5 April 2015
New noises of a string quartet
I walked in to a full Band Room for an improvising fine music ensemble. I must say I was surprised but also pleased. The band was The Noise, a string quartet that is the ensemble in residence at the ANU School of Music for 2015. We know viola James and the members have played in a string of ensembles covering baroque and classical and romantic musics, so their chops are formed in a more sedate scene. But his was improv and they did a great job. Improv out of the classical scene is mostly different from jazz improv, although there are similarities with free jazz. I can find open music of this form distant and without sense of purpose but it can also be enlivening and exciting and exhilarating. I found most of this like that. I was not the only one to prefer the first set which James said was "more accessible". Probably it was: the harmonies were whatever, the feel often minimalist with some evident melody and rhythm. Stream had rhythm and percussion and a heavy beat. Ghungroo was delightful with interacting swells played traditionally with bows. Night music was pizz and slides and bouncing bows following a conventional entrance of jazz-like cello bass line. Playground was just that: whistles and dotted crotchet rhythm and lithe violin lightly reminiscent of gypsy. The second set was an improv toying with effects, cello and viola amplified and fatter and echo-repeated, and the main work, written for The Noise for this new CD, Force fields by Alex Pozniak. James suggested similarities to Zenakis (an earlier tune was likened to Bartok). This was group attacks and decays, spaces, buzzes and taps on strings, some fabulous rising lines and unrelenting feedback to end.
This was new and challenging but also skilled and approachable music. I felt real enjoyment and enchantment rather than just intellectual stimulation, so The Noise was a pleasurable gig for me. I would love to know how the SOM Friends and others found it, but we'll know that soon enough when they play their next concert. Highly recommended for new and open ears and, at least for this concert, ear plugs were supplied (although really not needed; most films are louder these days).
The Noise are Veronique Serret (violin 1), Liisa Pallandi (violin 2), James Eccles (viola) and Oliver Miller (cello). And various effects and amplification.