George Lewis’ Minds in Flux at the BBC Proms 2021 with Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Not for the first time this Proms season I find that listening is paying unexpected dividends. George Lewis’ mix of electronics and live acoustic instrumentation in his meditation on decolonisation ‘Minds in Flux’ provided much-needed distraction and focus.

Billed as a work exploiting the considerable physical space on the Royal Albert Hall, you’d think it might have been lost in a radio broadcast. I’ve listened to it three times on-demand and found it utterly absorbing as a piece of live radio.

In fact, I might even go a step further and say it’s my favourite listening experience this season.

Some background might be helpful here.

Over the past few weeks three distinct challenges in my personal and professional life have coalesced: work; family; and money. I have as a result found myself frequently quick to anger. Not the impatient kind, rather a sense of rage in response to injustice or ineptitude.

Or rudeness. Laziness. Passive aggression. Snobbery and entitlement, ignorance, or controlling behaviour. Contrivance has been a reliable old pal too (see The Bright Orange Trainers debacle a few weeks back).

And even closer to home (and my heart) the dissonance between how we’ve all of us automatically praised the NHS (some even standing on a front door step to applaud invisible healthcare staff), and the level of care a close family member of mine has received (or not) during her prolonged and worrying stay in hospital.

Bringing up the rear … the inability of recruiters and recruiting managers to communicate with the applicant or interviewee brings out my inner foot soldier.

The rage that lays underneath all of these is real and it’s powerful. And I’m happy to admit it’s scared me a great deal.  

And then I hear something like George LewisMinds in Flux’ and feel like I’ve walked into an art installation. I see colour. I feel reassured. Blank spaces enclosed by sharp black lines and angular shapes are now coloured in. The rusty hinges have been oiled and are now squeak free. The shattered glass has been replaced. The fear, the self-loathing, and the momentary loneliness disappears in an instant. Organised sound heals.

My only slight concern is that the reason I’m enjoying it isn’t necessarily why Lewis originally wrote it for. Minds Flux is a work about decolonisation. I derive pleasure and reassurance from hearing what strikes me as a musical rendition of when things are both disassembling and reassembling all at the same time. Magical, visceral, and awe-inspiring.