Part concert, part sound installation, Don’t Walk was the result of a collaboration between Irish composer Grainne Mulvey and Romanian visual artist Mihai Cucu. Taking over one of the gallery spaces of The Lab, on Dublin’s Foley St., the pair had crafted a mixed-media work based on the poetry of Ciprian Macesaru. Blending live music with processed recorded sounds, Mulvey’s work was a fitting accompaniment to the sometimes unsettling imagery of Cucu.
As the lights are dimmed, projections appear on two walls – ghostly and indistinct at first, scenes of urban life become apparent – as the low washes of sound come from the speakers. Snatches of voices, of music are heard to appear. The entrance of each performer tonight is foreshadowed by snippets in the recording – as each begins, it melds with the sounds growing to fill the space.
The three instrumentalists tonight are each called on to use the full range of their respective instruments. Adrian Mantu, cellist with the Contempo String Quartet, is the first to make his presence felt. With a very physical style, he attacks his instrument, drawing a sometimes abrasive, expressive sound from it. Guitarist John Feeley, too, brings a percussive attack to his playing. As the visuals unroll, images of motion – often filmed through railings, as if from behind bars – soprano Elizabeth Hilliard’s ethereal voice fills the room. The text of the first poem, The Chain, appears on the screens, shifting and dissolving, as she sings. As she sings, the sounds around her swell and distort until her voice is obscured among the growing feedback.
As the screens pulse with static and sustained high tones come through the speakers, John Feeley plays some gently melodious passages, exchanging lines with Mantu. Cucu’s imagery, beautifully shot, combines the sights of a city in motion, interspersed with surreal staged interiors – a couple dance, a figure sits alone. The sounds throughout combine to create a sound-world that is at times unsettling, harsh, but beautiful nonetheless. As Feeley picks out the final repeated note, the screens go dark and the sound fades, leaving us at the end of what was a hypnotically immersive experience.
Adrian Mantu – Cello
John Feeley – Guitar
Elizabeth Hilliard – Soprano