|Matt Wright's Totem for Den Haag|
We've been working with Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and their kind-of equivalent here, Cepromusic, to get some collaborations going. Graham Mckenzie, Artistic Director of the former, came over last year for initial discussions and he's back again, this time with composers James Dillon and Matt Wright in tow. Lots of meetings, a public talk, rehearsals and interviews preceded a well-attended concert in PBA's smaller chamber orchestra hall.
The programme featured Matt Wright's brand new Totem for Den Haag (five musicians reacting to a video of three vari-speed turntables - hypnotic), Rebecca Saunders' Stirring Still I, and James Dillon's 45-minute New York Triptych. The last was quite challenging and highlighted the issue of how certain music needs absolute quiet to best appreciate it. Of course it is impossible to sit absolutely still and silent for 45 minutes and sure enough the creaks, occasional coughs, somebody dropping something, another person getting up and leaving halfway through, the extraneous noise from outside the hall, even the musicians turning a page of the score… all made their presence felt. But if one is to make such a quiet piece of music (or at least with passages that are very quiet) for public performance, then I think you just have to accept that it's not going to be like a controlled recording where such interventions are excised. I remember last summer attending a Laurence Crane concert in London which was consistently affected by ambient noise (which somehow kind of added to the experience) and of course John Cage's 4:33 is the supreme example of ambient intrusion, but Dillon's piece really did need silence.