Sounds of the New, a New Dots Concert

Sounds of the New was the first classical music concert I’d been to in several years, my usual concerts involve obscure indie bands, small dark pubs and lots of loud guitars.  Classical music scares me slightly because it seems so complex and formal, but I decided it was time to broaden my musical horizons and try something new and innovative.  Where better to start than with a sold out evening promising innovation in modern classical music?  The Forge as a venue was welcoming, it was an intimate size, I felt relaxed, and I could see and hear everything from my seat on the balcony.  I liked being able to see not just the performers on stage, but most of the rest of the audience and their responses to the music.  The evening opened with Patrick John Jones’ ‘Meet, Lock & Race’ which moved from racing bursts of sound to quieter long notes.  I was focused on the harpist because I’d never seen a harp in action before, and marvelled at how beautiful an instrument it is.  The second piece ‘Gamma’ by Christopher To mixed in some unusual sounds made by the musicians tapping their fingers against the instruments.  ‘Patina’ by Nick Morrish Rarity began and ended with long quiet ‘cello notes, I liked this quiet calm before the other performers joined in.
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In the middle of the performances we were treated to a short film by Patrick Hallett-Morley, a behind the scenes of the workshop held for the composers and Octandre Ensemble to work through the compositions.  It felt like I was getting a backstage pass, seeing how the pieces change through the collaboration process.  I liked knowing that the conductor Jon Hargreaves discusses the compositions with each composer before they are played, and that the ensemble members feel comfortable making suggestions for amendments.  It was lovely to hear the composers and musicians bouncing ideas off each other, and see the negotiation between composer and performer to realise the final version.  The on stage discussion with some of the composers after the film really interested me, in particular Maxim Boon and the challenges long term illness brought to his life.
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Max spoke of his return to composing after a long break as therapy, which resonated with me as I’ve struggled with similar issues.  I found Max’s piece ‘Sailing Stones’ the most experimental of the evening.  Interspersed in the notes were sighs, whispers and even whistling, a true reflection of both his physical being and emotions at the time.  Sam Messer’s ‘Duo Music’ was a lovely duet for violin and ‘cello, and was more traditional than the other pieces.  I enjoyed watching the violinist and cellist interact with each other in the rhythms of this piece.  During the final piece by William Cheshire I was captivated by the movements of the ensemble as they played their instruments, and the decisive movements of conductor Jon.
Sounds of the New surprised me, I found myself utterly immersed in the atmosphere, not knowing where the music would take me next.  I was impressed by Octandre Ensemble’s elegant movements of their instruments, and obvious enthusiasm for performing.  The whole concept of collaboration and building connections for professional development, as well as creating long-lasting partnerships works for any industry, and is particularly exciting in a musical context.  I loved the insight into the interaction between composer and performers, and I felt the evening removed any barriers I felt about attending classical music performances.  I’ll be at the next New Dots concert.. if I can get tickets fast enough!
Keep up to date with New Dots events and find out more at http://www.newdots.org.uk/
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