Review #2 – Automatronic

Automatronic
New Music for Organ and Electronics

Part of the Canterbury Festival, held in the Anselm Chapel at Canterbury Christ Church University on Monday 22nd October 2018.

Lauren Redhead (Organ) & Alistair Zaldua (Violins and Electronics)

I must admit my bias before I move on. I have experienced a few Automatronic concerts in the last few years. There are not many times that I can say that a concert moves, touches, and inspires me, and sparks my imagination; an Automatronics concert is one that I can say this is true. I do not attend one of these concerts to observe, but to experience what I can only describe as intense hallucinations. I can not tell you why this is the case, however I can tell you that for me, and because of (I believe) my being on the Autistic Spectrum (Asperger’s Syndrome), my abstract imagination is not always on par with a Neuro-Typical person, therefore I treasure any moment where the opposite is true.
Thus, I do not present to you a review of the technicalities, the performance, or the compositional process. Instead I offer you a narrative of my experience of this particular concert.

Sophie Stone – Amalgamations (2016)

As I entered the chapel I was bathed in sound. Long, slow, deep sounds surrounded me. As I took a seat I took a glance at the programme and immediately noticed Stone’s invitation for the audience to ‘move around during the performance’. I took the opportunity and meandered around the space, becoming slowly entangled in the paths taken by the organist.

Lauren Redhead – Phosphorescent (2018)

My journey had taken me to the shore, where I, along with fellow audience members, dove underwater. Out of the murkiness I could see a landscape awash with colour and splendour, illuminated, stark against the darkness beyond. A violin pulsated amongst the ocean of organ and electronics.

The sound kept on growing, with the violin becoming more and more intermingled and less its own entity.

Michael Bonaventure – Love Transformed (2017) Premiere

When we reached our destination we were greeted by an alien choir. They adorned us with a fusion of traditional (organ) and other-worldly melody (electronics). As each new moment dawned, they were left yearning for completion, longing to find their companion, until the final moment when the organ joins the voices in harmony.

Huw Morgan – Fault (2018)

All the way through this concert we had been travelling through a place of beauty, and the opening to this next piece was no exception. Birds and insects flittered around, filling the scene with their morning song. The landscape rolled out in front of us. Suddenly something mechanical grates through the once peaceful scene. As soon as it appeared, it was gone, leaving all but the sounds of birds and insects, yet somehow leaving a hole. Gradually, unnatural noises built up all around, overpowering and perverting the scenery. Eventually the happy chirping became determined to outshine the dissonance. But to no avail. What was once a a wonderful open world of harmony, ended with nothing except clanging metallic sounds and static.

Jesse Ronneau – Hagiography (2016) Premiere

From the silence after the final clang of metal into the heart of the land, came a piercing screech. From this screech came melodious overlaying vocals. The piece frantically tried to express its need to present itself as a grand and virtuous masterwork, but something wasn’t quite right. In the chaos, elegance was found. This moment lasted till the end when a train rushed past, which for me symbolised the passing of beauty in our everyday routines.

Overall, this concert invigorated feelings in me, that few performances have. There are many other concerts I have attended in the past that I have enjoyed. This word can never encompass what it is like to attend an Automantronic concert. I have one of their CDs, but it still doesn’t give me that sense of fulfilment that I receive at the end of each moment in time I am removed from the mundane, and transported into other realms.

– Jason Hodgson (1st November 2018)

Photo Credit: Sophie Stone

You can find out more about Automatronic by visiting their website: http://automatronic.co.uk/

Review #1 – Emily Peasgood

Lifted (2016)/Crossing Over (2016)

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Above: Emily Peasgood with the Lifted choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Lee Thompson

Review #1 – Emily Peasgood: Lifted (2016). What do you get when you mix community, small spaces, muzak, and a brilliantly bonkers composer?

In 2016 I had the pleasure to bare witness to a strange, bizarre, and frankly quite claustrophobic piece.

Lifted, conceived by Emily Peasgood in 2011 and completed in 2016 features a live choir singing movements between floors in an elevator music installation. Peasgood’s intentions were to make us re-think about how we perceive and value music, particularly of the background music genre ‘muzak’.

Lifted premiered in the The Turner Contemporary lift (Margate), on Sunday the 17th January 2016, and with its mixture of jazzy scats, tingling harmonies, almost meditative melodies, and its unconventional moments, Lifted certainly made an impression on the audience. I have never seen so many bodies all crammed round a lift and up stairs to watch and hear people sing in a lift. It truly was surreal.

Since then it has been a part of the 2016 Folkestone Fringe Festival Profound Sound on Saturday the 13th of February, where it was performed in smaller and more modest lifts in places like Asda. Further, even though it’s been more than a year since it’s premiere, I have yet to get all the ‘do dos’ and ‘mind the doors’ out of my head. Truly a majestic ear-worm.

Above: Emily Peasgood with the Crossing Over choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Jason Pay

One of Peasgood’s most recent projects, entitled Crossing Over (29th November 2016), was also performed at The Turner Contemporary at the end of 2016, to mark the anniversary of the Zong Massacre. The first movement consisted of selected recordings of politicians and other figures in the media that oppose migrations and refugees. This was juxtaposed with recordings of people in the community describing what ‘home’ meant to them. Audience members were asked to put on blindfolds in order to experience the sound and meanings emanating from the performers.

Many audience members, and performers, afterwards were left with a new sense for the meaning of ‘home’.

The choral part of the second movement was complex in its simplicity. Starting with a powerful “Ex Patria” moving into a soft lullaby, and ending with the performers calling home to their loved ones, you really did get this sense of longing, of belonging, with a hint of sadness, mixed with melancholy.

I was astounded to learn that both these pieces were performed by (to all intents and purposes), an amateur choir, with members from all over the Kent community. Peasgood is well known within Kent for creating BIGMOUTH Chorus, a choir which is made up of members of all abilities from the wider Kent/Thanet community. To this day, Peasgood provides the right mixture between experimental, contemporary, and community.

Peasgood is also in her final year of here PHD at Canterbury Christchurch University. I hope there is much more to come.

– Jason Hodgson (27th January 2017)

For more information about Emily Peasgood, you can visit her website at: http://empeasgood.com

BIGMOUTH Chorus can be found here: http://bigmouthchorus.com

You can watch a 20 minute documentary on Lifted here:

You can also read more about Crossing Over on the Canterbury Christchurch Music and Performing Arts blog at:

https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/mpa/crossing-over-by-emily-peasgood-open-call-for-singers/

Featured Photo: Emily Peasgood. Credit: Lee Thompson