Saturday, February 04, 2012

Guest Star Irene talks about Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope Night, Dublin, 2nd November

And now we have a special treat for all readers – a guest post from the mysterious lady who goes only by the name "Irene", talking about an event back in November that I also attended but failed to write about.

"Transformation, musical alchemy – this is my theme, as Kaleidoscope dips in and out of time commemorating and celebrating all the living and the dead, the new and the old, old-new and new-old-invoked, empowered, charged: a kind of sonorous hexing. Yes, hex: to bewitch. German and Swiss immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the late 17th century spoke a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch. In this dialect hexe was the equivalent of the German verb hexen, "to practice sorcery." The English verb hex, first recorded in the sense "to practice witchcraft" is borrowed from Pennsylvania Dutch, as is the noun…."

Thus spake Bernard Clarke, presenter of Nova on RTE Lyric FM and general modern music guru. Yes, he does go off on one occasionally, God bless him. But we let him rattle on, knowing that eventually he'd shut his yap and let the musicians do their thing. 2nd of November is All Souls' Day and has spooky pre-Christian roots, hence Bernard's shiteing on about witchery.

Kaleidoscope Night has been going for nearly two years, and seems to be based more or less on the old salon idea where people gather in a small, informal group to dig some live performances of new music. It also echoes a sort of 1960s beatnik "happening", only with classically-trained musicians. The people involved are from the classical avant-gardey end of Dublin's music scene – there's a big overlap with the Crash Ensemble (Ireland's Bang On A Can or Kronos) and the Ergodos lot. We went along with our friend Tim, who plays some music but is more from the trad/bluegrass end of things. The venue is a rather plush upstairs room with bar, low lights, groovy 70s décor etc. Nice.

First up was guitarist/composer Enda Bates and his hexaphonic guitar, or as I like to call it his Fucking Hexaphonic Guitar. I don't know why I'm so exasperated by the idea – it might just be that for me it is indistinguishable in appearance and sound from any ordinary electric guitar. So I don't see why the "hexaphonic" element merits any mention. Enda Bates would probably differ. In his own words, the hexaphonic guitar "provides six discrete audio outputs, one for each string. This multi-channel output can then be processed and spatialised to a loudspeaker array, transforming a standard electric guitar into a new instrument for the performance of spatial music." Which sounds great, but srsly, it sounded just like a normal guitar to me. He did two pieces, one of which was slightly ambient and pedaltastic and the other of which was picky and John Faheyesque. Maybe he needs to do a double-header with some guitarist with a normal guitar so we can tell the difference.

Next we had clarinettist Paul Roe, performing Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, which were composed in 1919 (i.e. post-Rite of Spring). They were all quite short and varied, two out of three using a low clarinet (one slow and haunting, one a bit more improvvy and jazzy) and the last one pitched higher and sounding a lot more up for it and vivacious and complicated. I don't know if Stravinsky was listening to jazz at this time – I think Paul Roe said one of the pieces was a follow-up to his Russian Songs), but there was a lot of jazz there to my ears. I liked these.

Then the Ergodos Musicians, largely composed of familiar faces from various modern music collectives (boy, do these fellows love to collaborate), did some rather beautiful and appropriate-for-the-encroaching-winter vocal liturgical music. The first selection was from Léonin, called Viderunt Omnes Part 1, from 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The second was the "Kyrie" from the Messe de Nostre Dame by 14th-century composer Guillaume de Machaut, which is apparently very famous if you know about such things. The two lady singers Michelle O'Rourke and Nora Ryan did that glacial medieval counterpoint thing, and the cello and clarinet accompaniment was suitably understated. The pieces were in some way arranged by Garrett Sholdice, another composer who pops up a lot on this scene. Why don't I listen to more of this kind of music?

After the interval, the beatnik-happening quotient was upped by a performance by poet Dave Lordan. I approve of this mixing up of artistic endeavours and didn't find the poetry completely fatuous or annoying. This is surely a result. Matters were helped by the fact that I know Dave slightly from my political-activism days, and he's a top fellow.

Finally, well almost finally, we had the Quiet Music Ensemble. As their name suggests, they specialise in … quiet stuff. There is probably a very elastic definition of what constitutes "quiet", because surely you can't just play Morton Feldman all day. Or maybe you can. Anyway, they did two pieces, one an improvisation and the other by Susan Geaney called Vacuum. I found both pieces quite similar in that they both reminded me of Salt Marie Celeste by Nurse With Wound. Maybe amplified creaky cello noises and minimalist electric guitar and saxophone will do that. Anyway, a nice spooky finish …. Except that then all the various musicians (or those that weren't occupied at the bar) got up on stage for a bit of a jam. It pretty much followed the template of all jams, in that the musicians probably got much more out of it than the audience.

And that was it. Not bad for a dank, dark Wednesday night in November.

bye bye Irene

An inuit panda production

flyer image source (which is actually the Kaleidoscope website... watch as they trace the link back and then send Enda Bates to get hexaphonic on my ass)

Bernard Clarke image source

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