The 2006 Sonorities Festival — an event of rather unusual combinations, line-ups and mixes of sonic samples
Son or Rites?
Ties or Snorts?
For schedule and short programme notes, visit the Sonorities website.
Day 1 The Opening
Legendary Fred Frith contrasted with Northern Ireland’s leading classical orchestra. Frith’s work The Right Angel performed with the Ulster Orchestra made not only Swim by Bill Campbell appear to be in the wrong pool, but Frith’s extraordinary guitar playing made the orchestra seem even more in awe of contemporary music and instrumental playing techniques as one would have expected.
When will we stop pairing a “not-so-classical” musician with classical players in order to give credibility… to whom? Frith surely doesn’t need any.
Day 2 Snapshot
Singer (or seducer) Ge-Suk Yeo and her beautiful gestures as intricately placed as her superbly controlled voice. She surely knows how to seduce an audience. Luxurious! A few talks in between with “talking” composers such as Fred Frith and Chris Cutler. As if composers were not made to talk!
Guitarist Stefan Östersjö’s stunning guitar playing took us from the charango, and 6-string to the 10-string guitar. The world premiere of Josef Doukkali’s video to Kent Olofsson’s Il Liuto d’Orfeo would have benefited from the absence of the video. The guitar playing was superb, no further comments.
The dingy club venue was lit up by two of the festival’s craziest guys: Fred Firth (guitar) and Chris Cutler (drums). FF throwing every possible object onto his guitar creating the most mesmerising sounds and CC torturing his modified, amplified and extended drumkit in every possible way. They clearly have been making music together for a long time. It was one of the highlights of the festival and I am glad I attended.
Day 3 Snapshot
Uff! Argh! Making music with toys possibly must be the most outdated idea. You kind of think if you roam through your kids’ playroom to find your performance tools, you gotta at least get some inspiration from the ways in which they appropriate their toys. Kids at least have some musical feel for their stuff. “Halal Kebab Hut” – better grab a Döner instead.
Ah yes, the classical musician dilemma again. Has nobody told those guys that they do not necessarily make for good improvisers? Alexander’s Annexe — with none of the “kick-ass dancefloor mayhem” nor many skills in improvisational dialogue-ing.
Carlos Zíngaro zapping across his violin. A gifted man and true improviser who manages to keep one on the edge of one’s seat throughout. A sonorous speciality spiced with the less obvious of musical ideas. After experiencing the loose stringing of his bow I urge every bra-wearing person to do the same. It really rocked!
The dingy club venue was again revived by a further highlight of the festival: The duo Telectu with Chris Cutler (art is life, life is art). I will borrow from the group’s notes:
The trio’s improvisational language is about controlled associations and empathy; simultaneity of divergent events, meta-stylistic, polymorphous, collective pulse, amorous relationship, discussion, cacophony or mythical plenitude. The musical dialogues in the trio can be accidental, coincidental or occasional; it is about inter-textuality and the articulation of knowledge.
Only remains to be added that the group indeed lived their art that night! Spastic and simply musical!
Day 4 Snapshot
This event is becoming a regular. Each year a group of musicians intervenes into the “normal” proceedings of Belfast’s St. George’s market. This year a group of deranged doodlers (made up from the group COMA — Contemporary Music-making for Amateurs) successfully managed to drag a crowd of shoppers along with them in cruising various market stalls while beeping, tooting and bleeping. And yes, they did manage to piss off the same person as last year. It’s on camera and tape and, you did well guys! Amateurs can indeed make good music!
The market intervention was followed by BLISS (The Belfast Legion for Improvised Sights and Sounds, and keep in mind that the “Legion does not prescribe its sights or sounds; they are the product of digital and contra-digital networks of gates, tables, switches, speaker objects, cabling and data…”) mixing and remixing the Lagan Boat tour guides’ voice (yes, on a boat) on the way back into Belfast harbour.
A relaxing event with some great sounds!
The Club Night
A must for the festival! Loud and pulsating. As always. A night that allowed one to drink and to get drunk, to dance and to be danced, to lose (oneself and definitely a bit of one’s hearing) and to let loose. Leaky limbo for lustrous lechers!
Day 5 Snapshot
The heavy sessions of paper presentations and keynote speeches of the “Two Thousand + SIX” symposium following the late club night was tackled with a newly bought espresso machine, loads of coffee plungers and twenty packs of coffee. A great variety of views and thoughts, some highly stimulating discussions and the provocative and inspiring keynote of Ben Watson! More can be found online.
The symposium was interspersed with a lunchtime concert by, amongst others, Sensors Sonics Sights (S.S.S.) featuring Atau Tanaka with sensorous gestures. Sights and Sounds thrown back and forth between three performers. If somebody can make great music with sensors it is Atau Tanaka.
The late night gig featured one of the masters of the saxophone, Anthony Braxton. Highly well crafted trio playing. Beautiful trumpet sounds by Taylor Ho Bynum plus an oversized sand clock. The concert moved between various houses, some of which Braxton refers to as “House of the Triangle” or “House of the Circle”. Surely there was a bit of “House of Intoxication” (after all, Braxton downed a bottle of nice White beforehand. Good on him).
Well, that was a Sunday, and I was in church all day praying for more festivals as rich, varied and stimulating as this one.
Which leaves the last day.
Open to all… but not to everybody… The final jam session.
More than 15 performers plus two remote ones from California (CCRMA) appropriating anything from laptops, cymbal, voice, sax, to piano-inside-out. Can such large group of impromptu players come up with anything sensible? According to Braxton who had said the previous day that any more than 3 players guarantee a mess, the answer is no.
However, I am glad I can contradict the master of saxophone. In that jam session there were some mesmerising moments, some beautiful interplays and actually: a lot of silences!
Sonorities lives on. The 2007 edition surely has something to live up to.