BEAST

Busy weekend ahead of the June Madness, but well worth it despite feeling overrun today – although that could have a lot to do with dental work earlier today which has left me feeling as if I’ve been punched in the mouth.

On Saturday I went to BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) after an invite from Sj who had correctly assumed that it would be something I’d be interested in. It defies easy description but imagine that Aphex Twin suddenly went on a bender in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop whilst spinning a speaker around his head and you begin to get an idea of what it’s like. It was fabulous but it had an interesting effect on me.

Now, part of the remit of BEAST is the way that music can be used to create space – this effect is done by simply (well, far from simply) replicating the effect of a surround sound system but to the nth degree, imagine five or six surround systems at different levels around the audience. The music is then projected around the speakers by mixing it live amongst the audience in order to control its position (or positions) spatially.

This is where it had a strange effect on me that I had some difficulty explaining afterwards, but basically my special awareness works slightly differently from other people because of what I do and the way that I’ve been trained to look at space. I can very quickly build up a picture of a space within my mind that is then fixed to the stage that I can then analyse it by rotating it around a point (similar to how you see people building three-dimensional objects on computers), zooming in and out etc. The only difference is that is occasionally takes longer with complex spaces as I break them down but very simple spaces take very little time to analyse. So in the case of a theatre box the space is fixed very quickly in my head, in this case it’s particularly important that you realise that also means the size of it.

However, because of the way BEAST works it builds up a space shape within your head through projecting / moving music about you I had real difficulty in fixing the shape / space that the sound created with the space I was sat in – especially as it projected beyond the boundaries that I knew existed. Speaking to others afterwards it seems that this wasn’t a problem for others (who were for the most part musicians / composers) which put an interesting slant on things.

Anyway, away from that curious phenomena I heartily recommend it as an experience provided that you have an interest in contemporary / electronic music (although apparently the first piece I heard was a bit “Take no prisoners” in approach). It’s been to long since I’ve been to a concert of any kind (although I’m off to see a new opera in a fortnight – I think these things are like buses) so it was a wonderful way to spend an evening (especially as I got to talk to a few of the composers afterwards which was very interesting).

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