Friday, 24 April 2009

I'll give you three and four, and then you're in

I was at not one but two concerts tonight which function as a kind of anacrusis to Plug, the annual festival of new music at the RSAMD in Glasgow. The first concert at Adelaides was by the Viridian Quartet, one of those keen and talented groups you get made up from recent and soon-to graduate students, in this case Lamond Gillespie, Daniel Paterson, Emma Peebles, and Patrick Johnson. The concert kicked off with a kind of opus zero piece by Steve Forman Freeway Quartet, a single movement piece 'conceived on the road, usually in excruciatingly frustrating traffic' according to the programme note. A shortish, dense piece, very well written, rhythmic, with some sometimes quite strong dissonances. I liked it.

This was followed up by Peteris Vasks' fourth string quartet, in five movements, the even numbered molto tedioso, the odd movements, so-called 'toccatas', allegro pointlessioso. You can probably tell I was bored.

The big piece of the night was Steve Reich's Different Trains. A treat to be able to hear this piece live, with the amplified Viridians playing over the tape material. I never conciously noticed before, but the 'train' material is almost entirely made up from the drumming rudiment known as a 'paradiddle'; I made up my own programme for this piece, imagining the young percussionist Reich on a train, drumming along on his knees, as one does. Good work in diffusing the concert by Tim Cooper.

Back round at the RSAMD, I was glad to finally get the chance to hear Symposia do John De Simone's Panic Diary, which I have managed to miss on several previous occasions. A big and very personal work, a look under the hood of a guy who generally chooses to subsume his musical personality under several layers of postmodern irony. Here, it's like we're right inside John, mind and body. I enjoyed the music in it very much, although I did have the impression that some of the more rhythmic material had probably been conceived by the composer at a rather faster tempo than the ensemble achieved. Major credit to them however for attempting these very difficult Dutch post-minimalist gestures as they should be played; unconducted.

An added layer to the piece was Trent Kim's detailed and innovative lighting realisation, which, taken together with the (amplified) ensemble and some tape material, attempted to take the piece into the realms of an audiovisual synthesis; with mixed results, perhaps.

The rest of Plug starts on Monday night with no less a band than Icebreaker. I'm particularly looking forward to my friend Colin Broom's Bleed, to be followed by an Invention Ensemble reunion in the pub. Post-minimalistastic.