Anchored by shadows: Leila Bordreuil & Zach Rowden

At Fylkingen, the walls are black, the chairs are black and the floor is black. Behind Leila Bordreuil and Zach Rowden the white projection screen is off. Rowden, on double-bass, is looking down and Bordreuil, on cello, has her eyes closed. The atmosphere is contemplative. The last few people are still entering the room, and the music hasn’t started. The person sitting in front of me, bent back, shoulders hunched up, his finger hovering over his screen, not yet touching it, is ready to hit record on a video.

But as Leila and Zach begin to scratch out chords with their bows, he very quickly gives up his phone. Almost inaudible first, the sound slowly amplifies. It’s vibrating, whirring in the space’s four walls. There is something about this performance that can’t be captured in a video.

In the darkness I am reminded of Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay “In Praise of Shadows”, where it is the absence of light that allows us to observe the moment, in contrast to the white, light aesthetic of Western culture. Even the ceiling, a black and white grid, reminds me of its 1970s cover.

Attractive in one a second, then repulsive in the next, the sonic escalation contains a cinematic tension. It forces our brain to create images. Like witnessing an accident I am unable to move, frozen, locked in a conversation with myself. My terror is visceral. This is the soundtrack of a collapsing mind.

The Tyshawn Sorey Trio concert challenges me similarly. The sound levels and the long performance bring a physical pain from standing in one spot. My back aches, but the shadow thrown on the wall, of double-bass player Nicholas Dunston, absorbs my attention. Like the play of candlelight on lacquerware that fascinates Tanizaki, the shadow is what anchored me.

Leila and Zach, when coming to the end of the show, capture the sudden moment of being thrown back to reality after gazing into the space, in such a way that we are forced to be here now.

(Charlie-Camille Thomas)

The above animation of drawings is by Jenny Soep