INTERVIEW: Crystalqueer | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Liza Bec by Ben Hughes

I’ve read a lot of press blurb during my time at NARC. Magazine but none have captured the imagination more than CRYSTALQUEER. This sensory wonderland and collaborative commission from composers and multi-instrumentalists Liza Bec and CHAINES, taking place at The Glasshouse, Gateshead on Thursday 23rd November, says all the right (and seemingly random) things to pique my interest. It’s “part cyborg concert, part audiovisual installation, part video”, takes influence from the local landscape, celebrates “queer crystals” and creates soundscapes with dark, edgy synths, spoken word, electronically enhanced flutes and a roborecorder (a plastic recorder with a circuit board on it).

The pair first met at the Sage Gateshead (as it was then) Summer Studios music residency project in 2022. Liza was already a fan of CHAINES’ work before they met and the pair both really hit it off during their time there. After the residency had finished they individually discussed the possibility of a commissioned piece and so The Glasshouse, with their infinite wisdom, asked them to work on something together.

This creative collaboration began drawing inspiration from the architecture of The Glasshouse itself, as well as the landscape and history of the surrounding area, which birthed an intricate and inspirational project, as Liza explains: “I was entranced by the architecture of the building. To me, it represents a giant spaceship, a portal to multiple musical dimensions. After doing a little digging into the history of the area we found that Gateshead used to be Salt Meadows in mediaeval times, prior to the Industrial Revolution and the great fire which obliterated the area. When building The Glasshouse, the architects decided to build the world’s very first ten-sided concert hall, where we will be performing this commission for the first time. So it seemed that the area had evolved from a flat, featureless crystalline space, through the machine era, into quite another – something complex and multidimensional.”

it’s really a story of hope that we can all live in a multidimensional world where we all have infinite possibilities for self-expression

This then evolved further into a reflection of life beyond the gender binary, something that both artists really connected with: “There’s a really interesting short story called Flatlands which depicts how creatures living in a two-dimensional world might perceive interventions from a third dimension whose existence they have no concept of,” Liza explains. “As an agender person it often feels like non-binary identity is such a foreign concept to many people that you may as well be living in another dimension. Together with the compelling transformational narrative of the local area, it’s really a story of hope that we can all live in a multidimensional world where we all have infinite possibilities for self-expression.”

As the audio began taking shape CHAINES thought about visual and spoken word elements to create a magical experience. “For a while I’ve been interested in how sound and images interact with one another – it’s what drove me to learn to code and start to make video games and video game music. I’ve been really inspired by Liza’s interest in ‘thin sections’ – super thin slices of rock viewed under a microscope with polarised light shining through them. The results are incredibly vibrant and colourful, so expect collages of paint and light with every colour of the rainbow!”

The results of Liza and CHAINES’ creative odyssey will be a feast for the senses and will no doubt leave those who immerse themselves within it feeling, in the duo’s words, “very dynamic and special”.

CRYSTALQUEER takes place at The Glasshouse, Gateshead on Thursday 23rd November.

Image: CHAINES by Marie Sutter

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