Ensemble 10/10's electro-acoustic programme began at the beginning, with a performance of Edgard Varèse's Déserts, the pioneering piece for wind, percussion and tape that introduced the concept of electronic music. Almost 60 years later, it remains an arrestingly alienating piece of musical heavy industry, as the ensemble competes against the grinding noise of sawmills and ironworks. The cartoon-like exaggeration of some of the recorded sounds is an intriguing reminder that Varèse originally conceived the piece as a multimedia suite with visuals by Walt Disney.
Matthew Fairclough's Clicks and Manuella Blackburn's Cajon! employed looping technology while making a feature of the glitches and discrepancies that occur with digital processing. It gave rise to some unpredictably jarring percussive effects, as well as useful insurance against someone knocking the hard drive by accident.
Mira Calix and Larry Goves's joint composition We Are Over There is the result of an 18-month collaboration between the electronic artist and conventional composer. The piece meandered in and out of both camps before settling for a wistful pastoralism reminiscent of Barrington Pheloung's scores for Inspector Morse.
Far more exciting was Anna Meredith's Flak, which began sedately but built to a pulverising, Louis Andriessen-like climax in which the instrumentalists were mercilessly auto-tuned until the brass broke free with a triumphant fanfare that sounded like humanity reasserting itself over an evil robot empire.
It was visceral stuff – though like the other new pieces, it simply imported the established sounds and techniques of dance music into a classical environment. You can't help wondering what Varèse might have achieved with the same toys at his disposal.
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