Thursday 8 November 2018

Chamber Music on the Mind

The Ligeti Quartet (photo Kayleigh Allenby)
The Ligeti Quartet (photo Kayleigh Allenby)
We tend to take listening to music for granted, and concert experiences tend to follow a fixed path with no encouragement for audiences to experiment with listening in different ways. In 2017 I attended an event at the Estonian Music Days in Tallinn where audiences were blindfolded and then led through a complex sonic experience, including listening to two world premieres [see my article]. It was a fascinating and intriguing experience, making you think about how the mind listens to music and how much the role of sight plays. 

The Ligeti Quartet is aiming to make us think further about these relationships in their new concert series Chamber Music on the Mind in which they will explore the relationship between music and the brain, encouraging audiences to think about how the brain reacts to music and to listen to music in new ways

For the first concert in the series SENSE, the quartet explores how limiting our senses can change how we experience music, so there is the experience of music in the dark, the challenge of listening to music when suffering from tinnitus and from hearing loss, and the sheer challenge of experiencing string instruments in new ways.

The Ligeti Quartet - Mandhira de Saram (violin), Patrick Dawkins (violin), Richard Jones (viola) and Val Welbanks (cello) - is performing three contrasting and challenging works. Helmut Lachenmann's String Quartet No. 1, ‘Gran Torso’ (1971), Kerry Andrew's tInNiTuS sOnGs (World Premiere) and Georg Friedrich Haas's String Quartet No. 3, ‘In iij Noct’ (2001). The programme debuts at Sheffield University tonight (8/11) and then at Kings Place (10/11) and West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge (13/11).

For Haas' quartet, the audience (and players) are plunged into darkness, it has been described as an extreme listening experience and offers the rare experience of being able to hear music without being able to see.

Kerry Andrew's new work, written for the Ligeti Quartet, tInNiTuS sOnGs explores the anxiety for any composer, hearing loss (something which Smetana explored in his Quartet No. 1 'From my Life' which memorably dramatises the tinnitus that the composer experience).

Kerry Andrews' quartet is written for string quartet and recorded voice, the work offers deeply personal dialogues between the composer and her experience with hearing loss and tinnitus. For Lachenman's quartet, the players have to create a new, tactile approach to their instruments, reducing them simply to wood, metal, string and hair.

Full details from the Ligeti Quartet's website.

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