Kay Michael (Plymouth Art Weekender, 2018)
The performance was at the same time moving, enlightening, meditative and surprising. And it was great fun to have the opportunity to meet the performers in a participative workshop too where we could be given a deeper insight into the work and the time to collaborate with them in trying out new ideas with their scores. Would love to see more of their work in different spaces!
Anna Salamon (University of Greenwich Galleries, 2018)
“Beautifully delivered and innovative work. I enjoyed very much the layered, rich quality of this multi-media piece. Together with the video, the interesting use of many ‘forms’ of sound- instrumental performance, spoken word, recorded sound- created a kind of unique sonic and visual ‘environment’. The work inspired my reflections on the nature of ‘image’ in relation to physicality and time.
The piece was delivered with impressive skilfulness in all media applied; sound and voice performances were excellent. I experienced Recitativo in two different venues, and effectively in two different edits/versions, and I would like to highlight how much the particular qualities of each location influenced the overall ‘sense’ of each version. Multiple presentations seem beneficial for the audience and the performers alike, as the project generates so many interesting artistic and aesthetic questions. Another thought-provoking element of the work is the dynamic manner in which it activates the archival material (i.e. the written texts and footage of Classical and Renaissance works of art) in an open-ended way suited for contemporary audiences.”
Jose Menor (University of Greenwich Galleries, 2018)
“Beautifully poetic. ‘Recitativo/ Clouds and Noise’ creates a magical, timeless feeling. The performance was so absorbing. I really enjoyed the interaction between the images and the music. There was a strong impression that the performers were enthusiastic because they were enjoying their freedom – that communicates – yet they were also following a score. The combination of the two voices whispering superimposed was very powerful, and the combination of singing and speaking was great. I particularly liked the concept of granularity shown in using syllables from words, as if referring to the ancient Greek philosophical concept of the ‘arche’. A wonderful experience!”
Wesley Sloan (University of Greenwich Galleries, 2018)
“What became of David Ryan and Ensemble’s performance of Recitativo was a visual music piece filled with dramatic tension. In moments the dark, powerful lows of Joe Zeitllin’s cello thundered and mixed with the crisp, tense highs of William Crosby’s guitar, as Italian whispers of Cristina Grifone interweaved with the out of sync, English whispers of Kelcy Davenport. Expertly switching between moments of high volume and low volume, confused, whispered, overlapped speech and emphasised words. What resulted for me was a fragmented experience where I only caught bits of what each speaker was saying. The music was tense and dynamic and this combined with the visuals of Roman statues, and smoky, volcanic rocks produced an experience where the visuals matched the sounds, and became like another part of the orchestration. Overall a fantastic performance filled with tension and dynamics.”
“[Later] there was another performance of Recitativo in the TV studio. This time however, it was just a small part and featured David Ryan on clarinet, Ian Mitchell on bass clarinet, and Cristina Grifone and Kelcy Davenport on vocals. The booming sound of the bass clarinet was deeply satisfying to the ear and again the piece was filled with tension. Whispers in both Italian and English and words with emphasis, again created a fragmented experience of Lucretius and Negri’s writing. However, for me the stand out for this performance was Cristina Grifone’s vocal work. She never missed a note of the high range and her whole body moved as she dramatically embodied a kind of crying or prickling pain, in ahs and ahhhhs, like she was about to sneeze. A truly unique and fantastic performance.”
Chris Yetton (395, 2016 / British Institute at Rome, 2017 / St George the Martyr, 2017/ Museum of Classical Archaeology, 2017)
“In March 2016 Recitativo, arranged in six chapters, was performed by a quartet – bass clarinet, guitar, spoken voice and live sound mix at ‘395’ in Southwark. In this small space the audience felt one with the performers placed amongst them, swept away by the intensity of their performance and the interaction with the images and recorded sounds of nature (water as drips, streams, rain, hail and volcanic steam) and art (sculpture and pre-recorded tape). A year later, in February 2017, in the larger and more formal auditorium of the British School in Rome, the work was performed by an octet also placed around the audience but separate from it giving greater aesthetic distance. This version developed the structure of the piece and the addition of a singer alongside the narrator emphasised the Lucretian pairing of all the elements. Each chapter was given greater independence and the larger orchestra brought strength and depth. Later in February at St George the Martyr in Borough, a septet, dispersed and partly hidden within the architecture, took advantage of the church’s acoustics to give a more elegiac and ethereal performance. At the Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology in October, a new clarity and intensity was brought to the work through the exciting development of the soprano role emphasising, by contrast, the narration as a musical element and the inspired pairing of electric guitar with cello. Negri’s dual nature of time as duration and moment of decision (of ‘Chronos’ and ‘Kairós’) embodied in the graphic score was given great dynamism and precision by the composer as conductor and the musicianship of this quartet. The ambition and complexity of this open work addressing the ancient question of the nature and meaning of a work of art in a purely material universe is inspirational.”
Anthony Stevens (Museum of Classical Archaeology, 2017)
“Firstly, many congratulations on what was for me a gripping and most stimulating performance yesterday. The fusion of elements while each remained a thing apart was perfect, as was the way the whole piece worked simultaneously on intellectual, sensual and visceral levels. Lastly, the overall architecture was strong and lucid.
It’s exactly the fusion and simultaneous separation of elements, as mentioned above, that interests me. But apart from that, it’s an acknowledgment of our only possible relation to the past. That we can only encounter the past in fragmented form might initially seem a ground for pessimism, but for me the effect of Recitativo yesterday was entirely positive and even uplifting in the way it built a bridge from Negri back to Lucretius.”
Julie Rossiter (Museum of Classical Archaeology, 2017)
“I attended Recitativo at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge, with three others, and we discussed this exquisite event afterwards. Each felt that the performance was very professional and every detail perfectly planned. The location was an inspired choice with the projections on the antiquities of the past- juxtaposed with the written text spoken softly, was indeed thought provoking. David Ryan’s ingenious conducting of both the musicians, the song and the word, provoked a beautiful and perfectly balanced performance which we all enjoyed.”
Anon (Museum of Classical Archaeology, 2017)
“I found the work to be a creative portrayal and expression of various themes from the writings of Lucretius and Negri, as well as perhaps the experience of Negri’s imprisonment. One overreaching element I felt was that of time: in terms of the setting and visual images from the Museum of Classical Archaeology together with the text of Lucretius, on one hand, and a feeling of continuity, or repetitiveness, which may also express the time Negri spent incarcerated. Moreover, a feeling of eternity came through, perhaps by the themes of discussing matter, atoms, etc which transcend our own human lifespans and the voices repeating phrases on this subject proved a reminder of ‘constant-ness’.
The element of harsh realities, or of suffering were expressed through the more abrasive or irregular vocal sounds, which juxtaposed with more regular or ‘softer’ instrumental tones at times, added to the overall disturbing nature of the work. Yet in some parts there were more contemplative or peaceful moments, and the sound of water seems to have added to this. This moment contrasted effectively with notions of pain or darkness at other times.
While the avant-garde nature may not be of my subjective personal, it is overall, a very creative and effective work in expressing the different layers of the themes.”
Jane Boyer (Resonance FM, 2016 / St George the Martyr, 2017)
“I’ve experienced Recitativo as a live radio transmission and a live performance. Having experienced the radio transmission first before attending the live performance, I felt it enhanced my comprehension of the live performance because my memories of hearing the piece merged with my sensory perceptions of seeing as I watched the performance. It took me a long time to locate the soprano singer, who I thought was located in the balcony by the sound of her voice within the church. This temporal engagement with the location of the players was both disorienting and pleasurable as I tried to visually connect the player with the location of their sound.
I felt the mechanisms of treating the incidental and the intentional as equal, for voice and musical instruments, was the same as those used in the visual projections, at times images were abstract and at others conveying information.”
Pernille Frandsen (Aid and Abet, 2015)
“I loved the performance. It was highly intellectual and accomplished. The sound of water seduced and sedated me at the same time. For the duration of the performance I left my normal thinking pattern. The narrator’s interpretation of the text was fantastic. There were unexpected halts, and at times the speed increased or slowed down. I drifted along on the lines. In my personal experience, time – as a concept, revealed itself as an abstraction of which I became a part. The instruments became the pulse around the performance. In the second part of the event, watching the scenes of sulphur rising off Vesuvius, I felt life on earth revealing itself in a somewhat unforgiving ‘fabric’. Life and death had become a part of the same – and I had become a random component, unsure of its own belonging. An awesome experience!”