The soundtrack to Wolfgang Buttress' beehive installation
Tonight is the first time that the music, originally commissioned by Wolfgang Buttress to soundtrack the beehive installation he created for the UK Pavilion at last year’s World Expo in Milan, has been performed live.
Feeling like a mix between a classical concert, science lecture, drone rock gig, and art installation, it’s an attempt to take the experience of Wolfgang’s hive installation and transpose it in to a live setting.
All of the key players that make up the collective called Be, and who conceived the soundtrack, are present: Wolfgang, his daughter and vocalist Camille Buttress, the musicians Tony Foster and Kev Bales, and the cellist Deirdre Bencsik. These are augmented by a string section, two additional vocalists, and an extra musician who shares guitar and accordion duties.
As the crowd file in to the theatre through a side entrance ushers are dressed as beekeepers, netting hangs from the ceiling, and bee noises are piped in to the hallway with accompanying facts hanging on the wall.
Much of Wolfgang’s original installation was based upon research conducted by Dr Martin Bencsik on a colony of honey bees at Nottingham Trent University’s Brackenhurst Campus. As the audience take their seats a Q&A between Wolfgang and Dr Bencksik about his research plays over the auditorium’s PA.
The pre-event literature proclaims that this is a ‘multi-sensory experience’, and they’re not wrong. Hanging down in front of the stage is a translucent screen upon which various images and animations are projected throughout the performance and behind which the band play. Over the course of the show these include a live a video feed from a hive at Brackenhurst, wavelengths of bee sounds, bees in motion, an English meadow, and at one point the symbolic act of honey being poured in to a cello. The projections serve to act as a kind of narrative and accompaniment to the music while transporting us in to the world of the bee. With the musicians masked behind this visual feast, it is obvious that they’re just the support act - it is the bees that are the star of the show here.
Inspired by recordings of bee sounds made by Dr Bencsik, the music is a fluid orchestral drone led by Deirdre Bencsik’s beautifully played cello. On the album itself the soundtrack is split over four separate tracks, but tonight the music takes on a more cyclical nature. Familiar refrains come and go, repeating, shifting and evolving as the music takes us on this journey with the bees. It all moves at a calming and tranquil pace, nothing is rushed; the notes and melodies are given room to breathe.
Opening with Camille Buttress' expressive call of “I’ll be your queen, hand me the crown”, the music starts to gently open up and as it progresses over the 45 minutes new elements are brought in to view. A chorus of harmonies appear, then disappears, before retuning at a later point; there are chiming guitars with Tony Foster’s slide work adding subtle enhancements to the main melody; we hear delicate notes of piano; while melodica and harmonica come and go with their nagging refrains. It’s all very peaceful and tranquil; shut your eyes for a moment and you could be there in that English meadow.
It’s a fully immersive experience, a feeling enhanced by the buzzing of bees around our heads heads taken from a live feed and sent in to the room over a snazzy 15.2 surround sound system. All in all a wonderfully evocative, moving and inspired performance.
Be performed their One soundtrack at Nottingham Arts Theatre on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 February 2016.
An article about Be: One on LeftLion