north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews

Sounds fantastic

Written by Susan Welsh, The Press and Journal

reproduced with permission

article | The Press and Journal

Experimental music and new sounds created by cutting-edge artists – that's what this year's sound Festival is all about, as Susan Welsh discovered&hellip

THE fifth annual sound Festival opened in grand style last night when Piano Circus, an ensemble of six pianists, not only tickled the ivories at Aberdeen's Beach Ballroom, but took them to places rarely heard before.

During their stay here, the unconventional London-based sextet will also hold workshops on ensemble playing and composing with pupils at academies in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands.

It's an unusual show they present and one which is a good example of what the sound Festival is all about. sound features more than 60 concerts and events across the north-east, including a themed weekend celebrating the work of patron and composer James MacMillan, who will also give the inaugural festival lecture.

As festival co-ordinator Fiona Robertson explained, sound is unlike any other Scottish festival.

There's no main festival venue, no campsite for musicians and fans to congregate at, and no main genre of music.

Instead, sound is an exciting festival of new music, with the emphasis strictly new, as Fiona explained: "As in previous years, we have brought together a large range of different genres of new music to appeal to a wide variety of tastes," said Fiona.

"Our aim is to encourage people to discover new sounds and to widen their musical horizons.

"A lot of it is very cutting edge and that means having to come out of your comfort zone, but if you are willing to take a risk and go along to a concert with an open mind, then it is a great way to discover what you like."

sound has its roots in the Woodend Arts Association and the University of Aberdeen music department. These two organisations felt there wasn't enough exciting new music being heard in the north-east, so they held a pilot event in 2004.

The following year, the first "festival" took place and since then it has grown from a weekend event to one which lasts almost four weeks.

The festival aims to make new music more accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds by trying to avoid pigeonholing, preferring, instead, to help people discover for themselves the different types of music that are being created today.

"The idea is to introduce the audience to new ways to explore sound, whether that's classical, contemporary, jazz, folk or electro-acoustic," said Fiona.

"The main thing is that every piece of music being heard is new and inventive and cutting edge.

"I know, for myself, sometimes I go along to a concert and discover that I don't like the music on offer, while other times I go along not expecting much and find myself being blown away by what I'm hearing.

"I would suggest that anyone wanting to come along, but not sure where to begin, should choose a concert with a music style they like. If they like folk or jazz, then they should try that first.

"There are regular free lunchtime sessions on Saturdays at Aberdeen Art Gallery, where the atmosphere is nice and relaxed, so that's a good place to begin."

Highlights of this year's programme include two contrasting themed weekends, the first sound residency, the first sound lecture, and a collaboration with Dance Live as well as world, UK and Scottish premieres."

Other highlights include a festival commission by four composers who have taken their inspiration from works at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Events taking place over the next few days include, tomorrow: In Aberdeen, a Chinese music seminar; Darragh Morgan on violin, and the Vincent Dance Theatre's If We Go On.

In Tarland, Pete Stollery's Altered Images; in Nairn, Piano Circus, and, in Bieldside, Irene Drummond, soprano, and Alasdair Beatson on piano.

On Saturday, there are music workshops for young people age 10-13 in Aberdeen; the Edinburgh Quartet with James Clapperton on piano; Chinese music, traditional and new, and music from The Harmony Ensemble and Elphinstone Fiddlers.

The festival runs from now until Sunday, November 22. Full programme listings and venues are available from the website, or by calling 01330 825431.

reproduced by kind permission of The Press and Journal.