S&H Event review

Almeida Opera & Hoxton New Music Days 25 June - 15 July

No Arrival, No Parking, Navigation part III Almeida at King's Cross, Caledonian Road, London, 25 & 26 June 2001 (PGW)

London's festival of new music has a temporary home at King's Cross during refurbishment. It was associated with LIFT in the opening event, and owes a lot to the Peter Moores Foundation, which had also sponsored the Goodall Experience at ENO the previous day.

Heiner Goebbels headed a group of designers and facilitators to mastermind a Sound City project, the fruits of Almeida Opera's outreach and composer development work, working with a diverse group of young and not so young Londoners, who developed an urban extravaganza in a workshop setting. It started half an hour late because the box office was besieged.

Sound City Ensemble included instrumentalists, sampling and electronics experts, and deployed lighting that picked out the structure of the huge converted industrial building, which boasts a vast stage area, exploited to the full. The collage effects owed much to the experiments of John Cage. The show also develops the approach of COMA in working with non-professional musicians to create concert works - I took part in one such event devised by Nigel Osborne at a summer school at Bretton Hall in Yorkshire. We developed ideas originating in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, using sampled sounds recorded from the Hepworth and Moore bronzes, and assembling a graphic score to combine ideas thought up in our various groups with their 'facilitators'! I don't think a masterpiece emerged.

At one side a 'cinema audience' watched projections and munched popcorn. At the other, a group of players gave punchy, unison music in an Andriessen idiom. Lachenmann hovered over experiments with that usually disappointing instrument, the bass recorder, which came into its own with amplified clickings, whilst a horn player toyed with her dismembered instrument elsewhere. A trumpeter and two drummers careered around on wheeled office chairs playing their instruments. There was a lot of free improvised jazz. Weird noises emerged from consoles manned by technical experts, who also declaimed (rather flatly) passages from a poem by Goebbels himself. A folk singer with an Irish harp brought the proceedings to an end with a Shakespeare song. A few people departed early, but the response was generally enthusiastic.

This is one way that music will be going in the new century. For a cutting edge selection of music from the end of the last one, go to Almeida at King's Cross for Alexander Goehr, John Casken and Olga Newirth, and explore John Woolrich's always independent annual trawl of interesting composers, between 29 June and 5 July, mainly at Hoxton Hall. Details from 020 7359 4404.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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