The concept of Sonica, a festival that aspires to become a brand, is (as I understand it) of music presented in a visually arresting way – as opposed, by implication, to the dull platform/seated audience/concert dress model we are used to.
You can be well disposed to this idea and still wonder if that is what you are seeing.
At Scotland Street School, Claudia Molitor's Remember Me is "a multimedia opera – in a desk". Her miniaturisation of the form is beautiful, but more a soundtracked performance piece than music with visuals. It has beautiful sonic moments, and a particularly tasty one as well, but it made me think about the fetishistic relationship some women and girls have with stationery more than anything operatic.
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The first big show in Tramway was Lithuanian composer Juste Janulyte's Sandglasses in which the four cellists of the Gaida Ensemble perform within tulle cylinders on which are projected snowstorms, lightning flashes and tornadoes, and ultimately a naked woman playing the cello. With superb lighting, it was arresting to watch, but did it assist appreciation of the score or distract? In the end, the electronic manipulation of the players' drones and harmonics was most notable for the way it swelled to fill the space.
A more powerful and dynamic conversation between sound and vision could be seen in Tramway 4, where Robbie Thomson's Ecstatic Arc used robotic devices, kinetic sculpture studded with mini-spotlights and the live electricity of a Tesla coil to animate a pounding electronic score. It shared obvious DNA with Mookyoung Shin's Our Contemporaries (showing to November 18) where hundred of skeletal fingers drum in chorus on resonant desks.