Strange as it may seem, multimedia music about mysterious and paranormal phenomena is a mini-trend in Glasgow at the moment. The Glasgow New Music Expedition’s latest concert, ‘Intersections,’ which paired together local composers and artists (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow School of Art graduates, respectively), was bookended by such pieces: Nostos by Matt Zurowski and James Dixon, about the tragic sinking of the fishing boat Antares in the Firth of Clyde in 1990; and A Prophecy from a Dying Star by Jay Capperauld and Julian Tolhurst, inspired by the conspiracy theories around supposed audio recordings of several doomed Soviet missions into space years before Yuri Gagarin.
Both compositions were rather similar in content and structure: dense textures in the instrumental writing combined with a soundscape of crackly old radio broadcasts and muffled indistinct voices from long ago. In the past year Capperauld has worked on a series of pieces which aim to explore belief systems and superstition, but this time, especially with the addition of Tolhurst’s over-zealous spoken-word poetry, the result fell a little flat. The nuanced sound-sculpting and freer notational strategies employed by Zurowski and Dixon, on the other hand, really helped to bring their deep-sea journey to life.
The other new compositions on offer were a pleasing mix. Kr?he was an enjoyably absurd piece which alternated between GNME Co-founder Richard Greer’s gently melodic post-post-minimalism and Rhona Muhlebach’s filmed selfies with crows and her fantastic bird-like squawks.Doors by Euan Ferguson and Chloe Reid comprised, unsurprisingly, clip after clip of doors opening, accompanied by pulsing rhythmic trickery in the ensemble.
Common Complaints by Claire McCue and Jennifer Mason was a finely constructed slice of audio-visual comedy, with Mason’s video of morph-suited actors playing out bodily processes closely mirrored in McCue’s pastiche-laden score to hilarious effect. 82 Degrees East by Beki Smith and Olga Kaliszer may have been the most obvious work in the programme, but its bold palindromic form and extreme clarity was matched elegantly with a simple film of a lit tower block at night.
Founded last year by Greer and conductor Jessica Cottis, The Glasgow New Music Expedition have proved to be an imaginative and extremely well-honed group of musicians. These are early days, so we can expect many exciting creative projects to come.