Aphex Twin’s Remote Orchestra
As part of the Barbican’s Contemporary series, curators asked Aphex Twin to work with The Heritage Orchestra and Choir to try something quite ground-breaking. As one of the hallowed names of electronic music, Richard James AKA Aphex Twin is known for experimentation. The concept behind the night’s event was that James would conduct The Heritage Orchestra and Choir by using a midi interface. How the visual representations were elucidated was mainly up to the corresponding musician.
While the concept sounded brave and bold, the final article was torturous. For 70 minutes, the audience were subjected to a barrage of noise that was bereft of harmony, melody or meaning. After the initial novelty of the set-up had worn off, listeners were left with an interminable cacophony. The piece went beyond self-indulgent and as a result a small minority of the crowd left early.
Comparatively, the second half of the piece was phenomenally interesting. The remotely controlled grand piano that swang about the stage was a welcome spectacle. After an ambient intro from the keys, a number of stage hands began swinging disco balls – seemingly to indicate a change in tone. The start of the finale was a thing of beauty. A series of lasers projected towards the stage acted as instruments for Aphex Twin to manipulate. As each laser beam was broken by a disco ball a new sound emerged. While this was fascinating and spectacular for a while, it soon dawned on the audience that this display was going to carry on for quite some time.
Brevity is a word that could not be applied to Remote Orchestra. Parts of the show were intriguing for a while – but went on far too long. Even Nero, who played the fiddle as Rome burned, would have been shocked by the level of self-indulgence on display. There is a difference between being progressive and losing one’s self in one’s own hype. Unfortunately, Aphex Twin seems to have gone a bit Colonel Kurtz.
For more information about Aphex Twin, click here.
Watch footage of The Remote Orchestra here: