The First Collision

 

If Dido and Aeneas is not for you then fear not, for Tuesday 27th November also sees the premiere performance of Oxford’s newest contemporary music group, The Collision Ensemble. Formed from experienced performers and composers, the programme for ‘The First Collision’ embraces various different art forms including music and poetry with a variety of inspirational sources. The ensemble describe themselves as “a space for the new and experimental, welcoming thought-provoking soundscapes”, and the pieces selected certainly aim to rise to this challenge; Samuel Carbonero’s work Chimera for piano and backing track is described as “A piano regarding its distorted reflections”. Chimera, as well as links to some of Carbonero’s other work, can be heard here. The relationship between the performer and their instrument is being constantly renegotiated; although all the sounds on the backing track were initially made by a piano, we hear them in a warped and altered form. Samuel says that these noises which are not usually possible for a piano to make “are put together in a mirror structure, in that the piece is symmetrical around the ‘Mirror’s Edge’ at the centre, and includes mirror chords around middle C. The piano line and the backing track are in a close dialogue; they are designed to match each other most of the time. Yet in a way, the piano has control of the pianist. It has an element of coercion in that the pianist is made to follow the fast backing track, even as their performance is abstracted by it.”

The Collision will also include poetry by Tom Clucas and Annemari Ferreira, alongside music by David John Roche, Isabel Stoppani de Berrié, Athena Corcoran-Tadd and Maria Kalinopää (who will also be reading some of her poetry). Maria reveals that John Cage was a significant influence upon her piece Raindrops: “It got its compositional idea from an anecdote about Cage; someone asked why his music has no form, to which Cage replied that his music is a process, like the weather. That is why my work is called Raindrops; also the rain can be seen as a process.” Por la Ultima, a piano work for only the left hand composed in 2006, has connotations with Ravel, Prokofiev, and Scriabin who all wrote piano concertos for the left hand. The pianist behind this composition’s commission is Izumi Tateno who lost the use of his right hand following a stroke. Maria says that “The work is very challenging and virtuosic; the music relies strongly on pedal effects (especially by applying the sustain pedal), in order to give an impression of variety of registers and timbres. Harmonically the composition is divided in two parts, the first one being rather dissonant whereas the second half is merely of a consonant nature. At the end these two ideas try to approach each other, but their worlds are too far apart, the two opposite poles can never reach each other.”

This Collision should prove a fascinating insight into the work that is currently being produced both at the university and elsewhere. If you’ve ever wondered what Neuralgia sounds like, then tomorrow might be your chance to find out.

Leah Broad

The First Collision is at Mansfield College Chapel on Tuesday 27th November at 20.30 with free entrance; for more information about the ensemble contact baixi.li@music.ox.ac.uk or visit their Facebook page

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