qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds

Last night we went to see the Michael Nyman Band at the Barbican. It's a few years since I've been there but not much has changed. In the balcony, pairs of red LEDs staring towards us from the lighting deck did make me think we were being watched by the Sand People.

It's the fortieth anniversary of the group and the concert was something of a retrospective. Many of the works were definitely familiar, some tentatively so, and others new to me. The main part of the concert was presented with works ordered chronologically, from 1976 to the present day. I felt that soprano Marie Angel didn't come over as clearly as Lucy Skeaping in the original recording of Bird List Song (here with added educational value); it's difficult to balance classical human voice with acoustic and amplified instruments, though the overall craziness was there. There were two numbers from The Draughtsman's Contract, probably one of the more well-known works in the concert. In particular, during Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds it struck me quite how much energy the performers were putting in. In some sense, the music is simple, being minimal and repetitive; but it certainly requires stamina. Nyman nonchalantly, and almost comically, discarded scores onto the floor as we progressed.

Some of the pieces were accompanied by short films or excerpts - Fish Beach, Knowing the Ropes, and NYman with a Movie Camera, for example. Angel had more work to do in the second half, particularly when Nyman turned to the dark side with two selections from his Celan Songs. There was definitely more music than listed in the programme, and the first of two encores was a Nyman solo, from The Piano. As such we finished a bit later than I'd hoped but all things considered we had reasonable luck with the tube and train back.
Tags: music
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