The splendid Bates Mill Blending Shed was the venue for an intriguing concert given by the German-based Ensemble Musikfabrik on the second afternoon of this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
The one work of the first half was Walking with Partch, a tribute to the legendary avant-garde American composer Harry Partch, a maverick who wrote music for ‘new’ instruments, some of which he invented himself. This piece was written by festival guest speaker Claudia Molitor, well-known for her conceptual items and interest in visual aspects of music-making.
The hour-long work featured a set of non-instruments – objects resembling gourds, bell jars and so on suspended mid-air and placed mid-stage – around which sat players of more readily identifiable instruments. It consisted of passages of instrumental playing interspersed with the percussive use of the objects. These were variously hit, stroked or cajoled into life to produce ethereal textures, following which the ensemble of chamber instruments would regularly bring us back ‘down to earth’, as it were.
There was a striking moment when some members of the surrounding ensemble actually got up to ‘play’ with one of the created structures, a sort of totem that they tapped on, caressed ... and almost seemed to worship.
After the break came a recital of solo pieces given by different members of the group. All were highly virtuosic, though the highlight of the set was probably Fell by the German Enno Poppe, a 10-minute long tour de force for extended drum kit that almost had me gasping for breath.
The percussionist read from a precisely notated score that was left out afterwards for audience members to gaze at appreciatively.
I look forward to seeing more from the very likeable Ensemble Musikfabrik as well as the quirky and independently minded Molitor.