Give 'em a spin

From the Daily Telegraph

Watch out London sinfonietta and Nash ensemble - there's a new kid on the block.

Actually the Nash was founded in 1964 ie 46 years ago and the Sinfonietta in 1968 - hardly kids - but anyway...

It´s the London Contemporary Orchestra, young, keen as mustard, and able to field extravagantly large numbers of players to tackle determinedly left field programmes with a bit of help from Facebook and Twitter, which facilitated a last minute appeal for extra players for John Cage´s last piece 74, which needs 74 players.

I always knew someone would find a really worthwhile use for Twitter one day.

The smiling musical anarchist Cage died in 1992 which I imagine is before some of those players on the Roundhouse stage were born. The audience seemed much the same.

During the years I spent as an orchestral musician I imagine that many players in those orchestras also hadn't even been born when the composer died, especially when playing Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Hadyn...

So what drew them in such amazing numbers?

Actually did you know 73939133 is a REALLY amazing number, it´s a prime number and if you keep chopping the end digit off you still get prime numbers,7393913,739391 etc...right down to 7. Amazing.

The ambience of the roundhouse certainly helps, with it's screens above with close up views of the players, and the whole domed space swimming in psychedelic red and blue light.
But it was surely the programme that worked the magic. It was a brilliantly contrived mix that delivered coolness, daring experimentalism, classic high seriousness, and cosmic spiritualism, all at once. The spiritual bit came first -

You just said they all came at once.

- in the form of 'shhoctavoski' by Geir Jenssen, the Norwegian creator of "arctic ambient".
Cage's 74, here given it's British premiere, was a gently unfolding pattern of overlapping sounds, often surprisingly euphonious.

Well he was a smiling anarchist...

John Cage

But the piece that really made me sit up and take notice was Shiva Feshareki´s 'TTKonzert' for turntables, saxophone quartet, and orchestra. Just to see Feshareki dart from one turntable to the next, brandishing and spinning her vinyl discs, all under the alert eye and hand of conductor Hugh Brunt was a treat in itself.

Er.. I'm not sure what sort of image that conjures up. (psst!- roll over the baton)

Moving swiftly on ...

But the sounds she produced, and their interaction with the orchestra´s music - alternately dancing and poised in a trance - were fascinating, and full of an urgency one hears all too rarely in new music.

I urgently need to visit the bathroom...