Ultramarine : 1999
Ultramarine is an audiovisual concert that combines pianist Joanna MacGregor’s virtuosity and Kathy Hinde’s visuals to form a unique journey through the themes of water, blue hues, and Japanese haiku, all tied in by Matthew Fairclough’s sound diffusion. The programme includes work by Georgi Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen, Jonathan Harvey, Tori Takemitsu, and Somei Satoh alongside newly commissioned works by Ivana Ognjanovic and Kathy Hinde. Ultramarine premiered at Bath International Music Festival in 1999 and then toured internationally to Latvia, Estonia, Colombia, Macedonia, Serbia, and numerous venues around UK including Queen Elizabeth Hall at the South Bank Centre, London.
“It is fascinating how a piece of music or an image can be stored in one’s memory. Frozen in time yet instantly accessible, memories behave almost like shards from a shattered hologram. The shard still retains the full image, yet in a condensed and slightly distorted form. Throughout the concert, projected images overlap, repeat and collage in a number of different ways, coaxing the viewer/listener to make links to pieces experienced earlier in the programme.” Kathy Hinde
Programme from Ultramarine, with images showing the visuals for each composition.
Olivier Messiaen – Petites Esquisses d’Oiseaux Six short pieces inspired by birdsong
The following seventeen short pieces run without a break and are arranged as if they were syllables of a Japanese Haiku.
John Cage – Seven Haiku
Erik Satie – A Selection from Airs a Faire Fuir and Sports et Divertissements
Kathy Hinde – Five Haiku
John Cage – Water Music
Video of Cage’s score scrolling along created by Andrew Stones.
Toru Takemitsu – Rain tree Sketch 1
Stephen Montague – Haiku
Gyorgy Ligeti – Disorder and Autumn in Warsaw
George Crumb – Pieces from ‘A little suite for Christmas‘
Kathy Hinde / Matthew Fairclough / Joanna MacGregor – Hototogisu
A combination of recordings of haiku about sound and water in Japanese and English with piano motifs composed by Kathy Hinde, improvised on by Joanna MacGregor
Somei Satoh – Incarnation II
Ivana Ognajanovic – The Ship in Embrace of the Endless Dark Ocean
Jonathan Harvey – Tombeau de Messiaen
Article written in response to ‘Ultramarine’ at the Bath International Music Festival, June 2000 by visual artist Matthew White.
In the cold shadowy ambience of St Mary’s Church light gradually began to emulate from the huge screen behind the dark, monolithic form that was MacGregor’s piano. Moments later, the sounds of Messiaen’s birdsongs were slowly visualised on screen by Japanese origami montage.
Inspired by Haiku – three line Japanese poetry – and other sources, the overlaying of repeated images formed patterns that hinted of an ‘ode’ to a lost industry as gentle hands laboured meticulously again and again, trying desperately to produce beauty from a blank piece of paper.
The entire audience waited in eager anticipation as omnipresent hands worked, wondering what would appear from the mechanical collage folding and unfolding before them.
As the rhythmic interplay between sound and vision continued, a symbolic bird-like creature was produced again and again.
Finally, all bird-like forms were left dangling in trees, swaying to a silent breeze or floating aimlessly downstream, losing themselves in the ebb and flow of both water on screen and harmonies filling the air.
In the pieces that followed, mirrors reflected microscopic shapes of clear glass, metamorphosing into amorphous forms evolving from some primeval, clear, oriental soup, which then danced in time to the strange accompaniment and finally disappeared from view.
As strings and keys alike were plucked, pulled, strummed, muted, knocked, hit and caressed, objects were added and then subtracted from the bowl of nothingness.
Were the hands of a god/godess deciding what gene cells to keep and which to throw away? In this manufactured ‘give and take’ world, we were left with an uneasy spirituality where repetition leads to something other, unexplained and mischievous.
Eventually, a crescendo of fragmented reflections from both piano and screen filled the darkness, illuminating the entire space with chaotic crashing, yet controlled interplay.
Ultimately, as the end drew near, the natural beauty so carefully created on screen was conciously polluted with ice-cold ‘ultramarine’-blue dye, hinting at a closing metaphor for the audience to take away with them.