Thuistezien 273 — 22.05.2021

Genevieve Murphy & Andy Moor
Onze Ambassade Festival 2020

As if rewinding in her mind back to a strange and murky previous time, Genevieve Murphy begins her performance with Andy Moor by dragging a piece of audio tape through a reel-to-reel tape machine. Storm-like churning sounds emanate from the machine as the tape is dragged through it and past the tape head at an uneven speed, garbling up whatever sound may have originally been held on it… Andy Moor taps and rubs the back of his guitar neck with a brush to gently draw out the ominous sound of his guitar’s open tuning which sets the tone for the performance…

Typical of Moor’s stripped-down sound, his battered guitar is performed percussively and viscerally, often with the aid of several objects. The only pedal he has as part of his setup is a tuner, which he uses to maintain through his performances the open unconventional tunings that underpin much of his playing. Yet with these limited means he crafts an expansive and gritty punk-tinged soundscape that draws you in instantly:

His guitar tone is unmistakably unique, powerful, direct and exposed, and his playing impressively nuanced in how it sculpts itself perfectly within any of the myriad musical occasions he finds himself in. Examples of the many varied settings he has been in include his beginnings the Edinburg-based post-punk band ‘Dog Faced Hermans’ in the mid-80s to the mid-90s, his work with the legendary Dutch punk/ anarcho-punk/ post-punk band ‘The Ex’ which he joined in the 90s, as well as many subsequent collaborations with composers and sound poets, his involvement with abrasive improvised ensembles, and numerous contributions of music for film. Although a noisy punk sound seems prevalent in most of his output, his work also veers into explorations of free jazz, noise rock and electronic elements, and has also incorporated elements of traditional klezmer, as well as Greek and Russian folk songs. In his collaboration with Murphy he seamlessly conjures up the tense world of her dark and strange tale, synching perfectly with every unexpected twist and turn of her narration.

Murphy continues to drag the tape through the machine as she moves toward the microphone, to then speak into it and give the first words of her spoken word performance, which also form the title of the collaborative work: ‘The One I Feed…’. Murphy is a subtle and captivating spoken word performer, whose soft Glaswegian accent and dry delivery has been a recurring element in much of her recent work as a composer and performer.

As a composer, Murphy’s works find space on the fringes of contemporary classical composition as she writes in to them non-conventional performative and theatrical aspects, showcasing them with a presentational flare that shares an affinity for the world of contemporary visual art, concept art and musical theatre. Her work has also moved into the realm of solo performances that veer on solo theatre works, but she is also frequently seen performing outside of her own works in a variety of musical settings, which have included a brief period in the band of Scottish concept artist Martin Creed, and playing bagpipes in the Amsterdam-based improv collective PolyBand.

Although several of her past works explore questions of psychology, obsession, and even elements of dysfunctional behaviour, Murphy’s tale in this performance delivered at West in 2020 proves particularly chilling and unnerving, describing self-destructive tendencies, eerily detached responses to a strange violent act, possible hints of substance abuse, and general intense recklessness. It’s intriguing also how the tale reveals shifting ways of reflecting on the problematic or at least very impulsive past behaviors and tendencies of the speaker. It is unclear who Murphy portrays in her performance, or if the story she describes is based in real life experiences. There is a hint of beatnik-esque automatic writing to her words, as the strange and dark tale is told in a flowing but unfocused manner jumping from one thought to the next, yet with each thought described in intense detail and with an inescapable element of excitement and relish. There seems to be a desire in the speaker to examine and understand, maybe even to heal from past experiences or tendencies, but also a dark poeticism that unfolds in the account, which almost romanticises much of the situation.

Text: James Alexandropoulos - McEwan