Huddersfield contemporay music festival, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Good vibrations
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The Independent Culture

"Certainly very many come together to see something, to hear something, to do something, to see some see something, to see some hear something, to see some do something..." Welcome to the wacky world of Hashirigaki. In Heiner Goebbels's most recent theatre piece we are intrigued by something, absorbed by something, amused by something and captivated by everything. Words from Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans are crossed with the sounds of the Beach Boys and Japanese folk music and presented with the dramatic wizardry that is the distinguishing factor in Goebbels's work. Hashirigaki, where Kabuki meets Pet Sounds, presented by Le Thèâtre Vidy-Lausanne, is the most accomplished and memorable production I can remember seeing at any Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Willi Bopp's soundscape of the Beach Boys (including elements of "God Only Knows", "Don't Talk" and "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times") incorporates the theremin, an early electronic gadget, and various Japanese instruments including the koto. This exotic aural experience is complemented by scenes in which surreal comedy and poetic playfulness are matched by stunning visual imagery created by Klaus Grunberg. The rustling opening turns out to be neither pattering rain nor beating wings, but three pupa-like shapes in black tissue paper. The tall Swedish singer-actress Carlotta Engelkes, the Canadian pianist Marie Goyette and the tiny Japanese musician Yumiko Tanaka all demonstrate extraordinary musicianship and versatility in a chain of beautifully choreographed movements and a stream of complex word patterns. Goebbels's ability to create the unexpected is magical.

Gyorgy Kurtag, shortly to be featured in London in a 75th birthday celebration, has been at the festival for a few days, thanks to support from the Royal Philharmonic Society. At the Town Hall, the composer and his wife Marta joined forces at the keyboard in selections from his quirky piano collection Jatekok. Earlier we heard the fruits of a collaboration between the composer, his son Gyorgy and the Arditti Quartet. The UK premiere of Zwiegesprach, lasting rather less than the expected 25 minutes, brought Kurtag senior's textural imagination into play with an expressive electronic tapestry created and controlled by Kurtag junior.

If the former's richly inventive musical idiom was heard to more vivid effect in his Op 1 String Quartet (1959), that may have had something to do with its position in a long, challenging programme in which the fearless Ardittis were joined by the astonishing vocal talents of the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. Perhaps the Mayan spell to bewitch poisonous spiders on which Hilda Paredes based her incantatory Can Silim Tun was still working its black magic in the montage of film soundtrack and recorded pidgin English in Olga Neuwirth's Nova Mob. Here the seven singers, armed with personal tape recorders, explore a vast sonic spectrum, their surround-sound smothering the hall like a science-fiction nightmare.

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