sound festival 2019 review: Any Enemy

Guera Maunder: Violin, 

Alison Macdonald: Cello
Catherine O'Rourke: Flute
Fiona Gordon: Oboe
Lucy Webster: Bassoon
Pauline Black: Trumpet
Brodie McCash and Peter Ney: Percussion
Aden Mazur: Piano

Founded by violinist Guera Maunder and bassoonist Lesley Wilson in 2018, Any Enemy is an ensemble of local North-East musicians keen to work together in playing contemporary music. Why on earth are they called Any Enemy? Well, they are North East New Music Ensemble. Take the first letters of that and you get NENME. Say it out loud and it sounds just like Any Enemy. Get it, get it?

Being that they are a local group, it was fitting that, at their sound concert in the Lemon Tree, they should have chosen to play music by local young musicians: two from Aberdeen, Ruaraidh Williams, a final year student at Albyn School and Joe Stollery, a young composer currently working for his PhD at Aberdeen University. Georgina MacDonell Finlayson comes from Glenesk near Brechin and has just graduated with a first-class music degree from Edinburgh University.

The first two pieces were inspired by poetry. This Morning I watched from here is the first line of a poem by Norman MacCaig (1910 – 1996) entitled Hotel Room, 12th Floor. It describes 1960’s New York City, the city that never sleeps – its hustle and bustle its police sirens and other traffic noises. Ruaraidh’s music was a graphic musical picture of just such a cityscape. With its post minimalist writing I was reminded of ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ - a film of endless fast moving night traffic with music by Philip Glass.

Georgina MacDonell Finlayson began and ended her piece with recorded sounds of running water and birdsong. As the ensemble played her music she herself read out the words of a poem by Helen Cruickshank (1886 – 1975), poet and suffragette, entitled To Glenesk. This, I thought, worked well. Sometimes, in fact most often, when words are sung, you miss half of them. Like Ruaraidh’s music this was very much a painting in music and its pastoral colours worked beautifully well.

Joe Stollery’s Sticks and Stones was amazing. I got a glance at the score and just looking at the lines of repeated notes I thought, “Oh, this is minimalism or at the least post-minimalism and yet, it did not really sound like that at all. This was because Joe Stollery had put so much emphasis into the rhythmic drive and impulsiveness of the music that its background structure was cleverly concealed, just like the back of a tapestry where you can see all the loose threads but when you look at the side you are supposed to see, what is there for you is the main picture. The music had a definite Latin American drive to it. I thought to myself, this does not really sound like Bernstein but I bet that if Bernstein had heard it he would have loved it. I certainly did!

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