One of the most magical aspects of the ether festival that I attended (Monday the 28th) was that no one really knew exactly what to expect. I feel that the majority of the crowd were there to support Thom and Johnny. I got there quite early, and a mixture of people attended the festival, Radiohead fans, of all ages, mostly around about ages sixteen and up, and then there were fans for the London Sinfonietta too, so it was quite a mixed crowd, and we were to come together.
For Radiohead fans that have never really explored the classical genre of music before really did have a treat- it could almost be described as a cross over into the world of classical music. The sounds were so rich and exploring- it captured Johnny’s love for music, and his wild experimentation, and his unique sounds. It was as if he’d thrown different coloured cans of paint all over the stage to create a new spectrum of colour.
The evening started with a piece called ‘Ramifications’ by George Ligeti. It was startling and different, with violins not really being played, they spoke, they conveyed real feelings of shock, and precision.
Next, a piece called ‘La Fete des belles eaux’ by Oliver Messiaen was performed on Johnny’s favourite instrument, the ondes martenot. On the black screen above, there was a little green line that grew bigger and more frantic as the music continued. I really enjoyed this piece, I could see lots of Kid A in it, it was one of my favourites of the whole night, the ondes martenot produced beautiful swaying sounds that gelled, sounds I had never heard before. It’s a sound you could fall in love with.
Henri Dutilleux had four of his pieces played at the ether festival. They were short, and sharp, averaging at about two minuets long each. It was a contrast to hear such a violent edgy piece of music after the soothing ondes martenot. The piece ‘Ainsi la Nuit -Litanies’ like most of his pieces performed, were played by about four strings musicians.
By now, everybody was wondering were Johnny greenwood was. His piece ‘Piano for children’ was performed, but not by him personally. It really was a beautiful piece, the piano clashing with the instruments like a child may do screamed of even more experimentation, though it was very subtle. When you listened to the music you could hear Johnny’s influences very clearly, and how he has incorporated them into Radiohead, and it was a pleasure to listen to. Then, when the piece was over, Johnny Greenwood himself came to the stage and the crowd were full of applause for him, being a big Radiohead fan myself I was elated to see Johnny in the flesh, it almost wasn’t real! He was very modest and looked very smart, and when he waved the hall screamed for him! Those very hands provided us with an evening of cross experimentation, and provided us with the uniqueness of Radiohead. He then came off stage.
The next piece of music performed was very different. It was written by Mohammed Abdel-Wahab, and the lyrics (sung in Arabic I think, but were translated into English and projected onto the screen overhead) were written by Ahmad Shafiq Kamel. I cant recall all of the lyrics exactly because it was quite long, but some of the lines were’ how could they consider that a part of my life’ and ‘what I saw before my eyes saw you was nothing’ and there was a beautiful line at the end, again I cant recall it exactly, but it was something like ‘you are the dawn that lights up my life’ I remember reading the lyrics and thinking them beautiful, it was s feisty love song, sung with great passion. A lady called Lubna Salame came out and started to sing the lyrics halfway through the music. It was about 12 minuets long. Her voice was beautiful and powerful, but she also had great control.
Then, there was a half hour break, where Radiohead TV was screened, which can be found on the ‘Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time’ DVD. Songs such as‘2+2=5’ were screened, ‘I will’ ‘sit down, stand up’ ‘Where I End And You Begin’ and ‘no surprises’ were too. Also, right at the end of the interval they showed the part of the DVD which explained how to clear out Camden Town, so you may go there on your own…. and it raised a lot of laughter!
Another Henri Dutilleux piece named ‘Ainsi la Nuit-Nocturne’ was played; again it was very short and sharp, again about two minutes long.
Johnny Greenwood’s ‘smear’ was the next to be performed. Again, he did not come out himself to play it; it was about nine minutes long and was different from ‘Piano for children’, it reminded me more of his work on ‘Bodysong’.
A piece by Farid El-Atrash was played next, it was called ‘tutu’ and it involved a big xylophone, and the Sinfonietta tapping their instruments to make a percussion sound, I really enjoyed it, it was such a wholesome sound, and in this piece the London Sinfonietta really showed what great performers they are, and they played together extremely well.
Krystof Penderecki’s ‘Capriccio’ was played next. It involved a man playing a xylophone again, and then he swapped to playing a drum with his hands. The cello in this piece was exceptional, jumpy but flowing, he really got into it! The instruments gelled together really well and they each had their little turn to play a solo part.
The last piece performed before Radiohead was Henri Dutilleux again, named ‘Ainsi la Nuit-Litanies 2’ and it sounded like the others, short and sharp, and yearning.
Then, came the climax of the evening. Thom Yorke came to the stage, and it was almost unbelievable to have him just standing there! There was so much applause for him. Then, Johnny greenwood came out with all of the other ondes martenot players, just being a regular musician. Its quite amazing how good Thom’s voice sound live, he brought a whole different sound to the night, and really got into the first piece of music that was played, penned ‘Arpeggi’. His short sharp hair nodding in time to the music, dancing, making shapes with his hands, he lived up to everything I expected him to be live. The lyrics were beautiful too:
‘In the deepest ocean, the bottom of the sea, your eyes they turn me. Why should I stay here, why should I stay? I’d be crazy not to follow, follow where you lead, your eyes turn me, sunk without a trace, the bottom of the deep.’
Thom sang to the fullest, you can tell that he meant it when he sung those words, and he never ceases to move people, and last night I could see why. The second piece played, ‘Where Bluebirds Fly’ can be found on Comlag by Radiohead. Lubna Salame joined Thom to sing this, and her chocolate like voice gelling with Thom’s soulful emotional voice really went together well, again a new sound was brought together. They were opposites, but went together very well indeed.
When the fifteen minutes of Radiohead was over, the crowd roared for them, Johnny wouldn’t go to the front of the stage to accept his applause so Thom had to give him a little push! It was really funny to see them fooling around together, and by now the crowd was standing up, applauding Johnny and Thom and everyone who had performed that night. It wasn’t what I had expected, but then again I didn’t know exactly what to expect. If you were to listen to those pieces of music again and again, they’d be some new firm favourites…it’s like a Radiohead album. I couldn’t believe Kid A when I first heard it, ‘what have Radiohead done!’ but now, it ranks in my top five. What Johnny greenwood did the past two nights was very hard to achieve indeed, and he is one of the best musicians we have today, totally unbiased.
By Kellie Young, age 16.