Ben Frost’s one-off performance of a new work, A Predatory Chord, points a new way forward for the composer who has built a fearsome reputation with his albums and installations across Europe and around the world.
Performing as part of the Rolex Arts Festival, Frost’s installation saw him requisition every available speaker in the Alexandra Trianti Hall, string them up at various heights and send sounds through them in a randomised sequence, building and layering tones to create atmospheres that constantly shift. Frost uses soft, rich bowed sounds that arrive, swell and withdraw, leaving reverb trailing into emptiness. It is this emptiness that makes A Predatory Chord so profound. Silence comes as a surprise, a context for the passages of bodily reverberant sound that allows them to breathe, and to carry the weight with which Frost imbues them. In an acoustically “dead” space like this, decaying reverb suggests a vast interior space. When accompanied by pitch blackness, there is a sense of finality that he undoes over and over again; a sense of being abandoned then caught.
As the sounds emerge and recede around the room – sometimes solitary, often choral – bursts of rhythmic light come from strobes hung high overhead. Visitors move about the space, becoming part of the performance which, Frost says, is inspired by the way starlings move in murmurations, especially when responding to attack from a bird of prey. Their collective movements – separating and regrouping – is easy to imagine when the space is filled with dry ice, flickering white lights and Frost’s vast cello-like drones, pure, nourishing sounds that suggest an impossible scale.
What the listener takes from A Predatory Chord is impossible to predict. The experience of moving between the 42 monitors, wedges, subwoofers and PA speakers in the approximately 100 metre square curtained stage is just as capable of evoking introspective, environmental and intergalactic spaces. It is a testament to Frost’s abilities as a composer, an environmental artist and a theatre designer thet such a powerfully immersive production can involve so few components. A Predatory Chord, curated by Maria Abramenko, is intended to be a one off performance. Hopefully this turns out not to be the case.
Ben Frost / A Predatory Chord
Commissioned by Rolex Art Festival
Artist: Ben Frost / @ethermachines
Curator: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Venue: Megaron The Athens Concert Hall / @megaron_athens
Words: Andy Hazel / @andyrickie
Photo: Matthew Thorne / @matthewjjthorne
Drone and Editing: George Papacharalampous / @giorgos_papacharalampous
Assistant: Alisia Marcacci / @miabrowe