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Review: Tectonics, City Halls, Glasgow

By any measure, what happened at Glasgow's City Halls over the weekend was an astonishing event, with a sizeable thirsty audience lapping up experimental music that ranged from a residency by a remarkable octogenarian American to improvisation by some of our own top names in modern rock and embraced a clutch of premieres of fine new music for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Of those, we shall surely by hearing the completion of David Fennessy's Werner Herzog-inspired trilogy of pieces, the opening section of which launched the two-day programme in a dramatic style that was still prominent in the mind many hours of music later. Its witty "sampling" coda of operatic aria could also not have been more apt. At the other end of the festival John De Simone's Geek was the final BBC commission and should be found an early home for a second performance by the SSO, in all its cinematic splendour. In between, the range of pieces for the big band was vast, with the pupil and teacher combination of Charles Ross and Frank Denyer making their own distinctive oceanic contribution on Saturday and Chiyoko Szlavnics and Martin Suckling both responding in distinct but parallel ways to the legacy of Alvin Lucier in their Sunday evening pieces.

The presence of Lucier, who is 82 today, was key to the success of the programme because his interest in how sound works in different space – as distinct from any conventional practice of composition – made sense of the whole occupation of the City Halls complex, with Hanna Tuulikki, Hildur Gudnadottir, Stuart Braithwaite and Aidan Moffat adding fine Old Fruitmarket contributions. Curators Ilan Volkov and Alasdair Campbell engineered a triumph.

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