Yfat Soul Zisso

Yfat Soul Zisso – Together, alone

Posted on by 5:4 in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

At the moment, stuck in the lockdown with no foreseeable end, i’m experiencing (like, i imagine, many people) good days and bad days – the former when my mind is focused and energised, the latter when it feels flat and enervated. It’s a situation that’s made a chamber work i heard last October take on a richer meaning. Together, alone by Yfat Soul Zisso is a piece that very obviously channels disquiet, discomfort and pain, drawing on the sensation of feeling isolated even when surrounded by others. It’s a sense of dislocation and separation that i recognise myself, one that has taken on extra dimensions in the current climate when the word “social” can hardly be uttered without being followed by “distance”.

The piece has a Skempton-like simplicity – by which i mean it’s deceptive, not actually simple at all. That being said, Zisso’s music is also very clear and immediate. Initially, we hear an F-sharp minor chord sequence; it’s stable, yet at the same time it’s obviously fragile, sounding desperately elegiac. Over time that stability is revealed to be, depending on your perspective, either precarious or downright non-existent. Two unities come undone: the players no longer operate as a group, by turns breaking off independently, in the process thinning out the chords and questioning the group’s actions; and the harmonic integrity of those chords is made oblique by an increasing intrusion of microtones. The result is a blurred semblance of something identifiable, like trying to see clearly through eyes filled with tears. There’s an implied frustration underpinning and/or arising from this, made plain in the agonising sequence of repeated chords that ends the piece, hammer blows that just feel completely numb. Read more

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Centrala, Birmingham: Illuminate Women’s Music

Posted on by 5:4 in Concerts | 1 Comment

In Birmingham last Saturday i caught the latest concert in the current season by Illuminate Women’s Music, touring six UK towns between September and November. As the name implies, the purpose of Illuminate Women’s Music is to shine a light on women composers and performers, featuring a mixture of new repertoire and neglected works from the past. It’s an important, much-needed initiative, and it was heartening to see Birmingham’s Centrala struggling to contain the size of the audience. For Illuminate’s second season the focus is on music for soprano and/or strings, performed by an eponymous bespoke quartet alongside Canadian soloist Patricia Auchterlonie.

One general observation: while i know some strangely prefer their concerts historically homogeneous – i.e. preferring to keep ancient and modern separate – it worked well in this concert combining contemporary music with pieces from previous centuries. New music is arguably more diverse than it’s ever been, so stylistic gear-shifting has long been de rigueur for anyone attending contemporary music concerts. But in any case, a significant part of the point of Illuminate’s concerts is to help flesh out and expand the all-too-easily accepted narrative of music history, in which a great many significant people and compositions have ended up sidelined, forgotten or erased. Read more

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