REVIEW: Günter Müller and Steve Beresford at White Cube, Bermondsey

Günter Müller.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Günter Müller and Steve Beresford
(White Cube, Bermondsey, 14 and 15 March 2015; part of Christian Marclay’s exhibition programme. Reviews and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Electro-acoustic sound artist Günter Müller may not be a familiar name to London audiences, but his solo performance was one of the revelations of the music programme curated by Christian Marclay as an integral part of his exhibition at White Cube, Bermondsey. Steve Beresford, whose London Sinfonietta commission formed the next afternoon’s programme, is, by way of contrast, one of the most familiar faces on the London contemporary jazz/improv scene.

Müller’s improvised set was absorbing for its exquisite, layered sensitivity. Beresford’s was equally engaging, not least for its wit and for the performative challenges his score put in the path of the chamber quintet which he led.

Based near Basel in Switzerland, Müller has collaborated with Marclay since the 80s, so this invitation was a natural reaffirmation of their longstanding musical and creative relationship, as are several of Marclay’s other invitations to participate in this series. Coincidentally, Marclay performed in a trio with Müller and Beresford at the Doubletake exhibition in Vienna in 1993, which had travelled from London’s Hayward Gallery, and, more recently, Beresford has performed with Marclay at Cafe Oto (REVIEW).

Müller’s approach, intriguingly, was to respond to Marclay’s theme of glass as it related to the British drinking culture by reworking elements of Marclay’s own audio pieces – a process of reclamation and reinterpretation. Working primarily with two iPods and a third electronic device he created a delicately controlled, spacious weave of found sounds and electronic interfaces. In his exploraton of changing combinations of acoustic patterns Müller maintained a natural sonic balance.

Taps on glass and hollow reverb, metallic hums, rattles, singing wires, an empty rolling bottle, a kicked can, distant gongs, chatterings and clip-clopping – even the sampling of a crackly runout groove, a staple in one of Marclay’s turntable events – the familiar all melded in a calm zone which yielded briefly to robot anarchy and returned to the deliberate mystery of bell-like tolling on decanted vessels with which Müller’s session began.

Steve Beresford pulling a violin bow over one of the table top
array of glasses.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Beresford, in the second outing of his composition Green Slipper, suffixed Rewrite, guided the remarkable Sinfonietta quartet of Jonathan Morton (violin), Scott Lygate (clarinet, bass clarinet), Zoe Martlew (cello) and Oliver Lowe (percussion, vibraphone), through a wickedly contrived sequence of episodes and added his own tabletop armoury to the mix.

Drawing on the deep pool of the performers’ inventive resources, he steered them through highly strung tensions to quickfire outbursts, referencing the glass medium at the heart of the piece. Lygate went out to the limit on bass clarinet, extending Dolphy’s vocabulary with spluttering explosive force. Martlew paused to slap the cello’s upper body, gasping exaggeratedly. Beresford bowed lightly on manifold glasses along with Lowe, scratched with a toy record deck, and guided a group jam on hand-held Sound Machines and the release of tiny battery-powered bugs which scuttled over all their instruments. Morton added sustains and the essential element of continuity.

Instructions to create a variety of groupings and changes in intensity at key moments ensured that each of the composition’s five segued sections held together. This was a gentle tour de force, achieved with collaborative, dextrous invention.


Categories: miscellaneous

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