(Post title via Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake)
We were lucky to attend Philip Glass Ensemble’s performance of Music in Twelve Parts at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday the 9th, as part of the ‘The Rest is Noise’ series of concerts.
We were located in the balcony, say, three quarters of the way up the stairs, in row G.
There was trepidation. Music in Twelve Parts is 4 hours long, and we were far away from the stage, we could see the performers there, and their most blatant movements: When they changed from flute to saxophone, the soprano drinking from her bottle of water, gesticulations at the sound engineer, Philip Glass head-banging through the holographic vortex of the music.
We could see those things, and the dance of the fingers over the keyboards, but no more.
The reason for our trepidation: Would we be able to remain concentrated on the performance within this improvised isolation chamber we had locked ourselves in, once the causal link between human actions and musical outcomes was severed?
You bet we could, buster.
We were alone with the sound, for four hours, us alone with the sound, and it was so awesome. We probably haven’t tripped so much without drugs since we were 9 and we would spin around wild to turn the world into a blur.
We were overwhelmed by the complex adaptive system generated in the elementary crucible of these musical instruments; ocean storm history model spell.
We saw mankind and its technological spawn enter conflict and reach eventual synthesis, we heard mice scurrying away after taking a sneaky bite from the big cheese-ball of Knowledge. We felt invisible hands peeling layers from the surface of the universe, revealing colossal shapes like monsters from The Beyond but benign, and matte.
In the last movement, the changes in tempo and tone rendered a 3D environment around us, think Portal but with reality made sound jumping through you, instead of the other way around (another apt metaphor are the spirits of the dead traversing Conan The Barbarian after his time in the Tree of Woe). It was beautiful, and bewildering, and as we think about it we have flashbacks about it.
We have decided against posting that last movement, because we’d rather you arrived at it with the enhanced sense of perception that comes from the hallucinated ascension through the paths set by other parts (having said this, Music in Twelve Parts is a modular composition and can be played in different orders).
Do it in the dark, and hear sound turn into light.
Philip Glass Ensemble –Music In Twelve Parts – Third Part
You can buy Music in Twelve Parts from iTunes.