Friday, September 29, 2006

behold! The DOLLYman!

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0
Hair day: fringe pinned back Gwen Stefani-style except much less dramatic

Have been absorbing lovely cultural stuff in all colours of the rainbow recently. Buddy Cat and I finally saw the Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate; it was such a unabashed orgy of colours and shapes I felt slightly drunk after about the 3rd roo. Still, it was fascinating to see the progression from charming early Russian folk art-inspired stuff to the later works which boiled down the previously-painted villagescapes to abstract forms. I'd have loved to have seen what came next: the exhibition stopped with 20 years of painting left in the man; that said, I'd have been drooling and giggling on the floor had I been exposed to much more.

Last weekend I jollied up to my second home to grace the premiere of my whopping 'dusksongs: music for Compline' in York Minster. I was soooo pleased with it - with hefty candelabras fatly dripping wax in the reverberant round of Chapter House, it couldn't help but be hauntingly atmospheric, but happily all the notes seemed to work too! It ended up being a major piece, lasting 45 minutes, comprising prayers, hymns, responses etc which mashed up English, Latin, a bit of Scottish Gaelic and a touch of Ancient Greek. Absolutely all credit to Paul Gameson and The Ebor Singers, whose commission granted me a lovely rich summer of writing (like, for money!), and who did an ace job. They'll be recording it next month.

I am now an online reviewer for spnm, meaning I get sent the odd CD to critique and get free tickets to gigs I would like to go to anyway! Reviewing can be a tricky job for someone who is compelled to be nice to everyone at all times even when she doesn't want to due to an over-developed fear of confrontation. So naturally I'm slightly terrified that the artists of the CDs I've written about so far will see the more negative comments and track me down and pummel me to a pleading, take-it-all-back pulp.

Still, it won't be a problem when writing about last night at the Barbican, which over two weeks celebrates the work of just-turning-70 Steve Reich. This inaugural gig forged collaborations between dance and Reich's music, and mostly was fabulously successful. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker showcased two audacious piece based on some of his most hardcore work, the incredibly minimal 'Piano Phase' and 'Violin Phase'. With the adept use of lighting and a screen, the music was inately reflected in the limited, pirouetting gestures of the dancers, who wheeled and spun so frequently I'm amazed they didn't spiral off the stage and into the adoring audience. Less convincing was the new commission by Richard Alston, with ever-changing, mildly playful dancing from a large ensemble; that said, Reich's 'Proverb' seemed a rather dull piece, so no love lost there. Andy joined me in time to see the most visceral, soulful work, by the omnipresent Amran Khan (fresh from collaborations with the likes of Sylvie Guillem and Anthony Gormley). Three lithe, lovely men clad in Kathak-inspired dress danced funkily and energetically all over the stage to a great new work by Reich for vibes, pianos and strings. The sublime moment came when the dancers 'conducted' the music in exaggerated moves and had the real conductor join them; it was so refreshing to see the man at the helm's movements not just as a mad hand-waving to keep time but rather a series of beautiful gestures. The whole piece was completely fantastic, and left me weeping and hopping up and down with excitement.

Phew. I don't have a single night free for the next two weeks what with gigs, juice rehearsals, more Reich-reviewing and gigs, and now rehearsals with newly-formed composer's collective/band DOLLYman. We saw the name scratched into a train window and thought it a hilarious mixture of creepy and cute. Mostly creepy. Of course, I've now discovered that Dollyman is also a Negril-based reggae star. Perhaps people rolling up to our debut gig supporting juice at the Redgate Gallery on October 28th will be rather disappointed to hear avant-jazz/classical/rock played by string bass, basset clarinet and melodica. Ho ho.

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