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> > > Decibel09 review: Metallicum by Anya Ustaszewski

by Sarah Pickthall

young woman with sound mixer by Jon Pratty/dao

Anya mixes up some more Metallicum music. The decibel show was work in progress. Photo Jon Pratty/dao

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

Composer/Sonic Artist Anya Ustaszewski’s showcased a work in progress at the round of decibel 'pitches' on Thursday 17 September 2009

Metallicum was interesting for the questions it raised, and for its inherent layers of possibility.

I was curious about the work as it revealed itself, which we experienced standing in a small, darkened, theatre space.

Were these sounds of muted bowls and bells indicative of the autistic experience, or just a particular sound scape by a particular artist?

Anya self-defines as autistic; and being on the spectrum (she explained to those who stayed for her question and answer session) means her hypersensitivity sees her experiencing sounds in a completely different way to many.

For her, a slamming door can be something ‘quite beautiful’.

woman at sound mixing desk by Jon Pratty/dao

Anya's work is about the sounds we all hear, but asks a question: are you hearing what I'm hearing? Photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

The pitch was uncomfortable for some who found standing difficult in a central space surrounded by the unpredictability of speakers on all sides and for others, who by virtue of how they ‘hear’ described the work as ‘similar to the sounds I hear in my head all the time.’

Beyond the diversity of people receiving the work, a myriad of routes for this artist to collaborate with others was evident: something she has done in the past from contemporary to classical and is keen to do so again.

In fact, she is keen to work with anyone who like her, ‘seeks to enable listeners to engage with the ‘sensory and sonic world’, always posing the questions important to her: ‘how are you hearing the sounds and how is this affecting you?’

A question from the floor enquired about this ‘difference‘ and how that worked in a space with classical musicians with a different way of perceiving and to what creative ends.

Interesting stuff, interesting musician, poised and with the loveliest of fingers and touch, fresh and assured in her proposition at Decibel09. So who’s for the taking?

Contact Theatre, Manchester, September 17. Metallicum is part of the decibel09 performing arts showcase.