Aberdeen's sound festival hits new heights in 2015

Aberdeen's sound festival hits new heights in 2015

Red Note Ensemble

Loss of funding hasn't dented enthusiasm for eclectic composition at contemporary classical gathering

Despite lacking longer term funding, Aberdeen’s sound festival assembled a diverse collection of established and emerging composers for their 2015 edition, beginning with a weekend in collaboration with New Music Scotland, In Cahoots, which explored the potential for collaboration between ‘new music’ and other art forms. From a mini-opera – also part of the A Play, A Pie and A Pint programme – through to gallery-based audio-visual installations, sound and New Music Scotland presented a dense two days that was supported by workshops and lectures.

The return of Cryptic’s Little Match Girl Passion, directed by Josh Armstrong, serves as an example of how contemporary classical music can be accessible, experimental and emotionally powerful: the strict and precise choreography of the performers – and the use of evocative costume – lends David Lang’s score a bitter-sweet poignancy. This combination of movement and music was echoed throughout the weekend, as Lucy Boyes teamed up with Thomas Butler for Sandglass, a study of Aberdeen’s memories. Meanwhile, Matthew Whiteside provided an immersive and response musical presence to the paintings of Dominika Mayovich.

In these collaborations, a creative tension exists between the music and its collaborative art: Mayovich’s paintings are enhanced by Whiteside’s score, which responds to the movement of the viewer, while the music is given an emotional context. Unlike the mini-opera, The Wakeful Chamber, which struggles to reconcile its emotive, poetic script with the musical accompaniment, the installations aim at a new synthesis of sound and image, where neither aspect dominates.

The opening concert, from the Red Note and Griffyn Ensembles, was a more traditional evening. Each ensemble presented a suite of contemporary composition – both are surprisingly melodic, with the Griffyn’s contribution, composed by Urmas Sisak, offering a programmatic journey through the constellations of the night sky. This score is narrated – unfortunately to its detriment at times, when the description dominates the music – and veers towards the experimental to conjure a sky full of action and conflict.

Sound clearly has ambitions to expand the audiences for contemporary composition – the presence of Red Note as associate artists signals a shared interest in work populist and rigorous. The range of events across the first weekend demonstrates how broad and inclusive their agenda can be, and makes the claim for further, serious funding to further their ambitions.

Sound 2015 took place 22 Oct to 9 Nov.

Sound Festival

An innovative festival of new music bringing together a wide range of different musical styles in a variety of concerts, workshops, installations and talks.