“FOUR FIGURES” FOR PIANO
NEW ALBUM RELEASE
“Four Figures” for piano, performed by Coila-Leah Enderstein, is now available for streaming or download on all major digital platforms.
“IMMERSION” at the Crouch End Festival
IMMERSION, as part of the Crouch End Festival, was an exciting, intimate evening concert of new music composed and curatedby Amy. Watch the video to find out what went down.
"...an ambitious event that juggled many different elements to take the audience on an immersive multi-sensory trail..."
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"Amy did a wonderful job of walking us through these new sounds, explaining the inspiration behind her compositions.
I was deeply absorbed from beginning to end... and emerged utterly fascinated by what I’d seen."
Gavin Evans, author and journalist
Review of Immersion, a multi-sensory evenT
18 June 2017, London N8
It’s not every Sunday night that you sit in someone’s front room, blindfolded and surrounded by strangers, listening to music inspired by a southern African snake-god. But I’d recommend it.
For me, this was the highlight of ‘Immersion’, a multi-sensory event that interspersed contemporary classical music with delicious food, together with side orders of art and film.
The event took place as part of the Crouch End Festival at the home of food stylist Catherine Coulson, with music composed by Amy Crankshaw Luyendijk.
Amy, a South African composer, pianist and French horn player, explained that the music we were about to hear was inspired by an area called the Karoo in the Eastern Cape. It’s a landscape she has always found magical, with its orange earth and endless vistas, where you’ll see a single road disappear into the far distance against the backdrop of mountain ranges.
London was experiencing a mini-heatwave at the time, and the sweltering temperature made it easy to imagine that arid desert environment.
Catherine had prepared a menu based on Southern African ingredients. As a starter, she served up small cups of butternut squash soup, spiked with lime juice. Meanwhile, Amy told us some of the unusual sounds to listen out for in the first piece, ‘From the Valley of Desolation’, written for flute, cello and prepared piano. These included plucked piano strings, a whistle tone achieved by blowing very lightly into the flute, and a con legno effect on the cello created by hitting the strings with the wood of the bow.
Christo Greyling (piano), Helena Švigelj (cello) and Bethany Tempest (flute) gave a spirited performance, and I don’t think I was the only person in the audience who was pleased to spot the extended techniques in the piece.
With Amy’s description of her homeland in mind, I visualised a vast desert terrain, eerie and mysterious, silent apart from the occasional beetle or scorpion skittering across the ground.
Next, the audience of around 50 people were invited to turn to look at the artwork lining the walls while Christo played ‘Four Figures’. This piece was for prepared piano. A paperback book weighed down some of the strings and pencils were hidden in the mechanism. This was a contemplative, minimalist work, although at the end there was a thrilling moment when the music suddenly erupted and pencils leapt out of the piano then clattered back down inside.
Afterwards, we moved into a different part of the living room and sat on chairs lined up against opposite walls, leaving a catwalk-style space in the centre of the room. Amy handed out strips of muslin so we could blindfold ourselves. I sensed some people weren’t entirely convinced by this idea, but that’s the point of an immersive event. You go with the flow.
Amy told us the story of the Nyami Nyami, which gave the next piece its name. It’s a Zambezi river god that has the body of a snake and the head of a fish, and protects the Tonga people. Amy heard about the Nyami Nyami when she was staying at the Kariba dam, a structure that cuts across the Zambezi and is said to have annoyed the river god.
The programme said that Adrian Somogyi was playing the bass clarinet and Izabela Musial was on the bassoon, but once I was blindfolded, I found it impossible to tell the instruments apart. The sounds of the two woodwind instruments crossed from one side of the room to the other and every time it went quiet, I waited to hear what would happen next.
This was my favourite moment because it was unexpected, an aural tease. The music was fun, with the instruments weaving sinuous, serpentine waves around each other. Also, it was interesting to listen to such an unusual combination. How often do you get to hear a bassoon and bass clarinet play a duet together?
There was a brief pause while Catherine served the main course - a peanut stew with greens - in the kitchen. Then we watched a film by Chloe White that explored the rare phenomenon of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). People with ASMR get “head orgasms” by listening to odd ambient sounds such as hair brushing and beard rubbing. This was a window on a very unusual world and a condition that perhaps has something in common with synaesthesia.
Back in the living room, Christo and Bethany played a duet for piano and flute called ‘Of Solace and the Sun’. The titles of the three short movements – Tangerine Land, Mirage and Ancient Vista – gave clues that we were returning to Amy’s South African desert landscape. While the piano provided a rhythmic background, the flute whistled and fluttered, exploring the instrument’s range and possible soundscapes.
Finally, Amy introduced ‘At Dusk’, a piece for solo harp, as “a sweet treat” to end the evening. It was accompanied by a mango and papaya cheesecake in a shot glass. As a harpist, I was particularly interested to hear this work that portrays drifting thoughts at the end of the day.
Cara Dawson, a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, played beautifully. ‘At Dusk’ started and ended with a beguiling, honeyed melody. In the middle, it incorporated some unusual textures such as spiky pedal buzzes and playing the strings above the disks to create a nasal sound. New compositions for the harp are relatively rare and this is an interesting addition to the repertoire.
This was an ambitious event that juggled many different elements to take the audience on an immersive multi-sensory trail. It worked, thanks to a strong theme, talented musicians, an amazing cook and Amy’s vision. I look forward to hearing what she does next.
Fiona Thompson is a London freelance writer. In her spare time, she plays the harp with orchestras and choirs, including the London City Orchestra. Find out more about her work at www.wordspring.co.uk .