Arts Projects Australia. Festival Theatre. 8 Feb 2017
Ludovico’s music is not classic concert music. It most likely will survive neither the ravages of the passing years nor the fickleness of changing fashions, but in the here and now it has something that draws appreciative crowds of devotees in their thousands. Last night’s near-capacity audience at the Festival Theatre was captivated, and for a brief two hours and ten minutes had their cares massaged away in what was a meditative yet provoking sensory experience.
Einaudi’s music is best appreciated in the concert hall, because it is about more than the music. Listening to it is one thing, but seeing it performed and perforce having to concentrate without yielding to the distractions of one’s home when listening to it on CD, draws you into another dimension which gives the music an altogether different meaning. Einaudi’s music is not programme music – it is not written with a story in mind – yet it coerces one’s mind to create a narrative; to search out meaning. But there is no meaning, it is just uncomplicated absolute music that ‘draws’ you in. It is truly the stuff of deep introspection, and it is special. In some respects it reminds me of the effect that the Mahler’s symphonies have on me: eventually you forget that you are actually listening to it – you know it’s there but it has taken your mind on a journey to some other place.
Einaudi’s ensemble is comprised of himself at the grand piano and five other sharp-looking musicians all dressed in black who play guitars, acoustic violin, acoustic (and electric) cello, electronic keyboards, samplers and other special effects gadgetry, an array of hand percussion, and rhythm and bass guitars. It’s difficult to know whether they are fine musicians because of the amplification, overall simplicity of the compositions and arrangements, and the improvisation, but their combined impact is substantial. Curiously, each composition is ephemeral: barely seconds after it is over, or after one brief musical idea passes into another (not always elegantly or comfortably), it is forgotten. It was a thing of the moment, but the moment was sublime.
A feature of the performance are provoking visual images that were projected onto the entirety of the expansive upstage wall behind the ensemble. The connection between the image and the music at the time was never obvious, but that was entirely the point. The music and the image combined to oblige the conscious mind to seek meaning, and everyone’s meaning was surely different, and the result was a unique reflective experience. At times the images appeared to be ancient naïve maps. Then they became glimpses of ancient texts, and then reminiscences of geometrical theorems. And then there were harsh, obtrusive and almost blinding lighting effects that were the psychological equivalents of ‘control-alt-delete’: one’s mind was shocked out of its current state, reset, and thrown into the next musical idea.
It is not classic, but the experience was, and won’t be forgotten for a while. Einaudi designs musical experience, as much as he composes musical compositions.
When: 8 Feb
Where: Festival Theatre