Scotland’s Festival of New Music, SOUND demanded something really mind-blowing for this year’s launch. By Reason of Darkness, commissioned from composer Phillip Cooke fitted the bill perfectly. This was no ordinary choral work. Designed for open air performance, it took place outside, in King’s College Quad at Aberdeen University. A specially recruited community choir stood circled around conductor Kathleen Cronie and a set of tubular bells played by percussionist Staš Hable.

Breathy vocalisations, blowing, whirring, and swishing, illustrated a text chosen from the Old Testament book of Job: “Out of the South cometh the whirlwind…” Beautifully clear soprano solos and finally, a rich full choral climax sounded even more impressive in the outdoor setting. Aberdeen’s North-East wind offered its own voice in the fast advancing twilight,boosting the irresistible atmosphere created by the music.

Later, inside the Chapel, the Griffyn Ensemble from Australia performed Southern Sky by Estonian Composer Urmas Sisask before ensemble Red Note gave us Northern Skies by Scottish composer James Clapperton, who is now living in Norway.

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As well as composing, Sisask loves astronomy. His piece drew inspiration from constellations above the Southern Hemisphere. The six musicians of the Griffyn Ensemble included a marvellous soprano, whose wordless singing was really an additional instrument. Highly coloured instrumentation suggested echos of both Arvo Pärt and Debussy. Exotic use of instruments like deadened guitar strings strummed as percussion kept interest alive throughout an extensive work.

Red Note played Clapperton’s four movement work which illustratied skies above Norway, Iceland, Russia and finally back to Clapperton’s home town, Banchory. A much more tightly structured work with recognisable movements, it had its surprises too. A snare drum seized centre stage in the Russia movement and when we arrived in Banchory, the home of James Scott Skinner whose influence could be heard in the finale, the sun seemed to come out after three movements depicting long winter darkness.

On Saturday lunchtime, Ensemble Thing performed another sound commission entitled You Can’t Get There From Here. This was a complex collaboration between six different young Scottish Composers. Would it work? Yes it did! The inclusion of an accordion in the line up reminded me here and there of Kurt Weill’s music. The six movements, hung together remarkably well. Each had its own colourful personality but above all the playing of Ensemble Thing was totally spellbinding.

Encouraging New Opera is a collaboration between Aberdeen University and Scottish Opera. Two student composers, Peter Relph with librettist Caroline Campbell and Peter Davis with Ruth Alice Potts, presented two rather dark stories. Relph’s Opera, The Crier of Claife is based on a ghostly legend from around Lake Windermere. The Angel Maker by Peter Davis recounts the true history of a murderous Victorian baby farmer. Four singers, students attached to Scottish Opera, were excellent, particularly the powerful baritone Mathew Oliver. The Aberdeen University Orchestra conducted by Chris Gray excelled, whether in Relph’s sumptuous score, or the concentrated orchestral transparency of Peter Davis. Both operas seized the imagination pulling you straight into their worlds.

Little Migvie Church was a delightfully atmospheric venue on Sunday for Turning the Elements - song settings for voice and clarinet including new commissions from composers Rebecca Rowe and Stewart Murray Mitchell on poems by Jane McKie and Stewart Sanderson. Long time festival favourite, clarinettist Joanna Nicholson with singer Frances Cooper gave stunningly fluent performances that set the seal on a fabulous opening weekend for SOUND 2015.