Mars in Aquarius

St Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, Aberdeen, Saturday, 20th June 2015

Scotland’s new intuitive music ensemble performed for the first time on home turf with a thirty-minute programme of works by Karlheinz Stockhausen comprising three intuitive scores (‘Meeting Point’, ‘Halt’ and ‘It’) and three melodies from the Tierkreis suite played as organ solos by MiA leader Mark Spalding.

Intuitive scores have no set time signature, scales or notes. Rather they are presented as instructions that describe a process to the musicians. This can produce wildly different results upon each performance and it is the measure of a great ensemble to take these instructions to new and interesting places while remaining a cohesive unit throughout.

‘Meeting Point’ is interpreted as a three-way tryst between uncommon wind instruments. Spalding takes centre stage with a stark melodica solo before being joined gradually by Haworth Hodgkinson and Mandy Macdonald on recorders. As the latter make their way down the side aisles, the audience is immersed in sound, reverberating around the cathedral space. When Hodgkinson later improvises a gong solo that would make Keith Moon sit down and take notice, itself in response to the bombastic organ melody of ‘Leo’, it becomes clear why this venue with its generous acoustics was selected.

The fourth member of the ensemble, Colin Edwards, becomes involved on ‘Halt’, his measured strokes on the bowed psaltery lending it a satisfyingly ethereal tone. While on the climactic ‘It’, Macdonald and Spalding combine rustic percussion and shortwave radio to bring elements of the seaside from a short half mile away into the hall. As the longest and most involved piece, it features a host of different instruments including clarsach, a Yamaha keytar, human voice, angklung, finger cymbals and, finally, as the dust settles, the sound of intuitive seagull cry from outside. Almost as if it were planned. Almost.

Photographs by Carla Coulthard

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Listen to the performance on Soundcloud: