On 24 March Dream Matter Foundations, a collaboration between Valgeir Sigurðsson, Daniel Pioro, and Liam Byrne, premiered at the Purcell Room of London’s Southbank Centre. The 20-minute piece brings together violin, viola de gamba, and Sigurðsson’s live electronics, in another piece mixing the raw immediacy of live stringed instruments with esoteric contemporary electronics and processed sounds. Its title suggests Sigurðsson’s continuing artistic preoccupation with dreaming, sleepwalking, and mysteries of the nocturnal, following works like Sleep Concert (2022) and Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (2014).
The concert sees Sigurðsson, Pioro and Byrne (all three recording artists for the Bedroom Community label) continue their existing creative partnership, with earlier projects revisited in the same programme, which includes Sigurðsson’s Dissonance (2014) and Dust (2018). Pioro and Byrne toured Dust and Dissonance to Germany in the spring of 2022.
Dust is cast in three continuous movements, whose total duration is 16 minutes. Pioro, who premiered and later recorded the work, has said of the piece: “Starting off sparsely, the violin sound and electronics thicken, following each other through moments of violence, struggle and deep peace. The score makes the most of the raw, unpolished, immediate sound of the strings, and of the air, and impurities created by the air.”
Dissonance was the title track of Sigurðsson’s 2017 album, where the 23-minute piece was recorded by the composer, Liam Byrne, and the Reykjavik Sinfonia; in 2018 the set of orchestral works won Album of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards. On 24 March Sigurðsson, Byrne, and Pioro were joined by Studio Collective, a group of Daniel Pioro’s students from Glasgow.
In the piece Sigurðsson pushes the sonority of the viola de gamba to its limits, digging past the pure tone and into the grit and grain of the instrument. Its starting point is Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, which begins with a remarkably uneasy chord, and extends it. “I took the bars” Sigurðsson says, “and stretched the 40 seconds out to 23 minutes. The movement is the same as Mozart envisioned, only much slower.”
In 2019 a live version of Dissonance was launched to choreography by Stephen Petronio at New York’s Juilliard School, with Byrne again taking the solo part. The same version was later presented by him in Germany in 2022, with ensemble reflektor.