Devised as a collaboration between sculptor Cath Keay and improviser Graeme Wilson, this innovative new work for Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra is a structured and improvised interaction with Keay’s 2010 work, Hung Sentence. The sculpture, comprising 116 extruded porcelain letters, spells out a quotation from a patient in psychiatrists Laing and Esterson’s Sanity Madness and the Family (1964). The apparent malleability of these forms articulates the disconnection and sense of being overwhelmed that the women describe in the book. Fired and suspended across the stage, however, the letters’ rigidity gives them a bell-like voice, with an intriguing range of sonic possibilities.
The ceramic letters are played and negotiated by the orchestra as a percussion instrument, through free improvisation and a series of conductive strategies, with a central role for improvising voices. Suspended as a screen across the stage, each form resonates with idiosyncratic pitch, while the grinding and rattling of letters grouped into words generates aleatory tonalities.
The premier performance, by GIO and guests including Marilyn Crispell, Maggie Nichols and Franziska Schroeder, took place at Centre For Contemporary Arts, Glasgow as part of GIOFest VIII.