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2013 Ultima Contemporary Music Festival

John Kelman By

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Lucier's piece takes fragments from the Overture to Beethoven's little-known Consecration of the House Overture, with the orchestra's performance recorded in real time and then, with the orchestra putting its instruments down, replayed a number of times, with each iteration decreasing in volume and feeling as though it was slowly being submerged underwater. After the iterations were completed, Stockhammer—along with, at times, two additional conductors, each taking charge of their own subset of the Radio Orchestra—would introduce a segment of Wallumrød music, easily identifiable stylistically while, at the same time, something completely new for the composer/pianist, who was aslso in the audience for the performance.



Of Wallumrød's work, contrasting sections were sometimes juxtaposed, other times played in concert, combining hard-plucked strings with minimalist-informed passages that were, at times, strongly based in rhythm, other times more ethereal and (at least seemingly) rubato in nature. Delicate arpeggios contrasted with swooping glissandi, creating a constant tension and release that was most effective.

Where the Stockhammer's concept failed was that this mashup of two pieces—especially the recording and playback of orchestral segments from Lucier's piece—began to wear thin after a couple of iterations. By the third and fourth times that Lucier's repeated/submerged fragments were repeated, the concept began to tire; a valiant attempt, perhaps, but it would seem that, on the strength of each piece, they might well have been served better had they been performed separately, to be heard and assessed on their own merits. Soundcloud recordings of Exploration of the House, where there's only one repeat before the orchestra performs the next fragment, seem to work far better, and it would have been more satisfying to hear When celebrities dream of casual sleep (second try) performed as a discrete composition.



September 12: Conexions/Musicity / The Delusion of the Fury / Streifenjunko

Thursday was a busy day. First up was the launch of Musicity in Oslo—not connected with Ultima—a collaboration with Conexions, the series of Norwegian/British pairings now in its second series, curated by Fiona Talkington, a longtime advocate of the Norwegian scene and host of BBC Radio 3's popular Late Junction series. Created by Simon Jordan and Nick Luscombe, Musicity is, as its website explains, "a location-based, curated music platform that explores the intersection of music, place, memory and experience." Prior to Talkington approaching Luscombe and Jordan, Musicity had been launched in London, Tokyo, Singapore, Shimokitazawa and ISETAN. Artists were invited to create music that, through a web-based app that is GPS (Global Positioning System)-sensitive, can be heard only at the specific location, which could be a building, a street corner....anywhere the artist chooses.



The Oslo launch, which took place at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria—newly placed under the direction of Jan Ole Otnæs, who left the Molde Jazz Festival after 13 years with a terrific program this past summer—included a live performance of guitarist Knut Reiersrud's gently positive piece, which was located at the Oslo Domkirke, and a playback of singer/songwriter Susanna Wallumrod's contribution, which could be heard at the corner of Grubbegata and Hammersborg gata, where Anders Behring Breivik launched the initial 2011 bombing that was ultimately a deflection to his real goal—the tragic shooting of 69 youths on the nearby island of Utøya in Tyrifjorden, Buskerud. "This Place" was a powerful, moving and ultimately beautiful piece that, as Susanna described at the press conference, used her voice and body in different ways than her norm; a song about being at a specific location but also finding a mental place in which to go.

British composer Iain Chambers was also on-hand to talk about his piece, written for the Oslo Opera House and in collaboration with Tape-to-Zero Festivals' Kjetil Husebø and Terje Evensen—largely field recordings with the goal of "finding the secret resonance of the building." With Husebø and Evensen giving Chambers secret recordings from areas not normally accessible to the public at the Opera House, the objective of Chambers' piece was to honor his imagining of these secret places.

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