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The Riot Ensemble

The Riot Ensemble

September 25, 2021

Aaron Holloway-Nahum, conductor

The Riot Ensemble


Aaron Holloway-Nahum, conductor
Kate Elizabeth Lester, flute
Ausiàs Garrigós Morant, bass clarinette
Philip Haworth, oboe
Fraser Tannock, trumpet
Andrew Connington, trombone
Nick Ireson, tuba
Sarah Saviet, violin
Stephen Upshaw, viola
Louise McMonagle, cello
Marianne Schofield, double bass
Claudia Maria Racovicean, piano
Samuel Willson, percussion

Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (2018) Liza Lim (1966) 40’       

Gran Hotel Abismo (2021) Claudia Cañamero (1995) 10’ (comissioned by IVC)

It is a wonder and a horror of our age that the songs of extinction will be reserved. Go online and we can find – in digital form and always, forever – the sounds of species that no longer exist. Songs heard and conserved in alien landscapes, looped and replayed until ... when? Google the Hawai’ian Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō bird and you can hear its curving, circling song. But this bird was the last of its species: it died three decades ago.

Late in the day, humanity is realising the harm its relentless drive to acquire, occupy and consume is doing to a habitable planet. In its first movement, ‘Anthropogenic debris’, Liza Lim’s Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus sets the tone of ecological crisis. The debris in question is the vast collections of plastic that have ended up in the world’s oceans and have been gathered by circulatory currents (known as gyres) into giant, swirling patches of rubbish and pollutants. As they turn, plastic is drawn into them and then ground into smaller and more dangerous particles – which themselves pose an existential threat to life on Earth. As well as a large sheet of cellophane that is absorbed into its percussion section, Lim’s piece is full of representations of looping and turning, as well as degradation and loss: she transcribes the song of the Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō; recycles a violin solo of her own, based on tracings of a ninth-century Chinese star map; and inserts allusions to historical music, in the form of bars from Leoš Janáček’s late- Romantic piano piece On an Overgrown Path. All of them represent forms of extinction. The star map predates Western astronomy by five hundred years, but its achievement has been erased by history. The Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō’s mating call will never be answered. The Janáček, warped almost beyond recognition in Lim’s piece, was described by its composer as comprising reminiscences ‘so dear to me that I do not think they will ever vanish’.

Circulation also entails slippage: as debris loops back, it recalls both the past and its present. Slippages occur on every level, whether the timbres of brass instruments playing unstable half-valve sounds (as in the opening duo between horn and trumpet), or the larger-scale slippage of identity in the fourth movement, in which a solo violin attempts to ‘teach’ or transmit her music to a percussionist playing a rudimentary string drum.

The last movement is based on another real – and extraordinary – singing phenomenon: the ‘dawn chorus’ of coral reef fish that takes place in the changing light of morning. Lim recreates this mass of clicking, rasping percussive sounds through the sound of Waldteufels (small string drums) and windwands being swirled in the air – an effect that is as visual and tactile as it is sonic. Plastic returns, in the form of a one-metre tube that extends the range of a contrabassoon theoretically below the edge of human hearing. And so the final song is one that we can no longer know nor understand, pointing to a future perhaps no longer meant for us.

Talking about the Frankfurt School, Lukács said to Adorno, “You’re staying at the Grand Hotel Abyss”, referring to their lifestyle full of comforts while they criticised a capitalist world on the brink of collapse. The constant feeling that something is about to break makes us contemplate the past as an apparently safe, linear place with a direction. We look to the future with mistrust; we can hardly see it and imagine it, so that it appears distorted. The present becomes absurd and we are paralysed with fear when it is time to take action, creating voids and uncertainty. In the same way that Benjamin looked at time as constellations, we can recover that vision in order to understand the current situation and search for an engine for change.


09/25/2021  19:30hAuditori and Palau de Congressos in CastellónConcerts '21

Precios: 6 €

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