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Review: DEBUT SOUNDS: SOUND IN MOTION, Queen Elizabeth Hall

A worthwhile project

By: Jun. 28, 2024
Review: DEBUT SOUNDS: SOUND IN MOTION, Queen Elizabeth Hall  Image
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Review: DEBUT SOUNDS: SOUND IN MOTION, Queen Elizabeth Hall  ImageDebut Sounds: Sound in Motion is the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual concert showcasing the LPO’s Young Composers.

The concept sees five composers and eight choreographers (from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance) collaborating to create the final works shown, with the music played by musicians from the LPO Foyle Future Firsts Development Programme, alongside LPO players, all led by representatives of the LPO Fellow Conductors.

It seems like a worthwhile project. The idea of developmental, collaborative space being made available to both composers and choreographers. This is very much the kind of focus the dance sector needs - where creativity is given a platform to explore and flourish. 

The power of music to dance can’t be underestimated, whether highlighting connection through music visualisation or the opposite via counterpoint and dissonance. Melody also informs the emotional journey of the observer; imagine Swan Lake Act 4 without Tchaikovsky. Or the Balanchine works without their Stravinsky scores and associated harmony…it doesn’t even bear thinking about! 

Three out of the five works use props within the dance element, which is of course an option, but I wonder if it all takes away from the possible dance language exploration… 

The two conductors of the night: Luis Castillo-Briceño and Charlotte Politi did fine work with some avant-garde compositions, and really made the LPO musicians dance as they played.

Review: DEBUT SOUNDS: SOUND IN MOTION, Queen Elizabeth Hall  Image

Diásporas by Eliana Echeverry opened the evening with choreography by Valentina Vidal (Lead) and James Adamson. The work looks at migration and Echeverry uses rhythms from her birth country, Colombia as a foundation. Vidal took the notion of connection literally into costume design that conjoins the two dancers. Though an interesting idea, there wasn't much else on offer, and what was presented felt fundamentally disconnected in its structure, with too much aimless running to be taken seriously.

SALT by Crystalla Serghiou is also an homage to her birth country, Cyprus, and uses elements of the sea, specifically waves as inspiration. The choreography by Yun Cheng (Lead) and Nina Murphy was the most accomplished of the evening. The generous phrasing was full of recognisable motifs: spherical, rise and fall, ebb and flow. And Cheng also tapped into Serghiou's shifting emphases, showing both pizzicato and legato dynamics. It was a successful match.

Extrapolating by Zhenyan Li is a sonic exploration of her current home, London. The dance element by Franziska Boehm (Lead) and Sofia Pomeroy featured the second prop of the evening: a square of dance flooring, as this means home to them. They worked the heavy material into interesting sculptural shapes, and used it as a form of shielding but I couldn't engage with the offering much beyond this. The choreography didn't enhance the music per se, which was a shame, as Li's score is absolutely aiming to suggest scope and tangibility.

Unfamiliar flesh by Phoenix Rousiamanis is a work looking at the “body horror”, and the composition definitely brought the drama. The choreography by Irene Fiordilino (Lead) and Sarah Santos was the third prop venture, using lights as the chosen medium. Lights in palms, under a piano stool and dangling off wooden sticks. It felt less dance and more light installation, but there was definitely skill involved: speed, articulate gesture and perpetual motion, but it was not for me.

Zip, Zap, Boooooogie!!! by Jasper Dommett uses queer nightlife and romance as its inspiration, and it's a super piece of music. To the point that the conducting and playing of the work felt like it had more engaging movement than the dance devised by Sofia Pomeroy (Lead) and Valentina Streitwieser. Pomeroy confirmed that she moved away from the literal narrative of the music to somewhere more abstract for the movement, and I believe this to be a mistake.

Dommett's voice feels like that of Leonard Bernstein or James MacMillan; undeniably, intoxicating percussive rhythm. Any choreographer in their right mind would kill for this kind of music to create to, or be part of the creative, compositional process. I'd like to think we'll hear more about Dommett, and sooner rather than later.

I enjoyed the evening and would like to say a big brava to the LPO Composer in Residence, Tania León. León mentioned that people talk of composers finding their “voice” in their 40s and 50s, but she disagrees, confirming that these 20-something music makers know what they want to say, and are doing so. Who can't get behind that?

Debut Sounds: Sound in Motion was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall June 27

Photo Credits: © London Philharmonic Orchestra


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