sound festival 2019 review: Decay

Claudia Molitor: Piano 
Tullis Rennie: Trombone
Pete Stollery: Electronics

Over the years, there have been many astonishing, nay, even dumbfounding performances at the soundfestival, but Friday’s early evening concert in the Small Hall at St. Andrew’s Cathedral featuring Claudia Molitor (b. 1974), an English-German composer based in Brighton, Tullis Rennie, senior lecturer in music at the City University of London, and our own Professor Pete Stollery was possibly the most startling I have ever attended. Someone asked me what had happened at the concert, I replied ‘everything’, and I was not far wrong. If I list some of the things that took place, it will hardly begin to explain the overall dreamlike experience delivered by this performance. Sound, vision, light, dark, spoken word, song, instruments used in unusual ways, all these and more were delivered. Claudia Molitor used microphones above the piano to create unusual sounds from items like crumpled cellophane. She scraped and strummed the chords of the piano creating a whole universe of different sounds. At one point I thought I heard a melody coming from the trombone but Tullis Rennie was not playing, it was actually Claudia creating those sounds from the bass strings of the piano. 

Tullis employed his trombone in many advanced ways, popping the mouthpiece with the flat of his hand thus turning the trombone into a percussion instrument. He breathed into the instrument while pumping the slide, he hissed and delivered passages of spoken words. He used a gramophone record as a mute as well as using the real thing in a number of different ways. At the back, on screens behind the performers, Claudia and Tullis appeared in sections of film in colour or black and white. The lights on the stage and in the auditorium were used in different ways, often deep red. Pete Stollery’s electronic sounds were merged with the rest of the performance and, perhaps because I have become used to them, they seemed the most traditional parts of the performance. I have mentioned just a few of the happenings that took place, but the performance went much farther than this. As I said, the performers did…everything! I was taken out of our ordinary world and into a new surprising and totally unexpected world of awake dreaming. After all, this is exactly one of the things that sound is meant to do and, by heck, it did!

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