Saturday, June 28, 2008
Last night went to hear (and see) The Life and works of Daphne Oram at the Purcell Rooms. Oram is a little like Delia Derbyshire’s maiden aunt; older, rather primmer in appearance and voice.
Things kicked off with Snow the Geoff Jones film for which Daphne did the soundtrack. Snow deserves the term “classic” a masterpiece of cross cutting and on the beat edits of locomotives pitted against the winter elements all set to Daphne’s slowed down and treated version of a Sandy Nelson number. The lights were then dimmed for the playback of a number of Daphne’s works. This was altogether quite odd; after the screening of Snow this was very much music with the picture turned down as we were now as an audience in a cinematic mode of reception. Surprisingly it was actually highly effective. There was no sense of feeling cheated that we were just listening to a playback with no one on stage even pretending to tweak the EQ or stare at a MacBook. It created a perfect space for concentration and the space for visualisation was left purposefully empty.
The music itself was quite a revelation. The Oramics CD released last year suggested Daphne’s music to be more of historical interest than delivering actual musical pleasure but hearing Four Aspects, Episode Metallic and Pulse Persephone (which are included on the CD) in this context made one aware of just how subtle the works are. The CD mixed such pieces in with some of Daphne’s more commercial work; electronic jingles for power tools and so on and left one with a feeling of quirkiness without substance. This notion was quite dispelled by this playback.
Perhaps less mesmerising was From One to Another for viola and tape. This reminded me of those rather worthy pieces one used to sit through at St John Smith Sqaure which combined tapes with a classically trained musician’s bowing. Things were to go further downhill though for there followed a 30-minute live remix in which a selection of tired beats and buzzes were overlaid with samples of Daphne's music, which seemed to bare little resemblance to anything Daphne originally recorded. Accompanying this was some basic video manipulation that did little to enhance the music. Many of the audience left for the refuge of the bar.
The evening rounded off with another Geoff Jones film Trinidad and Tobago; a documentary funded by BP that avoided using an overbearing commentary but just combines beautiful footage with an Oram soundtrack. The film helped to restore the mood somewhat and sent us off into the night.