One of the highlights of Chapter’s Experimentica festival last year was the ensemble piece Transversal Time by Rhodri Davies. It’s always enticing to see musicians yearn for more experimental music today. Davies, who’s chose of instrument is the harp, is one of Wales’ most exciting musicians, with a brow-raising repertoire.
In a brief recital at the Royal Welsh, Davies hand-picked five pieces, each a firm exercise his musicianship and quest for the new. In the ‘ten haikus of matsuo basho’ by Yasunao Tone, John Cage lives on as we see the harp prepared with pegs and others odd bits between the strings. A wondrous twang came from the harp in this piece, with brittle timbres making for a sensual and satisfying encounter. Carole Finer’s ‘magic carpet’ is inspired by the manufacturing of these items. The actual magic here lies within the harsh mechanised delivery that Davies demonstrates, with rampant plucking, evoking the wildly inventive version of the Winnsboro Cotton Blues by Frederic Rzewski.
An official performance of the Overtone Piece by Yoko Ono was perhaps the most exciting piece on the programme. Though not notated, it simply states to create overtones, Davies gave his acoustic harp a break and moved over to the electronic number on stage. Here the creation of the overtones, is a calming endeavour, a duality in hearing both tones at a time. LIGHTHOUSE by Adaya Godlevsky was a premier and had some lovely moments. Certainly the most accessible of the entire set, we also saw stunning drone footage of Mumbles lighthouse, as Davies flings into the sea a bottle containing the score of the piece. The use of a mini fan on the electronic harp makes for luscious sounds that you didn’t want to end.
Davies ended with his own piece, ‘aqua alta (for sioned williams)’. He appears to have found solace in Monet’s visions of Venice and the chance operations of taking an old harp score and subduing it in water for three days then playing what remains on the paper. This watery music didn’t grab me like the rest of the pieces here, though some rousing moments came when he played the harp with two violin bows. Davies maintains a subtle focus and seriousness throughout playing, bringing out all the eccentricities within these odd, transcendent pieces.