The Solo

featuring the music of Carl Palmer

On Grass

featuring the music of Nik Turner

by Andrew Cross

Presented 4-9 July 2012 at
The Dye House, Nutbrook Studios
London SE15 4JU 

The Solo explores the relationship between music and space by focusing on a much maligned musical form: the rock drum solo. The 35 min film is presented here as a large-scale twin-screen projection as it was first shown in 2010 at Ikon Eastside when it was met with critical acclaim. The work has since been screened in various forms and was a highlight at the 2012 PuSh Festival of Performing arts in Vancouver.

Through a process of rigorous editing, sequences of tightly framed images are constructed; Cross’ restrained style giving rise to a consideration the nature of shifting cultural value. Popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s drum solos were a key feature of concerts then, combining extraordinary musical virtuosity and showmanship. The work is produced in collaboration with Carl Palmer of 1970s ‘supergroup’ Emerson, Lake & Palmer. During the film Palmer performs separate drumming sequences exploring every facet of an absorbing and dynamic relationship between drummer and drum kit. In stark contradiction to the fashionable maligning of the ‘drum solo’, the combination of Cross’s rigorously minimal filmmaking and Palmer’s aptitude, outstanding co-ordination and shear strength makes for compelling viewing.

As critic Martin Herbert suggests, with The Solo, Cross makes Palmer “a serious proposition, not a punchline’. Herbert also writes “Time is mobilised weirdly in Andrew Cross’s art” where the subjects of his videos and photographs “feel wedded to the past but situate one in the present.” Indeed, Cross consciously confounds any desire to measure the then with the now, the old with the new or the inevitable ‘un-hip’ with the ‘cool’. He does so with exacting precision by dissecting video’s formal equivalents: fast and slow, absence and presence, exciting and boring. 

“As Palmer builds his solo from a single snare into a full drum onslaught, Cross's close up focus and minimalist editing defiantly and almost provocatively rescues a musical genre from cultural obsolescence.”The Guardian

On Grass is a new film featuring improvised saxophone by Nik Turner, founding member of anarchic space-rockers Hawkwind, performed in the landscape of Salisbury Plain. Cross brings Turner and Palmer together for the first time since the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. It was on the official Festival stage that ELP made their highly successful first ever public appearance while Hawkwind famously performed for free on an unofficial stage outside the festival’s notorious steel boundary fence.