In Response to Francis Bacon: The Tate Gallery Liverpool, Albert Dock

Merseyside Improvisation Orchestra

Merseyside Improvisers Orchestra

As a number of Merseyside’s most talented musicians combine to sonically interpret the work of Francis Bacon, Getintothis’ Ste Knight reports on the sights and sounds.

The work of Francis Bacon is such that it is capable of evoking emotion without the requirement for any kind of musical accompaniment. This particular writer was looking toward the musical response to his work with great anticipation, eager to discover what more could be added to the work of the Dublin-born artist. The intention of this event was presumably to recreate the work of Bacon in much the way the work of Bacon reinterprates the form and function of his subjects.

The evening began with an arrangement by Merseyside Improvisers Orchestra. Their first performance (of three) was intended to represent the work Figure Crawling C (1957-61). There were a number of elements within this initial performance which mirrored the artwork perfectly and were not just limited to music.

The cacophony of sound created by the orchestra was an excellent representation of the work of Bacon. It is easy to imagine the warped subject of the painting morphing and moulding as it balters clumsily across the floor. The improvised musical element reflected this nicely. The vocal refrains, produced by three female orchestra members, symbolised the chaos of the painted scene – not least as one member was repeating the phrase “I believe in ordered chaos”.

The improvised dance implemented as part of this piece also depicted the morphing, shapeshifting figure in the painting well. The culmination of the dance that accompanied the music marked the end of the orchestra’s first performance. Unfortunately, this is when the frustration began, for Getintothis at least.

Upon completion of their first score, the Merseyside Improvisers Orchestra saw fit to treat the time as though they were on their break in work. Talking between themselves, at the tops of their voices, laughing and guffawing their way through the entirety of Lo Five‘s adaptation, showing a complete lack of respect for fellow artists, not least because everyone had stood or sat in rapt silence during their performance.

This was completely unprofessional and continued for the rest of the evening each time the orchestral segments came to a close. Quite unbelievable, and not what one would expect from a group of talented artists. We’re sure we weren’t the only attendees who had their cages rattled by this poor show of artistic integrity, and it made this writer reticent about giving the remaining performances by the Orchestra his full attention.

Check out Janaya Pickett’s own response to Francis Bacon’s work, here

What this writer could hear of Lo Five‘s piece was excellent. Combining semi-acoustic guitar strums with some wonderful live electronica jamming made for a mesmerising 10-minute episode which gave an interesting, and different slant on interpreting the works of Bacon in a more electronic sense, in this instance Study for a Portrait. The performance contained more than a nod towards musique concrete, as Lo Five based his portrayal around samples of marine pile-drivers, which reflected the industrial advances taking place during the time of Bacon‘s early operation.

After the Orchestra‘s second recital, it was time for their interval The Gentle Sex to take to the stage, (or exhibition space). The electronic duo provided an accompaniment to the piece, Crucifixion (1933). The feedback and discord in their rendering of the painting truly echoed the Bacon work. The dark, distressing sounds emanating from the sound system represented the painting subject’s anguish, and the space the sound created, which at times was almost hollow, mirrored the expanse of blackness and space surrounding the crucified soul.

The final interpretation was by electronic artist and composer Germanager, who executed his adaptation using a tablet, presumably with some sort of synthesis software running (we couldn’t see from where we stood). His segment started really well, with plucks, strums, and sparse beats reflecting the loneliness of the subject in a revisit to one of the earlier paintings, Study for a Portrait.

Unfortunately, this was completely drowned out by a collaboration with the Orchestra, which by this point had managed to disrupt every single performance other than their own. Sadly, Germanager‘s sound was completely lost in that of the Orchestra. We would have liked to have seen his set performed alone, and allowed the space to breathe. Instead, it was cloyed by the musical interjections of the Orchestra.

In all, it had elements of an enjoyable evening. This was sadly marred by the lack of professionalism displayed by the members of the Orchestra, a crying shame, as it showed plenty of promise on paper.

All photography by Getintothis’ Mark Holmes