Nocturna Discordia #23 at Soda – 22nd Apr ’15

Agustí Fernández (piano)
El Pricto (clarinet, alto saxophone)
Núria Andorrà (percussion)
Sònia Sánchez (dance)

Well, Wednesday evenings at Soda continue to provide the most varied experimental offerings in the city. This particular week saw the addition of a more physical mode of expression thanks to Sònia Sánchez and her improvised combination of flamenco and Japanese butoh dance styles. Sánchez has frequently collaborated with Fernández in the past, who in turn often performs with Andorrà. And El Pricto, I’m pretty sure he must have been on stage with everyone by now, but what’s certain (I think!) is that this is the first time all four have created something together. So, it’s a world premiere,then.

Either way, there’s an air of anticipation in the seconds before the first sounds emerge… Pricto’s gurgling, slapping alto cries contrast with Fernández’ pointillistic, percussive and oh-so-carefully placed notes. After a few moments, Andorrà rumbles into the picture and then Sánchez’ feet add yet another layer of percussion. As Sánchez whole body enters the conversation – sinuous hands and arms providing both contribution and commentary – the saxophone and piano rise in controlled frenzy while Andorrà’s punctuation is wonderfully (and perfectly) disjointed.

Although, sonically, it’s rather percussion-heavy at no point is it muddy or over-dense – each performer has their place in the sound picture and the attention is fairly evenly split – from the piano’s single muted strings, to Sánchez moving nothing but her right foot, to Andorrà using a pine cone on the drum head, to the clarinet being reduced to just the mouthpiece – maybe it’s the addition of a dancer to the mix but everybody seems imbued with additional physicality; everyone movement, whether it produces sound or not, is part of the performance and therefore produces a reaction, a response.

Sánchez alternates between taut, muscular intensity and a vulnerable struggle against gravity, as if the strings have been cut. It’s all the more compelling for being a spontaneous physical response to the sounds coming from the other three. And yet, the communication is hardly one-way; the musicians also respond to the dance – one moment in particular sees Fernández, wooden block and striker in hand (more percussion!) staring intently down at Sánchez feet next to him, his every movement an instant response to hers.

What else?

A brief Andorrà-Fernández duet – calculated hammering chaos in the piano’s lower register against a series of semi-muted flattened blows to the drum.

A prolonged footwork solo from Sánchez, punctuated and embellished by a single piano chord.

Pricto’s circular breathing on the clarinet creating a wave of sound into which Fernández drops a cyclical trickle of notes as Andorrà coaxes creaks and groans from the frame of her single drum.

It’s a series of frozen and evocative images that survive, and the lingering memory is the fascination of seeing a bodily expression of what is usually a purely aural experience.

(http://www.soda.cat/).

Photos from Elena Márquez.