Anticipation for the final evening of Sonic Acts 2010 was running high. Considering the location one should not be surprised. The planetarium at the Artis Zoo is (sadly) seldom used for musical performances so the event pulled a diverse crowd, so much so that it the evening was sold out in advance. What is it in general that pulls us towards the planetarium? I suppose that for a lot of us it is the location where we, outside maybe those brilliant summer nights on holiday, are confronted with the endless and eternal beauty of the cosmos. Not only that but it is also where children in the seventies were confronted with another lifelong love: electronic music. All those clusters of stars usually were accompanied by the sound of early synthesizers. In short, the perfect location for this edition of Sonic Acts.
The first half of the evening consisting of three performances induced some false memories of performances of the sixties and seventies that I never attended (Lester Bangs visiting Tangerine Dream at the New York planetarium if you will). TeZ Anharmonium, a direct combination of lasers and electronic sound was a beautiful sight. The resonation of a fluid base on which a laser was aimed created spectral sheets, somewhere between ectoplasm and star clouds. A nice, if somewhat, inconsequential opening.
Paul Prudence presented RynNTH, a piece which seemed tailor-made for the planetarium dome (it actually was.) It is pretty hard to describe. RynNTH starts like something straight out of science fiction, a vaguely mechanic star gate aiming straight up towards eternity. The pumping sound enhanced the psychedelic power of the piece. Very impressive although it did run a bit out of steam when the “construction” started to shift and rotate away from its original, upward aim (which I probably could have stared at for an hour.)
All three performances were quite hands-on, exploring a direct relation between sound and visuals. This hands-on approach was at its most “primitive” during 10000 Peacock Feathers in Foaming Acid, a collaboration between Evelina Domnitch & Dimitri Gelfand and Francisco López. The music of López was the most obvious cosmical of the evening, moving from the sounds of sacral spaceships taking off (Ligeti) towards cascading meteorites, fading away (such melancholic sound.) Domnitch and Gelfland seemed to work with tools straight out of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: soap, light and water. The shapes thrown across the dome were at times breathtaking, again inhabiting a world between the grandest gestures (stars being born, suns appearing beyond planets) and the smallest (inter-cellular) events. Being something of an eavesdropper I caught some negative comments afterwards about the visuals but I loved the hands-on approach which at times seemed to stall but with one gesture could be transformed into a sublime sight. A most satisfying experience.
The program after the break consisted of just one piece, the first time performance of Maryanne Amacher’s PlayThing. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I realized this would be a performance without visuals (our local “star maker” remained hidden and unused for the evening) although it actually was quite understandable: Amacher’s music was obviously chosen because of the dome-like structure, in keeping with her interest in specific sites for performing music. I think that Naut Humon in his very short introduction mentioned something like “our lady of the sky music” and thought this was the title of the piece when it evidently described Amacher. Perfectly, because a storm may have gathered above Amsterdam, its force was insignificant compared to the growing power of the music inside. Amacher wanted her music to be played at high volume, not to subject the listener to some bogus punishment but to seek special kind of tones using the body (and especially the ear) as a musical conduit. I wish I could have trusted her on this, but the volume did reach such levels that at times ears had to be covered, simply because high notes do hurt, although by playing with this and temporarily checking if the “coast was clear” one did hear a very rich and clear spectrum of sound full of detail. The sublime roar did eventually die down to a whisper, and after that it was obvious that Sonic Acts had finished.
Omar Muñoz Cremers