Anne L Ryan reports on Michael Horovitz and Barkingside – The Bateman Auditorium, Gonville and Caius, Cambridge 26 Sept 2006

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
When two PhD students at University of Cambridge discovered they were researching the same subject, the London Underground, they got together to discuss their findings. Two views emerged: one Spatial, another Beats and Counter Culture. Result: a one-day conference and evening celebration in the company of London-based poet Michael Horovitz and the London jazz quartet, Barkingside.

Since originating his publication New Departures in Oxford in 1959 Horovitz has carved a niche for his outstanding onomatopoeic odes, creating wordscapes and wordsounds that nimbly dump, bump and jump you through his underworld.

Barkingside, a group specialising in free improvisation, started the evening. Dom Lash, on double bass, pulled at a string coyly, giving the audience cause for a sighing smile. With a wizard's touch pianist Alex Hawkins took up the theme; then all four became a sound that ebbed and flowed from Alex Ward on clarinet, to Paul May on percussion, and round again. Five minutes into the performance, images of London's urban underworld flowed above their heads. Oblivious, they shaped the music to the images to make an eerie woven blur between sound and vision.

Then Horovitz joined for an autumnal poem, The Ghost of Summer, sounding the lines in tones that rose and fell in tune with Barkingside. Interjecting his wordsound falsetto with a horn he forced the musicians to rise to the beat like hounds on a scent, rushing through the urban underworld to the kill.

The apt décor suggested any old London tube station, with music and poetry busking in the tunnels way off to the side. The evening captured in performance the day's findings, creating an evocation of a London sub-culture rarely witnessed in Cambridge.

A critic's zest for a novel and eclectic approach to the performance arts was just about satisfied. The talent of poet and musicians is not in question - but even in the world of freely improvised music an audience can sense the impediment of little or no rehearsal.

Writer: Anne L Ryan

Illustration : Michael Horovitz by David Hockney (from the cover of Horovitz's Wordsounds & Sightlines)