Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I like to think my musical taste is eclectic but I am frequently reminded how narrow it is ("this ALL sounds the same"). So occasionally it is good to go off the beaten track. Like tonight with The Bays:

They don’t make records. They don’t rehearse or prepare their entirely improvised live performances. Their music ranges from ambient electronica to thundering drum ‘n’ bass, touching all points in between. In keeping with this philosophy of uncompromising evolution, The Bays have devised a unique system combining computer software and old-fashioned human communication to incorporate an orchestral ensemble. With The Heritage Orchestra, and a team of guest composers, The Bays will combine live electronica and classical ensemble playing in an entirely improvised performance for this innovative show.

So in addition to the 4 piece improv outfit at the rear of the stage, there was the Heritage Orchestra, a 14 classical ensemble on the forestage, and in between both 2 composers (John Metcalfe and Simon Head) who wrote all the pieces for the orchestra live. These scores were then beamed to flat-screen monitors on music stands in front of the musicians, all held together by the conductor. Just about.

Plus there was the unsung hero of the evening - the person responsible for the live video mixing of images across three large screens which formed a back-drop to it all (every spare space on stage seemed to have a video camera taped to it and pointing at a musician).

It's difficult to convey what this was really like musically - live electronica and classical ensemble does cover it but doesn't get close - but you had no doubt that was 'an event'. The smiles, grimaces and bemusement on the faces of the string and woodwind players and the occasional frantic dash between the conductor and the two composers all showed on this was truly happening in the moment.

It was difficult to know who was leading who: the band or the ensemble? The conductor or the composers? And there were times when the music started to become a sludgey mess but then there were others, the majority, when it soared. The final section which started slowly with repeated sections of churning strings then built into a spacey, pulsating groove overlaid with flute, brass and strings had the seated audience literally rocking their rows. The finish was greeted with a tumultuous standing ovation. The audience wanted more. Most of the musicians just looked relieved.

Remaining tour dates are here.

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