Running Under Bridges: improvisation at Talbot Rice. Edinburgh, May 2015.

I spent an hour or so this afternoon in the Talbot Rice gallery, listening to the pictures. Well, listening to improvisers interpret the graphic images, which represented the scores around which they improvised. The pictures they had on their music stands were copies of the art on the walls.

The project, Running Under Bridges, is a collaboration between musician Raymond McDonald and visual artist Jo Ganter. The musicians – McDonald was joined by longtime collaborator George Burt on guitar, Stu Brown on drums, and (I think) Emma Smith on bass – used the pictures to set the rules and then took the improvisation from there.

(c) Jo Ganter, from the Talbot Rice Gallery website.

It was a fascinating experiment, clearly not free improvisation, but intriguing.

Created on a grid, some of the artworks produced a strong sense of time, with a strong melodic line from McDonald’s saxes; at other points, Burt’s choppy, abstract guitar provided the industrial noise required by the score.

The artist and musicians answered questions from the audience between the four or five pieces. It was clear that the audience were trying to understand both the music and the process – how they translated images into sound. Did the colours have meaning? (To an extent.) How were the patterns turned into music? (Through the musicians improvising skills.)

There is another concert next Saturday, with McDonald and Burt and a harpist (possibly Corrina Hewat, but I couldn’t catch the name!), working with the same pieces, and I have every intention of going back to see how it works out. (I’m thinking of submitting a photo of the Forth Bridge for them to play, too…)

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