On the weekend that the clocks go forward, a quartet of emerging European composer-curators bring a glorious riot of musical performances to London’s Café Oto. Chamber pieces, homemade instruments, free improv, and tripped-out electronics all collide in a generous, multicoloured statement against statements. Join us at Oto on the 28th and 29th of March for an unruly and irreverent revelling in sounds from the UK, Denmark, Germany and the US.
And as if that all wasn’t enough, London-via-Manchester-by-way-of-Berlin record label and Resonance FM-residents Slip Discs will be playing out tracks from their marvellously diverse roster all weekend, late into the evening. Come down and feed your ears - you’ll be very glad you did. A sonic outburst imagined for the sake of itself, this is OHNO!
Friday opens with a choice slice of American composer Nico Muhly’s delicious, free-range oeuvre. Ten lyrical minutes of delicate entries and bold athleticism, Drones & Violin is somewhat like singing to the sound of one’s vacuum cleaner, only much, much better. Paired with Joe Snape’s mesmeric Lärmlicht, an intense, half-hour performance piece for lightbulbs fresh from Tokyo and primed for shows at The Kitchen in New York, this is not a set to miss.
The evening’s second slot sees a massed performance of a new work by Danish sound artists Sandra Boss and Jonas Olesen, Psalm Cycle. Meticulously scored for 7 pump organs – sourced from all over the capital – expect a gorgeous forty minutes of deep tones and slow swells. A focal point of the weekend, the work sees all four curators and a few of their friends perform together for the very first time, on instruments distributed right around the venue.
Cranking up towards a grand finale, Copenhagen-via-Berlin maverick Anders Lauge Meldgaard – known also as Frisk Frugt – plays a solo set for self-built toy-flute organ and synthesisers. Of boundless imagination and musical invention, his sonic travels have taken him from Lousiana to Burkina Faso, and from SXSW to Transmediale. This is his first show in the UK this year, and you’re unlikely to see anything as madly wonderful until he comes back next time. Fresh fruit indeed.
Manchester-based ACM Ensemble opens Saturday with a performance of a brand new work by the group's co-founder Michael Cutting for augmented bass clarinet and electronics, I am a Strange Loop. Morton Feldman’s ethereal The Viola in my Life: I, II and III follows directly, rounding out a set of effects as wide-ranging as they are deep – a minimal moment in a weekend of plenty.
Next up, young Californian Theresa Wong brings a solo set of her soulful improvisation to Oto. Amongst others, a veteran of Brooklyn’s Roulette and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, her performance for voice, cello and electronics asks a bewildering question: ‘how can I rediscover the core of the cello as wood and string and hair, or even simply as a tree?’ Expect pure energy: a relentless digging to unearth the raw, wild vibrations of her materials.
Rounding off the weekend, Danish improviser and pianist Søren Kjærgaard teams up with the prolific Simon Steen-Andersen to deliver a suitably rampant close to proceedings. Practices of improvisation and composition implode upon contact; the result is a magnificent reordering of idiom replete with invented instruments and audiovisual trickery. Little about OHNO! is slow-burn. What begins with a bang must end in a blast.
OHNO! is a project run with the support of the UK’s Sound and Music and Denmark’s SNYK, as the first year of their newly conceived Composer-Curator Programme. In the autumn, a weekend of music similar to this one will take place again in Copenhagen, curated by the same four musicians, as part of SNYK’s annual festival for contemporary music, Wundergrund.
Sandra Boss, Michael Cutting, Søren Kjærgaard and Joe Snape have written, performed and organised quite a lot of music. Collectively, their work spans all kinds of spaces. From festivals to exhibitions, from large concert hall premiers to intimate sound art performances, and from America’s west coast to the eastern coast of Japan (the long way around), their unit is one that celebrates profusion as profusely as possible. This is their first project together, and you can find out more about all of them on the Internet.