…perhaps best summarized as an opera aria for cello, entangling a dramatic theatricality and an erotic intimacy between instrument and performer(s). — a striking image about music and our acoustical relationship to it through the innateness of deeply felt rhythmic vibration, elucidating our permanent entanglements with such deeply intimate musical experiences…
This past Friday night was a truly special one for Calgary’s new music community and a milestone for the city’s arts community as a whole. Land’s End Ensemble hosted internationally-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie its 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University, in a wrap-up recital of epic proportions capping off the new hall’s exciting début series.
The sold-out concert was the month’s hottest ticket in town, featuring percussion-themed premieres of no less than six new compositions specially written for Glennie by Allan Gordon Bell, Luna Pearl Woolf, Omar Daniel, Derek Charke and Vincent Ho, the ensemble’s artistic director and concert curator.
But truly it was her musicianship that spoke loudest. Glennie’s unstinting preparation gave testimony to an interpretive maturity and professionalism we can only hope to see more and more often by other distinguished future invitees to the Bella. What’s more, Land’s End played unceasingly well all night, and often with cellist Beth Root Sandvoss stealing the show.
Luna Pearl Woolf’s Entanglement was inspired by [the composer’s own] Mélange à Trois, an instrumental theatre work that featured percussionist Krystina Marcoux who used the body of a cello for her instrument. Here the premise is smartly transformed into a piece listed as a cello and percussion duo. However, the work is really a cello solo work overlaid, quite literally, by Glennie’s arms appearing to percuss the instrument while she hunches behind Sandvoss who bows the same instrument. While the cello is bowed by one player and struck and caressed by the other, it appears that Sandvoss suddenly is using four arms to play, giving the instrument a sensual quality, perhaps best summarized as an opera aria for cello, entangling a dramatic theatricality and an erotic intimacy between instrument and performer(s).
Woolf seems to have carefully considered the relationship of physicality to the performers’ bodies, for example their height, physical performance characteristics and their physical relationship with the instrument. Set in shards of imitative Bach cello suite fragments, and buttressed with non-tonal impressionistic properties, both percussive or spectral, the discontinuous narrative was something to be experienced, and far less so to be analyzed. Entanglement summarized well our own semi-conscious relationships with bodies as sonic conveyors, whether it be our own body relating to another person, or how we relate resonantly to the unique acoustic nature of each instrument we encounter, as though each instrument were equivalent in vibrancy to a person’s body. A telling moment came when Glennie picked up a spare cello lying on stage, percussed it as duo partner while Sandvoss bowed her own cello, relating one acoustical body to another albeit in a fresh yet unconventional manner.
In the end, however, it was when Sandvoss, at the conclusion of a very good performance, was caressed too by Glennie, as though cello and performer had become one and the same body. Here, the work best conferred the idea that Glennie was Geist to both cello and performer — a striking image about music and our acoustical relationship to it through the innateness of deeply felt rhythmic vibration, elucidating our permanent entanglements with such deeply intimate musical experiences, an important recurring theme throughout the percussion recital. Very enjoyable, and the perfect piece to introduce Glennie onstage after Bell’s sublime Markings for piano trio.
It might be stated that Entanglement, with its interesting Bach-like memes serving as musical groundwork, might certainly be re-worked into multiple directions. My guess is that there is more artistic room to grow this idea into a series of acoustical/bodily creations that would yield tremendous promise for a whole collection of pieces — perhaps a series of six “entanglement suites” — making use of many different kinds of instrument relationships.