Humans seem to have a deep need to classify things. Why else would one try to summarise the totality of human failings into a sevenfold taxonomy but Pope Gregory’s list of “Deadly Sins” seems to have the enduring ability to inspire artistic endeavour. Weill’s ballet chanté and Anthony Powell’s description of a louche evening at Stourwater (The Kindly Ones) being but two of the most memorable.
Last night, at the Great Hall, it was Soundstreams’ turn with a presentation of seven works; all by different artists/composers and all in different styles. They also tended to use rather indirect texts (or in one case no text at all) so the link to to the sin in question was sometimes quite allusive (or even, on occasion, elusive). Case in point, Chloe Charles’ Gluttony. It’s an interesting text and was set to music in that indefinabley individual style she has but if you had given me the text without the title I doubt I’d have worked out it was about “gluttony”. Here’s a short excerpt (which is a bit unfair but I can’t do the lot).
Forgot I have
I am enough
Need no false subsistence
Analia Llugdar’s Lust; performed by Andrea Ludwig with a small ensemble conducted by Gregory Oh was a bit more direct but even here the text, by William Burroughs, veered off into odd disquisitions about liver tonics. Brilliant performance though.
Perhaps the most successful piece was John Kameel Farah’s On Pride performed by him on prepared piano plus a bit of shouting. Curiously the lack of words didn’t inhibit his ability to convey a certain pumped up boastfulness.
I also liked Robin Dann’s take on Sloth. Surely this is the hardest sin to portray interestingly (despite my deep passion for it) but Reaching for a Leaf was rather lovely in a gentle jazzy way.
There was a deeply intellectual streak running through the pieces. I don’t think it’s an obvious choice to use the Doukhobors to portray Greed but that’s what Christopher Mayo chose to do in Spirit Wrestlers. Similarly Aviva Chernick taking inspiration from a 13th century Talmudic text and performing in Yiddish wasn’t an obvious treatment of Wrath but there you go. Elizabeth Shepherd’s treatment of Envy as a form of poison seemed remarkably direct in contrast!
So there you have it. It’s a clever concept and Soundstreams certainly assembled a “best in class” line up of artists from different genres. In the end though I found it more intellectually than emotionally engaging; easier to admire than to enjoy.
There are two more shows; tonight and tomorrow at 8pm.