Renegade New Classical

Renegade New Classical
Nik Colk Void, Daniel Brandt
s t a r g a z e
Spitalfields Music Festival 2017
St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch
6 December 2017

Once upon a time, pop music was divided into just two genres – Beatles or Rolling Stones, with a possible sub-set of John or Paul. Things are more complicated nowadays. Every single piece within the broad contemporary music scene has its own distinctive moniker. For this concert, we were told that we would see “the realms of classical collide with minimal techno, experimental and electronic music. Electronic it certainly was, as the rustle of the players sorting their music out was picked up by their microphones, followed by an enormous amplified explosion from the banks of speakers. I was relieved there wasn’t any lightning forecast.  

The evening opened with Qasim Naqvi’s Inaugural Music, a UK premiere. It was composed for the orchestral collective s t a r g a z e (directed by the Festival’s Artistic Curator, André de Ridder) using the pre-recorded sounds of a Moog Model D analogue synthesizer, notably its ability to adjust overtones and harmonic colour, together with the amplified instruments of the group – violins, viola, cello, guitar, flute, oboe, clarinet and trombone. The players used a variety of sound-producing effects from their instruments, including blowing across the holes of flute and oboe. Not for the first time during the Spitalfields Festival, the sound of a passing emergency siren from the streets outside blended in with the sound of the performance.


Nik Colk Void’s Recollection Pulse 1-4 added the sounds of the flute and oboe tapping their keys into microphones, along with several other effects, not least the table of mixing and electronic gadgetry positioned where an orchestral conductor would normally have stood. These were manipulated by Nik Colk Void, described as a “Leftfield producer and guitar manipulator . . . a twitchy musician whose output consistently challenges the status quo”. For this piece, she recalled memories of living in East London and the plethora of performance opportunities that grew with the area’s gentrification. Rooted by heavy bass drum beats, the mixed sounds seemed to be mostly drawn from a standard drum kit, merging imperceptively with the sounds of the live instruments. In a sort of maxi-minimalism, the often ethereal sounds were contrasted with moments of melodic structure, included a repeated six-note motif on flute and oboe. At one of the quieter moments, a mobile phone from the audience added to the occasion.

The main work of the evening was an orchestral performance of tracks from drummer Daniel Brandt’s album Eternal Something. Apparently originally envisaged as an album for cymbals alone, a spell in his “father’s cabin in the woods” changed his mind. The driving and hypnotic percussion rhythms and sheer volume were in sharp contrast to the previous two pieces, and the music from the opening concert of the festival (reviewed here). Several of the players had their own cymbals to play, but the focus throughout was clearly on Brandt himself, playing percussion, a keyboard and what looked like an electronic controller of some sort. The s t a r g a z e flute, oboe and violin players engaged in various degrees of bopping along to the rhythms of the music, but this reviewer’s prize for the best bopping of the evening goes to oboist Marlies van Gangelen, clearly a very talented dancer as well as instrumentalist. 

Photo based original by James Berry


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