Usually at a performance by a not-quite-classical composer in the Music Hall, mobile phones would be safely stowed away and not encouraged to be blasting out noise at full volume.
Yet this was exactly what Orkney-born artist Erland Cooper requested of the Aberdeen crowd on Saturday evening, in one the most memorable moments of live music I think I’ll ever experience.
Once described as “nature’s songwriter”, Cooper’s music carries deeply environmental themes, bringing to mind Scotland’s spectacular land and seascapes.
This is reflected by samples woven through his work, recordings of seabirds calling and other natural noises.
On Saturday night, along with five musicians on stage, he also conducted the crowd itself in a truly interactive fashion.
Before one song, he encouraged everyone to visit www.erlandcooper.com/gannet (go ahead and click that link to see what I’m talking about), and press play on their smartphones and crank up the volume.
Soon, the famous acoustics of the Music Hall were reverberating with the calls of gannets, and the musician conducted us in the crowd to lower and increase the volume of the gannets on our phones to work in time with the musicians on stage.
“That was really cool,” said an earnestly awed Erland to the audience after he finished up the song and the gannets quietened down.
I shared his assessment, and it really was the highlight of the evening. Especially the lady behind me who clearly had trouble with her volume keys.
Erland Cooper celebrated ‘quietest Saturday night ever’ at the Music Hall
I first heard of Erland Cooper while skipping through instrumental music on Spotify looking for something relaxing to listen to while reading, and I’ve been a fan of his for some time.
That being said, I really had no idea what to expect of his ethereal sounds in a live performance.
What we got really was something else. He and the musicians on stage, accompanied by mesmerising visuals of our natural world on the background screen, really kept the audience rapt the entire evening.
As well as the gannet moment, another highlight for me was requesting the lighting to be completely shut off throughout the entire hall, as well as Cooper’s microphone, for a slow an intimate song that crescendoed with the lights slowly dawning in orange on the stage, mimicking an Orcadian sunrise.
One of the final tunes, First of the Tide, was the only to feature any lyrics, sang in harmony between Cooper and his support act, London-based cellist Midori Jaeger (who was equally impressive).
It was an emotional moment hearing his singing voice live.
But my favourite part of the night was the performance of the song Skreevar, the first song I had ever heard by Cooper, accompanied by this video of him sprinting through Stromness and leaping into the sea in his suit:
Must have been chilly.
The composer, in good spirits, remarked that it might have been one of the “quietest nights ever” at the Music Hall.
It really was, and it’s for that reason and many more that I’ll remember it much more than many of the louder ones I’ve attended.