Mesmerising Music from 12 Musicians and 40,000 Bees
The debut performance of music written by the Be collective, and using the sounds of bees, is startingly beautiful, reminiscent of Brian Eno’s ambient albums
Outside the venue, ushers in beekeeper’s outfits of white overalls and mesh masks hand out programmes for a performance by 40,000 #bees and 12 musicians. It’s the live debut of a piece composed to accompany artist Wolfgang Buttress’s sculpture The Hive, the award-winning UK pavilion at Milan Expo 2015.
Perhaps jobsworths of the Midlands Health and Safety Executive have interfered, for the bees aren’t on stage, but broadcast into the auditorium via a live stream from their hives in Brackenhurst, a few miles away in the Nottinghamshire countryside. Nevertheless, it’s their sonic presence through a surround-sound PA that makes tonight so remarkable. The musicians on stage play between two gauze screens, on to which is projected footage of the insects in the hive, computer models of their social structures, and pollen drifting like snow. In one shot, honey is poured into the body of a cello and bees #swarm around in invertebrate communion.
It’s a genuinely immersive experience, as cosy as if we are in the hive itself. Indeed, there’s an old-fashioned wicker hive on stage, just in front of the keyboards. Although bees communicate by vibration, amplified recordings of their activities are audible to the human ear, and the sound of tooting queens and their subjects’ waggle-dancing hums in and out of droning melodica, Tibetan singing bowls, accordion, cello, guitar and occasional vocals. The effect is meditative and startlingly beautiful, reminiscent of Brian Eno’s ambient albums – #Music for Apiarists, if you will – Penguin Cafe Orchestra or the Durutti Column. The elegiac atmosphere is heightened by the quietly political edge to Buttress’s work, raising awareness of the disastrous impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on #bee populations and wider ecosystems across the world.
The musicians fade out, leaving only the sound of thousands of feet scrabbling against honeycomb as the credits roll, with a final poignant text: “Thanks to all the British #honey bees.”
Curated from: The Guardian