Another eveining at the Old Vic, another stumbling exit into the warm night air, dumbstruck and dizzy with emotion. Yesterday I talked with God. Tonight we met.
Wednesday started genially enough with another lighthearted yet palpably dear – and genuinely fascinating – preparatory “drill down” from Jonathan James, this time on Beethoven’s Visionary Quartets, one of which we would soon witness in the Studio.
It has struck me that but for James and his interpretation of the story being told relative to the composer’s career, life and works, I would be utterly lost in the performance proper. Ultimately these talks offer a focus, a theme to consider and listen for, without which I would be left reaching in the dark for any kind of meaning at all.
The performance was very, very good. Very clear, needle sharp. I’m familiar with it but I’d never heard it live. It is quite an intense piece of music.
A little was made of the meditative state of concentration and trepidation required in performance of such an uncompromising work and I had intended to examine the quartet’s game faces as they took their seats, I was however still getting my head around the technological gubbins that confronted us. Or, I should say, them.
They are one of the best interpreters of that kind of music, they really are. What struck me was that they were not phased by having those cameramen around.
Four tripods were poised at point-blank range from each music stand, soon to be joined by two roving cameramen, to feed two pairs of screens with a live experimental relay of the quartet up close and almost uncomfortably personal.
I don’t think it needed such a visual element in that venue because you were in an intimate space, but maybe that encouraged other people who were less familiar with it to come.
Along with some expressive lighting, it all served to ratchet up the intimacy in a recital that proved far from the “indecipherable, uncorrected horrors” that Louis Spohr famously asserted.
On paper Charles Hazlewood’s All Star Collective taking on A Rainbow In Curved Air looked to be the first event at this years proms to truly serve up musical virtuosity and visual technology on an equal footing. An improvisational live rendering of Terry Riley’s experimental masterpiece would go up against Danceroom Spectography™, an algorythmical process for examining the movement of atoms that when applied to this music setting promised to “look cool”.
Starting out not unlike your average audio visualiser it wasn’t long before things started to take a turn for the distinctly surreal. The bubbling, swelling cacophony of sound from Hazlewood’s musicians produced – under the guidance of the Dr David Glowacki’s team – bubbling, swelling visuals that in turn invited response.
Captivating and brilliant, it was the perfect marriage; an interaction between modernist classical music and bleeding edge technology that made for an unremittingly abstract sensory assault, meeting all the implications of quantum theory and the moment with this visceral, immediate music. It easily ranks amongst the coolest, maddest things I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve seen some things.