Raydale Dower - Cryptic Nights at CCA, Glasgow, Thu 2 Feb 2012
Experimental but playful sound installation
The title of Raydale Dower's new 'spatial sound composition' is (........), and speaks volumes about the former Uncle John & Whitelock bassist and current Tut Vu Vu clarinettist and sonic architect's methodology. Hard on the heels of his film installation, Piano Drop, which did exactly what it says on the tin, this commission for twenty-first century music-theatre company Cryptic's series of experimental one-night-stands, Cryptic Nights, plays with sound and space in a far more formal arrangement, as the fixed rows of seats surrounded by speakers and amplifiers great and small suggests.
It begins in darkness, before a light is discreetly beamed onto a lone speaker, from which emanates snatches of double bass, cello and bass clarinet as played by Dower with Catherine Robb and David Munn and overlaid with low-key electronics and found sound. With the instruments criss-crossing both each other and whichever speaker they're channelled through, and with lights raised and lowered by degrees, playful little cacophonies are pulsed along like a robot baroque heartbeat.
Where one might normally expect such an affair to be relayed in an empty room, allowing spectators to drift between speakers or else choose their favoured vantage point while sprawled in repose flat out on the floor, the seating arrangements and in-the-round presentation suggests something requiring more discipline. This is Stockhausen meets Samuel Beckett, possibly uptown, for a fifty minute narrative that comes on like an extended remix of Beckett's wordless life and death miniature, Breath, by way of Stockhausen's Kontakte, which has been 'performed' in a similar fashion, both by the grand-daddy of electronic music, and his followers.
Dower is no stranger to either artist. Beckett was all over On Memory & Chance, his 2011 show at the Changing Room gallery in Stirling, while his pop-up speakeasy for Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2010 was an artistic and social hub for leftfield sonic exploring without any of that particular oeuvre’s more usually po-faced trappings. With a published record of Le Drapeau Noir forthcoming, it's legacy can already be found in the permanent venue on its site it inspired. With Dower as much social engineer as sonic architect, then, (….....) would fit in well there.