Monday, May 11, 2009

ERGODOS Day 3: Prism

This was again in a back room at the National Concert Hall, and again featured the Gamelan Sekar Petak orchestra. I think this was billed as Prism because one of the pieces performed (a composition by Francis Heery) had that name. There were a couple of Gamelan pieces today, but most of the pieces either used a very stripped down set of Gamelan instruments or different instruments entirely. The Gamelan pieces enveloped the show, both traditional pieces that used vocals in an evocative manner. One good thing about tonight was that I was sitting near enough to the front to be able to see the stage properly (the non-tiered nature of the seating and the musicians sitting on the floor made the players rather invisible to those seated further back). With live Gamelan, I love the way the musicians look like clockwork automatons as they bang away at their instruments, their movements forming odd visual patterns.

The other pieces included three by Salil Sachdev – two in which the percussion genius performed solo on a miniature metal flying saucer and then a metal mixing bowl. He mentioned that he had discovered the musical properties of the latter after eating popcorn out of it while watching a film at home with his family. I thus found myself wondering what having Mr Sachdev round for dinner would be like – would every inanimate object in your home be tested for conversion into a percussive instrument? Just to show that he is not solely about the percussion, Salil Sachdev also wrote a piece for clarinettist Jonathan Sage to perform at the festival.

The other pieces included some an original and a composed piece (by Johanne Heraty) for the shakuhachi, a flute-like Japanese played tonight by Joe Browning. The instrument's sound reminded me a bit of the pan-pipes from Aguirre, Wrath of God, so when I closed my eyes I almost found myself on an raft with Klaus Kinski and a load of squirrel monkeys. The various pieces for the redux Gamelan orchestra were in and of themselves fine, but godammit, if you have brought a full Gamelan orchestra over to Dublin you would think you would want to get a lot of full Gamelan music out of them.

One final thing deserving of mention: in the foyer area, they had this astonishing looking contraption, which seemed to be emitting a load droning noise. It had bits hanging off it, and if you poked at them they made a noise, something very vaguely like that of a harpsichord. This turned out to be an installation by Jonathan Nangle. As well as making the harpsichord-esque noises, moving the device's appendages also affected the way the central drone sound developed, so as a musical instrument the device's output was dependent on how passers by interacted with it. One day every home will have one of these contraptions.

Prismic Panda

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