Last Friday I made a trip up to New York to catch my first Wordless Music Performance. The show was in honor of the Japanese cinematic ambient rock group Mono's 10th anniversary. For those of you unfamiliar with Wordless, as I was until the fantastic Ryan Hansen of Ryspace brought it to my attention, it is an on going series of concerts that explores the similarities, parallels and influences shared by "the sound worlds of classical and contemporary instrumental music" by presenting rock or electronic acts and classical musicians in tandem. As someone who actually lettered in orchestra I fully appreciate any kind of musical experience that brings orchestra into the fold. The musicalstylings of Mono were also relatively new to me as well so, on the whole it was a night filled with firsts. And as far as first anythings go that evening's collection of them will not soon, if ever, be forgotten.
The show, held at the acoustically spectacular New York Society for Ethical Culture, opened with the premier of Arvo Part's Symphony No. 4. A beautiful piece given life by the Wordless Orchestra conducted by Jeff Milarsky. It set a calm scene. Essential for the performance Mono was about to lay down.
The quartet, backed by a condensed version of the orchestra, played an hour plus set that quite simply defied my greatest expectations. Their regular sound is already unusually instrumental for a rock band so the inclusion of an orchestra was seamless and, for lack of a better word, epic. The 800 plus die hard Mono fans that had lined up around the block to get in were clearly transcended by the event. They four band members put everything they had out there. At one point the lead guitarist was on his hands and knees while a die hard fan hovered near by. Its an interesting experience, witnessing other people experience what may very well be their live musical apex. Even for someone like myself ,who may not have had an abundance of Mono exposure, the music that was created Friday night left me appropriately wordless.
If you're already a classical fan the Wordless Series would be an superb way to get your fix of strings and timpani. If you're looking for a comfortable way to ease into the genre then Wordless is the place for you. This is an endeavor I fully believe should be spread throughout the country. But if you're lucky enough to be within easy NY travel distance, make it a priority. They have a Fiery Furnaces show coming up that I would highly recommend you put on your calendar.
**Photo by Teppei Takazawa