6 February 2013

Musing and perusing (SO2)

SoundOut 2013 day 2, in which he continues to muse on the nature of this strangeness. I continue to be uncertain over this music. I listen with my eyes closed and it can be fascinating. Some players spark references to traditions and I respond to that. When Luiz dropped into a slow bass walk that was quite free of tonality, I felt comforted. I’m not so settled with some of the bowing and slapping and other techniques. In his clock-conducted piece from Saturday, Jon Rose gave instructions to do something and eating was one option. On Sunday, he improvised by picking up a broom and sweeping the premises and later closed and opened a piano lid and discussed it with a colleague. He also presented a talk of two parties, a woman seemingly uninvited at the mic, he sitting and chatting, talking of marriage and music and more. This was interesting but odd as a music performance (agreed, words are sounds, but they have defined meanings that music doesn’t have). I enjoyed this but was frustrated by trying to catch two related but different conversions at once, but then, that’s probably one theme. I discussed these dilemmas with various friends and performers. One saw this music as taking away all the traditions and using what’s left. He remains a hard-bop devotee. One performer flummoxed me by saying that this music has its own traditions now (almost a century of Cage, Bartók, Stockhausen and the like) and that all the performers are out of jazz or classical training anyway. That certainly had me thinking. Another spoke of texture as a concern, of having no interest in a tonal centre, let alone harmony, how it didn’t matter which strings are muted with bluetak. It sounded chaotic but I loved her playing that ranged from delicate with repeated fingered patterns to loud and tumultuous with impassioned tone clusters that ranged over the keyboard. But then, another player slammed heavy hands on a keyboard with none of her skills and subtlety. It worked and she responded effectively, but it further confused my responses.

So what did we hear on the evening session of day 2? A few group improvisations that were floating and indeterminate to my ears. A combination with the Sydney rhythm section of Mike Majkowski and James Waples floated at first, but took off on top of wonderful rhythmic power from James. This was nowhere near a groove, but well-formed heavy notes with oblique overlays of stick play. I particularly enjoyed Hermione Johnson on piano in several outings. First with Jon Rose and Luiz where Jon’s humour and unconventionality and virtuosity, Luiz’s commitment, bowing and occasional pizz and Hermione’s densely passionate and expansive tone clusters were invigourating and emotionally satisfying. Hermione also impressed me when backing Super-8 experimental film artist, Louise Curham, along with Jeff Henderson on calls and wails on baritone sax. The whole show ended with the Barcode Quartet returning for a set and a welcome to all the other musos to join in to end the festival.

I have lots to learn of post-tonal music. This was a vivid exposure to a field and a happy one with a range of interesting and friendly performers from across the world. I have some reading to do in preparation for next year. And one last cheer to Richard Johnson for his great work in pulling this together for the fourth time.

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
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