Scream Star by Speak Percussion

by | Aug 22, 2022

By Lois Maskiell

It’s not often a live show compels you to mull the reasons people enjoy congregating in darkened halls to listen to music and watch images moving on screens. But Scream Star is one of those genre-defying works that makes you do exactly that.

Experimental and contemporary classical music group Speak Percussion stage three commissions by three internationally renowned composers Matthew Shlomowitz, Johannes Kreidler and Jessie Marino. In a nutshell, each work is vastly different from the one before it, which makes for a curious experience. There’s little you can expect, save for clues in the titles and a note in the program that promises to deliver a collision of sound and screen. And deliver it does.

Booming behind the stage is flashing footage that appears like a sort of collage throughout the first piece, Hey Hey It’s Tuesday. London-based composer Matthew Shlomowitz manages to fuse filmmaker Laura Spark’s visual creations with performances by percussionists Eugene Ughetti, Kaylie Melville and Hamish Upton. At their disposal is a huge assortment of instruments, including drum kits, giant marimbas and gongs. Many of the videos on screen seem to be aged examples of popular culture, marking an amusing nod to variety from which the piece takes its name.

Fast-forward to Johannes Kreidler’s composition Welcome and the percussionists move downstage to deliver a performance that piques the senses. The musicians jump from instrument to instrument at rapid speed all the while setting up cameras and iPads. The noise is all encompassing and prompts you to seek out which performer on what instrument is making each sound. But what really sets this piece apart is its use of visual projections. At times, cameras on stage film iPads that play recorded videos of the musicians — which are then projected onto the large screen. And the videos feature the musicians playing instruments with animated lines tracking their physical gestures in colourful abstractions.

Berlin-based composer and professor of experimental performance practice Jessie Marino’s A Dream of Flight, or at least, lurching forward a few inches is the final piece. It begins with a physical number close to the audience. The performers carry large circles and move them up and down in and out of unison with each other. The action soon moves upstage to conjure up what I can only describe as a jungle of noise. Eerie noises summon a primal landscape peppered with visual effects of fluttering animals and plants.

Scream Star is a spirited and daring series of works that come together in an innovative sonic and visual experience. It’s sure to impress and bewilder fans and newcomers of experimental and contemporary classical music alike.

Images: Bryony Jackson


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