Friday, March 27, 2009

Ambient musings on the Ulster Hall lunchtime recital

It was nice to get inside the renovated and recently reopened Ulster Hall at lunchtime for one of the final fringe events.

The phrase "lunchtime recital" conjures up a mental image of musicians in black clothes performing in front of an earnest audience - some of whom will be wishing they'd had something to eat before it started, the rest regretting the indigestion that follows having eaten so quickly.

Lunchtime recital on the fringe - Ulster Hall

Although the reality of today's lunchtime recital involved musicians, black clothes and an earnest audience, it was quite different to anything I'd expected.

The music came out of a "collaboration between ... classical musician[s] and one of top Belfast electronic artists. Each ... will compose and perform a new piece together."

Ciarán Maher (piano) playing at a lunchtime recital in the Ulster Hall

And so it came to be that Ciarán Maher sat at the piano (with his iPhone perched like a music manuscript) and kicked off the performance by playing discordant chords and riffs over a subtle ambient background provided by Barry and his Electronic Electric Workshop.

Playing an electric guitar with a battery operated fan mounted on a retort stand

After a while a battery operated fan (with string replacing the fan blades) mounted on a retort stand was switched on and Barry took the lead in the melody making.

And later, Gráinne Maher closed her eyes and hummed, oohed and aahed into the mic, and sang with herself and over the tinkling, gurgling and mechanical strumming coming from Barry's toy chest of noise sound.

Playing an electric guitar with a battery operated fan mounted on a retort stand

Near the beginning a delightful young girl elegantly wandered across the room in front of the performers, twirling around as she meandered from side to side. In my head I knew she wasn't part of the performance, yet in my heart I saw her action as part of the overall effect.

I'm being harsh - in fact, I'm being slightly ignorant - as I'm new to the ambient scene, and in fact I think I'll never be in the ambient scene.

Slouching on the bean bags at a lunchtime recital in the Ulster Hall

It might be cruel to remark that the (male) beard count was high in the audience. People lay back on bean bags in the front row, sat forward in their seats around tables, or leant against the bar at the back of the space. Many drank beer, which on reflection may have helped them enjoy the mellow mood music and certainly would have stopped them asking themselves questions beginning with what and why! Others stared at their phones or typed on their Blackberries.

I was out of my depth, though in no way out of my comfort zone. The Group Space in the Ulster Hall with its bright clean lines, and a great view out its windows of old architecture on the other side of the road, provided a tranquil and undemanding venue and a refreshing space in the middle of a manic week.

As regular readers of AiB will know by now, just because one person's art is another's torture isn't a good enough reason for me to be down on something. So I enjoyed it ... even if I didn't quite appreciate what was going on!

Fringe lunchtime recital at the Ulster Hall

So thanks to Adam for all his hard work pulling together the Ulster Hall reopening fringe events, and a quick reminder that it's not too late to call into the Adult Electronic Crèche on Saturday afternoon at 2pm for some downtime, free wifi and a turn on the Wii, or pop in at the same time to make the case for your favourite Northern Ireland musical icon ("person, place or thing") at AntIcon.

"What makes a speech powerful enough to inspire hope, rebellion, or even terror? Is it the words or the speaker, or simply a case of being in the right place in the right time? Can a speech work taken out of its original context? Over four Sundays, a number of anti-establishment speeches from history will be performed as an experiment to find out why some words may have changed history… and not always for the better. Every sermon will also feature different musical guests."

Sunday evening sees the last event of the fringe with Che Cuevara's speech performed alongside music from Tin Pot Operation. Will his words ring true in 2009's Northern Ireland setting?

“We would like to see this assembly shake itself out of complacency…” (speech to the UN, 1964)


Andy said...

Hah, I know almost everyone in the front row - and mind yourself when it comes to slagging off beards!

Alan in Belfast said...

I was seriously underpowered in the facial hair department! Maybe that explains my lack of musical appreciation ... but I'm glad I went.

trading computers said...

ahh...recording...looks like a fun time...