Kaarel Künnap reviews "The House of Living Sounds" ("Elusate helide maja"), a concert whose three movements took place in the foyer, opera hall and chamber hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EMTA).
As it turned out five minutes after overhearing a worried conversation by the front desk, there was no case for concern — it wasn't that important to figure out ono which floor the opening act of the event took place exactly, as Pavel Tšeretšukin's and Paša Semjonov's environmental electronic improv "In the Shadow of Darkness" ("Hämaruse varjus") could be heard anywhere in the foyer, cutting through all the floors.
The lights were lowered to the minimum and the performers had set up their equipment, consisting of several synthesizers, computers and other sound gear on a narrow indoor balcony, facing the empty space rather than the audience. The listener could follow them from the side or, as many did, close their eyes and focus on the sounds from one of the comfortable places in the foyer.
As I visit this building rarely, I preferred to walk up and down the stairs and examine how the gently amplified drone spiced up with sunnily high and pre-recorded nature sounds bounced around in the strange deconstructivist geometry of the postmodernist architecture, potted palms and Estonian painting classics on the walls, among them works by Sirje Runge and Andres Tolts. There was also the opportunity to ascend along a spiral staircase to an ivory tower with a view, the existence of which I had thus far considered to be a figure of speech regarding academic institutions. The music and the environment melted together seamlessly and et the dreamy mood for the evening.
The event's ultra-chamber-like second movement, the concert of comprovisations, took place in the opera hall, a room about 100 square meters in size with blackout curtains, which was so filled by the audience and performers that some must have been left standing outside with even less hope of finding a seat. 14 improvisation students presented different balances of composition and free improvisation. The means were experimental in both the classical and the innovative sense — Sänni Noormets' vocal instrumental work "The Fourth Monkey" ("Neljas ahv") utilized squeaky rubber toys and grotesque stage costumes; pianists Madis Kukk and Jaak Sikk put clothespins and forks between the open-top Estonia concert piano's strings; Anna-Liisa Eller, Theodore Parker and Ekke Västrik played Alyona Movko's "Sharps and Brights" from a visually striking animated score. The emerging sound compositions were stimulating intellectually and occasionally also emotionally. Combining this intense stimulation with the lack of oxygen and heat in the room, the result could be compared to Salvador Dali's surreal techniques of feeling and state like her speaker's shoes two sizes too small or his device consisting of an armchair, a pencil and a washbasin designed to prolong the state of half-sleep. Very interesting.
The finale took place in a more traditional hall format in the much roomier chamber hall, where EMTA's sinfonietta consisting of young interpreters played short pieces by young composers. It's possible that I haven't heard as many premieres of classical music in my life as I did during this one evening — counting in the brochure, more than ten, taking into account the comprovisations. There were very different moods, from the Stravinsky-esque dismantling of Johanna Kivimägi's "Shine" ("Sära") to the deformative tragedy of Josh Tasker's "Clutching at Entropy." The versatility of what I heard was very pleasant in the moment, but I have to admit that it is difficult to summarize in hindsight due to the accumulation of impressions, or now, a day and a half later as I'm writing this, to even recall it exactly.
It was definitely a great event to attend — obligatory to a truehead and broadening horizons for a bystander. I'm very happy to have come upon it. Even the whole musical event aside, a three-hour public event with no breaks longer than a couple of minutes and no coffee, cognac, champagne or beer served is not an everyday occurrence.
This post originally appeared on the Culture critics' blog at culture.ee.
Editor: Aili Vahtla