Sunday, March 15, 2015

Recording: TorQ Percussion Quartet

Artist: TorQ Percussion Quartet feat. Greg Oh and Wesley Shen

Song: Workers Union [excerpt] [composer: Louis Andriessen]

Recorded at The Music Gallery, March 6, 2015.

TorQ Percussion Quartet - Workers Union [excerpt]

One of my favourite parts about this 1975 Louis Andriessen "symphonic movement for any loud sounding of instruments" is the instructions contained in its score. Besides setting the mood ("make the piece sound dissonant, chromatic and often: aggressive") is this instruction, which ties its title into a concrete political statement: "only in the case of every player playing with such an intention that their part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work."

The members of TorQ brought the right even-handed sense of solidarity to the piece, alongside Greg Oh and Wesley Shen, their evening's collaborators joining in on duelling grand pianos. Tackled by Thin Edge at their recent gig, it was a somewhat unusual scheduling quirk that saw two different groups present the Andriessen piece at the Music Gallery within weeks of each other — a rare chance to compare and contrast the differing approaches each ensemble brought. A new-found familiarity might have helped, but I found TorQ's take to be a bit more engaging.

Meanwhile, the remainder of this gig was equally interesting. The first half was given over to Steve Reich's large-scale "Sextet", which was quite captivating for most of its length; "Urban Wildlife", a new piece from TorQ's Jamie Drake, was also a success with its sounds evoking bird feeder-sabotaging squirrels, sunbeam-seeking cats and garbage-bin conquering raccoons.

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