Its not often I feel really strongly moved about a concert to blog about it but last Sunday May 11th was one of those times. Held in the house extension part of Kettles yard, with its unique modernist space of white washed walls and skylighted vistas and hanging some of the most stunning works of the St Ives School, collected by its founder, Jim Ede, this is a very unique space to hear music, both acoustically and aesthetically.
Four speakers in a line faced the audience with another four facing various walls around the audience space, producing an ambient background. This was not discreet four channel set up but two stereo images running together in sync, which provides a dynamic set up between a stereo narrow field and wide field.
Trevor spoke about the first of two pieces being shown “Globalalia” with a clarity that to me suggests his thoughts about this are very distinct (Ive heard some truly dreadful descriptions by composers of their works in the past in this type of setting) First shown in 2004, this acousmatic piece made use of syllables taken from 26 different languages- sampled from all means, manipulated and multi-layered into a compelling 30 minute composition that its both highly rhythmic and spacial at alternate times. Parts of it could be conversations in different languages across the four channels, other parts became intense, tight, polyrhythmic, grooving collages with climatic washes of speeded up or slowed down vocal sounds. The obvious compositional skill here was none of these sections went on for too long, and each section was a development on the previous one, meaning there was always this forward motion in the composition, something I personally like.
Trevor said in his spoken introduction that if a 30 minute piece felt it was about 15 minutes long then it was ok, and in my opinion he had achieved this; the strongly contrasting sections produced a roller-coaster ride which seemed to impress the audience, which comprised of a huge age-range from about 15 years upwards.
The second piece “Hover” (WP) was specially commissioned by Kettles Yard for this event, and was dedicated to his mentor and fellow developer of the Composers Desktop Project Richard Orton who had died this year, explores hovering over a sound file at any given point and extracting, manipulating the sound found at that point. This was a much shorter piece at 8 mins and the source material that the “hovering” was to take place on was a recording of Richard Orton singing. This made for a very distinct, longing, atmospheric piece. Trevor had written the computer software to do this, and I was immediately impressed with the production quality of both this new piece and the 10-year old Globalia which one must pay credit to Trevors obvious coding, technology and production skills, especially as I had heard many electroacoustic pieces from the last decade where some very fine musical ideas had been let down badly by the computer medium, most notably Max/MSP patches, but both Globalia and Hover sounded very clean, fresh, exciting and vital, which to me is equally important as the musical idea. Something I often speak about- art and craft; the art being the concept and message, the craft being its ultimate realisation.
This was a marvellous opportunity to hear a pioneer, who is continuing to move forward exploring his own field, in a very unique space, and a very warm audience reception to these works added to this experience.
Incidentally the Composers Desktop Project and SoundLoom are now available free here