MUSIC / Oxford Elastic Band - Blackheath Recital Room

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The Independent Culture
The Oxford Elastic Band brought itself to London on Tuesday night, in the ritual way that university groups sometimes do. With upwards of 14 mixed instruments, it almost outnumbered the Blackheath audience.

Founder-conductor Richard James Baker must be charismatic to have collected so many skilled young instrumentalists for a night of Birtwistle, Steve Martland and Louis Andriessen, plus a world premiere by the composing team of Simon Opit and Ben Morison.

Opit and Morison's piece III Large ensemble shared out the instruments - here a violin, there a trombone - into two heterogeneous ensembles that started by playing a solitary semitone and then slowly sounded other intervals or clusters one at a time like stringing beads. This quiet piece was the only one in which the playing seemed dispirited, but it surely can't be much fun playing just one note, then having to count bar after bar until the next.

Counting was central to Louis Andriessen's Workers Union, too - a piece of rhythmic synchronised slogan-chanting for 'any loud-sounding group of instruments', in this case mainly trumpets, trombones and saxophones.

Steve Martland's Shoulder to Shoulder, a raucous off-the-beat barrel-organ parody for similar forces, sounded wildly imaginative by comparison. Birtwistle's exuberantly flatulent Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum still more so, musical joke or not.

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