Joby Burgess

The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
15th March 2016

Review by Joe Coventry

Beating His Own Drum And Much More Besides

When Joby Burgess appeared at Lancaster University recently he played to a packed house and, with expectations running high, must have thought that a lot of percussionist fans would await him at the Capstone tonight. Unfortunately he came onto the stage to only a smattering of a crowd to front an array of instruments of such diversity, size and shape that the soundman confided in me it had taken him since midday to prepare.

As part of this solo Pioneers of Percussion concert, he opened with his and Matthew Fairclough's jointly composed piece, Carbon Copy for Berimbau. This Brazilian instrument looks simple to play but 'the gourd on a stick', with it's one metal string, produced some weird tones and reverberations dependent on it's orientation and closeness to the body, and how and where the wooden stick (baqueta) was drawn across it.

Rebecca Dale's Can't Sleep was the first of three world premiere works tonight. It showcased real-time vibraphone mallet dexterity over dubbed loop reverb, all slide and bell trembling. Add intense wah-wah pedal and a violin bow caressing the edges of the metal strips and you get the picture.

The second and third, immediately after the interval, by Nicole Lizee and Linda Buckley were very different. The Filthy Fifteen was accompanied by a video backdrop of staccato rapidly repeated sound bites of do-gooding busybodies in the act of censoring, in Frank Zappa's voice over, popular cultural icons, mores and behaviour. Burgess played along on keyboard. Buckley's piece was introduced as 'Eno meets Bjork'. Exstasis invoked Icelandic reverie inducing cycles of sound and feedback from the player on more bow insertions through vibes.

Morton Feldman's the King Of Denmark was over six minutes of comatose mote like nothingness; randomised playing of various timpani, vibes, gongs, plastic bottle tops, symbols, chimes and a struck nail to finish. It required great agility and improvisation on Burgess's part to perform this disjointed aggregated menage of sounds and silences.

A long first half continued with Arvo Part's Fratres for aluminium harp stroked by powdered rosin dried hands. This enabled the racks of varying length tubes to be stroked tantric style to produce the ethereal lingering parcels of sound, tintinnabuli, for which the composer is famous.

Finally a huge work for six groups of instruments( wood, skin and metal), by Iannis Xenakis, Psappha (Sappho), the Greek poetess from Lesbos. Burgess thinks this is the equivalent of his favourite Brahms Symphony, for his own discipline.

Whatever, it's 13 minutes of brutally exacting participation for the performer and listener alike. Mirroring her poems ,the work extends through discrete parcels of noise to vast overarching mathematically structured sounds from the first bongo blast in: only a kitchen sink was missing in the hypnotic interplay of crashing clashes of tempo and timbre, building to a massive drum roll and symbol finale.

There was still a complete set of unused instruments taking up a fifth of the stage. Now in a final flourish the remarkably composed and tireless Burgess came to Toro Takemitsu's 16 minute opus, The Seasons. He showed incredible finesse, from hand striking a suspended steel wall to rattling dice in a glass, then maracas and beating upside down kitchen pans before a rumbling crescendo of gongs. everything was utilised including some gentile 'Avon Lady' door chimes as he covered the stretched floor space at the extremes of reach and touch to bring an incredible journey in space and time to an end. He needed arms like legs by the J. Arthur Rank deafening conclusion.

Quietly spoken and very much the accomplished article, his 'work' as he calls it, has made him famous across the continent and beyond. This was a rare opportunity to see such bravura playing of the old and the new in the repertoire and was sadly ignored, even by short attention span spectators who preferred their i-phones to live entertainment.

As for Burgess his future looks rosy as Liverpool again let the efforts of the Capstone team down as they seek out artists at the cusp of artistic enterprise.

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed