Silence, Sounds and Spaces
St James Cavalier
When Renzo Spiteri presents his music it is quite an event.
One wonders what could have been expressed within those ancient precincts...- Albert G. Storace
This very versatile and creative musician goes beyond being a highly specialised and accomplished percussionist. He is always on a quest for meaning behind and beyond the world of percussive sound.
An acute awareness of space and the significance of silence, together with a keen interest in our ancient heritage resulted in two evenings of music, the second one under review here, inspired by our islands’ rich Neolithic past.
Patrons at the event were given a complementary CD: Silence, Sounds and Spaces and which is Mr Spiteri’s latest. He performed most of this CD’s tracks in a highly charged evening during which he used a large variety of instruments, with some highly original touches and interpretations linked to the various Neolithic sites where for added effect the music was recorded.
The performer did pretty well by introducing each piece, explaining what it meant to him and projecting it clearly with his intense performance. This put the public in the right atmosphere and frame of mind, aided by very special light effects and some recorded music augmenting and complementing the live fare being performed.
Man’s preoccupation with the mysterious great beyond was present in After-life, where on a basic drone the pitching of the instruments became higher and higher, increasing with almost unbearable intensity only to fade out into complete stillness.
In Invocation, the percussionist makes terracotta flower pots of various sizes part of his arsenal of instruments and accords them an important status. As its name implies, the inspiration behind Hypogeum is obvious. This three-minute piece draws heavily on the composer’s own longer track music for that site’s audio guide and proved to be one of the evening’s most evocative pieces.
Another very impressive work is To You Mighty Stones.
One wonders what could have been expressed within those ancient precincts, what fears and emotions, hope, joy and sorrow, with the sound of those unknown voices fading away and still eloquent in their silence.
Mr Spiteri does it and gives them voice in this piece where for effect he uses as a main instrument the clay mbwata, which comes from West Africa. The way it is shaped and its distinct sonic qualities he moulds into a dialogue between a low-pitched and a high-pitched voice. Which represents which gender, male or female, he left for the audience to decide.
Ritual Dance is not part of the new CD but was included as the idea hit the composer after he had worked and recorded the other pieces. It came across as a very richly rhythmic piece, at times sinuous but eventually gathering momentum until it became pretty wild.
Very evocative too were the performances of Solstice, inspired by Ħagar Qim temples and The Hunt. The latter is a vivid tale of survival, of stalking the prey, bagging it and taking it back home, a full cycle of an important day.
While in a previous work an amazing whistling sound was produced by means of a plastic conduit pipe, a touch of great originality was seen and heard in the concluding piece, Għar Dalam, in which a mysteriously awesome sense of timelessness was evoked mainly by a violin bow rubbing the edges of vibraphone keys.