Friday 5 October 2007

Bill Viola´s Déserts, a new accordion concerto and stewardesses serving snacks...

The white smoke filling the bare white-walled 17th century former naval warehouse slowly lifted as Varese´s Déserts began, with the orchestra initially hidden behind a white curtain. Bill Viola´s images of isolated deserts and underwater images interrupted by an isolated man in a room seems almost ideal to accompany Varese´s music. Purification, redemption, transfiguration seems to be the themes of Viola´s work. Arrestingly beautiful.

Intermezzo included white-clad stewardesses serving wine and tapas to the audience (brilliant idea!)- while deserted cities were projected on the wall.

And then the world premiere of Kent Olofsson accordion concerto - mixing prerecorded electronic sounds played by loud-speaker with those of the symphony orchestra - placed at 5-6 small elevated scenes between the audience. And the accordion score included vocal sounds and drumming on the instrument as well... It is a fascinating piece, the mix of percussion with the characteristic accordion seems a very good match. I had the most fascinating seat in the room - just beside the percussionist, playing on: Old metal sweet boxes, scratching a heavy object on the floor, moving a chord sticking out of a drum ..wonder what his score looked like....

I´d say this was a close-to-ideal set-up for performing contemporary classical works: The mix of century-old buildingc, brand-new music and top-quality visual input.

This concert was part of the Sound Around festival:

Friday 05.10.07
Danish Radio Sinfonietta
Conductor: Christian Eggen
Soloist: James Crabb (accordion)

Edgard Varèse: Déserts with video by Bill Viola
Intermezzo: Transformation by Hans Hansen and 7 students from the School of Archicture
Kent Olofsson: Chladni’s Bow- Physisonochromie III for accordion, orchestra and electronics (2006-07) World Premiere


Unknown said...

I was there too - what a coincidence! I think it was a very interesting set-up the combination of architecture students creating a space with light, smoke and projections, the musicians creating a soundscape and Bill Viola creating a view into another landscape and a "mentalscape". I am a big fan of Viola so I was glad to see this video that I had never watched before. But I'm not sure I think it is among his best and I think it has to do with the music. Normally Viola uses a low rumble as background for his videos. This time specific sounds in the piece was synchronised with events in the video. Like a short, loud sound when a body splashes into a pool of water. Sometimes it worked very well but at other times I felt it at times banalised both the video and the music.
I don't know much about Viola's working with music but I have attended a performance of Tristan & Isolde (my review is here: ) with scenography by Viola and that I think was much more successful than yesterday's piece. Maybe he has been training:-) Déserts is from 1994...

Besides from that I think as you it was a very interesting way to do a concert and would only have liked it to be even more strange and performative!


mostly opera... said...

It was the first video of Bill Viola that I saw, but I´d be very interested to see more of his work..I thought it was quite beautiful, but I agree that Varese´s music may make the experience different if he normally uses a more "background" type of music.
With a little luck his Tristan production will be revived in Paris next year (more on this in a new post).

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