Tonight was International Earth Hour (8 to 9 pm). And somehow I managed to forget, despite declaring on Facebook my intention to "attend". I guess I can catch up with a private gesture of my own tomorrow, but I'm sorry I missed the chance to see the city in relative darkness.
Also on tonight – and not attended because I heard it on Wednesday – was an SSO concert at the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House's solution to observing the spirit of earth hour without leaving its patrons to stumble about in the dark and possibly do themselves an injury is to switch off the lights that illuminate the shells, while leaving the usual foyer and auditorium lighting in place.
Not that turning the lights off, or at least dimming them, for a performance is such a crazy idea.
Tonight would have been the perfect opportunity for an orchestra to program Ross Edwards' Yarrageh, tellingly subtitled "Nocturne for solo percussion and orchestra". Furthermore, Edwards specifies in the score that the hall lighting be as dim as possible, with the musicians using stand lights. The question he asks is:
What happens in a concert hall designed for the performance of European art music when the lights are turned low and the music is mostly very quiet and still, with no feeling of movement towards climaxes or, indeed, of going anywhere in particular?
In other words, he's after what he calls a "nocturnal" mode of listening – the kind of listening where we become less concerned with "keeping track" of conventional structures and more concerned with the "uniqueness and mysteriousness of each passing moment".
Yarrageh wasn't on the program this week, but there was a fantastic piece called Monh by another Australian composer, Georges Lentz (or "George Lenz" as some subeditor at the Sydney Morning Herald decided he should be called).
Monh happens to mean "stars", and based on my experience of hearing another Lentz piece in 2006 (Ngangkar, also meaning "stars") I'd have said that this, too, would be perfect music for listening in the dark. Lentz also seems to be seeking to give an impression of quietness, stillness and the mystery of each passing moment, and although his music doesn't lack direction or climax, these things occur on a different scale. But hearing Monh performed on Wednesday (with the wonderfully compelling viola soloist Tabea Zimmermann) I found I couldn't shut my eyes: there is simply too much that is fascinating to watch.