Concert Review

Alan Cooper, October 25, 2011

The Atrium is a fantastic venue for certain kinds of music and electroacoustic performance definitely gains something extra special from the sheer vastness of its acoustic. Surprisingly, this entailed little or no loss of clarity or precision in the diffusion of the sounds.

Tuesday night’s performance for University Music in association with Sound was more than just a concert however. It was the occasion of a launch of a new CD of music by Pete Stollery and a surround sound DVD-Audio by Adrian Moore. These two releases are published by the Montréal-based label empreintes DIGITALes.

Electroacoustic music is a relatively new artistic endeavour and in listening to the works of new composers in the genre I am constantly amazed by the sheer variety of technical, musical, artistic and imaginative approaches to the genre. In certain respects the three pieces we heard by Adrian Moore and the two pieces by Pete Stollery approach the medium from radically different directions.

Adrian Moore’s compositions started with piano, violin or horns as sources and then moulded and transformed them into a whole mind-expanding new world of sound. His three pieces taken together were on a symphonic scale and the sounds of piano, violin and horns blossomed into a magnificent musical sound garden. Above all, his pieces were richly musical in their inspiration.

Pete Stollery two pieces come at the enterprise from a quite different direction. In his first piece Still Voices especially, he is acting partly as a preserver and curator of sounds in North East Scotland particularly those that are about to disappear because for instance their source is to be destroyed. In his second piece, scènes, rendez-vous which has become a kind of classic of its type, his sources are recorded direct from points in the streets of Paris along which the cinéaste Claude Lelouch drove his sports car during the making of his film short C’était un rendez-vous (definitely worth a look on YouTube if you have not seen it).

Thus if Adrian Moore takes a musical source and expands it out into a world of sound, Stollery starts with sounds throughout the world and moulds them into music. In both his pieces there are moments of recorded sound which are specific to a certain place or event but his work is not merely a series of these at random, the artistry comes first from the way in which these are arranged in order and then when these basic sound sequences are magically transmuted into musical creations that live in the realm of pure imagination.

I particularly love the sequence where the sounds of a French ambulance siren becomes like a huge organ cord or traffic passing over a grille on the road becomes almost like pizzicato strings.

I have heard scènes, rendez-vous in several venues, the Mitchell Hall, the Belmont Cinema, the Left Bank in Tarland and now in the Atrium. It has always been subtly different. This is partly because of the radically different venues, but also because Pete diffuses the sounds differently each time which gives electroacoustic performance the same immediacy and individuality as any live performance.

… I am constantly amazed by the sheer variety of technical, musical, artistic and imaginative approaches to the genre.