Machinefabriek – BECOMING

Machinefabriek - BECOMING, dark tinted closeup of bodies wrapped around one another.
Photo by Alwin Poiana

When listening to music composed to accompany a dance performance I haven’t seen, I like to imagine the sort of movements that the dancers would perform. Sometimes this is relatively straightforward: when listening to Rutger Zuydervelt’s score for choreographer Iván Pérez’s “Attention, the doors are closing”, for example, it’s easy to visualise the contrast between propulsive, fast-tempo group work and fluid, supple solos. The pair’s latest collaboration, however, strikes me as a more mysterious, elusive affair — a quality arising no doubt in part from the use of live music and improvisation, making each performance different, but perhaps also reflecting a more philosophical enquiry into how the organising of sounds and movements can come to be a discrete thing with cohesion and meaning.

The CD version of “BECOMING” was edited from recordings of final rehearsals and previews, and as a result sounds suitably polished. The opening is quiet, with the gradual introduction of faint glimmers and gleams; twisting, writhing tones cut through the silence, and as the level of distortion slowly rises, big growling tones sweep across the stage. Rhythmic arpeggios climb in pitch, before a hypnotic snake-charmer’s melody fades in against a background of quietly swirling noise. Another climbing melodic ostinato drives a more up-tempo section, getting thicker and dirtier amidst a clatter of buzzes and screeches. A tone frozen in repeat is joined by a low thrumming, building to a peak before fading to leave a quiet drone and what sounds as if it could be faint singing.

The CD is accompanied by a downloadable bonus recording of the piece’s prèmiere at the Operaestate Festival in Bassano, Italy. Many of the same musical elements are present, but arranged substantially differently. This live version is at times fuller and warmer than the CD edit, and at others noisier and dirtier; a howling wind whips around a transposed snake-charmer melody, and laser beams fire in all directions. Several of the more melodic and rhythmically regular ingredients are omitted, conclusively severing the relationship between movement and speed that seems so integral to “Attention”. What emerges instead is something slipperier, more loosely defined, and more fluid in its relationship to meaning and identity, and yet somehow all the more present and affective for it.

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Iván Pérez

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