A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of witnessing the performance of ‘Solaris’ by Ben Frost & Daniel Bjarnason + the Sinfonietta Riga. It took place at the impressive Great Amber Concert Hall in Liepāja, Latvia. A building created by the Austrian architect Prof. Volker Giencke, the concert hall was inaugurated in late 2015 and is home to Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and Music High School. Liepāja is the third most important city in Latvia, and also the capital of music & culture.
Commissioned by the already legendary Unsound Festival back in 2010, the piece ‘Music For Solaris’ is inspired by the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 1961 novel by Stanislaw Lem. It was made to be played by more than 30 musicians from Krakow’s Sinfonietta Cracovia, founded by Krzysztof Penderecki and already a known name for avant-garde music lovers. Their work together with Oren Ambarchi on ‘Knots’ was outstanding.
Sinfonietta Riga proved to be up for the task as well, as their music dialogue with both Daniel Bjarnason on piano -sometimes unconventional- and Ben Frost on guitar + electronics was delicate yet intense. For about an hour, more than 20 musicians on stage took us on an introspective ride that would navigate Tarkovsky’s creation in such a way that listeners would not be entirely sure of how much of it was improvised, and how much was scored. And for us, that is a good thing. There seems to be always an empty space between acoustics and electronics, and Ben Frost knows quite well how to fill that void, generating a new void at the same time, that opens up a window to a whole new level of perspectives. The interaction between his morphing tones coming from the guitar, the new horizons of Bjarnason’s piano, and the whole Sinfonietta Riga trying to concentrate on just one sound, no matter how quiet it is, was very pleasant to our ears.
Just to add a cherry on top, the performance was accompanied by visuals created by none other than Brian Eno, together with Nick Robertson. The result was an unsettling collage of slowly morphing portraits of characters, stills of Pieter Bruegel’s painting ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ and visual abstractions that would suit the atmosphere quite well. After the concert, a short interview was held by Unsound’s Director Mat Schulz, and both Frost and Bjarnason talked about the recording of ‘Music For Solaris’ (released by Bedroom Community), their work with Brian Eno solving the copyright problems coming from Russia, how much of the show was improvised, and a few other things. The concert -that was sold out- was part of the 4th edition of ‘Liepāja Art Forum’, an annual event of interdisciplinary art projects. And we already can’t wait for its next edition.
Photo credit Valters Pelns