Mairi Campbell – Pulse at Summerhall (Venue 26), until 28 August.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
For those unfamiliar with traditional Scottish music of the people – not the bagpipes and drums on the battlefield or the Royal Mile – but the intimacy of a voice creating amazing sound; this show is an education waiting to be found. What Campbell does here is invite the outsider in: full of generosity, she tells her very own story of how her life not only includes music, but has been lived through music.
Opening with a soundscape that urges her to take up her violin and play, we are taken back to Campbell in the 1980s and her training at the Guildhall in London. Here, she is instructed on how to become ‘an instrument’; the goal was all about training the musician to play their instrument in such a way that they could perform the works of any composer and respond to the preferences of their given conductor.
As Campbell explains, this led to a blindness: “They never saw me. They stopped my pulse.” The pulse is not only a metaphor here, the pulse is the life-force; it is that part of the human spirit that transcends being contained in boundaries. It is a blend of skill, art, vitality and expression that almost everyone can relate to at the core of their being.
Campbell repeatedly found herself in situations where words were not enough for her to express meaning. In such cases, she picks up her violin or releases her wondrous voice.
Her command of both is so flexible that she can sway where the winds blowing around may push her. Just like a young tree, Campbell seems to grow strong as we look at her and listen, and beneath the ground – out of sight – her roots continue to spread and grow too.
There is a wonderful sequence of movement and sound where we see Campbell both as the follower and leader of her bow: this exquisite sequence is as strong an interpretation as I have seen expressing the master and slave relationship between the creator and the instrument.
We witness genuine jouissance between Campbell and the notes she plays. It is exhilarating to realise how the pulse she finds in her feet, inspired by Canadians in Nova Scotia, connects to her fingers on the violin.
In searching the world over to find other sounds and lives, Campbell came back here: to Scotland – where both she and her voice take flight. Join her and be uplifted.