Floating Messages and Fading Frequencies @ Lakeside Arts Centre 24/11/11

The Silence of the Warrior (2011) Karsten Fundal
Athelas Sinfonietta, conducted by Pierre-André Valade

Floating Messages and Fading Frequencies (2011) Annie Gosfield
Athelas Sinfonietta & Annie Gosfield Trio, conducted by Pierre-André Valade

EWA7 (1999) Annie Gosfield
Annie Gosfield Trio

Praised by the New Yorker as ‘a star of the [New York] downtown scene’, composer Annie Gosfield united with leading Danish new music group Athelas Sinfonietta to put on a remarkable evening of contemporary music. Nottingham’s’ Lakeside Arts Centre provided the stage for the second night of a tour premiering Gosfield’s new composition; ‘Floating Messages and Fading Frequencies’.

The concert opened with Fundal’s ‘The Silence of the Warrior’ composed for Old Christian Madsen’s 2008 film Flame and Citron. Based on real events, it documents the life of two fictional Danish resistance fighters, battling Nazi occupation during WW2. Fundal’s programme notes the film’s “depiction not only of the outside calamity and violence… but also the silence of the loneliness these two men must have experienced.” Such two feelings are heard in the music as Fundal contrasts punchy dissonant chords and scratchy tremolos in the strings with reflective, lyrical melodies shared between the wind section. ‘The Silence of the Warrior’ was utterly entrancing, capturing the audience’s attention from start to finish. Conductor Pierre-André and the Athelas Sinfonietta performed the piece fantastically, creating chillingly beautiful moments.

Annie Gosfield then took to the stage for a performance of ‘Floating Messages’ and ‘Fading Frequencies’. Our hopes were high for this exciting new composition and we were not let down by Gosfield’s innovative creation. Similar to ‘The Silence of the Warrior’, Gosfield’s powerful inspiration came from childhood piano lessons from a Jewish teacher who had been involved in resistance groups fighting the Nazi occupation. Gosfield mentions in the programme notes how she imitates “Sounds such as shortwave oscillations, Morse code, and radio static…” in an attempt to emulate the coded messages sent out by resistance groups. ‘Floating Messages and Fading Frequencies’ combines acoustic and electric instruments, fusing the orchestral instruments of the Athelas Sinfonietta with the rock instruments of the Annie Gosfield Trio and industrial samples with live instruments. Gosfield made use of unusual percussive objects making it a captivating guessing game throughout, detecting the origin of various sounds.

After the interval, the Annie Gosfield Trio performed Gosfield’s most famous composition, ‘EWA7’, named after a factory in Nuremburg, Germany. ‘EWA7’ was composed in 1999 for a project sponsored by Siemens Corporation aiming to combine industry with the arts. Moments before the trio began, the stage was filled with smoke sparking the industrial atmosphere. Gosfield played sampled machine noises whilst the trio alternated between composed and improvised sections. ‘EWA7’ is full of machine inspired rhythms as chugging and churning sounds drone below the rock improvisations on the electric guitar and drum kit. The most jolting part of the piece was the use of a metal frame with hanging industrial scrap metal parts. The trio left their instruments to hit these objects and their frame with hammers and drum sticks completely at random. ‘EWA7’ becomes very heavy at the end showcasing heavy-metal inspired guitar solos. I found this the most difficult piece to connect with as I struggled to enjoy the chaotic industrial sounds. The trio’s creative improvisations and Gosfield’s visible passion throughout the performance, however, were highly admirable.

After the concert, Gosfield spoke about how the hustle and bustle of New York is her “natural environment”. This was extremely thought-provoking and encouraged me to consider how one person’s noise can be another person’s music. Can we all find beauty in new sounds as we become accustomed to them?

Hayley Porter


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