Saturday night I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the Multi-Story Orchestra perform Grisey Les Espaces Acoustiques, in a Multi-Story Car park in Peckham. Not the first place you would think to listen to an orchestra.. given there is no acoustic treatment what-so-ever, in fact being an entirely concrete space, the sound should bounce around from floor to ceiling to pillar and back again before it hits your eardrums. However, it didn’t seem to be a problem, and in fact, it actually added to the piece performed.
Let me set the scene a little bit… we are seated on plastic chairs (the kind you used to sit on at school), on the second highest level of the multi-story car park. From the street you can hear a baby crying, and some pop music playing from someone’s car. The first act of this 3 part piece is performed entirely by the solo violinist. It went for 18 minutes. She repeated the same melodic formula, changing ever so slightly as the piece built. Interestingly, as she performed her piece, sections of it were so subtle you could hear an overground train thundering by, it was very prominent, but didn’t distract her from playing. After eighteen minutes, she walked over to her seat – still playing! – and joined in with all the other strings in a cacophony of sound, which in turn sounded much like the train we heard pass by a short time earlier. As the piece went on it added in more instruments, trombones were added, with the aid of tin foil around the mute. This turned it’s usually clear crisp sound into a muffled noise that added an eerie touch to the whole piece.
The whole performance only lasted one hour, but it was so unusual with so much to listen to it felt like it went for a lot longer. It seemed to be a soundtrack piece, something that could accompany something else, certainly something visual. It also seemed to be a bit of an urban soundtrack, with the instruments being used in a non-traditional way of making noise and different sounds. The flutes added a different mouthpiece to their instruments which resulted in this chorus of bird songs, which when mixed with the eeriness of the brass section, created a rather interesting soundscape. Grisey described his work as “made with sounds, not with notes”, a very accurate description of the work I saw. It was something completely different from anything I have ever experienced before.
They are performing all throughout August and September.. see what’s coming up here
Here’s a little bit more about what Multi-Story Orchestra do for the community…