REVIEW: Mark Sanders and Mica Levi at White Cube

Mica Levi's score. Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved 

Mark Sanders and Mica Levi
(White Cube, Bermondsey, 14 and 15 February 2015; part of Christian Marclay's exhibition programme. Reviews and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Christian Marclay's music series yielded two uniquely inspired, yet complementary performances in the afternoon sessions at White Cube over the weekend: a percussion tour-de force by jazz and free improvising drummer Mark Sanders and Mica Levi's tense, tightly scored fifteen minute setting for a London Sinfonietta quartet, each informed by the theme of glass in Marclay's exhibition

The setting for Mark Sanders' performance was striking for its array of instruments and implements arranged in circular formation in the centre of the gallery. The manifold drums, cymbals, gongs and glasses presented a sea of discs through which Sanders traced out his trajectory, working round his stage applying sticks, beaters and hands, grappling and clashing, dragging and grating, soothing and smoothing to bring out unexpected contrasts and articulations from his armoury.

Trays of glasses were dragged by string and chains, and had marbles and ping-pong balls dropped into them. Feedback was simulated in jarring scratches of metal on wood, masterly stick and brushwork was applied equally to the concrete floor and snare drum. Ambient bass rumbled as battery-powered insects ran over a tom, a glass broke as a tray was stirred and shaken.

Sanders' intense physical engagement was rewarded, not only with appreciative applause from the spellbound spectators, but also in a final touch of wit, with a glass of white wine that had remained unscathed in the onslaught, pulled out from under a drum.


Mark Sanders at White Cube.
Drawing by Geoff Winston © 2015. All Rights Reserved


Whilst for many Mica Levi is known as a performer (Micachu), on this occasion she continued her fruitful relationship with the London Sinfonietta with the première of a powerfully focused fifteen minute composition. Scored for percussion, violin, clarinet and cello her new work gave just enough room for the performers to invest its spare, structural precision with warmth, tension and hints of a renegade spirit.

A series of welling, vibrato sustains was peppered with piecing bursts from Andrew Webster's pin-sharp clarinet. Crescendos were rapidly built up with shaking intensity and equally swift to dissipate, while Oliver Lowe's episodic tinkerings with thin metal beaters on a solid bodied beer glass created a quirky, ringing foil. Spells of calm were short-lived, as the dominant imperative to return to the pattern drove the quartet on to a final, frozen culmination, underscoring Levi's ability to pare right down to the essence of her vision.

Saturday
Mark Sanders - percussion

Sunday

London Sinfonietta
Andrew Webster - clarinet
Jonathan Morton - violin
Joely Koos - cello
Oliver Lowe - percussion

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