We spoke to Freya Waley-Cohen, our Associate Composer who curated our latest gig in The Victoria, with performers Liam Byrne and The Hermes Experiment. She tells us why she chose the music you heard on 12 July:
"Walking through the bookcase in the back of The Victoria in Dalston to one of Nonclassical’s monthly club nights is like stumbling through the wardrobe into Narnia. I never know what I’m going to find there. But often I feel quite personally affected by what I hear in there. Something about the informality and buzz around it lends itself to creating an intimate moment between the listener and the performer or performers on stage.
I decided to play into my experiences there when curating this concert. The evening will begin with the extroverted wild energy of Meredith Monk’s Double Fiesta arranged by Anne Denholm for the full quartet of The Hermes Experiment. From then on the programmes leads you through Josephine Stephenson’s ...after George duet for clarinet and double bass into the world of the solo work. The next two works on the programme, by William Croft and Aspergis, show the extremes of how delicate and gentle the solo experience can be and how frantic and intense.
The central set of Liam Byrne on amplified viola da gamba swings from the very new in the second performance of Alex Mills’ suspensions and solutions, back to the 17th century for Sainte Colombe, and back to the present day for my Unbridling. All of these are firmly in the world of the soloist: at its pinnacle can be an intimate experience between each listener and the performer.
The final set leads back into the world of the chamber ensemble. After Donatoni’s Clair for solo clarinet, we hear the premiere of Darren Bloom’s Second fig - a duet for harp and voice. The last piece from The Hermes Experiment sees them finally forming back into their Quartet to perform the song cycle I wrote with poet Octavia Bright, We Phoenician Sailors. Octavia’s words on the cycle are are far more eloquent than mine:"
We Phoenician Sailors by Octavia Bright
"This unusual song cycle moves away from traditional declarations of love expressed in general and idealized terms in order to represent a more embodied experience of desire. Both lyrically and musically, it explores the way memories of relationships are often held together not by rigid chronology but by Pavlovian responses, sensations and impressions of particular moments of heightened intimacy and pleasure or disappointment. The music and the text play with different textures and temperatures in order to get inside the bodily experience of the vagaries of desire.
Sometimes gentle, sometimes hostile, water can be life giving but also deeply destructive; the variety and changeability of different bodies of water felt right to describe desires that are both capricious yet constant and essential as the ocean itself. These currents that ebb and flow are reflected in the contrasts between each piece - the song cycle’s course traces the arc of a relationship from its first agonizing spark of desire to its eventual death.
First, the powerful thrill of erotic anticipation sings in Oyster’s brackish tingle, before sinking into the fecund contentment of being submerged in Agua Dulce’s velvet freshwater embrace, suspended in the temporal stasis brought about by a sublime experience of pleasure that we know to ultimately be all too fleeting. Finally, Delta Song explores the often unacknowledged emotional disgust that can emerge when confronted with the body of a lover that is no longer desired. Here, the inviting waters of the first two have become shallow and stagnant, fetid, as the song slides away from itself in revulsion."
What did you think of the music? Let us know on Twitter @Nonclassical.
You can also view the photos from the event on Facebook.