Sonica – a weekend-long celebration of sonic art – opened last night with the UK premiere of Voice, “an audio-visual duet by Norwegian performance artist Maja SK Ratkje and light designer HC Gilje”.
Sonica: Voice - Tramway, Glasgow
* * *
It took place in a darkened auditorium, the centrepiece being an electronic music desk, manned by Ratje, set before a backdrop of encircling LED screens.
For just 45 minutes, Ratkje created a continuous sequence of improvised music, partly voice generated, partly synthesised, and for the most part driven by wave upon wave of looped segments – a kind of electronic minimalism.
If there was anything distinctive about the sound language it was surely Rajtke’s alluringly surreal voice, similar in timbre to that of Björk, and equally versatile in its dramatic extremes and breathy mysticism. Some magical moments resulted – the exotic Asian inflexions of the opening, and haunting lyrical expansiveness that evolved near the end.
Gilje’s improvised response to these was unspectacular – like one of these multicoloured sound-generated colour washes and gyrating wave images that liven up audio playbacks on a computer – but tasteful and unobtrusive nonetheless.
How successful it was depended on your expectations. I found it a fairly pleasant, near-hypnotic way to spend early evening, occasionally lost in my own thoughts, but regaining attention enough to be moved by the awesome physicality of the evolving mountains of sound. It wasn’t overwhelming as an entity. But maybe that was never its intention.