Distractfold‘s sixth installment featured more new music written in the last decade from around the globe, the highest profile composer whose work was performed being Georges Aperghis with Rasch for violin and viola. Other offerings came from Serbia, Australia, Italy, USA, Ireland and the UK.
In the Aperghis, an initial oscillating motif is held constant to highlight changes between loud and soft, pizzicato and arco, violin and viola, before itself being juxtaposed with linear glissandi. Regular rhythm is then introduced and assimilated into the discourse. The problem I had with this method (as I often do with pieces which start with relatively complicated and fluid writing and seek constant rhythmic subdivisions as a secondary idea), is that imposing a rhythmic base is a weak way to develop a texture already with a high density of information, and indeed I would suggest that gestural variation is a much more powerful tool for development than truncating rhythm. Swapping the ordering of these developments in this piece might have helped it support its trajectory better (saving the best until last, as it were). In addition, it was not until I saw the score afterwards that I realised it was littered with quarter-tones, and I certainly do not think it was the fault of the players (Linda Jankowska and Emma Richards) who captured the spirit of the piece perfectly; the gestures were mostly fast and rarely were there chords presented which gave me (at least) the opportunity to register that the harmony was microtonal. Perhaps this reflects my belief that microtones should be used as “out of tune” entities, but in the case of this piece I felt that the quarter-tones could be mapped to the nearest semitone at little cost to the argument of the work.
The piece in the concert which most impressed me was Milica Djordjevic‘s Fail for ‘cello and electronics, given a dedicated performance by Alice Purton. Partials of the harmonic series derived from the ‘cellist’s bottom E and distortions thereof provide the basis of an electronic commentary. These themes continue throughout the work with an overall trajectory provided by shifting the fundamental to D, then to trills between the D and the E, and then juxtaposing the resulting harmonic field with an overtone series on A (albeit with blurring by electronic distortion).
It was a shame that the audience was as small as it was on the night and I hope the relationships that the ensemble has formed with composers from far afield begin to rectify this. The next concert is a joint effort between Distractfold and the MIVOS Quartet from New York on 31st January and I hope it receives the attention it deserves.