Wednesday, May 13, 2015

El Nicho

A day of experimental music. We're supporting a great little festival called El Nicho. Well, I say 'little', but only in as much that it's basically one guy, Eric Namour, who's running it and it is, as the title says, 'niche'. A personal labour of love rather than anything grander. 
So it opened today, starting with a workshop in the British Council. We don't normally do events in the office, but we do have a multipurpose space at the back which is actually perfect for small events, and we should do more really. So musician Robin Hayward ran a 5-hour workshop on a software programme he uses to expand on the sound of his tuba (oh yes, he plays a tuba). But it works for other instruments too.
We then shifted to the Goethe Institut across town for the opening concert which involved Robin improvising with violinist Alex Bruck, a film about Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra by Luke Fowler and, a headlining improv session between Tony Buck (percussion) and Magda Mayas (prepared piano). Buck is best known as drummer for The Necks, one of my favourite bands. They're improv too but less scratchy, random, plinky-plonk experimentation (I generalise) and more a slow-build hypnotically rhythmic groove. 
Robin Hayward
Anyway, it took me back. I used to listen to and attend concerts of this stuff on a regular basis 'in my youth'. What happened? When did I (largely) stop listening to 'difficult music' and why? Partly it's having family around, although they'd say that half the stuff I listen to is difficult music ("What's that racket?!"). But there's a difference between Steve Reich and AMM, or The Necks and Robin Hayward. The former are a lot easier on the ear, the latter require a certain amount of concentration. If you're willing to put the effort in and find the right listening conditions, then it will reward, which is why my preferred conditions is a concert. Firstly, there are no distractions - you are in there for an hour or so. Secondly - and this is pretty crucial for me - you get to see the music being made, what instruments they're playing, how they create the sounds, perhaps even a smile or a knowing nod between musicians. On vinyl, CD or MP3, it's just not the same, even if all other conditions are the same.

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