Steve Beresford and Mandhira de Saram at BOTH AND exhibition, Burley Fisher Books, 24 November 2019. Report and drawings by Geoff Winston
As part of our BOTH AND exhibition, and serendipitously coinciding with the final day of the London Jazz Festival, Calum Storrie and I (Geoff Winston) invited two of the most accomplished improvising musicians around, Steve Beresford and Mandhira de Saram, to perform an afternoon set in the gallery.
As a free, ticketed event this had ‘sold out’ and the packed house experienced a gently challenging dialogue with Beresford on an array of electronic and analogue devices creating a mischievously quirky, ambient soundscape, the sonics of the industrial transformer punctuated by shrill whistles and more, to which de Saram responded by nudging the boundaries of violin technique with mesmerising flair. Spells of curiously unsettling calm were interspersed with rushes of intense activity, the flux of Beresford’s instruments, toys, objects and devices complementing de Saram’s sharply focused exploitation, with fingers flying and bow tangentially applied, of the manifold possibilities presented by just one single, traditional instrument. A meeting of minds and seemingly polarised technical demands, which, actually, were far closer in execution and intent than might have appeared on the surface.
In the context of an art exhibition with music links, this had the bonus of serving as as a positive introduction to those unfamiliar with the arts of live improvisation, highlighted with an amusing twist by feedback from one audience member. “We enjoyed the performance… [Steve Beresford] reminded me of a nutty professor doing extraordinary experiments! It was very atmospheric and we both totally appreciated witnessing those creative forces in full flow!” I can’t follow that!
The exhibition has now been extended until Christmas