STONES, SAND & LIGHT
Esplanade Recital Studio
30 May 2014)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 2 June 2014 with the title "A meeting of diverse minds".
The cause of new music has been well served by the contemporary music ensembles of
’s tertiary music
educational institutions and several intrepid independent groups. Quinnuance,
formed mostly by alumni of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, is one such collective
of composers and performers. Their third concert of new local works revealed an
interesting mix of diverse and sophisticated musical minds. Singapore
|The composers of Quinnuance:|
Bernard Lee, Alicia de Silva, Lu Heng, Terrence Wong
with Music Director Clarence Tan (from L to R)
Terrence Wong is a name which will be heard rather often for some time to come. The concert began with his (D)evolution, an electro-acoustic number based on a D flat minor scale first heard on a cello and then repeated, transformed and manipulated into an ever-expanding aural wall of sound.
Beginning with a low drone and gradually ascending into a menacing growl, it could have functioned as a piece of installation art. The hall plunged into darkness, all that was visible was a spotlight illuminating an empty chair. Its abrupt ending and the minute of uncertain silence from the audience that followed also had a certain whiff of John Cage about it.
Wong’s Morning Dances received its World Premiere by pianist You Yin Fen, oboist Leow Rui Qing and clarinettist Colin Tan Yiliang. Heralded by ostinatos from the piano, both woodwinds engaged in a contest of complex runs and riffs, later accompanied by rhythms foot-stomped by the pianist. Although the gamelan was alluded to in the composer’s programme notes, a fired up jazz band could plausibly have been an influence as well.
Alicia de Silva’s Stones, Sand and Darkness was the longest and most evocative work on the programme. Conceived in three movements, the titular objects were treated as elemental forces, represented by varying tonal sequences heard on five instruments. Sheila Pietono’s piano served as the bass over which Chan Si-Han’s cello sang its lament, contrasted by short interjections on Gabriel Lee’s violin, while oboe and clarinet added their own narratives.
The music emoted on different levels; nostalgia in long-held lingering plaints, agitation in flittering ephemeral phrases and a sense of danger in the toccata-like finale. A short but languorous drawl with the lights going off served as a fitting epilogue.
Bernard Lee Kah Hong, a state registered nurse by profession, is the group’s dyed-in-the wool atonalist. His Let The Eyes Open in the Hour of Autumn II however has roots in
Finally, Lu Heng’s Fission for solo violin closed the concert like the way it began. Built on the premise of a single D note, the piece was an elaborate play and metamorphosis on a simple tone. Like particle rays emitting from a nuclear source, the unwavering D dominated while torrents of notes flew from Lee’s violin to its tumultuous close. This might have been a caprice by Paganini had he known Einstein.
All photographs by courtesy of Quinnuance.