14 October 2012

Decasia at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Rarely have I leapt to buy a concert ticket so quickly.

I was introduced to Michael Gordon quite some years ago when I read a review of Bang on a Can All-Stars' Industry in Q magazine persuaded me to buy it. I fell in love with this style of new classical music and have bought several Bang on a Can CDs since then.

Bang on a Can are an American organisation and they do not travel very much and I was very lucky to catch one of their concerts, by Iva Bittová, about ten years ago.

One of the CDs I picked up along the way is Michael Gordon's Decasia.

Early booking got me a central seat about five rows back, i.e. just where I wanted to be.

Then the news got even better with the announcement that the concert would be proceeded by a short discussion about Decasia and a performance of Industry. For free. That was booked just as quickly.

Booking early meant that I had forgotten the details of what I had booked and so it came as something of a surprise to be reminded that Decasia was music for a film. Even better.

Most of the talk was about the film, the concept behind it (freezing decay), how it was produced and how it was joined to the music. A tasty morsel to start the evening with.

Industry was as good as expected. This is a shortish piece, around ten minutes, and was performed on a solo cello with some electronic assistance. It was excellent entree for the main event being very tasty but smaller in form. But before that there was just time for the small glass of free wine that came with the talk.

Decasia was performed by the large and youthful Aurora Orchestra. In the pre-concert talk we learnt that they were split in to three groups that were tuned to differently to produce a consistently discordant sound.

The music throbbed, pulsed and danced across the stage relentlessly while the decayed film flickered on the screen above the orchestra. The amplified sound filled the hall and bounced from all directions giving no respite from the energy. It was like being in the music rather than listening to it.

Minimalism was parent to the music and lived on in the repetition but it a was a strange child that delighted in rebellion and violence and joy and brashness and confidence and noise. An unforgettable sound.

The flickering of the fragments of film gave an even faster pace to the evening, like a strobe light at a disco. Not what you usually expect to come across at a classical music concert.

It was exhausting to listen to and exhilarating at the same time, like being on an extreme ride in an amusement park.

Decasia was bold and wonderful in equal measure. An unusual piece of music delivered with force and skill. That made it special.

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