Janek Schaefer In the Last Hour

Finding titles for its four tracks from a sentence in the novel The Bridge by Iain Banks, this hour-long live performance by Schaefer is nothing short of stunning. Commissioned by and performed at UK’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November of 2005, the work was conceived for an eight speaker system in the majestic, domed Town Hall. Schaefer, who is primarily known for his forward-looking turntable work, here expands instrumentation to include chord organ, piano, clarinet, location recordings and the hall’s own native organ. Schaefer claims to have gathered the source sounds over a period of three years in preparation for a piece to suit Banks’ line, "In the last hour, between the two, half submerged by each, the ruined city.” Opening with repeated slow organ swells and the sinister sounds of digging, the performance progresses through a chart of sacred and profane devotions. The slow changes, from organ drone to hints of forest life to distant human noises all rising combing and receding are so gradually immersive that it borders on hypnotic. From within this altered listening state seemingly benign and moderate themes gain an unexpected emotional charge. Without a firm didactic hand, Schaefer still guides the experience like a hushed sound tour of a slightly darkened and water-warped English hamlet. To hear it from recorded distance is breathtaking, to have been present for the performance was doubtlessly sublime. (Room 40)