28 May 2019

Time to fret

They are coming like blowflies, if only blowies were around like they once were. We're bombarded with end-of-world warnings. Just listen to shock jocks and they are complaining. And Angus Taylor. Trouble is, it's the scientists making the warnings now, and er, they've been somewhat right in the past and, like, physics has laws, and er ... time to fret. This was an update given to Canberra U3A by Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, variously over time, of USyd and various lectureships and doctorates and the rest. It was basically a report on his paper, published this April, reviewing a string of peer reviewed publications on declining insect populations. It fits with various warnings on the sixth great extinction and the parallel issue of climate change. NYT Mag had a nice summary that was mentioned. Then, of course, there was the IPBES Global assessment report saying "1,000,000 species threatened with extinction" amongst other comments. Read this and more(from reputable sources, of course) and you'll know more, but what did I learn? That entomofauna are insects; that insects are rapidly declining in numbers and biomass; that this decline is recent (we saw a graph of the US bee population decline starting in the 1950s, coincidentally with DDT); that "the planet is doomed without insects" for insects provide tons of essential services to humanity and to the rest of life on Earth (specifically pollination, nutrient recycling and food sourcing); that China doesn't have bees now and pollinates by hand (presumably with lots of very cheap labour); that studies show annual declines of ~2% (eg, loss of insect biomass in Germany 1989-2016 was 76%); that extrapolation predicts only 1% of insects will survive 100 years from now; that it's now often less healthy to live on a farm than in suburbia, due to chemicals; to top it off, that Integrated Pest Management, which uses lower rates of chemicals, is more productive. And the reasons for insect declines? FSB listed habitat loss, chemical pollution, biological factors and climate change. The main cause is identified as habitat loss through subcauses intensive agriculture 24%, urbanisation 11%, deforestation 9% and wetland/rivers changes 6%. And chemical pollution accounts for 26% including pesticides 13%, synthetic fertilisers 10% and so on. I didn't get all the figures and can't be bothered recounting them all here. Go to the primary sources (below). But suffice to say, we are in a pickle for insects as well as the rest of life and climate and for civilisation. Insects are OK and necessary, but I fret mostly for us. Like Greta says, "I want you to panic".

Francisco Sanchez-Bayo spoke on the worldwide decline of the entomofauna (insects) to U3A Canberra.

  • Worldwide decline of the entomofauna : A review of its drivers / Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, AG Wyckhuysb. IN Biological Conservation, vol.232, Apr 2019, p.8-27
  • More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas / Hallmann et al. IN PlosOne, 18 Oct 2017
  • Global assessment report / Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
  • Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in Asia and Africa / Pretty & Bharuka. IN Insects 2015, 6(1), 152-182
  • Greta Thornberg speaks truth to power
  • 27 May 2019

    Big Day Out


    Another big outing for Maruki at Albert Hall. This concert featured two symphonies as well as an overture and another piece. Maruki is never one to cop out! The symphonies were Beethoven 4 and Dvorak 8. The other pieces were Wagner Meistersingers Prelude to Act 1 and Saint-Saens Dance macabre. Nothing too easy and some big and satisfying blowing. But my thoughts went more to some delicious slower movements. Beethoven mvt.2 and Dvorak mvt.3 were gloriously beautiful even if we may not have done them their full justice. Listening back to my recording does not quite match my preparatory listening to Berlin Phil or Tafelmusik but that's the nature of a community orchestra. And that's is not to say it's a wasted play. Maruki is a wonderful opportunity to enter into the scores of a range of repertoire works and there's nothing like playing a work to get close to it. And such a pleasure when something just clicks, like the introductory trumpets in the first movement of Dvorak, or a perfect horn solo line that appeared, where?, somewhere in Beethoven. And it's a good laugh to take on the challenging lines and perhaps cover a not-quite-perfect performance. I chuckled over several in the first movement of Beethoven and some rabidly quick repeated phrases in the forth movement (they ask basses to play this?). But, on the other hand, there's great joy in our quick, prominent and extended melodic lines towards the end of Meistersingers, or the power and stability that underlying rhythmic basses can give to an ensemble, as in Beethoven mvt.2. Maruki gives exposure to some very great music.

    Maruki Orchestra was directed by John Gould (conductor) with Melvyn Cann (concert master) and Peter Ellis (violin) as soloist on SS. Maruki played Wagner, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Dvorak at Albert Hall. The bottom end was Jennifer Groom and Eric Pozza (basses).

    25 May 2019

    Returns


    I first encountered Carl Dewhurst when he was a student at the School of Music, then at Manuka, playing around town with Cameron Undy at bars and even a plant nursery. He was impressive even then; he's mammoth now. That's getting on 30 years ago. He left Canberra in 1990, stabled mostly in Sydney, but with time in London, perhaps elsewhere. He plays all manner of musics. I've heard experimental from him in the Opera House. This night was clean and clear and fabulously inventive with the standards repertoire, like All the things or Wes Montgomery or Out of nowhere. Of course, he was with the best, Brendan and Mark, so it was a shared inventiveness. Solid swings with crystal clear and hugely varied and easy improvs; melodies that spell themselves but easily extended; chordal play with melodies interpersed; just one time that I remember as dissonant, laying back with minimal notes; plenty of accompanying solos, especially from bass but drums in there too. All easy and rich while still tonal and clear. It's a mark of knowledge and experience. Masterful. Just a huge pleasure.

    Carl Dewhurst (guitar) played standards with Brendan Clarke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the National Press Club.

    24 May 2019

    Finally

    It really wasn't as difficult to achieve as I'd made it (I could have just emailed), but it was only recently that I got my name on the RSCM ACT Branch mailing list for their monthly concerts. The RSCM is the Royal Society of Church Music, its Australian incarnation, and there's a branch in the ACT. They run an monthly lunchtime organ recital series around the church organs of Canberra. This one was David Franks playing Buxtehude, Bach, Wesley and some 1950s compositions from Sumsion and Bush at the City Uniting Church. The organ is a Geo. Fincham & Sons dated 1925, originally for St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Goulburn, installed in its present location in 1988 by David Hudd and rebuilt in 2011 by Australian Pipe Organs. I've found that church organs commonly have histories like this, often moved from church to church with openings and closures, and Fincham is certainly a name I've heard often. For lists and descriptions of organs, see the Organ Historical Trust of Australia site (below). The turnout isn't vast but the pleasure is certain. This wasn't an organ to blast with deep bass pipes, although we did hear the pedals at times. But it was pleasant, each work was informatively introduced and the playing was informed and duly capable. Various preludes and fugues and chaconnes and dances and ground bass with toccata flourishes above. David has a string of qualifications up to Trinity College of Music, London, and a matching string of performances on various organs through Sydney and beyond. Organists have to move, but the flip side is they experience diverse instruments. It reminds me of a jam session I used to attend. I experienced so many nice and different e-basses until I realised I was expected to bring my own! But a huge pleasure while it lasted. As was this: a great pleasure to hear the music and to discover another organ.

    David Franks played Buxtehude, Bach, Wesley, Sumion and Bush on the Fincham organ at Canberra City Uniting Church for the RSCM Australia ACT Branch.

  • Organ Historical Trust of Australia
  • 23 May 2019

    Workout


    Stuart Long said he's been fascinated by variations and it showed. Variations are works of musical exploration, so a composer looks at a theme, perhaps just 32 bars, then delivers a string of approaches to that set of chords or melody. Stuart mentioned that melody and rhythm and the rest are essential, but interestingly, that the movement of variations and their resolution is key. It's easy enough to take in the early variations, but they can become more tangential before the return and all this is fascinating in a musically playful and exploratory way. Stuart played three sets of variations for this concerts. Firstly by Brahms and Mendelssohn and these were variations on their own themes and busy and full handed in form. The last was certainly tangential. Muczynsky Desperate measures (Paganini variations). It's a modern work (1996) and shows it. Initially more relaxed and open and playful with blues and jazz tonalities and idioms, but increasingly intriguing with varied harmonies and intervals and dissonances of last century. So a great concert of deep exploration and huge musical commitment by Stuart: fascinating and unrelenting and a work out of both physical and musical vigour. Emotionally and intellectually fabulous.

    Stuart Long (piano) played variations by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Muczinski at Wesley.

    20 May 2019

    Gloria!


    We were celebrating the day after the election ... at least the death of Queen Mary but also her birthday and, I guess, Jesus. This was SCUNA, the amusingly named choral society hinting at inebriation, and they had their orchestra (virtually all players from NCO) and two solo singers, soprano Veronica and mezzo AJ under Lennie. The tympanis were out for the renowned and hugely memorable funeral march. I'm told the tymps were added later and this arrangement was used in the renowned '70s film, Clockwork Orange. "He cometh up and is cut down like a flower" / "of whom may we seek for succour" / "who for our sins art justly displeased" / "deliver us not into the bitter pains". It's a heavy feeling. This was perhaps the most intense and stunning work but not the Gloria of the program. That was Vivaldi's. First half Purcell with the Queen's funeral march and Come ye sons of art, written for a birthday of Queen Anne (royalty was presumably good for commissions; these days I guess it's the mining industry) then Vivaldi Gloria in D major after interval. So a generous program to raise the spirits or, with QM, to delve into depths. Glorious music throughout. The two soloist vocalists were great and fitted neatly together in duet passages. I especially enjoyed AJ's solos. The choral singing was generous and the musical passages nicely presented. Evelyn on cello was busy and did a particularly satisfying job. Lenny led it all and even doubled on trumpet at one time. I know of harp and carillon and he was toying with a violin in the break. What else does he play? So, a great comedown from election weekend. Who needed it?

    SCUNA (ANU Choral Society) presented Purcell and Vivaldi at St Peter's Lutheran Church. Leonard Weiss (conductor) directed with soloists Veronica Milroy (soprano) and AJ America (mezzo soprano) and accompaniment by Anthony Smith (keys, organ) and the SCUNA orchestra with bass provided by Evelyn Andrew (cello).

    16 May 2019

    Mozart and mates


    They were a civilised bunch, sitting together in a chambre, playing stately, amiable music with attractive melodies placing never-too-excessive demands. One movement was introduced as written for quick sale, by a musician seeking to monetise his fame. Nonetheless, this is Mozart and it's lovely stuff. The performing group was also made up of friends: two pairings of husband/wife and another mate, all with connections and history, even back to Telopea High (literally just around the corner). I think the session was convened by Hilda Visser-Scott but it's a group that seems to get together to play together every so often. There are now music and other professionals with a history of musical travel and various orchestras. The music was Mozart, two trios and a duet with various combinations. The main work was the complete (all three movements) Trio in Eb major for piano clarinet and viola KV498. Otherwise there were single movements of KV548 and KV434. All dignified and attractive and sensible rather than ecstatic and investigative, but always Mozart so always a pleasure. A lovely outing.

    Hilda Visser-Scott (piano), Peter Scott (clarinet), Robyn Botha (viola), Dawid Botha (violin) and Harry Hall (cello) played Mozart at Wesley Music Centre.

    15 May 2019

    Big Day Out 3


    It takes a flit from ACO/Branford Marsalis to Smiths to realise the jazz in your soul. This was my last outing with Dan Tepfer. He was playing a jazz gig for CIMF at Smiths with top flight Australians Sam Anning and Alex Hirlian. The place was sold out and I was recording so I had to get there early. I heard them warming up and was already excited. They had played a few gigs together before this (Brisbane and Wollongong?) and they were hot. The music was mostly original from Dan's trio's latest album. The room was full and the CIMF had trucked in a Yamaha grand in good nick and capable soundman Bevan was on duty. Then the gig. From the top, this was intensely complex rhythmic outings with fabulously effective solos all round. I tried to count a few with no luck but saw some charts later and it wasn't impossible, although rich in sixteenth-note syncopations through changing time signatures, 7s or 11s interspersed with more common 4s and 3s, perhaps changing each bar. Not impossible but a difficult read. Very heavy on time and groove. And chords that implied rather than defined. Something like E-4b7 (not even sure how to write it!) mixing with other colours of E-7. Odd extension that, 4 not 11? The grooves were steady and hard often fast, strongly defined by both Sam and Alex but free for accents and embellishments as they desired. Despite the writing there was considerable freedom. Also a friendly and respectful eye from Dan. He obviously enjoyed this group. He mentioned he'd studied with Sam at the Manhattan School of Music. There's no way this would have been out of place in the Village. Dan has studied (astro-)physics and it shows in his variety of musical interests (Bach, Disklavier and contemporary jazz). I've since read he has more music and science in his family background. The room was full with an older cohort, this being a CIMF concert, but the band was absolutely well received. They ended on a softer note, some non-originals and tamer times and a ballad. Set 2 ended with the driving original, Roadrunner, and an encore of Everytime we say goodbye. I went away stunned and hugely pleased and aware of the jazz in my soul. Something of this quality would thump the heart of any listener. A stunner and a great pleasure; being Manhattan, I can say world class.

    Dan Tepfer (piano) led a trio with Sam Anning (bass) and Alex Hirlian (drums) at Smiths for CIMF.

    14 May 2019

    Big Day Out 2


    Second in the concert marathon was a biggie: Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring Branford Marsalis playing music of Villa Lobos, Piazzolla, Ginastera, Stravinski, Golijov and Sally Beamish. Is SB the one out here? She's extant, she knows Branford and it's him playing on my Spotify recording. It's not often I leave a concert at interval, but this time I did. The musicians were great and the music inviting, especially the Piazzolla (if of a theme, as Piazzolla sounds to me ears). Branford opened with a short Stravinski clarinet solo on soprano sax, then a Villa-Lobos fanstasia, then Satu Vänskä led for Piazzolla Four seasons of Buenos Aires. All fabulously capable playing with strings that just sat in easy consensus and just a few ensemble features - I particularly noticed some prominent bass and a fabulous cello solo. Satu's lithe playing was a huge pleasure. Branford was his professional self but not so exciting for me in this setting. But I was recording the next concert so I left at interval to get suitable seating, given the smallish room that was sold out. How can this be? Leaving ACO and a Marsalis at half time? Odd but great while it lasted.

    Branford Marsalis (soprano sax) and Satu Vänskä (violin) fronted the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Llewellyn Hall.

    13 May 2019

    Big Day Out 1


    It was pretty shoddy planning but also just a concurrence of opportunities that had me with with three concerts in one evening after an afternoon orchestral practice (a playthrough of Wagner, Beethoven 4 and Saint-Saens; I took leave of Dvorak 8!). But then the professionals. First concert up was Dan Tepfer at Fitters Workshop playing his Goldberg variations / variations. The original Bach variations are an aria start and end sandwiching 30 variations, sometimes technically described as in canone all terza or fughetta and always written for two manuals on a harpsichord. Dan had a long association with the Goldberg and has finally created a response consisting of an improvisation for each of the 30 variations. So we hear the introductory aria, then a first Bach variation then a Tepfer improv then Bach then Tepfer through all 30 to the final aria repeated. In all, about 90 minutes, played with no music and improvised on the day (if probably conceptually established beforehand). I loved it deeply. Bach, of course, is a thing of wonder. Dan's responses were full of tonalities and harmonies and rhythms that have grown from another 300 years of fine music and jazz and more. There's clarity and order and dance-like joy in Bach; there's groove and dissonance and polyrhythms and substitutions since. So, the improvs are vastly different but built on the essence of each of the relevant variations and influenced and respectful and intellectually outstanding. A few people I spoke to preferred Bach or even suggested he could have left the improv out but it was a work of sublime depth to my ears. I chatted to Roland Peelman later and he agreed: if Bach was around that's what he'd be doing now, respectful and knowledgeable of the past but totally cognisant and involved in the present. Fabulous work. You can hear a take of it on streaming services as Goldberg variations / variations, but it can never be that performance, that day. That was fabulous and is passed.

    Dan Tepfer (piano) played Bach Goldberg variations and his related improvisations at the Fitters Workshop.

    12 May 2019

    Home studio


    We host musicians for the Canberra International Music Festival and we enjoy it immensely. To some degree, it's more interesting to host than to listen. It's more intimate, you learn lots, you're in the know to some degree, you get to hear some highly trained musicians practicing in your lounge room. Last year, it was Cecilia, a wonderful Dutch-Italian baroque violinist with Amati attached. This year, it was Anton Baba, cellist, again baroque, gut and bow, trained in US and Europe, now resident in Sydney and playing with all the best baroque groups and a lovely guy to boot. He was to play the Bach cello suite no.1 Gmaj on Saturday morning so we recorded it on Friday evening as an exercise. A nice record of the visit and a great training tool for Anton and his students.

    Anton Baba (cello) recorded Bach during his stay for the Canberra International Music Festival.

    11 May 2019

    Endurance 2

    It was a short walk to a more exposed hilltop for the ADFA Band (Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon). We've all seen them often enough. I like them lots. They bravely countered the elements as trained servicemen/women will, in uniform, no gloves. Some of the older audience could sit here but we could also walk around listening to Bach Toccata and fugue Dmin. Our group was late so only came in for the last bars of their other piece. The T+F was introduced as the most popular piece of Bach's repertoire. We were suggested to think of the brass ensemble as an organ in many individually-performed parts. It sounded somewhat like that. Again, I'm sure the cold affected the playing and probably the pitch but this is always a professional outfit. Then on further, mercifully inside, to the Director's Residence for the sonic.art saxophone quartet distributed through the space playing a very modern Berlin composition Stelzenbach Atempause. We were moved through but that little we heard worked really well in such a space, musicians distributed in corners of this residence that was made safe after the 2003 fire but not decorated or even finished inside. So, nice timber floors but open walls and spaces and no ceiling. It's an intriguing space perfectly suited to urban arts. Then again outside, to hear Los Pitutos in the Great Melbourne telescope dome. Again, open and cold; this time spitting rain. They retreated into the Common room (warmest indoors so far) and gave us a series of popular Latin-America songs. Uber-popular songs of the likes of Perhaps perhaps perhaps. They did this well with infectious latin rhythms and sweet vocal harmonies and a nice touch on percussion (even some horn!), but I would have liked to have heard more adventurous choices. I'm told the group is based in Berlin, the singer sings opera professionally and the horn player performs orchestral music and the whole group swaps instruments. All intriguing and the voices and rhythms were lovely. Then I had to leave. The Penny Quartet was setting up to play Widmann string quartet no.4. I caught just a few bars: they started with bowing the instrument's body. Mmm, could have been interesting. So, a cold day but a string of fascinating musical encouters. Nice.

    RMC Band, sonic.art sax quartet, Los Pitutos and the Penny Quartet played on Stromlo mountain for the CIMF2019.

    10 May 2019

    Endurance 1

    We were "on the mountain", meaning Mt Stromlo and it was bitter cold. It put a freeze on virtually all the music, even inside but particularly in open domes and on an exposed hilltop. This was one CIMF event that demands little walks between venues and offers diverse performers. This is a seriously varied experience and for that it was very good. I ignored the cold, as best I could. For my group, first up was a welcome from astronomer Brad Tucker and some genuine, original, 1930s, 78rpm recordings of Albert Schweitzer playing Bach on organ (saved from various Stromlo fires). It matched with a few other pieces of Stromlo trivia, not least a photo of observatory director and wife, Geoffrey and Doris Duffield, toting a double bass to play in their Stromberra Quartet (sometime before his death in 1929: you can still find his grave on the mountain). And in contravention of CP Snow's two cultures, Rosalie Gascoigne, artist of found materials, who lived on the mountain from 1937 with her astronomer husband, Ben. Then on to the first major performance which happened to be an Australian premier. This was Dan Tepfer, NYC jazz pianist. He played his work Natural machines on Disklavier. Disklavier is the digital player-piano made by Yamaha. Dan played with the automated Disklavier performance. Dan's website describes the process. In summary, his improvisations are processed and responded to through Dan's pre-programmed computer, so Dan leads but also follows, both musically and through an artistic projection of the playing. Fascinating and very nicely played. He played, perhaps 4 movements, and one without the computer interactions. It had some audience befuddled, Disklaviers not being so known or understood. Truly a work of future thinking and artistically satisfying. Then on to the open Yale-Columbia dome. The two violinists were fretting about the cold (understandable: 11degC but a cold wind so ~4degC apparent temp) but played a worthy set anyway (I did wonder how!). This was the World premier of Mike Dooley's violin duet The Heavens declare. As I remember, three movements with a first movement divided into parts (inviting some untoward clapping); several passages of bowing against pizz; a slower middle movement and lively final. A lovely work and one I'd be pleased to hear again in more comfortable circumstances, for audience and players. The work was played by two members of Quatuor Voce, Cecile Roubin and Sarah Dayan.

    Dan Tepfer (disklavier) played compositions from his Natural machines collection and Cécile Roubin and Sarah Dayan (violins) played a violin duet by Mike Dooley, all at St Stromlo.

    9 May 2019

    Classing


    Masterclasses are a fascinating process. It's an excellent place to hone your awareness, as players or as listeners. This one was a mature (15 years) string quartet guiding a newer quartet (5 years). Of course, the new quartet sounds great when you first hear them, but they just get better as they take on the suggestions from the others. A good pair of ears, they say, and here four pairs. The masterclassees were the Penny Quartet (Melbourne); the masterclassers were Quattor Voce (France). The music performed and deconstructed was Prokofiev Quartet no.1 mvt.1. It's amusing that the first four bars take so long for consideration, but it's not surprising. Any bars are indicative of a group's performance. After that, they moved somewhat more quickly through various passages and styles of playing. So what issues? Clarity of voices in transitions; character and bite; where and how to bow: near the bridge or over the fingerboard, digging in or long bows; dirt and politeness; dynamics (always!); phrasing and excitement and even ecstasy and "clownlike" (for this piece); displaying canon passages; spelling cello lines; rhythms and ambiguities; tension; flexible tonalities; active listening and "grounded rhythms" and communal pulse (I was amused that they suggested foot tapping, virtually as in jazz, to inculcate and share rhythms: foot tapping is usually a classical no-no); using metronomes on and off beat; chords (very interesting how they analysed a series of vertical chords for better intonation); articulation and passing lines; binary and tertiary approaches (essentially playing with polyrhythmic interpretations - another common contemporary jazz technique). Of course, these refer to a specific time and place and performers and piece, but it's indicative of the deep listening that's a component of masterclassing. And it's good for the audience, too. It certainly sharpens the listeners ear. Intriguing.

    Penny Quartet received a masterclass from Quator Voce. Penny Quartet are Amy Brookman, Madeleine Jevons (violins), Anthony Chataway (viola) and Jack Ward (cello). Quator Voce are Sarah Dayan, Cécile Roubin (violins), Guillaume Becker (viola) and Lydia Shelley (cello).

    8 May 2019

    Bob's battlers


    It's election time and even if the current government won't recognise climate change for the emergency it is, some will. The Home of all Parliaments, for one, which has declared a "climate emergency" as have the informed types who turned out for Bob Brown's gathering on the lawn in front of Parliament House to join the anti-Adani convoy, if only in spirit. We just caught the end of it, hearing Bob's voice over a PA as we walked to the venue but we were there in spirit. We, the conservatives, who respect our enlightenment institutions, like science and informed citizenry. Who disavow the slinky maths and managed agreements that have us meeting Paris targets "in a canter". Misinformation, perhaps lies. The election will be a test. Are Australians sensible or dumb or misinformed or just plain self-interested. Does civilisation have a future past a century or two? Do our own grandchildren have to deal with +4degC and runaway temperatures? How often can we lose fish in the Darling or have floods that kill 1/2 million cattle or bushfires that sweep states and continue with our known world. Time to panic with Greta.

    The Anti-Adani convoy rallied with supporters outside Parliament House.


  • CSIRO Greenhouse gas data
  • 7 May 2019

    Home towner


    This is the time of virtuosity the time of CIMF. My first concert was Kristian Winther. Kristian is Canberra-bred and sounds of the world. He played violin, solo, Bach Sei solo a violino senza basso accampagnato. I heard the first concert, so the first 3 works of six. Sonata no.1 Gmin, Partita no.1 Bmin, Sonata no.2 Amin. He was playing the other three that afternoon. Each was a work of four movements. I lucked out with a front row seat that was left otherwise vacant so I could watch his bowings and fingers and face. The best was just to close my eyes and take in the subtly of bowing tones - light or gritty - and the nifty fingering and luxuriate in the glorious harmonic inventions of Bach himself. The first movements were not quite so comfy but then, settled in, his presentation was a thing of immensity and intelligence and beauty. A blast from a Canberra boy returned for our own festival.

    Kristian Winther (violin) played Bach at Canberra International Music Festival.

    6 May 2019

    In a variety of ways


    It must be the era of odd combinations and I was intrigued. This time it was drums and two basses: our local bassists Eric Ajaye and John Burgess with visiting Melbourne drummer David Jones. There's history aplenty here. David and Eric played together in Melbourne twenty years back, presumably before Eric's move to Canberra and ANU and Eric taught John at ANU. They are all strong, inventive players and this was the opportunity to improvise. Improvisation it was: John and David had just met in person that afternoon. But that's jazz. But even so, the traditions appear in some shared musical themes. I think Footprints emerged twice and the funk of Freedom Jazz Dance featured and the opening was In a silent way. And amongst the open, free improv, there was written music, David's Ancient echo and Eric's words, you'd probably say rap, written by him as a schoolkid to Freedom Jazz Dance. We got to sing along a phrase with that. The variety of basses, too, was fascinating. Eric's smooth, lithe, sliding, often funky lines on two e-basses and an NS stick. John's sharply clear grooves and melodies on his two e-basses and the electronics on his bowed NS stick and more. Against this, David's immensely satisfying, sharp rhythms and virtuosic, unexpected three- and four-feel fills and interjected tones from various bells the percussion. How sharp! A few drum solos that floored the audience and a tunes played on kalimba then expanded to the two basses. There were two sets of this, knowns and unknowns, all immediate and personal and exploratory. Intriguing with that edge of adventure from the unusually deep tonal blend and the electronic extrapolations. Another rare instrumental combination and a great pleasure.

    Freeflight were Eric Ajaye (bass), David Jones (drums) and John Burgess (bass, electronics). Simon Mitchell (art) was sketching but the pic didn't catch his art.). Thanks to jazz regular Bob Howe for the pic of authentic Jazz Haus illumination.

    5 May 2019

    Inter-Americana


    Edward Neeman is faculty at ANUSOM and I got to his faculty recital in the Larry Sitsky Room after SS4CC. It's a very different experience after a demo, but not out of place, somehow, given inter-American tensions. This was entitled Piano music from Latin America but it was a rich range, including mid-20th century American (meaning USA) music. Five pieces, four played from memory (a feat of which I remain in awe), one piece written by the composer for Edward himself, some dark, some rhythmical, even boogies and shuffles and stride, pieces all played with great commitment and immense dynamics. To me it's obscure, but perhaps not to Latin Americans. Edward told a story of Lecuona as Cuba's Gershwin: while US kids don't know of their Gershwin(s), Lecuona is renowned in Cuba. The composers were Velazquez and Lecuona and Pinera (the piece written for Edward) and the Americans Beech and Schoenfield. The classical Cuban rhythms are nothing like the jazz feels but are there for the hearing and the modernism can be disjointed and richly complex, so not for the fainthearted but wildly impressive and plenty challenging. A great outing.

    Edward Neeman (piano) performed a free faculty concert at ANUSOM. The pic is Edward and Stephanie (also a concert pianist) Neeman encountered at CIMF2019 the following day.

    4 May 2019

    The kids are alright


    They are alright and they are right. We are in the midst of an election campaign and the silence is deafening on climate. There are attempts otherwise, claims of "the climate election", high costings for anything Labor attempts and shrill negativity but climate response runs in the slow lane. At least a few kids did their Greta-thing and took some time off school for a climate demo. There was some light rain which I'm sure we'll remember fondly in our hot and dry future and numbers were down. The idea was cute, to form a human chain between the offices of Andrew Leigh (Labor) and Zed Saselja (Liberal) but I missed that. Perhaps the meeting at Gunghalin had numbers down, being at one end of town. At least attendees could travel there by tram. I came across a friend who'd taken a visiting sister for a ride on the tram and run into the demo. The visitor was from the Greens, so a happy coincidence. Lots of kids spoke: tellingly they were all girls. Not surprising at this age: girls are known to mature earlier. There were plenty of boomers, too, in support, but quiet given this will be their kids' crisis. Overnight, the British Parliament had declared a "climate emergency" and that was mentioned but not central. Andrew Leigh spoke and got a hard time on Adani and more. Tim Hollo (Greens) spoke well and was well received. I was thinking, the best can be the enemy of the good. Zed was not expected, probably not invited (certainly LNP deserve no invitation on climate). I set off back on the tram, somewhat lightened by the community but disappointed by the turnout and desperate for the purpose. Think canaries and coal mines: it's almost too late. Too late? Think this. I have been running CJ (est.2005) for longer than scientists say we have to reduce carbon emissions by 50%, ie, 11 years, by 2030. The mother of all parliaments is right but will we act?


    The latest School Strike for Climate Change (SS4CC) rally was held at Gunghalin about three weeks before Federal election day.