I’ve never worked for an orchestra before, and don’t have a remotely musical background, so I didn’t have many preconceptions before I joined London Sinfonietta. One of the perks of the job is that I sometimes get to sit in on rehearsals, which is completely fascinating – it’s great to sneak in at the back of the hall and watch everything coming together, without having to be the one panicking about whether everyone’s remembered their woolly hats for the Alpine piece, or the right obscure instrument has arrived from Holland on time.. etc!
What is fantastic though, and what always surprises me about working here, is that I’m not the only one in the room who doesn’t know what to expect – there’s something about working on a new piece of music, no matter how unflappable the players are, how experienced the conductor is, how sure the composer is about what he wants: there’s a playfulness, and an openness to experiment and push things right up until the moment of the first performance, that is really exciting.
On Thursday 25, Mica Levi and her band Micachu & the Shapes met some of the LS players for the first time to start bringing together their performance at next month’s Experiment! Festival. I had a jammy excuse to be there – looking after a photographer, who’s worked with us loads of times and knows what shots we’re after better than we do!
The Academy of Ancient Music were in the rehearsal room opposite, which made it even more of an unlikely situation, but after 5 minutes the LS players are jumping straight in, finding their way around Mica’s scores, questions – discussions – chatting – joking – curiosity – throwing ideas around. It’s fun to listen in, and intriguing to see how Mica’s ideas are translated and evolve, even in the one hour I’m there.
A taste of the unexpected:
- A mix of textures and soundworlds, with crisp pop cutting in at various points throughout – provisional concert title: Chopped & Screwed .
- The concert will be performed like a playlist, with samples and loops linking individual pieces together like the gentle, rhythmic white noise between tracks on an LP
- Home-made instruments (possibly called a chukka & a zimmer! But I don’t trust that I heard these right…)*, with beats tapped out on half-full beer bottles and tin cans
- A piece based on speech patterns from slowed down hip-hop records
- Looped vibrato violins – players suffer for their art: after 10 minutes rehearsing, there were hand cramps and dead fingers all round!
- Otherworldly tapping on the strings interspersed with sliding notes on the piccolo – all unplugged but sounding eerily electronic! Like an odd mix of dial-up modem, space invaders, hammer horror.. and something further out ..
- Mica supplies the vocals along with live radio samples – the whole first piece is an tribute to rambling time..
No promises though – the thing that would surprise me most is if none of this changed by the time the pieces are performed… which is 1st May, 7.30pm. Just so you know, I’m in marketing
Ali – Marketing & Development Assistant, London Sinfonietta
* They’re actually playing a Chopper and a Zither – thanks Mica!