Live music review: ECM Weekend

Triskel, Cork


Triskel’s third annual mini-festival dedicated to the much admired German record label ECM may not have had quite the recognisably big-name draws of previous years. Yet in terms of the overall range of the programming, and the reach of the musicians taking part, it was perhaps the most inspiring and representative ECM Weekend yet.

It often required big ears and wide eyes to take much of it in — no more so than on the first night, which explored the fertile ground between ECM and film.

“At times I experience music ‘cinematically’; what is felt through sound becomes a visual panorama,” ECM guiding spirit Manfred Eicher has said, and that kind of creative synaesthesia was evident in all three screenings: from Holozän, Eicher’s own adaptation of a haunting Max Frisch novella; to American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer’s composed score to accompany vibrant images of an Indian Holi festival; and the sparsely elegiac soundtrack to Greek director Theo Angelopoulos’s dream-like Eternity And A Day.

The weekend’s concerts, which featured many musicians making their Irish debuts, also leant towards the visual. Presenting a lunchtime programme that swept from Paganini to Alfred Schnittke, Duo Gazzana offered an elegantly spirited performance that included a suite dedicated to the Italian sisters, violinist Natascia and pianist Raffaella, by contemporary Estonian composer Tõnu Kõrvits. Inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s landmark science-fiction film Stalker, and aided by the play of late autumn light suffusing Christchurch’s nave, the music was at once delicate and disturbing.

Cyminology, a Berlin-based quartet that effortlessly elided elements of Persian poetry and song with the off-centre rhythms of a modern jazz piano trio, also seemed to open up an imaginative space somewhere between control and freedom, old and new, the Occident and Orient.

And on Saturday night two giants of the more adventurous edges of music in New York, guitarist David Torn and saxophonist Tim Berne, took the folk-like melodies of jazz drummer Paul Motian and transmuted them into instant soundscapes for dark dystopias and deep-ocean odysseys.

At one point Berne announced that the next Motian song would segue into another — “or maybe not,” he added, quickly. “We’re nothing if not unpredictable.” It could be the motto for the whole brilliantly multi-faceted festival itself.

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