Somehow all of the city heat gathered itself at Testing Grounds on Saturday. In between keeping cool by drinking chilled beers and shielding under umbrellas that belonged to an art installation at the venue, festival-goers were enjoying the massive amount of music at the Tilde New Music and Sound Art Festival. There were 12 hours of music to be exact, in three performance spaces, alongside installations and the constant chatter of audiences. You read that right. 12. Hours.
The space abounded with music. An eight channel fixed media installation accompanied the entirety of the festival, including music written by Alice Bennett and Vincent Giles, the power couple behind Tilde.
After six days of hard core composition workshops and classes at the Tilde New Music and Sound Art Academy, half of me was excited for the festival and half of me was feeling overloaded. I was keen to just sit and let the sounds wash over me, a luxury which I got to enjoy a little bit. But as the festival photographer in the afternoon, not a lot of my time was spent relaxing.
I had a lot of fun doing the festival photography. It gave me a great excuse to talk to people and I was lucky to hear little snapshots of every performance. With its pink and steel grey colour scheme and industrial performance spaces, Testing Grounds was a perfect frame for the wild array of improvised, notated, electronic, and acoustic music and sound art that the festival contained. Dare I say, there aren’t many places you can hear gamelan with loop pedal and microtonal acoustic guitar in the same festival.
At 7pm, I caught some of Phoebe Green’s performance in the White Box performance space. It was a virtuosic journey that took on the seemingly impossible task of performing Iti Ke Me by Pierluigi Billone, an intricate piece which calls for an alternately tuned viola and which only a handful of people in the world know how to play. In addition, Pheobe's love of commissioning new works was celebrated through her performance of Lisa Ilea’s CRANES. What was most striking about Phoebe was the honesty and rawness in her playing and her captivating persona on stage; she demanded the audience's attention and held it for the entirety of her performance.
The flow of the day was intriguing. I particularly loved the casual nature of the outdoor spaces in which audiences came and went, chatted freely about what they enjoyed, and, in the classic festival fashion, drank boutique beer and ate gourmet hot dogs.
My favourite performance of the day (although there was so much I loved) was Thea Rossen’s performance of Aphasia by Mark Applebaum, a highly choreographed piece for hand gestures synchronised to prerecorded sound. Aphasia explores what the experience might be like for someone suffering from aphasia, a neurological condition caused by damage to language centres of the brain. The tape part was a collage of transformed vocal sounds, often overlapping and weaving amongst one another. The visual aspect of the performance was extremely striking and really got under my skin; I don’t remember breathing at all during the performance. As the piece came to an end me and my fellow audience members let out our breaths and applauded Thea’s skills and theatrics.
I got home at midnight worn out, with tired ears, a lovely sandal tan and a camera full of photos. Needless to say, I am taking a break from new music for the next few days. I want to process what I’ve heard.