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27 October - 28 November 2007
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University Music
1 November 2007

Musique de L’IMEB
Presented by Françoise Barrière & Pete Stollery

Thursday’s teatime concert afforded another unique opportunity to take a mind expanding journey into the astonishing world of electro-acoustic music courtesy of both Aberdeen University Music and the sound festival. What is more, on Thursday, we were able to glimpse this special branch of music from the viewpoint of distinguished contemporary French exponents of the art. The first half of the concert was devoted to the work of three such French composers, the second to composers from the UK, but all of them have close connections to the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustic de Bourges.

We were fortunate to have the co-founder of the Institut, Françoise Barrière on hand to introduce the first part of the concert and the opening work Sous le hêtre de l’étang grenouilles rient was composed by her colleague and co-founder of the Institut, Christian Clozier.

One of the questions which arise for listeners to electro-acoustic music concerns the relationship of the final result to the sound source employed by the composer. In the case of Clozier’s work, the sounds made by the various strains of frog or toad he had recorded remained largely recognisable throughout the piece. It was obvious however that he had blended and manipulated these sounds to produce what was ultimately a choral work for these animals – a true “frog chorus”. There was something unearthly about it, as if evolution had taken a different direction where the world was run by frogs and we were privileged to listen in on one of their concerts.

Françoise Barrière’s own composition, Dessus la mer was a totally different experience. Its outer sections were highly synthesised and difficult to pin down, but the core of this extensive piece contained an amazingly eclectic collection of sounds; a Rachmaninov Concerto, the aria Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci, snatches of Debussy and Ravel even Elvis and much more besides. Of course such fragments will have different significances for each member of the audience. For me, it brought back the days when we had no television, only radio, and as a small boy I used to surf the huge number of home and foreign stations on the dial. Was this what Madame Barrière intended us to take away? I am not sure, but I certainly found her piece richly absorbing.

It was followed by Tous les sons sont des merveilles by Pierre Boeswillwald. This work presented us with a central section which was accompanied by a video clip of a street scene in France filmed from an alleyway. The programme note informed us that the recorded sounds had in fact nothing whatsoever to do with the visuals but it was instructive to note that it was impossible to resist the temptation of linking the two. After seeing the visuals, the sounds that followed immediately after seemed to be grounded in the imagination in that same street scene and it was only when they became more and more abstract that the link was broken. Once again the contrasting reactions of the ears to radio as compared to television sprang to mind.

It happened that after the interval, Pete Stollery’s own piece Back to Square One tackled this very issue head on. As a child I hated sport, I still do, but my father loved to listen to football matches on the radio. I would go and sit in the adjoining room but the sounds still drifted indistinctly through to me so Pete Stollery’s piece stirred up certain memories for me. It was fascinating that all three of the British pieces seemed to have more artistic cohesion. Am I prejudiced or were they more perfectly crafted?

The sound sources of Pete’s composition remained fairly clear but only the beginning and end of Kalimba by Diana Simpson demonstrated clearly where the sounds originated from. Nevertheless, once again this was a work that was admirable for its cohesion.

Although the sound sources for Adrian Moore’s Power Tools were utterly different, the treatment was similar to that employed by Diana Simpson. I sensed a certain element of humour in this piece and at one point the sound blend even suggested organ chords.

Having not all that much experience of listening to electro-acoustic music and none at all of creating it, this performance probably raised more questions in my mind than it answered, but I found the experience totally engrossing and it was certainly something to broaden the mind, titillate the imagination and expand the listening experience towards new dimensions.

Copyright Alan Cooper
Thanks to University Music


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