28 May 2012

All new and mice

Canberra New Art Music. It’s a challenging concept. It arose after the Australia Youth Orchestra summer camp in January. A few members discussed how to maintain an interest and audience for contemporary, original music. So this. It was just a little event and the musos almost outnumbered the audience. I didn’t think it all worked, but it shouldn’t. This is experimental, an opportunity to explore and present to an inquiring audience. It wasn’t long, either. Ninety minutes to present about 10 compositions. But there’s detail and complexity in 10 fine music charts so this represented massive work. I was honoured to have been invited.

The show started with John Burgess (electric double bass) performing his tune, Searching finding, solo with and without bow, without and without effects. It reminded me of Jaco and Corea. Very fluid, and I expect considerably improvised, and with some impressive technique on an instrument with action set to zero. Amusingly, John complained of larger shoes clicking the wrong pedals, but, not knowing the piece, it still worked for me. Next was Quartet no. 4 by Nigel Poole, performed by Sarah Hewat (flute), Rosemary Shepherd (flute), Marlene CP Radice (clarinet) and John Burgess (bass). This had elements of a round that passed sometimes jolly lines between instruments against flutes playing crochets in 4/4. Next was Robbie Mann (piano) playing a Larry Sitsky composition, Nocturne magique, on a questionable piano. It’s constructed from a tone row with notes representing letters of a name, and accidentals placed irregularly. I liked this, especially for the time delays between hands, an effect I also noticed when Larry Sitsky played Dvorak at the SOS concert earlier in the week. Then Hayley Bullock (violin) played Zara 1 for violin by Paul Witney. This was a work based on a three note motif, with triplets, slides, double stops and more, and with occasional hints of hillbilly to my ears. String quartet no. 3 by Lulu Huang followed. I found this very satisfying. It was played by the String Theory Quartet comprising Erin Patrick, Sabrina Tiong, Rosy Davidson and Darsha Kumar. I counted 7/4 at one time and triplet feels and 4/4 at others. I heard it as a slightly dissonant take on Mozartian sweetness: melody with a contemporary quizzical take. Are you out there? was written by hostess Thea Zimpell and performed by Marlene CP Radice (clarinet). It was a dedication to Thea’s mentor, Stephen Stanfield, now deceased. It was solo clarinet, pure, sometimes harsh, often cutting, sometimes meandering and mostly questing. Then Lucia Gonzales (flute) played a solo piece by Marlene CP Radice called There’s no one here, there never was. It’s based on words of a Leonard Cohen poem. Sometimes sparse, sometimes lively, it reminded me of sprites in the words. Then Playing with shadows, piano trio no. 3 by Sandra France performed by Hayley Bullock (violin), William Tu (cello) and Thea Zimpel (piano). This was the second movement of a CD, Fluctuating states of calm. The name fits: this was open and pensive and questioning. Last was a humourous finale called Mouse by Michael Sollis. We were amused by Sarah Pettigrove, Megan Billing and Kirstie Raffan (oboe, oboe, english horn) arriving in black with mouse ears. We were more amused by a four note motif with varying often lengthy rests between repeats, frequent unisons, occasional sidesteps and infrequent harmonies. All with simple sudden choreographed movements. It was much more intriguing than you would imagine and a great way to end a night of considerable inquisitiveness. John Burgess encored with an another solo bass piece to satisfy his concern over his mistepped effects. This one was more pulsingly rhythmic and featured some e-bass techniques on his very lowly strung axe: tapping, chords, slides, harmonics.

This was an intriguing and discursive concert of new music. It’s great to see we have this scene here and let’s hope we still have it after the ANU changes are put in place. Canberra New Art Music, Thea Zimpell, Nigel Poole, Larry Sitsky, Paul Witney, Marlene CP Radice, Sandra France, Michael Sollis, John Burgess, String Theory Quartet

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