Replaceable Things

Replaceable Things features John De Simone’s Panic Diary and Thomas Butler’s Replaceable Parts for the Irreplaceable You, performed by Scottish contemporary music company Ensemble Thing, who have performed internationally and in the UK. In 2011, they recorded music by De Simone for Alma Mater which became a hit at the Fringe.

Ensemble Thing’s production of Replaceable Things will engage audiences in conversation about 21st century life.

The performance examines what it means to be human in the 21st century, covering the themes of technology and mental health. Ensemble Thing use live music and electronic soundtracks to great effect, complemented by video and spoken word to create a cohesive and enjoyable production. There is no weak link in the musical ensemble who all give superb performances, nor in the electronic effects which are well utilised. Both pieces have a distinct tone but feel comfortable together as part of one performance, questioning and scrutinising modern day living.

Replaceable Parts for the Irreplaceable You by Thomas Butler covers our relationship with new technologies in four distinct movements, questioning whether we can keep a human identity in a world inundated with machines. Featuring an accordion, violin, cello and clarinet/bass clarinet, this piece combines live music with electronic sounds such as telephones. At poignant moments video footage is played and, like the electronic sound effects, this complements the live ensemble to great effect. This is a fantastically exciting piece of music which should attract a wide audience for its comic moments, particularly those who rarely attend classical music events. Not that the performance would alienate fans of more traditional styles or genres; on the contrary, there is a comfortable blend of the familiar along with bolder choices. As far as contemporary music goes, Replaceable Parts for the Irreplaceable You is a fine example.

Following the first piece, a soprano and trombonist join the stage for the second. Panic Diary, John De Simone’s autobiographical look at living with anxiety disorders is the perfect way to engage in discussion about mental health. The moods and tones shown in each movement, introduced by De Simone in a few pensive words, are diverse and do not merely depict a black-and-white state of positive and negative outlooks. De Simone is a master in illustrating emotion using a diverse range of musical techniques. Given the extremely personal nature of this composition, Panic Diary is powerful and moving, the vocalist’s movement in particular captivating the audience’s attention.

Ensemble Thing’s production of Replaceable Things will engage audiences in conversation about 21st century life. With two beautifully composed pieces of music, each with its own strong, distinct style, this is a wonderful performance that showcases the company perfectly.

Reviews by Emily Dunford

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Replaceable Things




The Blurb

Leading new music group Ensemble Thing presents two extraordinary works examining the human condition in the 21st century. John De Simone’s Panic Diary is a deeply personal work about living with an anxiety disorder where the composer and audience alike immerse themselves in a fragile mind-set. Thomas Butler’s Replaceable Parts for the Irreplaceable You combines live musical performance with a cold electronic soundtrack and video in a work that critiques our use of, and reliance upon, new technologies. Ensemble Thing showcases some of the finest professional musicians currently working in Scotland.