Sunday, May 17, 2009

ERGODOS Day 9: In a large, open space

This was the last event in the Ergodos festival – a performance of a conceptual piece by James Tenney, taking place out in St. Bartholomew's Church out in Ballsbridge (just across from the Embassy of the Great Satan). This was happening under the direction of Bob Gilmore and Elisabeth Smalt of the Trio Scordatura (see last time), and the performance was by the Ergodos All-Stars, basically a selection of the people who had been around during the week – Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Garrett Sholdice, Jonathan Nangle, and many others. Sadly, they were shy one musician, so they had to perform with less than the twelve minimum the score requires, but we would not have noticed the difference if they had not told us.

In a large, open space is a rather unusual piece of music, challenging the conventions of the form in a most radical manner, both in strictly musicological terms and in how the audience relate to the performers. Usually with musical pieces there is some kind of sonic development, or at least a change in what the musicians play. With this, though, each musician pretty much plays the same note forever. And as I mentioned previously, the norm with classical music (and its heirs) is to make the audience sit as still as possible while the music is playing, but with this the audience are encouraged to walk around the venue while the music is being played. This is because the players are not all concentrated in one place, but scattered around the venue. If you stay in one place you will hear the same thing, more or less, for the entire duration of the piece. As you move around, though, the sounds of different instruments become more salient, and in different parts of the church the manner of the sounds' resonance varies. Basically, by walking around, you create the variance in the piece that normally comes from the musicians themselves.

I should mention the instruments. They were all ones capable of playing a sustained note, so we had violins, violas, guitars, organs, keyboards, clarinet, and so on. One feature of the concert was that you could approach much closer to the musicians than would be normal. This was interesting for a non-musician like myself – great opportunity to see how they actually do stuff, and to look at their sheet music (which seemed, even to my untrained eye, to not have too much written down for them).

So yes, this was incredible stuff, something that anyone with the slightest interest in drone music or forward thinking music generally would enjoy. I might even lean towards describing it as the musical event of the year, though I do that for most concerts I enjoy. It was a bit of a shame, therefore, that the event was so criminally under-attended. No one I knew was present (apart from my beloved, obv.), and there were not even that many people I did not know. I am not sure why this might have been the case. Maybe the market for genuinely forward thinking music in Dublin is actually not that great. I suppose the non-standard venue, located outside the city centre, would also have been a factor here. I suspect, though, that more people would have come to this if they had known about it.

And that's that for the Ergodos Festival. Not everything in the line up was brilliant, obviously, but that is the way of festivals. I hope they have another festival next year, and put on more concerts in the meantime. Maybe see you there.

The Final Panda

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