I spent last night listening to Synergy Percussion perform Iannis Xenakis‘ fiendishly complex piece Pléïades at Carriageworks, an inner-city arts center with a fetish for polished concrete. In a fairly odd-sounding room – big, boxy and oddly free of reverb – six percussionists (and some surprise guests at the end of the piece) performed in a loose oval setting, on platforms. The audience was free to move around, and the performance was recorded for ABC radio. (Video was taken too, so who knows where it’ll be seen?)
A work of four sections, Pléïades (1978-79) notably uses instruments called sixxens, a word signifying the number of performers and the start of the composer’s name. They’re custom instruments, microtonally tuned, and Synergy had a set made for a previous performance. The piece, first played by Percussions de Strasbourg, has a title which means ‘many’, but also refers variously to mythological and astronomical matters. Each section addresses a different type of instrument – skins, metal, ‘keys’, – with one section being short for ‘all of the the above’. It involves a raft of instruments, to say the least.