Preparing The Plateaux of Mirror for live performance

Our second Aspects of Eno concert is centered around the first live performances of six Pieces from the 1978 album Eno did with Harold Budd entitled The Plateaux of Mirror. David Power did the transcriptions of the six pieces, Kate Ledger will be performing then and Lynette Quek is doing the live electronics. The six tracks to be performed are listed below and, for this blog, we have asked each of the three participants to outline their experiences of this project. The six tracks that will be performed are as follows: 

Not Yet Remembered
The Chill Air
Steal Away
Above Chiangmai
The Plateaux of Mirror

David Power

A brief bit of background. As seasoned attenders of Late Music will know, my starting point on the path to new music were the extended electronic instrumentals of David Bowie’s 1977 albums Low and ‘Heroes’. Years later it struck me that if this music could be a gateway to new music for me, it could for others too. I did arrangements of three of these for the Delta Saxophone Quartet and these became the start of the path to their CD Bowie Berlin and Beyond which has done very well and been played and broadcast in various parts of the world. The CD was launched in the 2018 Late Music season and resulted in Late Music’s best ever attended concert. The gateway idea seemed to be working. As Eno had played a central role in the creation of Bowie’s Berlin instrumentals, the next logical step in the gateway idea was to do concerts centered on Eno himself. Consequently, Late Music asked me to curate two Aspects of Eno concerts for the 2019 season. 

The second of these concerts is centered on live performances from six pieces from The Plateaux of Mirror, an album he recorded with Harold Budd and released in 1978. Eno, by 1978 had stopped gigging and, as far as I have been able to establish, very little of his post Roxy Music work has been performed live. Certainly, as far as I have been able to establish, none of the tracks on this album have ever been performed live except parts of the title track which Budd performed some years later.

The reasons why I picked The Plateaux of Mirror were partly practical – as an album comprising piano music treated electronically, there was a good chance that a live, performable version could be created and Lynette Quek was kind enough to listen to the whole album and confirm that this was so. But my love of this album was also a reason for picking it. 

When it came to the arrangements, my first instinct was to have extracts of Not Yet Remembered as the first and last track. It is more solid and bassy than the others and that seemed to make it right for the role of framing the others. Then its title suggested another idea. What if I wrote some new music of my own for the last track and had bits of Not Yet Remembered emerge and take over the track. So that is what I did. Remembered is partly new music by me and partly extracts from Not Yet Remembered. The other four pieces were picked simply because they were amongst my favourites and seemed to add up to an attractive and varied set. 

Kate Ledger

Listening to the transcribed score for The Plateaux of Mirror along with the original recording revealed to me how difficult it is to notate exactly. I was drawn to the small imperfections in Budd’s touch and the bareness of the chords and phrases. I will attempt to replicate this through a blending of the melodic line within a heavily pedaled backdrop and a harsher attack to remove any softness I may be carrying over from the classical tradition. I felt it was important to recognize Budd and Eno’s pop background and the unencumbered piano touch that I hear in The Plateaux of Mirror.

David Power’s score follows the original closely but leaves much needed space for Lynette Quek and myself during performance. There is a dialogue between the piano and electronic parts with much of the timing being free and felt in the moment. Although the majority of our interpretation is based on details we’ve drawn from the recording, we decided as a duo that the music’s overall style is down to there being a sense of freedom. Following the recording closely to the nth degree would remove this sense of freedom. Therefore we felt it imperative to keep some choices to be made in the moment of performance, allowing for live reactions to the acoustic and each other.

Lynette Quek

Re-creating the electronics part for Eno’s pieces has been a fun and intricate process. Listening to the tracks with a more inquisitive approach was much needed to translate the studio-composed electronics into a live performance context. In the concert performance the electronics work in a way where they are responding to the live performance by Kate Ledger, as well as to prompt an activity by Kate. This in turn allows the electronics to be part of the performative performance, which Eno highly sought after in his productions.