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27 October - 28 November 2007
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26 November 2007

Pete Stollery: scènes, rendez-vous

It was a particular pleasure to revisit one of Pete Stollery’s most fascinating electro-acoustic pieces which I first experienced in the Picture Gallery of the Mitchell Hall last year. Last night’s performance took place in the Belmont Picturehouse. It was the first time I had ever been there, imagining it to be just some big old hall with chairs and a screen. Not at all; it turned out to be a state of the art multiscreen cinema on three floors with coffee shop, a lift, a sweet kiosk and extremely comfortable seats. Rather like the Tardis, it is far bigger inside than it looks on the outside and I would certainly recommend a visit to anyone who has never been there before.

The inspiration for Pete Stollery’s music is a film made over thirty years ago by the French cinéaste Claude Lelouche. His film C’était un Rendez-vous lasts just about ten minutes and it takes you on a whirlwind journey through the streets of Paris at breakneck speed ending up at the Sacré Coeur where Lelouche, for it is he who is the driver, meets up with his girlfriend. The film has a special personal significance for Pete Stollery so in 2006 he went to Paris and retraced the route which Lelouche had taken exactly thirty years before, but this time, on foot. During his journey, Pete took his recording equipment and at several stops along the way he made field recordings which became the basis of his new piece entitled scènes, rendez-vous. The performance began with a first showing of the film followed by a most illuminating talk by Pete Stollery about the background and structure of his piece with wonderful graphics and sound excerpts from the music itself. This was followed by a second showing of the film, then, with the final frame held frozen on the screen, we heard Pete’s wonderfully imaginative piece.

I had always had many questions in my mind about the creation of this type of music and this performance answered many of them. We were privileged to be let into the secrets behind the composer’s inspiration. He explained how out of many hours of field recordings he might select only a few moments. This particular piece has two distinct elements in its structure, first the raw field recordings and then what the artist does with them. Sometimes, as with the sound of an ambulance siren, he explored the effects of pitch, or again starting with the sound of car tyres driving at different speeds over the grill of a street drain, he played with different rhythmic effects. Some electro-acoustic composers might wish to keep all these details a secret, others are happy to let you know whence the sounds come and what has been done with them. This piece with its accompanying film followed the second of these routes. Both are valid and of course the response of the audience will be quite different in each case. To me, the field recordings followed by the sculpted sounds seemed rather like air and variations in more conventional music.

The entire event was a splendid experience, both entertaining and enlightening. I left the cinema with a host of thoughts going through my head and as I walked down Blackfriars Street to get my own car, the sounds of traffic in the street suddenly became something to take notice of instead of just being filtered into silence inside my head.


Copyright Alan Cooper



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