31 December 2017

End year


Tilt is not playing for NY Eve so this is end year for us. We played the Tradies again and I expected a quiet night, given the date between Christmas and New Year and Canberrans being down the coast and all, but there was audience. And we were graced by a friend who was over from Belgium, Alysa Ingles. I've known Alysa in Canberra as a friend of one son. She's now in Belgium studying but back for a family visit. She sings in Belgium with a band of professionals. My impression is their repertoire is the pop/gypsy-jazz. We worked out a few keys and played half a dozen songs, standards like Honeysuckle rose, All of me and Bluesette and she did a great job, nice voice and aware enough to deal with odd entries and the like. Well done and thanks to Alysa. Always nice to play with a singer. The audience loves it and our roles become just that little bit more relaxed and complementary. Otherwise, it was our repertoire of modern jazz, hard bop and a few standards.

Tilt played with Alysa Ingles at Dickson Tradies. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

28 December 2017

A maturing project


I've been watching Charis' new choir for a year or so now. It's only in 2016 that I Progetti appeared. Charis had been with SCUNA in my awareness, but this was her new project. Projects, perhaps? I Progetti is a small chamber choir, working alone or with others, with unfamiliar choral repertoire. I imagine a repertoire from the Renaissance or thereabouts, but they also sing new material, not least by one of their singers, bassist Mark Chapman. Touche! I love performance and perfection, but it's also nice to see some creation beyond interpretation or improvisation. I've been feeling that recently, noting various indie musos who write music rather than just perform it. But back to this performance. It was free, days before Christmas, in the lovely space of the NPG foyer with its high roof and timber and acoustics. Other than Mark's composition (called Welcome Yule!) it was C16-C17 with a touch of C18. Think Josquin des Pres, Monteverdi, Purcell, Praetorius and a string of more obscure names. But so nicely done! These voices really did sit well together with three per SATB section. The basses were rich and sonorous, the sopranos reaching into the sky, the altos spelling those balancing harmonies and the tenors firm and incisive. I was particularly struck by some lofty soprano singing in the audience participation at the end. We were all invited to sing Ding dong merrily on high and Hark the Herald angels sing. This is Chrissie after all, and the joy was shared. Such a lovely, artful performance complete with audience involvement. How could you not love it!

I Progetti is Charis Messalina de Valance (director), Deirdre Clink and Ngaire Breen (sopranos), Mary Harwood, Mary Woodhouse and Susannah Bishop (altos), Alex Moruya, Paul Francis, Steven Harris and Tristan Struve (tenors) and Mark Chapman, Peter de Vries, Phill Grant and Steven Strach (basses). Anthony Smith (chamber organ) provided accompaniment.

24 December 2017

Very very real

I remember being taken by some super realist paintings at the Contemporary Arts Centre in Adelaide over 30 years ago. So now we have hyper reality and it's largely sculptural and it's on display at the National Gallery. I admire the skills of the detailed paintings and sculptures but there are some that leave me cold. There were some like that in this exhibition, even if I marvelled at the accuracy and the skin details and tone, often seemingly coloured and covered with make-up. Maybe they weren't but many looked that way. But the issue with these works is, do they say anything? There were some that were truly beautiful and realistic but also told stories of people and love and life. Like the huge naked man and equally large (in both height and belly) naked pregnant woman. And one devastatingly beautiful and touching grandmother holding baby. That was below life size but big in tranquility and love. There were a series of naked women, not least one series clinically exposed. Well, I'm a bloke and I can appreciate women's bodies but it's all over the Net and I wonder just what this was saying. That one didn't say much to me but a lovely intertwined, life-sized older couple in the corner spoke volumes. Megan joked "that's us" and we're not so far off. Then the next room had wheelchairs with old men of different dress motoring independently. We could walk through these: another example of self-drive vehicles. Patricia Puccinini (of the ACT's memorably odd hot air balloon) was represented with several life-like but unearthly creatures that drew unexpected compassion. I feel she's got a good heart. An early room was mostly detailed but obvious people-copies. A final room seemed more of cartoons or fantasy. Of those, I most enjoyed the challenges of modulating people (liminal?) moving from one state to another. And to end it all, a large theatre in the round and a fascinating, bewildering film of animals and people in various forms and roles - beautiful, detailed, oddly contrasted - from seven projectors with classical musical accompaniment. There was a little more, but these were key. I'm taken by the technique but also yearn for a purpose. To me, some had it and some less so.


Hyper Real was an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.

  • Hyper Real @ NGA
  • 22 December 2017

    White papers and the changing world


    It's a few weeks back and out of order but still relevant. The recent Foreign Affairs White Paper has the Canberra corridors aflutter. None less than those of Hugh White. He's a renowned local defence/foreign affairs person and has written a string of works on the matter. He mentioned his Powershift and China choice in his talk and recognised they were both somewhat incorrect or dated in their own ways. The latest is his Quarterly essay, Without America : Australia in the new Asia. He launched it at ANU and we were there. First up, he presented this graph (fig 2.4, GDP estimates to 2030, p.26) and commented that it's in the recent Foreign Policy White paper* but not mentioned in the text, but it's an essence of his argument. By 2030 (Treasury reckoning) China will have 2x the GDP of the US (China $42.4t vs. US $24t). Given China's unexpectedly quick growth, its deep resolve against US's weak resolve and its artful use of power, he argues the US will withdraw from Asia and leave primacy to China. Look at the collapse of influence of the US after debacles in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and now Trump's "bizarre disfunction" and America's "collapsing statecraft". But as they say, follow the money. How quick and what evidence? White says it's already the most likely outcome, despite the fantasies of Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man / Francis Fukuyama, 1992) or perhaps because of their acceptance. But the big problem is that a US hegemon remains at the heart of Australia's recent White Paper. Our debate is failing, due to credulity, poor quality of policy and failed political leadership. The APS lacks creative intelligence. Our defence is building "a really dumb force in an unbelievably stupid way ... we could not get it more wrong". We should consider self-reliance (costing perhaps 4% GDP vs. 2.5% today, and maybe nuclear (+1%). China may behave as a hegemon, but we don't yet; India and China may agree to leave each others' regions alone (they are separated by the Himalayas which are impenetrable to military force); China uses it culture of soft power (not alone there!). Just a few snippets of a fascinating and concerning talk with implications that seem unconsidered by Government. You'd expect no less with our politics these days. To read more, there were tons of articles around about the issue a few weeks back and the Quarterly essay is available now (Without America : Australia in the new Asia / Hugh White [Quarterly essay 68, 2017]).

    Hugh White launched his latest Quarterly essay at ANU.

  • * 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper / Australia
  • 20 December 2017

    ET?


    No, not so simple. This is ANU and there are good minds with plenty of knowledge and thought, so the questions were more defined: "Is the Earth special" was the title of the session and it was translated into two subsessions, each of three experts, on "Is our planet special" and "Is life on Earth special". And this melange of differing specialisations was moderated by a fairly immoderate and amusing local researcher, Charley Lineweaver. (As a side issue, it seems Charley appears fortnightly on ABC radio, but I've never heard him: I assume he's on local radio ABC666). This was a family event, so questions invited from U15s early on, and they asked some decent questions, but otherwise, it developed into an adult event.

    The first part was Jessie Christiansen of NASA, an ANU graduate who watched films in this very theatre (ANU Film Group in HC Coombs Theatre). She outlined the frequency of planets found by the Kepler mission, a NASA satellite that uses transit techniques to find planets. Suffice to say they've found tons of them, of different sizes and in different system configurations. (Very different from when my Canberra Astronomy Society team at Stromlo found extra-solar planet no.9). There are limitations on what can be observed, and our Earth would not be found from afar with current technology, but there are lots. Second up was Daniel Fabrycky of Univ of Chicago who spoke of planetary systems, basically identifying how gas giants (they make up ~10% of what we've found) can interfere with standard orbits of rocky planets and even send them off into the galaxy. Daniel presented a glorious Kepler Orrery that displays the natures of known extra-solar systems to date in vigourous colour and movement (see YouTube). Third up was David J Stevenson of CIT (California Inst of Tech), a planetary scientist who threw a curveball arguing that "habitable zone" is a limited concept, essentially a function of our experience, and that all manner of planetary issues (for Earth, he identified water, plate tectonics, magnetic field and large moon) can be of relevance. Basically, given we only have one example of a planet with life, we can't foresee the possibilities.

    Then the biologists. Simonetta Gribaldo of the Institut Pasteur fascinatingly outlined the evolution of life, the three main streams of Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes (comprising archaea and bacteria), their earliest known ancestor, Luca (Last Universal Common Ancestor), their likely prior evolution, their differences in cell structure (basically, they all have ribosomes in cells, but eukaryotes have cellular nuclei and prokaryotes don't). Fascinating! Also something on timelines, the oldest traces of life (~-3.5by), the Great Oxygenation Event (~-2.4by), the arrival of Eukaryotes (~-1.6by), etc. Then Jochen Brocks of ANU with an argument about the rise of algae in more energy-rich environments (~-645my) and the arrival of the Eukaryotes (bigger and requiring more energy). Then a final speaker, philosopher Kim Sterelny of ANU outlining Universal Darwinism: the requirements underlying successful Darwinian evolution.

    So, is our planet or life here special, as Charley Lineweaver kept asking of the experts? Basically, they hedged their bets, essential given we really don't know and we have very limited comparisons (nil). But there are tons of planets out there around tons of stars in the Milky Way; there are all manner of conceivable biological developments that may create life and develop it with the right evolutionary conditions. The numbers are big but so far our knowledge, especially in the biological area, is small. But we can muse on it, moderately intelligently, and they did. An interesting session that introduced me to many new ideas (not least, Luca) and well entertained us. Let's just keep our eyes and ears open.

    Charley Lineweaver (ANU) chaired a session on the likelihood of extraterrestrial life at ANU. Speakers were Jessie Christiansen (NASA), David J Stevenson (California IT), Daniel Fabrycky (U Chicago), Simonetta Gribaldo (Institut Pasteur), Jochen Brocks (ANU) and Kim Sterelny (ANU).

    19 December 2017

    AdHoc Baroque-ry


    These are busy weeks towards Christmas. Mine was last weekend with NCO and Maruki. For Pip and Michelle and Clara it was this weekend, with 2 concerts (that I know of) on the Sat and Sun. This one was by the delightfully named AdHoc Baroque playing a program of Venetian music, of Galuppi and Vivaldi. Galuppi was from Burano, one of the Venetian islands, and became maestro di musica at the Mendicanti orphanage. Vivaldi is famous for his time at the Pietà orphanage as maestro di coro. The orphanages were the centres of music-making in Venice at the time (~1700s) and Vivaldi's is especially famed to these days. AdHoc got together a fascinating concert of music of the era, partly sung by Greta and Maartje, but with the addition of an additional 10 singers for the ladies of the Pietà choir. This was a very female event with 12 singers, 8 instrumentalists and Peter as the only male. It was something like this at the orphanages which were primarily female, orphaned or otherwise. The males of the time were sent to work from early age, 10+, and the women were otherwise entertained. But perhaps the most intriguing thing was the singing. The choir sang in SATB format, like the orphanage choirs of the time, so some women were singing the TB (=tenor, bass) lines. Most likely they sang tenor and bass an octave higher (although some women sing tenor in today's choirs). So the pitches would have been closer and the chords inverted differently, any part may have taken the top line and perhaps some women had to transpose from bass clef. All interesting. I listened but didn't particularly hear it as different from a standard women's choir although I did notice a few close pitches. Another muso said much the same. But it was clear and pretty in the higher pitches with only the bass and viola da gamba reaching any depth. Otherwise, I was sitting behind BJ Gilby, so taking a lesson in bowing and expression, and right next to Julie and Chayla, so hearing the glorious trumpet and oboe parts. So the balance was odd, but I took a break from watching bass. The main work was Vivaldi Gloria RV589. Otherwise Vivaldi Nulla in mondo pax sincera and Galuppi Confitebor tibi Domine and Ave regina coelorum. A beautiful program and some glorious performances. AdHoc in name only; glorious in performance.

    AdHoc Baroque performed Vivaldi and Galuppi at St Paul's. AdHoc Baroque comprises Greta Claringbould (soprano), Maartje Sevenster (mezzo-soprano) and Peter Young (organ, director) with instrumentalists Barbara Jane Gilby and Pip Thompson (violins), Michelle Higgs, Clara Teniswood (cello), Rachel Walker (viola da gamba), Hayley Manning (bass), Julie Watson (trumpet) and Chayla Ueckert-Smith (oboe) and ladies of the Pietà (the choir) Susannah Bishop, Pip Brant, Michelle Eddy, Emma Griffiths, Vanessa Hooley, Alice Richardson, Carolyn Strange, Sarah Sutcliffe, Veronica Thwaites-Brown and Rachel Walker (vocals).

    17 December 2017

    Mary and more


    We caught L'Enfance du Christ at Wesley, performed by the Llewellyn Choir. It's one of Megan's favourites, although she knows it in the original French. This was in English. I could understand some more, of course, but it's never easy to catch lyrics. Reading some, I'm not sure it mattered. What I read was a strangely domestic thing, just a passage of St Matthew's gospel, in Berlioz's own words, in three parts, telling of Herod's and his massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt by Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus and the arrival at Sais. It lasted a little over 90 minutes, with a shorter middle section, apparently written first and expanded for the final work, comprising the most famous tune, the Shepherd's farewell. In addition to the large choir of 80 SATB singers, conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin led five singers (one woman as Mary and four men) and the Llewellyn Sinfonia of 19, mostly made up of CSO players. The work was very attractive and admirably performed so the time went easily and we were treated to three final carols for Christmas, including Silent night where our sing-along was invited. So, a lovely work that I'm very glad I caught, well presented in an intimate venue. Even from the back, we could see enough to be involved even if the choir was offside in the stalls for some of the time. Wonderful.

    The Llewellyn Choir and Sinfonia performed L'Enfance du Christ at Welsey under Rowan Harvey-Martin (conductor) with soloists Rebecca Collins, Rohan Thatcher, Andrew Fysh, Michael Wilson and Michael Martin (vocals).

    14 December 2017

    Sweating the detail


    I met up with a fellow player from the NCO at the end-of-year gig of the Australian Haydn Ensemble at Albert Hall. It was his first AHE concert and he struck the big format, full string orchestra, sometimes appended with wind instruments (AHE often play in smaller formats, quintets or thereabouts). He was ecstatic, asking how they get to such detail, control, unanimity. I'd noticed just the same thing and it's just enhanced in this larger format. My experience with a very similar format, Musica da Camera, raises my awareness of the details, the informed and share understandings. I'd noticed one melodic snippet that had been strong then weak, played fp or perhaps sfz>. It was repeated neatly for one passage, then played without dynamics for another. It's just detail, but it's this detail played through a group that makes for the lush convergence of it all. This understanding is usually shared in rehearsal, when a leader details how to play whatever passage, the band busily annotating and coming to a common understanding. Of course you need the chops and communication and the rest on stage, too. AHE does it was panache, smiles passed around amidst the serious music making. I'd commented on the smiles but also the overt face of one player and AHE stalwart Simone agreed and commented that you have to get on well and AHE does. It's obvious. Skye led the strings, but mostly Erin conducted from the harpsichord, standing for the symphonic works but seated for the keyboard concerto. They played Mozart (symphony no.29 Amaj), two CPE Bach (Keyboard concerto Cmaj and Sinfonia Ebmaj) and Haydn (Symphony no.52 Cmin). All were lovely, but I took a particular pleasure in the two CPE Bachs, being courtly but lively and inventive. The Haydn was an early Sturm und Drang work so an attempt to perceive human experience in its variety, or rather its impassioned agitation. It's virtuosic and pre-romantic but seems untimely to my contemporary ears. The Mozart was just plain sweet all round. Just another highly capable and investigative concert from AHE, this time in bigger orchestral format in Albert Hall, rectangular, timbered and high ceilinged, a space that authentically matches the style. Loved it.

    Australian Haydn Ensemble performed Mozart, CPE Bach and Haydn at Albert Hall. AHE featured Skye McIntosh (violin, artistic director) and Erin Helyard (guest director, harpsichord).

    13 December 2017

    Difference engineers


    Sunday afternoon was back at Albert Hall for another orchestral concert, this time with Maruki. So how is this one different? It was oddly arranged with the symphony up first before interval. That may seem trivial but it's a radical departure from the norm. It was done this way as the three shorter works had to go together and the final piece should be Elgar Pomp & Circumstance no.1. That's the Land of Hope & Glory theme and the final tune of Proms at the other Albert Hall (London) and this concert was called Last night Prom. And, finally, because it's fun to singalong with and the tune is so lively and stirring. It was also fast and tricky. The other shorties were Gounod Ballet music from Faust, mostly sight readable except maybe the quick final movement, and Tchaikovsky Marche Slave, which I've played before but still haven't mastered some tricky spots. The symphony was Dvorak 6, intense, committed, very fast even into thumb positions in the final movement, rest-less so the second movement was slower but demandingly passionate, and tricky in often unexpected themes and melodies. Not a work for slouches, but Maruki are not that: John can be expected to call up the big works. Maruki pulled it off not perfectly but surprisingly well. Congrats to all for a very demanding, extensive concert with some seriously demanding works.


    Maruki Orchestra played Dvorak 6, Tchaikovsky, Gounod and Elgar at Albert Hall under John Gould (conductor).

    12 December 2017

    Still kids


    Amongst all the differences are the similarities. This one was the kids. National Capital Orchestra played a final concert for the year at Albert Hall on a Saturday afternoon and it was for families. One third of the audience was kids, mostly little ones. Many up front, a few feet from delicate instruments (so think the musos in the front rows) but there were no accidents. There were little bouncing dancing girls, intrigued little ones, very little ones who weren't old enough to get it, hoards lying or sitting on the floor up front. The theme was Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev's dark story and introduction to the orchestra, narrated by Charles Hudson with suitable deep voice, playful interchange and menacing storyline. He did a great job, as did Leonard throughout, flashing silhouettes of wolf and cat and bird and the rest, chatting with audience with friendly glee, selecting for a kids' conducting competition (a girl won it and got to lead NCO in a encore of a rousing section of Rossini) and otherwise just conducting in his supportive and thoroughly capable way. The other music was Rossini Barber of Seville overture and two that were certainly adult works, Mozart Flute and harp concerto mvt.2 with John Smiles and Elizabeth Alford and Honegger Cello concerto with Christian Renggli. The Honegger is a strange mix of Gershwin jazz themes and modernism. This was Chris' final play with the orchestra before returning to Europe. He's been here for a PhD at ANU including 3.5 years with NCO; he'll be missed. The whole concert went went with amusement and elan where fitting and tons of great playing. This is a seriously capable non-prof orchestra. And then afternoon tea for all after. A great afternoon.

    National Capital Orchestra performed at Albert Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor) with Charles Hudson (narrator) and soloists John Smiles (flute), Elizabeth Alford (harp) and Christian Renggli (cello).

    11 December 2017

    Difference


    Difference and tolerance is a theme of our identify-obsessed times, so here's a weekend of difference. First up, Tilt played a jazz gig at Red Hill Primary for its end-of-year family event. We've done it for several years and it's always fun, playing into the dark, sometimes threatened by rain. No rain this year. The little kids and some parents interested in our music or my conversation-starter EUB, others just eating or playing or chatting. Tilt free to play and enjoy the outing. The next few days will see considerable difference in my musical life, but also some similarities.

    Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

    9 December 2017

    Another thing


    Antipodes was my second concert for the night. Less than a concert, really, because I only caught 2 tunes from the second set, but these were fascinating and only went to confirm the chalk and cheese difference of these styles and of the range of jazz played now. John Mackey's concert had been Coltrane, intensely spiritual, relatively simple structurally and melodically, open and interactive and improvised. Antipodes was far more ordered, written, its loose space bounded and arranged. Here there's extended unison melody, arranged structure, different sounds. The guitar was strong and driven in its solo; a synth appeared; bass and drum took solos at the end, drums playing against a riff. Not sure I caught a trumpet or sax solo in these last tunes, or from Luke on keys, but they would have earlier. The environment was different, too, of course, Hippo's noisy cocktail atmosphere, so I was envisaging as much as I was hearing. So different from JM; so much a modern take on the history; complex in composition as well as improv. They are about to record this music. Can't wait to revisit it. Maybe to hear what I didn't from a late arrival and some tech probs and Hippo's busy space.

    Antipodes are Jake Baxendale (sax), Ken Allars (trumpet), Callum Allardice (guitar), Luke Sweeting (piano), Max Alduca (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums). They played at Hippo.l

    7 December 2017

    One thing


    My first concert for the night was John Mackey playing with Matt McMahon, Jonathan Zwartz and Simon Barker celebrating the 50th anniversary of Coltrane's death. Just stunning. It was Geoff Page's concert series, now in the ANU Popup village, with space, a larger stage, a piano (upright), PA and peopled with an audience of 150 or so. They were playing a blues as I entered. Stunningly expressive, exploratory. John's tone big and edgy and beautifully formed, breathy to end notes, varied to follow his phrasing, spread over all manner of consonance and dissonance, always purposeful, honest and hugely expressive. But they were all stunningly masterful. Matt on piano maintaining long, long eighth-note runs, moving through harmonies with ease with stunning chordal stabs and colourful leading chords behind solos and I guess those sounds were fourths voicings because they sounded so true to the original. I think it was the PA that highlighted the interplays: not so much transparent (I've only heard that in massive outdoor rigs) as identifying and projecting the musicians. Matt floored me. But so did Jonathan, and for that matter, Simon, although I'm still learning of his style. Jonathan's a bassist, so easy for me to appreciate. Big strong tone, great intonation right up the neck, but more than that, always inventive walks, a few solos, especially one of the final tune, to die for, fast where it's called for but never without a call, but always fast enough. Such easy moves over the fingerboard spelling such interesting harmonic explications. Stunning. And Simon, a tall man hunched over a low kit, arms and sticks akimbo, fast like the others but not without reason, sharp and accurate rolls and the rest, sometimes head dropped to snare side, sometimes lifted and open and watching the others. The final dissolution was just evidence of the togetherness of this group. They are great musicians, locals of world class, easily playing with whoever but these guys have also played together so this was a reformation and something beyond. There was a closeness that's rare. That final dissolution was so easy and together. I was sitting with some classical mates who were over the world with the performance. The room was abuzz. Stunning stuff.

    John Mackey (tenor) played Coltrane with Matt McMahon (piano), Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Simon Barker (drums) for Geoff Page at the ANU Popup.

    5 December 2017

    Brinda


    I've got an affection for Brindabella Orchestra. They were the first orchestra I played with when I took up this style a few years ago, so it includes lots of friendly faces. This was their end-of-year concert and included a few works that I've touched on with them in the past. The program was a collection of marches and dances. Short works but by big names - Elgar, Delibes, Berlioz, Beethoven, Dvorak, Saint-Saens, Orff. Plus a Telemann that was a concerto rather than a dance or march, and a few modern dances from Fiddler on the Roof and Jamaican Rumba. So, an entertaining and lively program. I particularly liked the first, Elgar Pomp & Circumstance no.4, and the Telemann viola concerto Gmaj. Viola has such a nicely rich tone, I guess the alto to the violin's soprano, but it's a less common concerto instrument. Marilyn Moir played that one with considerable panache. I admire concerto players for the individual tone they must draw from the instrument; she did it nicely. The whole was conducted by Rosalie Hannink, sometimes cellist in the orchestra, oftentimes conductor. Brindabella is just another of the tapestry of classical groups in Canberra, one of several local symphony orchestras and an enduring joy for a committed group of players. Great to hear Brindabella again.

    Brindabella Orchestra played a program of marches and dances at Queanbeyan Uniting Church. Rosalie Hannink (conductor) convened and Marilyn Moir (viola) soloed for a Telemann concerto.

    3 December 2017

    To Anaheim and places in between


    Steve and his mates started in true jazz tradition with Moment's notice, a Coltrane standard, but this was a much more diverse performance: Sting and Scofield, Lyle Mays and Crowded House, Bobby Timmons and Jamiroquai, Todd Gustavsen and King Crimson. Steve noted the contrary derision between prog rock and jazz as overblown or pretentious ("they can't both be wrong") but played it anyway. Good. It gets in my history somewhere amongst the clarion call of Music to Midnight. I know Steve and Barney well from performing with them and hearing them around often so I had full expectation of great skills and sharpness and got it. I was floored at times with Barney's clever runs and some stupendous fills, and Steve's slick and deceptively easy rudiments and the rest. I didn't know Adam on alto and he was a pleasant discovery. Alto can be relatively shrill to the deeper tenor but, especially as he warmed up, I was taken by his quick chops, his clarity and precision, and his increasing softness of tone and phrasing. But it was Sally who was such a find on the night. We all know Sally well, of course, but I hadn't heard her play too often and especially not recently, and she's reputed as a composer and I think of her that way. But her playing was a revelation. Maybe it was the composer's vision, but her solos were glorious melodic displays, playful harmonic interludes, self-evidently structured, capably sequenced, richly vibrant and coloured. And then to spell her invention, Steve and Sally played an improvised duet, latterly named, at the gig, as Nigel's song. There was softness and tinkling start and finish, rolling handfulls of notes, cowboy grooves, Chinese snippets, funky stabs, C20th atonality, a quote from Caravan, this and more against toms and a snare without wires. Lots of possibilities; a composer's mind. Then a jazzer, You and the night and the music, the only American songbook excerpt despite a few jazz tunes, Moanin' and that Coltrane hit. And to finish it all, a Disney tune. Steve explained he'd got a 3-year old around the house so is aware of Disney songs. I don't so can't identify it but it was cute and cheerful as a final tune and just highlighting just how diverse this program was. Nice band, nice gig!

    Steve Richards (drums) led his quartet with Adam Matthews (alto), Sally Greenaway (piano) and Barnaby Briggs (bass) at Smiths.

    2 December 2017

    Surviving a future #2


    ANU has a ream of public events, not least public lectures. I get to very few these days, but with a title like "Ecologically responsive regulation: searching for regulatory hope in Pandora’s Box of crises?" at a time I could attend and I was a ring-in. It was in a small seminar room with limited academics and students (~12) and even fewer outsiders (just me?). The speaker was Fiona Haines, Prof of Criminology at UMelb. Essentially, she argued there are two types of regulation, Instrumental and Responsive. Instrumental is the type we have now, essentially working within the existing business/economic systems, through bureaucratic-legal means, to limit specific damage and specific, limited business malfeasance. Problems include that the system is essentially preserved through this action and the problems dealt with (read, externalities) are limited to specifics and fail on board scale, Earth-level sustainability. Responsive regulation utilises social mechanisms, considers psychological, social and political dimensions and would presumably seek to manage for full-system sustainability. Fiona went on to outline a project she is to carry out, involving identification of businesses (in a broad sense) that are functioning (and not) in an effective sustainable style, to identify their experiences, how they use/respond/ignore instrumental regulation, how they interact with other business and society, etc. Essentially taking an observational approach to find what works while recognising that only some of the literature can feasibly be considered (there's more than a lifetime there without time for research). It's a hopeful approach, somewhat assuming a new generation is approaching things differently so there's a chance of success/survival. I have my reservations. A recent activity I'm involved in is to develop a political manifesto. When writing and reviewing it, I found that I always came around to corruption of the political process (in a broad sense, including straight-out corruption but also funding, lobbying, even factions and ideologies, think tanks, limited and unprincipled MSM and social media and just plain [dis-]honesty) as being central. Thus Adani, bank royal commissions (or not), climate change, refugees, housing and much more. Fiona was more hopeful for a new and changing generation and perhaps a bottom-up regulation and sustainability. Maybe I'm old school, but I just think the individual level is not enough to win change, especially in this case: it's too local and small and, in the case of climate, there's limited time. Fiona also recognised that new regulation has to reach to the big players, the multinationals, etc, even if she's starting small. As for a new generation, they are mostly just products of their society (just like my and other generations were of their societies) where their society prioritises individualism, thus identity over class politics. I continue to doubt there's time (Mauna Loa Observatory, NOAA-ESRL, has CO2 at 406.29ppm on 26 Nov 2017, up from 404.93 ppm same day last year*) but ya gotta have hope. Otherwise, there's just despair.

    Fiona Haines presented a seminar at ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) on ecologically responsive regulation.

  • * https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2
  • 1 December 2017

    Surviving a future #1


    Here's one glimpse of the future. I went for a ride on a fully automated (presumably electric) vehicle. It was on display for the weekend in Garema Place, provided by Trandev. It just went from one end to the other, starting and stopping as required. Stopping for impediments (it moved around a foot that was leant out in front); very slow (I walked faster than it travelled); still with a safety override person on board (but he just chatted on our run). Airconditioned, apparently safe, very relaxed and even sociable. I long for the time that I needn't drive and one car can be easily shared, so it can go find a park or deliver something when it's forgotten, or serve two masters. Or pickup the kids from school (not that I need that now). Megan would be happy to be rid of my driving; me too. It's closer than we think although not quite next year. Bring it on.

    Transdev provided an automated vehicle in Garema Place to display the technology.

    30 November 2017

    A community that jams together...

    It seems the local jamming community is gathering. Partly it's down to the committed jazzers - many of whom once satisfied their desires through the School of Music - seeking other outlets, so it's a function of deinstitutionalisation. This deinstitutionalisation is nothing to be lauded - it's actually a great loss to the community - but it has a corollary of a more informal community development. I've been impressed by the opening of jazz jam sessions around Canberra over recent years. Firstly, for a few months at Smiths (after the move from the Loft) then at Old Canberra Inn, then a rekindling at Smiths, now Wig & Pen is being spoken of as another jam session. Jams are a mainstay of the blues community, too, and they have been doing it around Canberra in various locations for yonks. It's interesting sociologically, I guess, but also musically. Get along to whatever time and place suits. They are all free and good beer and cheer on tap.

    Canberra jazz jam sessions are at Old Canberra Inn (Wayne Kelly, 6.30-9.30pm Wednesday), Smiths (Hugh Barrett, 2-4pm Sundays) and starting up at Wig & Pen (John Mackey and Leisa Keen, 2-5pm Saturdays).



  • Thanks to Wikicommons for the image, Charles Demuth, Jazz Singer (1916)
  • 29 November 2017

    Honouring Aaron


    Concert 2 for the day was Victor Rufus' band playing at Smiths. Victor has recently returned from several (5?) months in NYC. Does it show that he (and the others in the band) chose to play the music of Aaron Parks, along with some originals, mostly by Victor. Victor writes some very decent tunes. The band was Tate Sheridan, Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Jamal Salem and it was sharp as. Tight as. Clinically sharp. Jamal may be the primary source for this as he's restrained but tack sharp. Tate sounded more laid back to my ears this evening with influences of pop and blues amongst some jazz harmonies and more complex chords. He has a lyrical presence that shines through. I hadn't heard Brendan for a year-or-so and I was stunned with his current virtuosity, and not just fleeting playing but also interesting concepts, fills, structures, counterpoints. He fairly recently finished his degree and I can feel some extensive woodshedding in his playing these days. As I've seen in one or two other serious players over the years. Stunning. And Victor, professional and affable as a leader and melodically clear as a guitarist and soloist, nicely toned and avoiding the too-common guitar excesses. I like his compositions, too: he excels here. I listened to the channelled Aaron Parks album after and was surprised by the effectiveness of the performance I'd heard. Sharp, clear, with intent and sympathy for the original. Interestingly, they also played a tune by Harry Rasmussen, another drummer of recent years at the ANU. Victor's tunes were perfectly in synch with the evening: Truth be told, Intermittent schmitz, Song of sonnenblumen. All telling his own stories. This was a tack sharp evening of art but also of comfortable professionalism.

    Victor Rufus (guitar) led a band comprising Tate Sheridan (piano), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Jamal Salem (drums) at Smiths playing the music of Aaron Parks, Victor Rufus and others.

    28 November 2017

    Magpies

    Miro told me it was the sound of magpies that he'd heard just that morning. He'd been jotting down some fairly open musical notation as I came in before the concert, a few lines with melody snippets and chords and some indicative harmonies and colours through associated chords. When the concert started, it was Col on drums in the centre of the space with circular rows of seating around him. He played various percussion for several minutes before tones of trumpet, two tenors and bass clarinet appeared, first sparse but heavily wettened in this very reverberent space at the Drill Hall Gallery. The players were away, behind panels. The moving harmonies interested me. A drone on G then colours of Bb, Eb, F, D, various others, came and went. Over time, the sound moved behind more partitioning and musicians appeared in four corners behind the audience. The slow colour changes had gradually been augmented with flighty, fast runs, Miro's trumpet and John's tenor especially conversing, and the drums had developed into a groove with sticks and mallets. I was interested to note the kit was kick free: snare, tom, hi-hat, cymbals. It all came to a head and dropped back to solo percussion like the start and a final drop of metal plates to finish it all. The whole was improvised but guided over 30-minutes or so: intriguing and involving so the time had passed unnoticed. Structured in some way, but lots of room for freedom. Like the birds it portrayed, I guess. Miro and I talked of the magpies in our gardens. They are characters and this was a fascinating and satisfying recitation.

    Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, composer) gathered John Mackey (tenor), Tom Fell (tenor), Richard Johnson (bass clarinet) and Col Hoorweg (drums, percussion) for a concert at Drill Hall Gallery to mark the exhibition Active seeing by Liz Coats.

    27 November 2017

    An advent custom

    It's an advent event most years. It's Handel Messiah performed by Canberra Choral Society and friends under chorus master Peter Young conducted by Leonard Weiss with soloists Greta Claringbould, Tobias Cole, Paul McMahon and Jeremy Tatchell. All locals or thereabouts and an array of recognised faces on stage. That's part of the fun, of course, to recognise faces. And the music, which I am coming to understand and follow and appreciate: how and when soloists appear and the Christian Christmas story of joy and despair and the busyness of the orchestra because the soloists and even the choir appear on and off, but the orchestra is at it throughout, at least the strings and keys. I missed the woodwinds playing and the percussion and brass are impressive and essential but infrequent. What a thrill to stand for the Hallelujah chorus, it being so big and rousing that it involves you even if just by standing - sitting for classical concerts is satisfying but also staid. And there were a few singalongs from the audience for this chorus. I also felt like singing some other choruses but was responsible (or elbowed by Megan) when I felt the sing-along urge coming on. No it's not kosher. Sad that I can't get to the real open singalong of the Messiah next week (Wesley, 6-8pm, Sat 23 Nov, $10/5, singers must register). Good feelings abounded in the audience, too, this being a great favourite, and played so capably. I loved the high sops when set free and the complexity of the fugue choruses and the strength of the mid-range tenors and also tenor Paul's voice which filled Llewellyn so easily. And the bouncing baroque music that's so endearing. The orchestra was busy and often flightingly quick. They were perhaps too loud under Greta (they may have just played first desk behind some soloists, restraining the ppps to strengthen the fffs) but small matters. They did an excellent job under Pip Thompson. As for our standing, a man in front of me was a refusenik and it's probably an upper-class-twit custom, but it's fun and involving and all part of Christmas celebrations. As is the Messiah itself. Very well done and very much enjoyed.

    Canberra Choral Society performed Handel Messiah at Llewellyn Hall under Peter Young (chorus master) and Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloists Greta Claringbould (soprano), Tobias Cole (counter tenor), Paul McMahon (tenor), Jeremy Tatchell (bass) and the Canberra Choral Society orchestra under Pip Thompson (leader)