In a cabaret setting, with seats loosely facing towards a projector screen, a small set up at the front and a sound design booth up at the back, four large speakers were positioned around the corners of the room. The Sleeper Society, a showcase of modern experimental music, transformed Chapter Arts Centre’s Seligman Theatre in this way; the room then darkened with only the name of the piece and the composer in a muted white giving out any light onto the room.
John Nichols’ GATES was an extreme, darkly intense space-like piece that was akin to being sucked out of a spaceship’s hanger whilst simultaneously being enlightened about the nature of mind and universe. Some members of the audience closed their eyes and allowed the music and the surrounding sound of the speakers to envelop them in their own enclosed space. The pieces that followed were less extreme but equally vivid; Alan Courtis’ Mater Matris Mutatio, Anna Terzaroli’s Dark Path #4, and Tic Ashfield’s The Collier’s Son, a recorded piece that combined an artist moving image and a sculpture erected to cross over slightly with the projector. After a 15 minute break, or recovery period where you were free to leave the room and wander out confused into the chapter lobby, the next pieces began. Introduced by the creators who were mostly based in Cardiff, they ranged from a live performance of a piece that combined electronic sounds and live bass to a whirling pinball-like montage, and ending with Omar Peracha’s spectral Colour Etude I.
After another interval was the final act, which had been prepared across the break: an experimental, collaborative performance of Terry Riley’s In C. Some of the audience had brought instruments, and combining those with the performers already in the room, with the instructions of In C listed on the projector and sheet music available, they begun their rendition. It is a collaborative exercise of self expression, each musician playing off the other and forming the music as they go, repeating each bar as many times as they wish before moving on, and realigning themselves with the rest of the ensemble to create harmony. As a member of the audience listening you are able to feel the rise and fall as the musicians become increasingly engaged with one another as the piece progresses. It is almost a kind of spiritual experience, and as it lasted for around 45 minutes (it can last over an hour and a half) with a repeating pulse beat, it felt as if all the members of the audience and the musicians were much closer to being a connected group like mind by the end of the performance.