by Irvine, Milling & Nelson
From Andriessen’s notes on Workers Union:
This piece is a combination of individual freedom and severe discipline: its rhythm is exactly fixed; the pitch, on the other hand, is indicated only approximately, on a single-lined stave. It is difficult to play in an ensemble and to remain in step, sort of thing like organising and carrying on political action.
The black and white film, shown over multiple screens installed under Concorde surrounds the musicians as they embark on the musical marathon that is Andreissen’s Workers Union. We see a pack office workers perpetually running through a deserted business district, they negotiate stairs, civic squares, pavements, road crossings, on and on they go. No one breaks from the pack, they stick together. Some of them might be out of breath, some are fine. These are not unfamiliar with running, but normally clad in lycra after work in the gym.
The piece is relentless, it is also climactic. As an audience member you are very aware of the players effort, precision, exertion, their work. The runners like the players are held in a strict structure and we can experience their effort. For both the players and the runners their choices are singular but also collective, they are all doing this, performing – responding to the score, the conductor or the directors instruction, to each other and their sense of where the piece as a whole is going. It is intense and demanding.
Personal freedom and totalitarianism are in relation here. The players/ runners are in unison rather than harmony, rhythm is unifying dissonance. The structure is dominant and restraining, but allows the piece to keep on in it’s ever forward motion. Andreissen’s socialist foundations are given a neoliberal twist, the runners are smart office dwellers rather than factory workers. They could be estate agents, lawyers, bankers, we don’t know. They are the weekend warriors, running in their work wear and this is serious. They have to keep running. They fall in and out of step, bound together somehow, they don’t help each other, but they don’t split from the pack. They don’t seem to be competing with one another either. They are a peloton. They complete the run together as the music comes to its climax. They are spent, panting, bent double, not celebratory, just done.
Documentation photography by Peter Dibdin & Ian Dodds
Commissioned by Red Note Ensemble for the Lammermuir Festival 2016
Performed by Red Note Ensemble, conducted by Gary Walker at East Fortune Museum of Flight under the belly of Concorde.
Live film synch operation Tim Cooper & Zoë Irvine