02 February 2015


SoundOut is our annual local opportunity to be immersed in experimental music and here is SO2015 and some regulars and a string of new faces.

I managed two sessions this year and they divided neatly into two styles. The first was Saturday afternoon. The program featured several trios and one solo performer. There was a similarity in search for texture and tone. There was none of the standard melody, harmony or rhythm to speak of, at least not as envisaged by theory of Western music, although I did feel some sense of harmony in pairings of tones at various times, perhaps two saxes or accordion and sax or laptop and sax or even output from a single laptop. Or a single voice, when throat singing. But this search from tonal and ranges of sound from instruments was central, as was the texture of interacting instruments in a space. These sets were almost consistently meditative, slow, often quiet or with long, long crescendos and diminuendos. Nothing was quick here. All was space and listening and tonality. Psithurism was the first trio. Richard, Rhys and John are locals, mostly playing alto, tenor and soprano saxes, airing and spacious, speaks and squalls and reverse attacks and tonguing and rippling notes and burbling and tones like controlled feedback. Then Jason Kahn sang solo. This was firmer, long phrases from well-used lungs, exploring vocal tones and vowels, vibratos and slow pitch changes, worldly tones of North American natives and throat singing with polyphony. I wondered at the effect on his vocal chords, at times. I smiled to think how easy it was to travel with this instrument. I wondered if some of the sounds were so personal they should only be heard by a partner. But I josh. Then another trio, piano sax and guitar. Meredith playing virtually always under the lid, strumming or thumping strings, perhaps with a right hand on the keyboard holding notes or damping, and again a search for texture from Christian's sax and guitar, with Sam's guitar just once edging to break out into more standard soloing. Then a final duo, of Klaus and Paul on two laptops with Monica on piano accordion. Again, this was a set of texture. Monica playing long, steady chords or notes that would grow and withdraw with the bellows and the electronics finding and moving pure tones. All very meditative, slow, searching, trancelike, perhaps slumberous.

SoundOut is a challenging listen and increasingly that's something we need, in Canberra and in Australia, as little thinking shrinks our broad and educated minds. For without those broad and educated minds, Canberra is little more than the country town that many (mistakenly) claim it to be. While music suffers in Canberra, SoundOut remains vibrant. It's an international community that's daring and welcoming to its visitors and this can only broaden the life of our city and enhance our international integration. And, if we must talk dirty, even enhance our music tourism and international recognition.

Psithurism comprised Richard Johnson (soprano sax, drum skin, cornetto), Rhys Butler (alto sax)and John Porter (tenor sax). Jason Khan (vocals) sang solo. Meredith Maloney (piano), Christian Kobi (tenor sax) and Sam McAuliffe (guitar) played a trio. Monica Brooks (piano accordion) performed with Klaus Kilip (electronics) and Paul Heslin (electronics). SoundOut 2015 was held at the Drill Hall Gallery.

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