LIVE REVIEW: The a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra presents… John Cage’s Variations I + Music by Steve Reich Liverpool 20/2/10
This was one of those musical experiences you simply don’t forget. Something strange, something unique, something you want to tell your nearest and dearest about, and, after a few light ales, anyone who will listen.
To directly quote the Facebook event, “the a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra return(ed) with another time and place-specific performance of music old and new. Featuring a 25-strong ensemble of undetermined instruments, the orchestra utilis(ed) the architecture of Liverpool’s historic Walker Art Gallery to present a programme of immersive music.”
Things I liked about this sentence:-
1) undetermined instruments
2) utilisation of architecture
3) immersive music
The orchestra opened with Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music. Three microphones were suspended above three separate amps. After gentle encouragement, they swang back and forth. The resulting feedback noise began as a cacophony, but ended in a hypnotic rhythm. Old and young alike were enraptured by the distillation effect, as if out of chaos, a thing of beauty emerged. As it ended, people looked at each other, as if to say, well, firstly, ‘haha you look funny in those yellow earplugs’, and then secondly, ‘wow, that was amazing!’.
What followed was the highlight of the event for me, Richard Harding’s Meeting Points. Randomly assigned musical notes were given to the orchestra a couple of days before the performance, and with little time to rehearse, the orchestra were improvising. It felt like the piece was being created for the first time there and then, as violins collided with saxes and a strange iPod noisemachine produced musical oddity. The walk through the gallery past classical to modern art was significant. Part voyeur part Vincent Moon recording grainy phone footage, I loved the Russian Ark feeling to the performance. The 25 strong ensemble were Pied Pipers, leading the culturerats through the museum.
John Cage’s Variations I was next, a series of musical notes assigned by marked acetates. The notes, when they did appear, were sometimes pleasing to the ear, and other times not. I felt like I was feeling my way through my old house when I was a child, every now and again hearing an owl or a creaking door. The silence was also more pure when it did occur, although the capoiera next door did detract from this.
Steve Reich’s Clapping Rhythm ended the event, with the 25 piece orchestra producing a wonderful rhythm that made me want to go and get hold of that lovely dancer in Alma de Cuba and show her how a white boy from the Wirral can samba (N.B. badly).
An absolute treat of a Saturday afternoon, more of the same please a.P.A.t.T.!