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Bates Scores at the Venice Biennale

Django Bates (Synt/Sampling), Julian Siegel (sax), Josefine Lindstrand (voice), Martin France (Drums), Michael Mondesir (Bass)

The Smith Quartet: Ian Humphries (violin), Charles Mutter (violin), Nic Pendlebury (viola), Deirdre Susanna Cooper (Cello)

Joining in on one of the most controversial musical ‘Biennali’ of all times, Django Bates and his Human Chain project together with the Smith Quartet made a strong impact on their audience in Venice.

Almost 30 people walked away visibly annoyed a man loudly saying ‘this is a preposterous cabaret’! but more than 350 wittingly stayed, for an exhilarating performance which was given the honor of a non-dormant public (a rare breed nowadays.)

The chromatic impact of noise and high volumes immediately struck a few victims at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, but fortunately the number of ‘casualties’ amongst the more traditional section of the audience was minimized when Josefine Lindstrand came on stage with her gentle voice, accompanied by the lyricism of the string quartet and sustained by Bates’ tonal insertions which mistakenly reassured those few in the public seeking a comfortable night out at the theater, perhaps comfortable enough for some rest and a quick shut-eye before the usual dining out with wife and mother-in-law.

For the lucky majority who knew exactly what they were getting into when buying their tickets, the heavy sampling of ‘My Way’ which dared to interrupt the sleepy dreams of the high society kindly attending felt like a breath of fresh air. The broken rhythmical structures, free rap&funky quotations and straight-ahead jazz improvisations from the piano were an absolute and multi-layered burst of happiness.

And when the sweet voice of blonde Lindstrand was transformed Alas! into her unmistakable and wonderful gurgles (for which we owe so much to Flora Purim,) the ‘Defenders of Tradition’ walked away indignant.

70s fusion, drum’n’bass and soul quotations were omnipresent, very often washed away by eruptions of free Jazz yet it all sounded like a new music, a translation of a new genre in being. Bates, whose expertise in dealing with structured notational music goes way back to the collaboration with the Britten Sinfonia, allowed the string quartet to both explore contemporary expression and ‘soul/funky’ reminiscences. Even ‘Corcovado’, ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘New York New York’ sounded completely different whilst in the wise hands of the large ensemble while Bowe’s ‘Life on Mars’ became a fascinating ambient/electronic/jazzy melting-pot.

Well Done, Django.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Django Bates’ Human Chain & The Smith Quartet
  • Concert Date: 9/20/2003
  • Venue: Teatro Piccolo Arsenale
  • City State Country: Venice, Italy
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