Missy Mazzoli/Kelly Moran review – captivating musical alchemy

St Giles Cripplegate, London
Mazzoli’s ethereal minimalism seemed to warp time and space, while Moran coaxed a blizzard of effects from her piano in a show that defied categorisation

The American composer Missy Mazzoli has said that her ideal listener would know nothing about her or her music before hearing it, removing any preconceived ideas based on genre. In many ways, seeing her work performed live is also something of a distraction. She has written two operas and numerous works for symphony orchestras, string quartets, solo instruments, electronics and for her own art-pop band, Victoire, but often Mazzoli’s compositions are about subverting each format.

Kelly Moran.
Musical shapeshifter … Kelly Moran. Photograph: Katharine Antoun

Tonight, in a duet with the Swiss violinist Etienne Abelin, Mazzoli plays piano and triggers string and choral samples on a laptop, while Abelin’s bel canto violin lines are drenched in effects and reverb. At some moments you don’t know where the sounds are emerging or how they are being produced, which only diverts you from how beautiful much of this music is – an ethereal baroque minimalism that seems to warp space and time.

Sharing the bill is Kelly Moran, who performs on a second grand piano, meticulously prepared by inserting dozens of small bolts into the strings of the top four octaves. On record – including her two recent albums for the label Warp – this prepared piano sounds glassy and bell-like. In the wayward acoustic of this medieval church, it creates a blizzard of effects: her florid right-hand curlicues can sound like a zither, hammered dulcimer, koto, harpsichord, gamelan or, occasionally, an accident in the kitchen.

The evening ends with two Moran/Mazzoli collaborations in which Moran’s melodies move into spikier territory while Mazzoli’s counterpoints become more hypnotic. An entire album of duets between these unique artists would be a treat.


John Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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