There was rule – no-one knew there was this rule but there it was, quietly sitting there, informing the feel and structure of this year's Full Of Noises at Barrow. The rule said, “No lap-tops, no improv, there must be, I quote, 'some kind of score'”.
And so real (concrete) instruments were to the fore. With a vengeance. A composition – graphic scored - for church organ, trumpet, four tubas. What a shopping list that is!
But first, Tom Scott, native Barrovian.
We were in St James' church. As England was in the midst of an unseasonal heat wave, the light inside the church was high and easy. The doors open for a little air.
Tom set off a mysterious unseen drone (not from a laptop, obviously – cos the rule said . . . ) and from behind the lake surface of the grand piano, sent single notes rippling through the vault.
It was vastly minimal and very very quiet and - in response - the audience slowly fell more and more silent. This was a beautiful journey. Letting the drone and the single piano notes fall into the background, threw into relief each pew's creak with someone's shifting weight, each drag of a foot, each stifled cough.
Outside, now and again children squealed, a siren faded across the distance, a motorbike brushed the air. And, gloriously, seagulls added their voices, calling high and distant, above the piano, above the drone.
The odd thing was, as the sounds from inside the church settled and vanished, so too did the outside sounds. Perhaps someone closed the door, muting them. A shame because, while it lasted, it was a glorious effect.
Then things started to happen indicating the imminence of “Entoptic Landcape”, a composition by Lauren Redhead: persons detached themselves from the audience and took up postions by the four tubas which had been sitting quietly around the church (one right behind us!). A young woman in a spectacular frock turned into an organist. Mr. Deakin who was our MC filled us in on the gory details while the nervous tension mounted and we giggled too readily at his jokes. After all, a line-up like this could have meant war!
But it wasn't. Anything but. The tubas breathed like sleepy dinosaurs, sometimes whispering emerged, like an echo from a future human race. The organ effaced itself. The trumpet (played by Gail Brand) failed to efface itself and emitted curious mooing and farting noises. Then there was some kind of consensus – the animals moved in concert, the volume built, an uncertain purpose drove them forward. Any moment this could have become huge. But it didn't, it cut and died There were re-flickerings, muttering, these creatures seemed to graze the plain as individuals. The herd instinct in them identified them as prey not predators. Fascinating though it was and maybe determined as it was to avoid an obvious Big Statement, the lack of cohesion was disappointing. Perhaps, because of the graphic scoring, another performance might be altogether different. Those dinosaurs needed waking up a little.
If you dare, bring a stick and poke them.
Tom James Scott
Lauren Redhead. composer of Entoptic Landscape
Gail Brand. trumpeter
ORE 2 tuba players who, when left to themselves ,turn to drone