard one to fathom out, as is often the case when Seijiro plays, but it was a real joy to sit and listen and watch it all take place, in wonderful surroundings, in the company of friends with a caffetiere of coffee on the table. The next gig in Oxford will hopefully be on June 28th. Watch this space for details.

Another gig to mention- Down in Brighton tomorrow at the Phoenix Gallery, Mark Wastell makes a rare UK appearance performing alongside Daniel Jones, Paul Khimasia-Morgan and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. Sadly I can’t attend two concerts in two cities at the same time, and Julie and I had already arranged to be in London, so I won’t be at this gig, but get along there if you possibly can. Details here.

2 Comments

  • Dominic Lash May 4, 2012 - 10:17 am

    Sorry I couldn’t make this one… Thanks for the writeup. And I’m glad that, as I take it, all the performers were wearing trousers thanks to your earlier shopping trip. We have a reputation to keep up in this scene…

  • christianmunthe May 4, 2012 - 1:33 pm

    The episode with the loud music from next door reminded me of an experience from last year during a solo-gig by Martin Küchen here in town, when the producer had missed the fact that the place next door would host a happy amateur swing combo (of the worst sort you may imagine, at that). What Martin did was the opposite of what you describe that Sara and H and Seijiro M did. Rather than playing against or with the noise from next door, he sort of made it into a part of an environment over which he had no power, like the floor or the walls, or an actual accompanient. A remarkable and very sublime piece of stage acting combined with exquisite musician- and improviser-ship, where he also utilised radio-hiss, silent electronics and, of course, saxophone.

    I wrote about this event in a year-text to the Swedish netzine for experimental and improvised music, soundofmusic.nu – holding it out as the most remarkable experience of a musical performance for me in 2011. The full text in Swedish is here: http://www.soundofmusic.nu/artikel/2011-christian-munthe

    But now when you mention how Sara and Seijiro did (a course that I would most probably also have chosen in similar circumstances), I start to reflect on the general question of this dimension of musical performance. How you approach situations in terms, not only of musicmaking, but also in acting. Whatever you do, it will have such a dimension, but for many of us players, we pay little attention to all but the aural aspect. For the listener, however, the experience is integrated, and such a separation is impossible, except as an intellectual exercise in retrospect. My conclusion is to become more interested, as a player, in this visual and dramatic side of musical improvisation. Not as a gimmick in the way several players over the decades have used it (Willem Breuker……..), but as an integrated part of the MUSIC. I realise now when I write this that this is one of the explanations for why I love Roger Turner so much as an improviser….

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