It’s Rebecca Saunders‘ birthday, so behind today’s Advent Calendar door is a short work of hers investigating slide guitar techniques. Composed in 2018, Study For Metal Bottle Necks comes across as rather different in tone from the majority of Saunders’ work. The usual liminal balance between abstraction and emotional heft is here replaced with an attitude that seems borderline cybernetic.
There’s the impression of a sleek, silver machine going through a delicate start-up protocol and a test of basic functions. The language is an appropriately binary one comprising soft, unstable sliding or shivering pitches, and loud, violent stings, in the process moving wildly between a broad perspective of fore-, middle- and background. These tests culminate, a little over halfway through, in an extended episode progressing through a distorted, rising chugging and a brief siren burst to a sequence of quick-fire swells. The short coda almost sounds as if a fuse has blown, falling tones dumbly wobbling up and down as they die away.
Originally premièred at the 2018 Darmstadt Summer School, this first UK performance of Study For Metal Bottle Necks was given by its dedicatee, Yaron Deutsch, at LSO St. Luke’s in April 2019.