Saturday, 4 December 2010
I work with Accidental Records and wasn't at all surprised to hear Matthew had decided to take on another slightly bonkers sounding project - to turn a copy of The Guardian newspaper in to a musical score with the London Sinfonietta as part of the London Jazz Festival. In six weeks. What I was surprised by was the extent to which he pulled it off.
From the very start the audience became an integral part of the performance, as we were all given a copy of September 25th's paper and had to quickly familiarize ourselves with various sections in order to follow the action and help provide the sound. The lights even remained up, which was strangely disorientating. Matthew's uncannily provocative ability to make you extremely uncomfortable whilst overwhelming you with beauty, yet never losing a sense of humour about the whole thing set the tone for the night...
We smelled the recipes from the food section being cooked live on stage whilst reading an article on global food shortages and launching paper airplanes from adverts for the foods with the highest number of airmiles in to the rest of the crowd (all cheered when one landed on stage). Matthew & co played a cover of Status Quo's "We're In the Army Now" from The Guide, as we watched a house complete with garden being built live on stage with people inside it watching music videos from the Review section, whilst we read an article about illegal settlements in Gaza, and jingled our own house keys when the conductor instructed us. Eska made several incredible appearances and broke every heart in the house singing an obituary poem, jazz musician John Taylor made a special video appearance as his birthday was listed in the paper, and a particularly irreverent jazz quartet containing Finn Peters showered us with their music and superior paper planes from a box above.
What left me so impressed with the event was the layers. Every song, every moment, felt carefully planned to evoke a personal and active response. It was political without losing humour or humanity, it transformed the newspaper from something informative to read in to a collection of stories from around the world that we are all a part of, and it did so without sacrificing the stunning musicality that would stand up as a beautiful recorded album without all of the live spectacle. Matthew Herbert is truly a tightrope master.