Classical review: Sandglasses - Tramway, Glasgow

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The lights dim and four cellists – from the Gaida Ensemble – emerge out of the darkness, cocooned individually in custom built upright cylindrical tubes, and whose hypnotically intoned music is enveloped in an evolving ecstasy of shifting video images projected around them.


Tramway, Glasgow

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This is “Sandglasses”, an hour long audiovisual presentation created by Lithuanian composer Justė Janulytė and Italian video artist Luca Scarzella, forming part of Cryptic’s Glasgow-wide sonic art festival, Sonica. It has, for all the right reasons, a numbing effect on the senses.

The sound world is ethereal, an eerie stasis fed initially by elusive droning cello harmonics effectively supercharged by live electronic sampling. Time scale is important. The rate of change is achingly slow and there’s a strong inclination to nod off – a natural and powerful response to such anaesthetising sounds, even with projected speckles of light exploding like electric charges ignited by the music’s ritualistic intensity.

As the images intensify, and the music inflates, there is a truly visceral climax – so powerful is the sound amplification it literally rattles your bones, set against colours that are now primary, angry and evocative. This feverish energy ebbs swiftly, and the opening mood is restored, each cellist extinguished, both visually and audibly, one by one. Darkness returns.

It’s a piece of sonic theatre that delivers its promise to link successfully and thoroughly the aural and visual parameters with the protagonists themselves, and to mould all of these into a compelling, almost hallucinogenic, theatrical experience. Just the ticket for a Friday night.