Jonny Greenwood performed five pieces of new material at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station last night (February 23). Switching between the ondes martenont, tanpura and electric guitar, he played with soloists from the London Contemporary Orchestra. It was live music at its most electrifying. The programme – Xenakis, Messiaen, Bach, Purcell and a couple of pieces by the young composer Edmund Finnis – augmented and made sense of Greenwood’s sonic evolution. The first new piece, ‘Miniature’, is sweet, diaphanous and piano-based. ‘Fight With Cudgels’, as its name would suggest, is much more muscular and bracing. ‘Microtonal Sketches’ is a hypnotic and disorientating work made out of notes with intervals less than a semitone. It sounded like some kind of bat ultrasound. ‘Loop’ saw Greenwood take up the electric guitar which was, yes, looped and built on, blooming and pulsing. It had more in common with the Radiohead idiom than anything else on the menu. Before ‘Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers’ began, the audience were directed to a web page with a message saying there were 7×7 chances to chime in with the piece using our mobile devices. Soft, pacific bleeps were released all over the power station like an audio constellation. It was a potent way of bringing the crowd into a mutual experience, common to rock gigs but unusual at traditional classical concerts
The five pieces suggest Greenwood’s creativity is at a particularly fertile and interesting point. Though he’s only been publishing classical music for a decade or so, I imagine there’s a lot more to come. The pieces premiered last night are, in my mind, some of his greatest works. You can watch ‘Loop’ below.