MUSIC / Ascending Fields - Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture
Birmingham at play these days can be found in some odd places. What would you do with a vast, disused warehouse - Fort Dunlop - in the middle of a recession? 'Sounds Like Birmingham' turned three of the floors into the Ascending Fields of a dance and music event created by Rosemary Lee with the composer Simon Limbrick. There was certainly spectacle, but to what purpose was not at all clear. If the gradual ascent to the top floor was a kind of Dante- esque journey to Paradise - after all, everyone up there was dressed in white and gold - then the ground floor can only have been hell: a cacophony of electro-acoustic snarls and two delinquent percussionists combined to produce everyone's worst nightmare.

A middle section, which was introduced by what seemed to be an endlessly unresolving Sibelian chord sequence, provided a kind of rite of passage and produced the most stimulating dance of the evening. But even this section was too long. Everything in Ascending Fields is gradual and at times seems to move with mind-numbing slowness. Evocation without any obvious substance is hard to sustain over long periods and, with a score that so frequently failed to flesh out the gestures, an hour and a half tended to hang heavy. It seemed rather too high a price to pay for sporadic enlightenment and an unforgettable final image.