Mariam Rezaei isn’t afraid to take chances. The performer, improviser, arranger and composer is the driving force behind an innovative new project that pairs classical music with multi-turntable DJs. Noisestra is the first project of its kind, and a special performance will take place at The Sage Gateshead on Friday 10th August.
Noisestra are an ensemble of experimental turntablists made up of young people, handpicked by Mariam after a public call for participants was put out across the North East. “I chose a diverse group of young people with a mixed background of skills, abilities and hopes. The group are very supportive of each other, open to each other’s thoughts, ideas and skills.” They’ve been paired with Apartment House, an avant-garde new music ensemble based in London that has performed world premieres by some of music’s most cutting edge composers including Christian Wolff, Christopher Fox and Laurence Crane. “They will fuse the sounds of harp, electric harp, strings, percussion and accordion with the skratching and skratch tones of Noisestra’s 14 turntables.” Together, they’ll help Mariam realise her dream.
Mariam has written a large scale work broken down into shorter pieces to be performed by the ‘skratchers’ and Apartment House to create something utterly unique. “I’ve always wanted to write for and work with a group of turntablists, taking the turntablist out of the ‘traditional’ hip-hop setting and using skratch techniques with avant-garde, new art and improvisation ideas and aesthetics.”
It’s obvious in speaking to Mariam that she has such a passion for her work, and she’s excited to work with young people and showcase a much misunderstood medium. “The turntable is as much an instrument as the rest of the orchestra.” She says of her aims. “I wanted to be sure that young people’s ideas and thoughts about working with turntables were heard and our performance has been uniquely shaped by their thoughts about sound sources, interpreting graphic scores and even outfits!”
Mariam’s work has also been inspired by the North East. “One direct influence of the North East can be seen in a graphic score the young people helped develop which I then worked from to compose notated music. We worked closely with Rachel McDonagh, from Space Invaders to use pictures tracing a short journey through the North East.” Mariam’s also worked closely with design agency El Roboto who, aside from giving over their office space for rehearsals, have helped develop ideas and provided tools for creating the graphic scores.
“We worked with Rachel and El Roboto to manipulate maps of the North East and pictures of interesting features in the environment. These pictures have been collated into three separate graphic scores from which I derived pitch and rhythmic material. I then composed this piece so that there’s an integrated relationship between the turntable ensemble and Apartment House. Instead of the turntables imitating instrument sounds, the instruments imitate the ‘baby skratch’, the ‘laser skratch’, the slowing down of a powered off turntable platter and borrow the ‘call and response’ relationship found closely in competitive turntablists.”
The performance at The Sage Gateshead is highly anticipated. “We have experimented and tweaked all of the pieces as rehearsals have progressed and I’m really excited to see and hear the final performance with Apartment House.” So what can people expect from such an unchartered piece of work? “All the pieces are widely contrasting in style, role and genre. We have a variety of different graphic scores from 2D screen printed paper for both ensembles to perform to a 3D high definition video score for turntable ensemble and cello solo.”
Noisestra and Apartment House perform at The Sage Gateshead on Friday 10th August.