Alan Cooper reviews soundfestival 2017: closing event

PETE STOLLERY: Electronics and instrument design

The final festival event was above all great fun. It began with something I had never seen before. Pete Stollery had designed an astonishing new instrument following the instructions of the Austrian composer Peter Ablinger. It was a series of eight glass tubes provided by Aberdeen University’s glass blower from the Chemistry Department. These were tuned to different notes and above them was a frame with hooks on which wet fabrics could be hung thus dripping on the tubes and producing musical notes. The cloths were brightly coloured and Maxime soaked them in water and hung them up so that they would drip onto the tubes. Depending upon how much water the cloths contained, the drips would produce different rhythms depending on how many drops fell and the time between them. Obviously with time the drops would fall more slowly. Maxime was in full control of this, raising the question of how much the rhythms were created by Maxime and how much they were the result of the apparatus and of nature and the forces of gravity. It was a fascinating display and it looked good too. I suppose filming the performance and
submitting it for the Turner Prize would be too complicated. Who would be able to claim it as their own? Pete, Maxime or the composer Peter Ablinger? An interesting conundrum.

The second performance was more serious. With dimmed lights Pascal Gallois performed a piece entitled Hopi composed for bassoon solo by his friend Philippe Hersant. The sounds of a Hopi Indian flute and the tribal voices of the Indians were graphically suggested. There was circular breathing, multiphonics and much more in this piece and the darkened concert room helped project what the programme note suggested ‘ancestral calls, their mystical sonorities and the creation of a deep and mysterious trance’.

Fortunately we were given ten minutes to get ourselves back out of the trance before Juliet Fraser, suitably garbed with blonde wig performed one of the most astonishing vocal  pieces ever penned, Cathy Berberian’s Stripsody (1966). I really cannot begin to describe this piece inspired by comic strips and radio shows. Juliet’s acting skills depicted police sirens, crying babies, Tarzan, Cowboys and Indians, Dick Tracy and who knows what else.

It was super fun and an utterly fabulous performance with which to close sound 2017.

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