sound festival 2019 review: EXAUDI with Tutti Voices by Samm Anga

The soundfestival saw the premiere of Allie Robertson’s brave new piece, ‘Motherhood’. A striking opener to the festival, the piece involved interviews with a wide range of women discussing their relationships with motherhood, whether it be their own experience as mothers or memories of their own parental relationships. Performed by Exaudi, it provided a diverse sonic experience, and a fascinating blend of spoken incantations, performing speech from the interviews, and wonderful choral arrangements. The three Exaudi soloists were hooked up to a mic engineered with a noticeably wet reverb, which added an ethereality to the sound of the composition and the space of he room. The soloists gave incredible performances, bridging the gap between drama and musical performance, though sometimes the delicately balanced levels of the live and recorded audio meant the interview sounds were overpowering. Regardless, the programme was curated effectively to ensure that all compositions of the piece allowed each aspect of the creative idea to shine in its own time. Furthermore, the moments where both soloists and soundtrack were most cohesive left a powerful and lasting impression.

The other memorable moment in the concert was Cassandra Miller’s ‘Guide’, the closing piece, and a deliciously polyphonic and polyrhythmic rendition of a popular Christian melody. The piece stuck steadfastly to its process of experimenting with phasing and looping the three parts of the choir, which were singing the same source text and melody but at various tempos, starting pitches and starting points, getting increasingly more and more manipulated until the choir created an almost unrecognisable wall of exciting, scarcely concordant sound. Inspired by Bryn Harrison’s ‘Eight Voices’ with its specific use of repetition, the piece was a fascinating variation on Maria Muldaur’s 1968 performance of ‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,’ and as the parts died out and allowed a return back to the recognisable hymn, sung by the final section of the choir, it produced a satisfying and surreal ending to a strong concert.

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