Thursday was undoubtedly a surreal day. Firstly, I had a class with, and subsequently met, Christian Wolff- whose compositional ideas and aesthetics were fascinating. In the evening, I headed to the South Bank, to the LSO Collective’s Shadoworks production.
There can be no doubt that it was an evening of full on contemporary music – but the range of styles and concepts presented was fantastic. It begun with Larry Goves’ ‘Things that are blue, things that are white and things that are black’’. He created a strange and often wonderous sound world through the use of an electric keyboard alongside the concert grand, played by the same soloist and often simultaneously, creating quartertones and electronic distortion effects. In the second section, the soloist moved to a prepared piano. I’ve never been a huge fan of prepared piano, but this one had been meticulously crafted to produce beautiful and entirely appropriate sounds. One of my favourite aspects of the piece was the use of loop pedals by three performers (cor anglais, french horn and viola). I have never heard such techniques utilised within a large scale work with a large body of performers, and they worked well – both when the loop pedal instruments were performing on their own, creating interesting textures, and when used alongside the the piano and ensemble.
The second work of the evening, Dai Fujikura’s secret forest, was undoubtedly my favourite. A string ensemble was presented on stage, and performed the beginning of the piece, before sounds began emerging from throughout the auditorium – instruments placed at strategic points, creating a wonderful surround sound effect. Towards the end of the piece, a solo bassoonist, placed in the middle of the audience, played emotive solo lines, whilst the rest of the off-stage performers created a wonderful texture through the use of rainsticks.
After the glory of the secret forest, I must admit that Aldo Clementi’s Triplum was not completely to my taste – however, under different circumstances, it may have been. Ligeti’s Ramifications was, however – a piece I had not come into contact before – and that I thoroughly enjoyed. He created some stunning textures throughout the string ensemble used, although I must confess to being baffled by the four conducted bars of silence at the end – why? The final piece – Hands Abrahamsen’s Schnee – was interesting in part, although the deliberate tuning discrepancies were a little too much for me by this point! I became fascinated by the role of the percussionist however, who seemed to be moving sheets of paper around, subtly and quietly, on a sound platform at the back of the stage – barely audible. One wonders if the composer’s intention was for him to be a focus of attention for the audience as the piece became more complex and atonal – definitely something that happened to the other audience members I spoke to afterwards.
All in all, it was a fantastic night of music, with brilliant peformances all round, and lots for contemporary artists to talk about.