Featured in ‘A House Full of Music’ Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt]
Sound is Art curated by Margret Noble
This Acousmatic Black Metal ensemble piece is music for loudspeakers that is designed to work as a polyphonic projection in multi-channel sound-spatialization’s systems.
Hoxton Conversion by Marc Yeats
Thursday 2nd February 8pm – 12am
10 Hoxton Street
London N1 6NG
It was cold.
As I got off the tube at Old Street and walked into Hoxton with my friends, my mind raced with anxieties about what was to happen that night: A club-night; my music being performed in a bar; people eating and drinking and worst of all, talking, whilst music was being performed. I felt disaster looming.
We arrived at the Troy Bar. My initial thoughts from the other side of the road were that it looked like an all-night takeout bar. My fears depend.
We entered. There was the comforting smell of cooking, the quiet, deep thud of dance music pulsating in the background with several guys sitting in corners wearing hoodies and reading newspapers. The lights were full-on and it was clear to see that the bar was a little worse for wear. It reminded me of a communal room in a student hostel.
Consortium 5 arrived; they were giving the premiere of my new work for recorder quintet ‘the bone eating snot flower’. We were ready for the sound check. Consortium 5 had performed here before. They looked at a lot less phased then I did!
I am always uncomfortable about amplifying acoustic music that was conceived to be played in a natural acoustic but it was necessary in a bar where no natural acoustic was present. My fears were compounded because ‘the bone eating snot flower’ has several changes of instrument from the very quiet and mellow sub-bass to the high and shrill descant recorder. A ‘one size fits all’ amplification would not work as auditory artefacts would be produced between the high short notes and any overly added acoustic envelope.
Gabriel Prokofiev, the ‘father’ of Nonclassical arrived to set up the DJ deck and sort out the microphones and sound check for the evening ‘gig’ (I still find it hard not to call it a concert), aided by Richard Lannoy. Their sensitive handling of the sound check comforted me as a natural balance was achieved. Gabriel would also be on-hand during the live performances to tweak the amplification and reverb as necessary.
There wasn’t a lot of space on the small raised ‘stage’ area. It was going to be intimate.
The sound check went well and Consortium 5’s run through of the ‘snot flower’ was quite excellent. I felt a slight sense of reassurance.
The other group playing that night, ‘We Spoke’, had their sound check, by which time the first of our audience started to arrive at the Troy Bar. Audience, punters, giggers, fans, groupies; not really quite sure what the appropriate terminology is!
As the well dressed, trendy and mainly young audience (there were few over 40 yrs old there) arrived the main lights were turned right down and red lighting put on. Instantly the place transformed. It no longer looked tatty but took on a welcoming warmth and intimacy. The sofas at the side of the room became inviting and the tables and chairs were placed ready for people to drink, eat and talk. It wasn’t long before the bar filled up.
The backbone of the evening is the DJ’ing provided by Gabriel and Richard. Into this are cast ‘sets’ of music. Each set consists of about 15 minutes of live music followed by further DJ sets and more live sets. And so it goes on.
There seem to be unspoken conventions around these Nonclassical gigs. People ‘know’ how to behave. People spoke, laughed, ate and drank during the DJ sets; an eclectic array of avant-garde classical and dance music mixes, sensitively created, balanced and delivered to the audience. It was all very relaxed.
Gabriel introduced ‘We Spoke’, the first live set and instantly, the atmosphere in the bar changed. People stopped talking and making noise, turned and listened. And they listened intently. I was so relieved. I thought it would be mayhem!
The music of ‘We Spoke’ couldn’t have been more different from the DJ mixes or from what Consortium 5 were to perform in their sets. This was wonderful. I found myself enjoying the contrast between dance \ avant-garde mixes, ‘We Spoke’ with their gentle folk, minimalist and pop inspired canons and loops and the highly focused contemporary classical music of Consortium 5. It was a wonderful assortment of sounds. I believe that one of the great strengths of the evening was the diverse musical styles on offer. Something for everyone, perhaps?
By the time ‘We Spoke’ did the first live set I’d had a drink and something to eat (the food at the Troy Bar is Cajun and fabulous – highly recommended. I didn’t know it was possible to get a proper meal at a really good price anywhere in London these days).
It was now D-Day. The premiere of ‘the bone eating snot flower’ was upon me. What to expect, especially after the very pleasant and touching music of ‘We Spoke?’ My fears returned for a moment; ‘what if it was a disaster’, what if they hated it, what if it’s too long and screechy?’. . What if. . . .
I had to introduce the piece through the mic. No more ‘what ifs’, it was time to find out.
The performance was fantastic. Consortium 5 played with great flair and precision. They nailed it! And the audience were totally attentive throughout. The applause was raucous and long, both for Consortium 5 and their fantastic playing, but also for the ‘snot flower’. I was so pleased, so relieved. They actually listened. People didn’t talk and clank glasses from beginning to end. The gig was so relaxed that people in the audience could just come up to me, as composer, and say what they thought of the music, ask questions, whatever. It was great for me to be able to have such a level of spontaneous contact with my audience.
The feedback was fabulous too. What’s more, the bar was full of young composers from London as well as music lovers and people just out for a good night or to experience something different from the usual.
I felt there was certainly a bit of a ‘scene’ going on and that Nonclassical had its groupies. But what a night. So varied, informal and intimate, and such greatly entertaining and inspiring music.
All my fears and insecurities were unfounded. The audience were marvellous; the atmosphere informal, friendly and relaxed; the music excellent. This was one of the most memorable premiers I have had. What’s not to love about this new phenomenon? I’m a total convert!
Marc Yeats http://marc-yeats.co.uk/
We welcome back Nonclassical favourites Consortium5, one of the foremost recorder consorts of their generation and among the only to focus on contemporary music.
Their debut album Tangled Pipes (NONCLSS008), which we released last year, brought together stunning new commissions by emerging composers, and was widely acclaimed: Sequenza21 wrote that it “compellingly suggests a new frontier for chamber ensembles”.
Their set at February’s NONCLASSICAL includes tracks from Tangled Pipes and a mammoth new premiere, Marc Yeats’ ‘The Bone Eating Snotflower’.
Also performing is a new duo formed by percussionist Serge Vuille and cellist Lucy Railton. ‘We Spoke: log in b’ will feature new arrangements of canons by American avant garde/minimalist pioneer Moondog.
Finally, Gabriel Prokofiev and Richard Lannoy will of course be on hand with the customary DJ sets, exploring the common ground between modern classical and electronic dance music. Expect anything from Berio, Varese, and Stockhausen, to Autechre, Vex’d, and contemporary classical remixes.