Sinfonietta review at the Rambler

Talking up, not down: London Sinfonietta’s new Blue Touch Paper series

I was lucky to have been invited last night to attend a preview of the London Sinfonietta’s three latest projects in their Blue Touch Paper scheme.
The main part of the evening involved work-in-progress previews of around 20 minutes for each piece (they were all projected to last 45–60 minutes when finished). This was followed by an after-show discussion – we  divided into three small groups to take part in a guided critique/dialogue with the creators of each piece. The three pieces were: 
The Revenge of Miguel Cotto (pdf) was, for my money, the most musically complete of the three. An exploration of the ‘sanctioned violence’ of boxing it was set out in a series of contrasting panels (rounds?), some of them connecting clearly with violent and physical theme, others more contemplative. (I half imagined these as post-endorphin come-downs, or as the fighter’s moments of clarity when decisions are made to punch or block, left or right.) There were lots of great musical effect in a score that always held your attention, but the best was two percussionists marking the beat in one section by alternately thwacking a pair of punch bags with giant plastic tubes. As well as the obvious sonic and theatrical verismo, there was an interesting musical function too. Punchbags are imprecisely made by the standards of modern orchestral percussion, so some thwacks came sounded high, some low. Like a metronome, the high ones sounded like accented beats, the low ones off-beats. So despite the relentless crotchets, the metrical pattern kept shifting, giving an unpredictable edge to the whole ensemble sound.