Piano showcase: Aesthesia and Anaesthesia

Those passing through the foyer of The Space last Tuesday will have noticed some calming music emanating from the wall speakers. This was from Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, an album comprised solely of background music. It offered an intriguing foretaste of the evening’s concert, which was built around the opposing states of aesthesia and anaesthesia.

Students presented a fascinating programme of their own cover versions of contemporary piano music. They altered their pieces by adding other instruments, voices, or soundtracks. The range of electronic keyboards used were particularly effective as they could produce such a variety of sounds.

Much of the music played could be categorised as ‘easy listening’, such as the fantastically popular ‘River Flows in You’ by Yiruma. The hypnotic nature of such music makes it a perfect remedy to the stresses of modern life by allowing listeners to drift gently into a state of calm. Many audience members felt pleasantly drowsy by the time the interval came!

At the other extreme is music that directly confronts listeners’ feelings of anxiety, either by incorporating a political message or by challenging traditional ideas about the structure and fundamental nature of music. For instance, the most amusing moment of the evening was undoubtedly when Jackson Wen very enthusiastically poured a box of table tennis balls into the piano, which were then intermittently projected into the air as the strings were struck.

The concert culminated in a performance of Cornelius Cardew’s landmark composition The Great Learning, which uses an ancient Confucian text emphasising the importance of perfect leadership. Distributed around the room, each performer sang the text at their own chosen pitch and pace. This kind of music can be performed by ‘people of all social strata and musical ability. ‘Unsurprisingly, Cardew was a ‘fervent socialist ‘who used music as a tool to effect social change.

This concert provided a thought-provoking examination of the role of music in the present day, and left audience members asking themselves the fundamental question (as mentioned in the programme notes): in an age of political turmoil, ‘should we retreat from reality or confront it?’

Mika Curson, Year 11

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