Audience Review: Whitingdales love life is not about business

by John Breslin

The evening of Saturday, April 16th, brought a trip to The Warehouse in Waterloo.

Taking place in a spacious & appropriate studio room with vast quadratic diffusers hanging from the ceiling high above, the concert was made up of new contemporary works being performed by Workers Union Ensemble. Three of the four pieces were part of a project marrying visuals and music entitled Place, with a world premiere from the current writer in residence with the ensemble, Seán Clancy, completing the programme.

Place audience review 1

The first piece, entitled Ethereal : Space, with music composed by Monika Dalach & imagery by Maja A. Ngom, was an ideal primer to a programme of complex, and at times unharmonious, compositions. It was bookended by stark solo piano, with an impressive array of moods and textures in between. Before the audience had a chance to get comfortable with a brief trance inducing avant-jazz motif, one of its perceived members began reading a newspaper aloud. “Whitingdale’s love life is not about business” was heard amongst a stream of headlines & reports, with the reader then standing up to approach the stage slowly & join the rest of the group. A glockenspiel started up just behind the author’s right ear, before also moving slowly to the stage: at once a startling part of the piece and a welcome use of the space between audience and performers that served to bring the two entities closer. The piece continued through mournful cymbal scraping, a breakdown to a chorus of spoken word and a fun polyrhythmic percussive joust with a distinct flow and lack of pretention. The accompanying projected videos depicting eggs, humans & the cosmos worked excellently with the sounds. By the end of the tense final section, the piece had come to an appropriate finish, little attention drawn to the passing of seconds.

The next piece, Seán Clancy’s Seven Lines of Music Slow Down & Eventually Stop, was briefly discussed by the composer. He is clearly enjoying working with this ensemble and had little to offer in the way of abstract introduction. The piece is what it is, and should sound like a machine slowly dying until it winds down to a point where it is only ‘fit for scrap’. The ensemble took a brief warming time with their instruments, which served to offset any tension before launching into a lush melodious landscape that wound and unwound itself around both players & listeners. The six instruments pulsed joyously. A mesmeric vibraphone line seized the attention for the early section, demarked personally by the music played between 152 (at the start of the piece) & roughly 110 BPM. A shift in the double bass line to the spaces between some of the other rhythms eased the mood into one of heightened emotion. Having read the sad news of an old friend’s death earlier in the evening, I had not begun processing it beyond the initial shock and reaction. My thoughts were brought to the incredibly strong & loving person that she was as this profound composition slowed to 100 BPM and lower. A huge empathy swelled from the music and I was carried away by the repetition. Human heart rates range from 100 – 60 BPM. As phrases stretched and relaxed toward the closing 48BPM mark, the corporeal slowing nature of ‘the machine’ referred to in Seán’s introduction had given rise to a feeling of the ideal as it calmed down to a gentle sleep rather than rotting to scrap.

Cartography of Convoluted Spaces, with music composed by Camilo Mendez and imagery composed by Cathy Pyle, was the first of two pieces after the interval that promised to bring a more dissonant tone. The piano was exercised wonderfully with miniature play pots and there were sheets of tin foil being struck & covering brass bells. Silver kitchen pots were scraped as anxiety levels soared. This was a feast of high frequency noise, and with double bass being played through a thunder can! The place occupying the minds of the makers while creating the piece was a huge junkyard near Guilford and beautiful images of the everyday past spun from the rafters at a height just above the heads of the audience. The music settled into a wonderfully eerie soundclash before offering some dissonant respite as the foil stroking drew in the ambient end to a worthwhile collaboration.

The final piece, Junkspace by Nick Morrish Rarity & Richard Davies, offered more chaos to proceedings in its opening two sections. The accompanying projections were jarring and varied, with a standout spooling thread image marrying well with the moans & drones coming from the instruments. The piece settled in to itself as it progressed and had become a densely layered thing by the time the visual pièce de résistance was offered: a spinning bicycle wheel, being bowed to feint & creepy effect. This drew to a close an entirely enjoyable evening of great music & stimulating imagery.