Performances Reviews

Instal09 Review

The Watchful Ear provides detailed reviews of each day of Instal 09.

On Sunday, the final day of the festival, engaging conversation over lunch meant we arrived at The Arches too late to hear Phil Minton’s feral choir performance, and so the first act I caught was Seymour Wright’s solo set. Although I’d only actually seen him play solo three times in the last five years prior to this, Seymour’s music felt very familiar to me. Perhaps this may be because one of my most vivid musical memories from last year was seeing him play live in the audition studio to an audience of just myself and Alastair. You can still hear that show here. Tonight there were at least two hundred people watching, including a small child that gurgled and yelped its way through the first few minutes of his performance. Seymour’s solo live sets are riveting to watch, and as much about chance and the potential for failure as they are about his musical choices. He began by placing one of two clockwork radios into the bell of his saxophone, which he then laid down on the floor in front of his chair with the radio tuned into static, so that just a low, muted roar could be heard coming from the instrument. The radio was only partially wound so that it would run out of energy and stop at some point during the performance. He then placed a couple of handheld electric fans on their ends beside the sax, so that their natural vibrations would cause them to “walk” about the floor, maybe bumping into the instrument and causing a metallic clatter, maybe not. As these events went on by themselves he also took the small mouthpiece of the sax and used it to suck up metal tin lids, so that they snapped firmly against the brass with a shrill rattle. After this series of small interlinked events he took another small motor-driven device of some kind and dropped it onto the body of the sax. It made a loud, sudden series of crashes before going silent as Seymour took to applying one of the handheld fans to the small mouthpiece.

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