Just around the corner from Guelph Jazz Fest on Saturday night, a show was held at Silence that was beautiful and terrifying.
Not for the faint of heart, Canadian film composer Mark Korven played one of his newer instruments, the apprehension engine, for the first time as part of an ensemble.
Created by renowned guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith and commissioned by Korven, the apprehension engine is part bass and six-string guitar, hurdy-gurdy, percussive instrument and much more. It was designed to create sounds that would help score horror films and has since been used in the film The Witch.
“There are two common reactions to this - the first one is, ‘I have to get one of these to scare the shit out of my neighbours,' the second one is, 'I want to build one of these',” said Korven.
On screen throughout the performance, was a looped short video featuring distorted and manipulated images of Duggan-Smith’s 92-year-old mother that added to the dramatic aesthetic of the show.
“Totally unexpected from what we thought we were going to listen to tonight, and I didn’t want it to end; it was absolutely amazing,” said Nancy Brayton, a first-time listener and attendee.
“It’s not scary, it’s not any darker than a hymn,” said audience member Luigi Russolo. “I found that to be a very accepting space of foreign, weird sounds.”
Korven, playing with local Guelph artists Matt Brubeck, Gary Diggins, Daniel Fischlin, Lewis Melville, and Joe Sobara, played an hour-long improvised set that was transcendent and tightly captured the audience’s attention.
An array of instruments was used in an intimate space to create new sounds that raised the audience’s anxiety level and created a pleasant, sonic chaos.
“Part of our mandate [at Silence] is to program risky experimental stuff and I thought this would be perfect,” said Fischlin, who is also Silence’s chairman of the board.
Korven and Duggan-Smith have been receiving international attention from major news media about this project and have gone viral. The apprehension engine has been mainly reported on as horror-music-box for composition, but as the audience discovered tonight, that’s just one possibility.
“It’s not like [nails on a chalkboard] it just has the capacity to go to that place. Lot of people think it is a beautiful sounding instrument,” said Duggan-Smith. “Mark is the kind of player that could play an incredible piece of music and the last thing you that would think is that it’s ‘scary’.”
Silence is a not-for-profit organization that provides a space for experiential learning and unique musical content in Guelph. All band members played this show for free and it was fundraiser for Silence.