by Rachel Beaumont

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Free art: Silver Screens/Steel Strings by Zubin Kanga

Silver Screens/Steel Strings
Zubin Kanga and Ruaidhri Mannion
City, University of London
Unallocated, free
26 March 2019
City page

Programme
Scott McLaughlin, In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence
Christopher Fox, Five characters in search of a form
Jon Rose, Ballast
Kanga, Transformations
Nicole Lizée, Scorsese Etudes

Mostly interesting music (and when it’s not interesting, at least mostly interestingly uninteresting), superbly played and all for free – I guess that’s sometimes the deal with contemporary music, though I don’t much like the feeling of a fondle from the smutty touch of exploitation.

So to ease my conscience in let’s start with the least good music, which I think easily, annoyingly, was Fox’s Five characters in search of a form. In it pianist Kanga plays with a video of himself, a cool idea oft used that for a variety of reasons seems rarely to capitalize on its promise, least of all here. Fox didn’t seem to go much further than the idea of five (why not six?) shared with some randomness between Kanga-real and Kanga-homunculus – or if there were order and rationale, not such that I could discern, with the result that as far as I could tell the piece just carried on until it didn’t. Meh.

And that rolls us on to Rose’s Ballast, a more innocuous work than Fox’s but also even more aimless, wandering pleasantly enough for a span not noticeably connected to the piece’s content. There was perhaps also the merest whiff of the same needlessness in two quite similar pieces, McLaughlin’s In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence and Kanga’s own Transformations – although in both it was largely banished away by the joyful exploration of sound manifest in the superbly imaginative uses of the piano, and the tightrope balance of Kanga’s performance to wrap the music into articulacy.

The recital ended in the crescendo of Lizée’s Scorsese Etudes. Even while obviously unfinished and rough around the edges, the close interlocking of music and moving image coupled with – at last! – fervidly fruitful film techniques that charmed, illuminated and intrigued made Scorsese Etudes the most convincing piece in the programme. While we might disagree on the artistic merit of Wolf of Wall Street the art allows sufficient ambiguity that even a hater such as I can sympathize with its appearance here, and I’d love to see how the piece grows.

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