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Mark Fell’s ‘Intra’, performed by Drumming Grupo De Percussão, opens the seventh edition of Vang at Madrid’s CentroCentro.

This Saturday CentroCentro inaugurates the seventh edition of the cycle Vang. Músicas en vanguardia, under the direction of Sergio Luque and Víctor Barceló. This edition will offer programmes based on complexity: the macrosonic and the microtonal, noise and mathematics, chaos and computers. Although the new VANG cycle will last until May 2025, so far only the first two concerts have been announced. This Saturday the Portuguese percussion group Drumming will perform Intra, the work by the British composer Mark Fell premiered by Drumming in 2017 at the Serralves Foundation in Porto and released on record the following year by Boomkat Editions, and on 22 June one of the most emblematic works by Iannis Xenakis, Persepolis, will be performed. And although it may not seem like it, the two works are related.

Intra is performed by Drumming Grupo De Percussão De Serralves on the sixxen metallophone, the microtonal percussion instrument devised by Iannis Xenakis for his Pléïades. Fell feeds the percussionists with computer-generated signals through headphones; Intra is thus the sound of a computer playing an ensemble of humans.

Whereas Xenakis’s use of sixxen in Pléïades tends towards the ordered and massive, Fell’s is relentlessly varied: a constant succession of sonic situations that ripple through one another, ripples that refract other ripples. Intra begins (and ends) with sections that crackle and tinkle like the introductory sleigh bells of John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space or overdubbed gamelan rehearsals. In between, Fell allows more spacious structures to emerge and creates patterns that provoke strange aural hallucinations. Intra-7, for example, sounds like a pots and pans conversation in the kitchen cupboard, while the arpeggios of Intra-2 come across as the sound of water running up a hill or raindrops coming out of a puddle.

Photograph of Drumming Grupo De Percussão by © Susana Neves, downloaded from the Portuguese ensemble’s website.