Published on Monday 14 November 2016
Written by Kate Molleson
At the start of Ken Loach’s latest film I, Daniel Blake, the beleaguered Daniel spends hours on the phone to the Department for Work and Pensions, driven nuts by a chirpy holding jingle. Later we see Dan take a spray can to the local jobcentre: “I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve. And change that shite music on the phone.” The music in question is the opening of Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: overplayed to numbing point, life-sappingly familiar.
Various musicians have made efforts to strip back the naff associations and remind us that these four concertos are real and wonderful pieces. “Gentle confusion can give everyone a chance to hear something in a new way,” writes Jonathan Morton, artistic director of the Scottish Ensemble, and to demonstrate he commissioned sisters Anna (composer) and Eleanor (illustrator) Meredith to make an audiovisual work that might frame, refract and refresh Vivaldi’s originals.
The result is Anno, and it beguiles in exactly the gently confusing way Morton wanted. Anna’s remix avoids the biggest tunes. As a composer drawn to fragments and loops – and who currently spends much of her time making romping avant synthpop – she homes in on the most tetchy, evasive and repetitive aspects of the concertos, then dismantles and smudges them into plush electronic builds.
More than anything else she’s done, Anno blends her classical and club personas and proves that the fusion can work. It helps that the Scottish Ensemble attacks it all with such nimble, kinetic energy, and that Eleanor’s visuals are such eloquent counterparts. Her animated watercolours, projected on to massive screens surrounding musicians and audience, are playful, redolent and occasionally menacing.