Variable Geometry at Royal College of Music – Birtwistle, Hesketh, Boulez

"Kenneth Hesketh's Ein Lichtspiel differs from its companion pieces played here – in a refreshingly unique, novel and hugely intelligent approach to the mechanical in music. The work is written to accompany the silent film Ein Lichtspiel, Schwarz-weiss-grau (1930) by the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy – a film of the motions and light-effects produced by his motor-driven sculpture, Light-Space Modulator. Hesketh frames the film itself between two montage sequences he himself has constructed, placing the viewer, and listener, in the artistic and aesthetic context of the original film, thus preparing us before we are plunged into it.

Hesketh approached the film as a ballet of light in need of a score. Thus the rhythmic and structural elements of the music reflect those of the film, sometimes regular, sometimes unpredictable. The astonishing array of colours Hesketh uses is sensitively varied, leading the viewer-listener on a gently beguiling journey through the mind of the film-maker. After a mildly portentous introduction, we arrive at the film itself with an almost magical clearing of the musical mists. Navigating through a seemingly endless succession of entrancing colours, the listener passes moments of poised wonder and expectant fascination, crafted from glittering but obscured musical reflections of the machine glimpsed on the film. Throughout, the relentless sense of the mechanical is rarely obvious, but is subtly all-pervading, never dominating the cleverly constructed larger-scale structures, but firmly guiding and driving the music's onward direction.

It is important to note that the work can be performed without the film, and would certainly stand on its own very effectively. Indeed, it often felt as if the projection simply added a further dimension to the music – music that is imbued with, and passionately conveys, Hesketh's own fascination and sense of wonderment in the world of the mechanical."
21 March 2014
Reviewed by: Edward Lewis
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