Making 20th Century Perspectives: City Spaces & Strings – Part One

Glasgow-based photographer, Tommy Ga-Ken Wan, spoke to Jonathan Morton about the upcoming event 20th-Century Perspectives: City Spaces & Strings. He also took some beautiful, striking images of the event's secret location.

31 July 2014

Outside the performance space - Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The Provencal-Rosé paradox is the name scientists give to the phenomenon that rosé wine tastes better when imbibed in the sun; that whisky tastes better by the firelight of oak-panelled rooms. How, then, might our perceptions of a piece of music be affected by the space in which we listen to it? How might that space come alive to us because of the music that shakes its air? Scottish Ensemble’s ambitious new project – not just a concert, but an immersive experience – may offer some insights.

“20th-Century Perspectives: City Spaces & Strings”, a collaboration between Scottish Ensemble and artist Toby Paterson, will take place in a secret location and will bring together music, architecture and visual art. “There is an overlap between the perception of the music and the architecture,” explains the Scottish Ensemble’s Artistic Director Jonathan Morton. “Toby and I are both passionate about buildings and music that are often perceived as difficult or challenging. We are very excited about the new perspective that one art form might throw onto another.”

Toby Paterson Precinct (Bull Yard) 2005 Acrylic on Paper // Photo: Andy Keate Courtesy the artist // The Modern Institute
A detail from inside the performance location - Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

In curating the pieces for 20th-Century Perspectives, Jonathan Morton wanted to reflect the multitude that music became in this time of artistic revolution, from the propulsive, minimalist-rooted music of John Adams to the folk-inspired, idiosyncratic string pieces of Stravinsky: “I really wanted to get away from traditional programming, where pieces and composers are linked through themes, nationality or styles. I let my musical imagination guide how the different works would succeed each other, creating an interesting and varied journey through this rich seam of music.”

Morton’s language as he explains this to me also hints at the frisson of these different themes and styles, a postmodern fusion that is reflected in the history, construction, decline and regeneration of the space where Morton and Paterson have chosen to stage this event. “Thinking about directing the energy towards certain points, building tension and release… I did at times feel like a bit of a DJ.” This comparison with the nightclub performance DJ – the most modern breed of musical superstars – seems apt. How should the music be selected? How should the signal be separated from the noise? How should it be presented so that better-known composers merge seamlessly with lesser-known names?

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