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Shiva Feshareki
Turning World Vanessa Ague , June 6th, 2022 08:10

Shiva Feshareki mangles and mutates classical music history with two turntables and a mixer

Cavernous voices collide amongst a shroud of static in the first moments of British-Iranian turntablist and composer Shiva Feshareki’s ‘Aetherworld’. They’re supernatural and haunted, mangled and re-shaped by electronics. They’re singing sacred melodies from a distant time, re-examining them through the lens of electronics to close the gaps between past, present and future. 

The piece is the opener on Feshareki’s latest album, Turning World. After its final moments fizzle out, it gives way to an archival work by pioneering British electronic artist Daphne Oram, ‘Still Point’, in which orchestral instruments are manipulated by electronics. Both works collapse time and genre, morphing lush melodies into electrified echoes to showcase how electronics can transform acoustic instrumentations into unexpected sounds.

Feshareki frequently bridges genres, instruments and styles in her music, often mixing electronic and dance music with classical composition. Turning World continues her work in this type of synthesis: ‘Aetherworld’ reimagines Josquin des Prez’s Qui Habitat, which is a renaissance-era polyphonic work while ‘Still Point’, a piece unearthed by Feshareki and electronic musician James Bulley through extensive archival research, filters orchestral instruments through electronics to create various distortions. Organist Kit Downes, Bulley and the London Contemporary Orchestra join Feshareki to play these pieces.

While ‘Aetherworld’ sets the record’s eerie tone, ‘Still Point’ acts as its focal point. The piece, which was Oram’s last orchestral work before founding the influential BBC Radiophonic Workshop, was thought to be lost for decades, but here, it receives a renewed examination. The work features two orchestras: One plays free of electronic manipulation while the other transforms into a series of resonant, electric sounds. As a whole, the work explores how these two entities interact. 

This back-and-forth feels its most captivating in the piece’s first movement, which blends an urgent, dissonant wind section with strongly accented string melodies to create a seesaw between colours and textures that proves spellbinding. The other movements draw from the same pattern. The second movement, a short homage to Oram, blends shrill rings with distorted woodwinds, while the final movement is a hodgepodge of lyrical strings and whirring electronics. Rather than making every part snap together, Oram’s music foregrounds their contrasts, layering sugary melodies with thunderous reverberations. 

There’s something enticing about how this music relishes in the differences between instruments and melodies as much as the commonalities. The same goes for ‘Aetherworld’, which marinates in dissimilarities between crashing organ, stirring electronics and resonant voices. Through a careful balance of mysteriousness and uncanny distance, these pieces each highlight the gaps and similarities between the assortment of instruments and influences they draw from, celebrating the ways different musical eras and instruments meet and diverge.