Review: Noisy Nights, Traverse Theatre

A mixed bag of delights from quartet

Published Date: 03 November 2009

By Josie Balfour

Noisy Nights ***,
Traverse Theatre

THE small space that marks out the Traverse Theatre's Iguana Bar performance area is just about the same size as a decent neo-Palladian dining room, making it the ideal place for a very modern adaptation of a very Georgian past time - listening to a quartet perform.

Compering Noisy Nights, a bi-monthly evening of contemporary music, was conductor John Harris of resident group the Red Note Ensemble. Varying the line up of instruments each session, Red Note present a different selection of compositions every fortnight specifically tailored to the quartet available.

Performing last night, Ruth Morley was on the flute, Andy Saunders on the French horn, Iain Sandilands on the marimba and Robert Irvine on the cello.

Tackling an international line up of composers, some of whom were among the diminutive audience, the ensemble launched into their set with gusto.

Beginning with American Charles Waters' Rosso Strepito, a tumultuous, cacophonous piece with a cinematic quality to its score, the group sailed easily through the demands of the composers' varying styles.

Moving onto Slovenian Crt Sojar Volgar's As Time Goes By, Red Note became more cohesive, their instruments falling together pleasantly into the work's well constructed harmonies.

Third on the bill was Spaniard Cruz Lopez de Rego who, although in the audience, declined the opportunity to elaborate on the inspiration behind her composition Four for Four. The unexpected addition of castanets from her companion in the audience, however, imbuing the performance with a theatrical dimension.

Attendee composer, Richard Greer, was somewhat more forthcoming about Baby TV, directing the quartet to play his work in a 'focussed and caring' manner. His inspiration for the piece based on the watching of a baby as if it were a television.

Following Greer, Patrick Keenan's tonal Just Intervals melded traditional technique with modern computer technology, complete with minor hitches. Displaying the notes on screen as the work's technical elements unfolded, the musicians were able to play in time to the machine's notes.

Including yet more technical wizardry, J Simon van der Walt's engaging and curious Certain Assumptions ended the first set with a jarring, mischievous play on our aural expectations.

Entrancing the audience during Red Note's interval, Carlo Roselli played a haunting, beautifully executed selection of tunes on the oud - the Arabic predecessor of the European lute.

Returning to the stage, Red Note proceeded to introduce some meditative and ingeniously designed works. Jesse Raccio's Point of Ellipses used the instruments to mark points at the end of each graceful movement. While Vroni Holzmann's A Quiet Room and Sparrows was mesmerising in it's rhythm and building melody.

Shona MacKay's Exorcise Damage Control in contrast, returned to the adventurous exploration of sound Water's had begun.

Ending with a local flavour, the quartet played Gareth Brady's A68 South - the Edinburgh to Darlington road that starts just off the city bypass. A vivacious piece with elements of a Balkan wedding band.