[2013081] Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet

[2013081] Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet

Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet @ Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Sat 2 Mar 2013

So… Kronos Quartet. Ever since a sample from Black Angels was used on Faith No More’s stunning Angel Dust, I’ve been giving Kronos more and more attention when we’ve crossed paths… and yet, the only work of theirs that I own is Howl, USA (Ginsberg’s Howl set to music). So when their name was mentioned at the Festival Launch, I was sold: it was time to give them their due, and tickets to both their shows were quickly snaffled.

As for Laurie Anderson… well, it’s fair to say that I knew of her, rather than about her… but, having dragged myself out of bed to see Anderson perform Duets on Ice on Friday morning (and having chatted with some long-time aficionados in the crowd at that event), I felt like I had a better handle on this multimedia performance artist’s work. And, quite frankly, the very idea of this collaboration had me quite excited.

But if there’s one thing that Landfall – this piece written by Anderson for Kronos – is not, it’s “exciting”. For the most part, it’s quiet: long sustained notes sitting down the low end of the frequency range, over which Anderson would contribute through voice (spoken, either natural or digitally distorted to a disturbing depth), iPad-triggered samples, or occasional electric violin. There’s precious few flourishes in the composition, with only rare moments for the Quartet to shine.

Behind the performers, a screen spanned the Festival Theatre stage; soft colours washed across it, but a few pieces featured Anderson’s text punctuating the screen, seemingly triggered by the Quartet’s instruments (or the product of impeccable timing). Like the music, however, the imagery isn’t impactful: it’s thoughtful, contemplative, almost meditative.

It’s ironic that, during a work inspired by the loss of Anderson’s possessions, my mind kept wandering away from the performance to my own possessions – I spent parts of the performance imagining where to work furniture in my home, or trying to figure out where my lost box of CDs was, or plotting the assault on my List of outstanding video games that needed my attention post-March. Only occasionally – usually triggered by Anderson’s percussion, or a harshly bowed cello or viola note – did I get dragged back into the moment, back to the reason I was sitting there in the first place.

Maybe that was just sleep deprivation having its wicked way with my attention span; maybe that was a genuine lack of connection. Whilst the fact that my eyelids grew heavy throughout the performance indicates the former, a sense of engagement usually helps overcome such issues… and that leaves me thinking that Landfall just didn’t work for me. And that’s a massive shame, because I was so looking forward to the performance…

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