Monday, 26 April 2010

Plug 2010 01

The Plug festival of new music at the RSAMD in Glasgow just started today. I wasn't sure whether I would have time to do the blog this year, but as I've just come out of the first concert and seem to have some thoughts in my mind, let's have a go.

The first concert was billed as Guitars & Friends, featuring two stellar young guitarists, Sean Shibe and Ian Watt, and had the Guinness Room completely packed out. The first piece up was Umbilical Chord by Anna Shucksmith, which pitted Sean Shibe against a woodwind quintet. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes reflective, this piece was for me a little obsessed with two of the three notes in the three note tune which seemed to form most of the material. The piece did not draw on the virtuosity of the players in the way one might have anticipated, apart from giving them some opportunities to demonstrate good intonation under demanding circumstances.

Rory Boyle's Partita a Quattro is a solo work, played by Ian Watt, a revision of an earlier sonata for guitar. A helluva piece, and helluva performance, made me wish I could play guitar like that; made me wish I could write music like that, especially the lively outer movements.

Richard Greer's If Destroyed Still True (IDST) made reference to the Urban Dictionary in its programme note, and the approach was suitably urban and contemporary, po-mo even. A sort of prog rock meets moto perpetuo piece, likeable, energetic and foot-tapping. The players were Sean Shibe on guitar, Basia Misiewicz on cello and Sarah Hayes on piccolo; the latter rather stealing the show for me with a great understanding of how to attack the long jazzy modal lines in this piece.

Ian Anderson's Jackson was the duet feature for Sean and Ian together; I found it a bit large and shapeless, and didn't get much of a feeling of Michael Jackson from the piece, to whom it was ('vaguely') intended as a tribute.

Finally, Gordon McPherson's Upbeat Destroyer was Ian Watt as part of a seven piece ensemble, viola, cello, double bass, two clarinets and vibraphone/anvil as well as the guitar. A big sounding piece, despite the relatively small forces, like a sort of reduced orchestra. Which, like some of Gordon's other pieces, I found good but I'm not sure why.

This evening we get the first of a series of piano études which are being run every night as a pre-concert event in the café bar. Mine is tomorrow night; I finally had the opportunity today to meet my pianist Silviya Mihaylova and discuss the piece with her, and I'm really pleased at how much she seems to 'get' the piece. (As anyone knowing my work might suspect, there is a strong performative and theatrical element in my piece, not perhasp the kind of thing one would expect in an étude. Or maybe exactly the kind of thing one would expect in an étude?!)

Anyway, that's tomorrow. Later tonight, the electroacoustic concert, featuring... a game of chess?