3 February 2019
SoundOut is in town for its 10th anniversary at the Drill Hall Gallery and I got to most of the evening session on Day 1. It's an international collaboration, as much a seminar or symposium as a concert event. There are as many musicians as performers. The performers are immensely serious yet lighthearted and the gathering itself is of great value to them. The music is new, experimental, open and unchained by techniques and yet, strangely, mostly played on standard instruments, although often with non-standard effects. I'm not sure why they use standard instruments for such non standard techniques but mostly they do, for their skills and sounds are with various noises and effects that aren't in the standard repertoire of the instrument. So flutes are dismantled and blown various ways and amusingly, I thought, a viola da gamba played a bow rather than the other way around. There are long drones and harmonics aplenty. Certainly some players don't know standard techniques (I was stunned by a pianist at a previous SO saying she didn't know of scales and chords and yet I'd enjoyed her set but I'm assured most do, and for several performers I know of, that's certainly true. We are hosting two players this year (hello Hannah and Brodie) from classical and jazz streams and they are both trained and working professionals. I'm somewhat less adventurous and like it when a few notes settle as melodies to appear amongst the drones (this day, Clayton on bass in the Astronomical Unit set and Jim Denley in another set). Maybe they consider that a copout but each was quite beautiful amongst the slower meditations and occasional sharpness. Brodie and Matthias, too, in the night-ending collective set did something approximating a horn section when they went to facing corners behind the audience and played trombone harmonies, some tonal, some otherwise. I just came in on the last notes of Col, Millie and Monika so got a pic and little else. As a set, I particularly enjoyed Astronomical Unit (great name!), a trio of trom/bass/drums played alternatively, squeaks and squeals on skins, punctuated trom and the bass just later including that lovely melodic section up high, delightfully soft and melding. Birgit played a piece that recounted chemical pollution in the Chicago river with duration linked to concentrations of various pollutants. Clayton did a solo bass thing, partly seated, partly standing, with two bows (German) and a few sticks and a slidy end pin. Jim, Melanie and Pierre-Yves did various things, dismantling a flute, blowing mini harmonicas, playing a bow with a viola da gamba, blowing tuning pipes, lots of harmonics and bowed high notes. The end-night collective was numerous and spread widely. Much listening in big numbers and perhaps fewer departures for it, although the troms did physically depart to reappear down the back. It's a time for meditation and for deep listening and for considerable technical rule-breaking. Certainly it's fresh and intriguing sounds that value closed eyes and open ears.
SoundOut 2019 runs for two days at the Drill Hall Gallery. I heard sessions from Astronomical Unit featuring Christien Marien (drums), Matthias Muller (trombone), Clayton Thomas (bass), Birgit Uhler (trumpet) solo, Clayton Thomas (bass) solo, a trio of Jim Denley (flute), Melanie Herbert (violin) and Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba), and the SoundOut Collective. Staying with me are the very convivial Hannah Reardon-Smith (flute) and Brodie McAlister (trombone).