20 March 2023

The big end of sound

This was an unusual assignment.  I got an email from Margaret Wright asking if I could record another of her recorder groups.  OK, interesting.  It turned out to be an East Coast convention of an Eight Foot Pitch Recorder Orchestra, meaning the pitch of eight foot organ pipes, meaning low.  She had a collection of 70 or so players for this weekend.  I got to hear ~45mins and record ~30mins.  Recorders are a simple and attractive tone, forming sounds essentially like whistles or organ flue pipes, but they can get very complex and precise when they grow, so square formats and bocals (curving metal pipes) and keys and levers and pads and associated adjustments.  Perhaps my favourite music was something I heard and didn't record: a mediaeval tune by a lesser known composer.  A long Schubert surprised me and a string of more romantic tunes was less attractive to my ears.  I guess I associate the recorder with an era, even if there are living recorder composers.  The formality, adoration and sometimes joy of mediaeval musical order suits the instruments to my ears.  And unusual sounds these were.  No sopraninos or trables here.  I think the highest was tenor, and they went down to the big basses and great basses and contrabasses, variously turned C and F.  So I learnt of recorders and heard a very unusual and large combination in orchestral format.  Ever learning.  Great and thanks.

Margaret Wright (conductor) directed the Eight Foot Pitch Recorder Orchestra in Canberra.

19 March 2023


It's thanks to Covid that we have this album and this CD launch at the Drill Hall Gallery.  Mark Ginsberg and Ryan Grogan had worked together before but Covid brought the two to collaborate at a distance and ultimately this recording was born and this tour performed.  They recorded with Fabian Hevia and Brett Hirst and Brendan Clarke played this tour.  It's beautiful, contemplative music made up of frequently complex harmony and lovely, expressive melody, often played in unison on bass and sax or even bass and piano with an emerging sax, but perhaps the defining approach, expressed several times by  Mark, was the use of a percussion rather than drum kit for rhythm underlay, so we had cymbals and cajons and bells (I was entranced by one that rang forever and was gloriously clear) but not the push of kick or accent of snare, so the percussion just interweaved with the music and, again as Mark suggested, we the audience had to place the beat.  Well, yes, it was softer and Fabian is a wonder with mind-bogglingly complex interleavings and polyrhythms, but there was rhythm throughout and I thought it was clear for all.  Ryan mentioned later that their music also appeals to classical listeners, and I can see that.  This was not bop even if some melodies and even the lineup was somewhat in this space.  Mark even asked about the genre.  I dunno, but it was jazz and it wasn't at all like the tune they played in honour of Wayne Shorter.  Mark also mentioned the pleasure of playing the tunes daily even if not all aspects of touring are so pleasant.  I understand.  Their arrival here was to a small, integrated jazz world, if to a soft space which felt quite loud to my ears with only one (bass) amp.  But that's the Drill Hall.  It made for a unified if soft sound.  Otherwise, this was a great pleasure, wonderful reflective music, some fabulous playing and a warm atmosphere.  I loved this.

Mark Ginsburg (soprano, tenor) and Ryan Grogan (piano) launched their CD Oceans together at the Drill Hall Gallery.  Also on the album were Brett Hirst (bass) and Fabian Hevia (percussion).  Brendan Clarke (bass) replaced BH for the tour and this concert.

16 March 2023

A walk in the park

Well, actually it was a stroll in the garden in bygone times of Schubert and Schumann and the like.  Saralouise Owens sang songs of lost and found loves and the like with piano accompaniment from Stuart Long and it was quite beautiful if much of another era, a very erstwhile era.  Maybe it's the advent of the pill in the '60s or a few world wars, but things are different now.  The romance seems florid and unreal to our ears even if the Schubert Serenade seemed to suggest suggestiveness and that's common enough.  I didn't follow the German lyrics, but I did the translations, and it was interesting.  Mostly this was German, from Schubert and Schumann and Mahler and Hugo Wolf and one French from Henri Duparc, but Benjamin Britten was in English, as was a significant early female composer out of Melbourne, Linda Phillips, with lyrics lauding Ash trees and the cedars of Lebanon.  It's a complex music, these short classical songs, rich in imagery and structurally and harmonically following the lyrics, unlike simple pop tunes where lyrics follow melody.  So a lovely sound and a historical visitation as well.  Lovely.

 Saralouise Owens (soprano) sang with accompaniment from Stuart Long (piano) at Wesley.

06 March 2023

Mod, cool

Carnaby Street was the famous fashion street for '60s London and it was represented with a mock street sign on stage.  I was wondering about the other street sign, for Denmark Street.  I just looked it up and it turns out that it's famed for music and instruments and I actually remember visiting a bass shop there.  Small world!  The Queanbeyan Players presented Downtown! The mod musical at the Belconnen Community Theatre.   It had caught my attention months earlier for the great '60s female-sung songs that formed its core.  Downtown, of course, but others like You don't have to say you love me, Those were the days, To Sir with love, I know a place, Signs of the times, You're my world, James Bond theme, and perhaps two dozen others, not least several from Burt Bacharach, a personal songwriting hero.  The plot is five women friends and their experiences in love and the like in that era, linked with the song themes, eventually moving into the '70s and ultimately satisfied with their lives and memories.  Simple and satisfying and good natured with a fabulous sound track.  The five women appeared in colours, so Orange girl, Red, Blue, Green and Yellow.  They all read Shout magazine and variously asked advice from columnist Gwendoline Holmes, who mostly just appears as a voice over the PA.  There are 5 other women, "alternate colours", who appear on stage in black as dance accompanists and maybe cover for absences.  Yellow is an American over in London to chase Paul McCartney; Orange is married but with a cheating husband; Blue is gorgeous and wealthy and unhappy in life and love; Green is the goer; Red is young and hopeful but hopeless.  Their resolutions are stories of our times.  The instrumental music is provided by a band of drums/percussion and 2 keys.  I don't ever expect the supreme professionalism of pro-musicals but QP always do a great job and they did here.  I'd highlight some wonderful harmonies even if some high notes were a stretch at times.  Otherwise, the theatre of it was wonderfully effective.   I loved this show!  I must get to more musicals, but they are not all quite so pertinent to Megan and me.  As one cast member states at towards the end, this is the story of your wives or mothers or even grandmothers.  Too true.  BTW, this musical first appeared off-Broadway as Shout! The mod musical and is listed in Wikipedia under this title.

Downtown was presented by the Queanbayan Players at Belconnon Community Theatre.  At least this night, it featured Alaxandra McLaughlin (Orange), Kay Liddiard (Red), Emily Pogson (Blue), Hannah Lance (Green), Sarah Hull (Yellow) and Tina Meir (Gwendoline Holmes, voiceover).  Anita Davenport (director), Tara Davidson (musical director) and Laurenzy Chapman (choreographer) were backstage, and literally backstage were the band, Andre Le (keys 1), Adam Bluhm (Keys 2) and Jarrah Palenthorpe (drums, percussion).

05 March 2023

ArtSound's 40th

Thanks to ArtSound.  It has a mighty and worthy history and well celebrated by CJ and the local jazz and arts community.  Also thanks to Chris for permission to publish his presentation at the 40th anniversary celebration.  And to James Munro who played an original composition and various Bach cello suites.  And, not least, thanks to Rebecca Vassarotti (Greens, Member for Kurrajong, ACT Minister for the Environment, Heritage, Homelessness and Housing Services, and Sustainable Building and Construction) for the selfie featuring Rebecca with ArtSound board members and presenters Bart Meehan and Chris Deacon and Betsy Dixon (President). / Eric

Remarks by Chris Deacon OAM, ArtSound Manager Technology on ArtSound’s 40th Anniversary, 3 March 2023

In ArtSound’s 40th anniversary year, it’s my pleasure as one if the co-founders to place a lens on some of our achievements.

The award-winning ArtSound has come a long way since it kicked off its 17-year bid for a permanent FM licence with test broadcasts and recording services in the early 1980s. That was at the former Curtin Childrens’ Library. Known then as Canberra Stereo Public Radio (when stereo FM was rare) a small but passionate group of musicians and artists stayed the long course for the Canberra community and were awarded a permanent licence in 2000.

Radio had become formulaic, lowest common denominator, with few opportunities for quality and in-depth local arts expression, so we set out to change this. One of Canberra’s major strengths is its cultural diversity and we felt that should be reflected in its radio stations. We also developed a unique program format aimed at devotees of quality specialist music where there was a distinct void. It was a radio station funded by those who loved it most. We even built our own microphones!

An FM station dedicated to listeners with an interest in, or appreciation of these matters, was a good idea in 1983, and still is! The coming together over many years of the cohort of arts and music interests that now comprise ArtSound is itself a valid indication of community need. Today I believe those listeners would remain poorly served, despite a large increase in the number of media feeding our ears, were it not for ArtSound’s efforts.

We’ve broadcast non-stop since then with transmission sites at Black Mountain and Mt Taylor, and today provide quality broadcasting on FM and DAB+ and online global streams plus recording and audio production services for members and other participants in Canberra’s arts and cultural scene.

With the assistance of the ACT Government and other community sponsors, ArtSound went the extra mile and moved to bigger and better premises here at the former jazz campus of the School of Music in 2005.

Notwithstanding its small beginnings, ArtSound has developed a strong role in promotion and projection of local arts in and around Canberra, both on air and through off-site recording and broadcast.

We’ve made significant contributions to the success of a range of professional and amateur musical, artistic events and careers through our contributions to audience development.

Indeed, there are writers, actors and musicians of national calibre in Canberra, yet before ArtSound commenced its service, there was no guarantee that the electronic media would provide more than token opportunities for the development of this talent.

We were among the first radio stations in Australia to adopt new digital “tapeless” recording technology, and Canberra musicians started to be heard on radio stations throughout Australia. We reintroduced radio drama in the 1980s and that ground-breaking work continues today.

The station provides opportunities for people who would not easily find space elsewhere in the radio landscape.  We promote the art of listening and the art of presentation…

The medium of radio has some unique qualities that are ripe for artistic enquiry. It’s been described variously as the “theatre of the mind,” an invisible arts centre — where our public artworks reside in a virtual gallery for the audio arts. Radio is far from dead. It has enjoyed a resurgence during and since Covid as listeners confined to their homes realised the value of a community companion in their lives. Like many stations worldwide, we kept ArtSound on air throughout — also from our homes — thanks to some savvy technology!

In feedback from our loyal listeners, we are often told that ArtSound remains their “station of choice” or “ArtSound is the best radio station in Canberra,” “Love the Vibe,” and so on. Some are enthralled by what we do, others are more selective in their listening choice! It’s those values that keep an estimated 40-50,000 listeners tuned in to ArtSound each week.

According to a 2022 McNair survey, community radio reaches over 5 million Australians every week. In fact, 30% of all radio listeners listen to community radio.

We are pleased our own concept of independent local media has been embraced so well. This has not been without its financial challenges, but the feedback is generally positive on our successes to date. After 40 years of existence, and 23 years of full-time operations, there is still so much more potential to be tapped and we are up for that should the resources available to ArtSound be increased.

We brought a totally new type of radio to Canberra, and it has been done largely by volunteers. Over the past four decades, hundreds of dedicated volunteers from within and outside the music and arts community have come forward to offer help and be trained in the art of radio presentation. We are pleased to report that many of these have found professional careers in other media or the arts industry.

ArtSound discharges its role, in part, through its continuing creative partnership with writers, performers, musicians and producers across the region. Some 500 guest segments and over 300 hours of live locally recorded concerts have been presented over the past year alone. Many of our programs draw attention to the amount, variety and quality of local artistic achievement. With volunteer resources, ArtSound continues to develop new content and to explore artistic and cultural forms that might otherwise go unrecognised, by multiplying audiences.

Radio is also a most powerful means by which people can share a common experience, learn about their culture, and learn about themselves.

But wait — ArtSound is much more than just radio!

First, it has become a focal point for production and recording services to the arts community.

There are many examples of how ArtSound provides a springboard for artists and musicians in Canberra; how we act as a conduit for information about the arts and cultural activity. Our physical location and social reach enable us to function as a cultural “hub,” connecting and enabling productive relationships between artists, organisations and audiences.

Second, ArtSound has amassed arguably one of the largest recorded music and oral history collections in the ACT.

In particular, the work of the late Anne Edgeworth and the late Gillian Alcock, should not pass without mention. We conducted a Centenary of Canberra Sound Preservation Project to identify and catalog some of the best of our culturally significant items, many of which were restored for broadcast as part of the 2013 celebrations.

Third, ArtSound helps others preserve the past.

Numerous individuals, organisations and government agencies and national institutions have hired our facilities for their own work, including preservation of audio material of national importance. The speeches of Prime Minister Menzies, oral histories of Vietnam Vets, and even ABC archival recordings of famous events, have all passed through ArtSound’s digital preservation studio. Many generations of recording technology and formats have been employed for this work.

Since 1983, literally tens of thousands of individual items of the nation’s spoken-word heritage have been carefully saved for all Australians to appreciate. Clients have included the National Archives, the National Library, the Australian War Memorial, and Old Parliament House.

ArtSound’s audio services continue to be in demand, with bookings for CD recording, voice-overs and nationally and internationally significant production work.

Among clients, we’ve contributed to Hollywood movies, Disney studios and SBS TV, supported national election coverage for the UK press and the community radio network and produced voiceovers for the local fire brigade.

Recent work includes audio books for internationally renowned publishing houses, local poets and authors, and a host of nationally significant podcast recordings. We’ve also provided media training for artists and engineers and radio rookies courses for teenagers.

ArtSound pioneered the successful Senior Memories internet streaming service for seniors, with entertainment and information targeted specifically at the aged, particularly those who may be socially isolated. The service was launched in 2013 and extended to 11 aged care facilities and retirement homes. Many seniors were trained to present their own programs.

A few years ago, we closed the streaming service in favour of expanding the content to weekday mornings on ArtSound FM. By all accounts it has become a popular offering.

Radio is such an empowering way for everyone to fully participate in society.

We have encouraged both seniors and young people to find creative ways to use the radio medium, to express themselves and to share their talent.

In this regard, we launched the Fine Music Network Young Virtuoso of the Year (ACT) Competition in 2013, and the national prize has been awarded on several occasions since then to the ACT entrant.

Canberra music performances and special content is often showcased beyond the ACT through the Community Radio Network of 450 non-profit radio stations.

Having made great strides in recent years, ArtSound faces the undeniable financial challenges experienced, for the most part, by many arts and cultural organisations. And like most non-profit organisations, ArtSound is too frequently diverted from its principal goals in order to spend valuable time and effort on essential fundraising in order to survive.

Community arts stations like ArtSound FM are hindered by restrictions on their range of funding sources which puts them at a disadvantage compared to some other broadcasters such as those in the multicultural, religious, indigenous, print handicapped and educational sectors, where it is possible to access larger pools of territory, state or federally supported dollars.

While the level of public and private spending on community radio has risen markedly since we were established, the costs of our “core” operations have risen dramatically in recent years and ArtSound realises it cannot accomplish its work alone.

As an arts broadcaster, the success of our work will depend on the contributions of the members, individuals and organisations most directly involved in Canberra’s artistic and cultural life, represented by many of you here today.

Whatever your involvement in the arts, however specialised or general, whether as an artist, a business owner or a concerned listener, ArtSound always welcomes your views. Indeed, the success of efforts to strengthen ArtSound’s role in Canberra’s cultural life depends on the variety and breadth of measures which can be mobilised for that purpose — so we look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Today ArtSound is an award-winning 40-year-old cultural resource which exists to enlighten and enrich the quality of life for anyone within the listening area that shares our ideals. By tapping new and little-heard content, we have become a significant member of the national community broadcasting system, and arguably, we have enhanced and strengthened the arts in Canberra.

We must ensure that this facility and its unique use of scarce broadcast spectrum is given the maximum opportunity to innovate, to grow with its arts constituency, and to keep pace with the best that Canberra has to offer.

ArtSound’s role as a key potential driver of productivity in the arts, and a genuine discovery channel of arts and music, needs to be acknowledged more widely. And everyone should do a radio program at least once in their life!

I wish to extend a special “thank you” to the sponsors and individuals that supported us in so many ways over the past 40 years. There are too many to mention them all, however I would like to place on record the contributions of the following organisations that have got us to this point:

The ACT Government through artsACT, Infinite Networks, the Canberra Labor Club, the Canberra Southern Cross Club, Rotary International (Belconnen), ACTEW Corporation and the Community Broadcasting Foundation.

My thanks also to Alicia Payne MP, the Federal Member for Canberra, whose donated stage and PA I am using, as part of the Australian Government’s Stronger Communities program.

I can announce today that we have also been successful in securing funding under the ACT Government’s Technology Upgrade Fund towards upgrade of ArtSound’s outside broadcasting equipment. Thanks to Emma Davidson, Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, and the ACT Community Services Directorate.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge co-founders: Terry McGee, the late Gillian Alcock, Marilyn Chalkley, Michael Poole

as well as some long-timers and life members:

Bill Oakes, Clinton White, Professor Deane Terrell AO, Brian Leonard, Annabel Wheeler, the late Anne Edgeworth, the late Phil Birch- Marston, Jim Mooney OAM, Greg Mitchell, Floyd Patterson, Kathy Syrette, Rod Menzies, Graham McDonald, James Steele, Gary Knobel and the late Jenni Knobel, Gerry Kay, Peter Field, Tony Griffiths, Richard Gate, Liz Clarke, Jennifer Kingma, Christine Cansfield-Smith, Judy Baker, Neil Gowen, Bill Stephens OAM, Lauren Black, Stan D’Argeavel, Isobel Griffin, Vicki Murn, Dianne Parrey, Garth O’Loughlin, John Rogers, Judy Hayes, Phillip O’Brien, Peter Trainer, Bert Whelan.

And a special mention of the late Barbara Byrne, whose support through the Canberra Labor Club ensured the completion and fit out of several ArtSound studios in 2005 and former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope who kindly launched these premises in 2005.

Plus, the generosity of our listeners and members needs a special thanks — and that is what this year’s Anniversary is all about.

Thank you!

02 March 2023

Novelty in late C16th

There's a reason why pop songs have vocals and a reason why we mix to make the vocals work above all else.  Because the voice is the core means of human expression in music.  It's pretty obvious but it hit me yesterday again when I heard AJ America sing Giulio Cassini with accompaniment from Arian Odermatt.  So beautiful and so touching.  It helped also that we had lyrics, in the original sung Italian and the English translation.  I understand Italian but probably wouldn't have followed the renaissance/baroque era lyrics.  Caccini is famous for his developments including monody (a term later applied) which featured a melody line with choral accompaniment (vs. earlier polyphony) and for early work leading to the recitative.  Perhaps for more.  It was enough that we got a string of love and other songs from Caccini and a few from Monteverdi.  Also a premiere Wesley performance of an Amarillo by Peter Philips on their virginal.  Very beautiful tones all around.  I asked Ariana about improvisation.  Again, yes all around.  If I understood correctly, Ariana played a chart with a figured bass with indicated harmony (the little numbers below the stave in this era of music) and AJ sang various embellishments on top of a melody and some written embellishments.  Whatever, there was variation and richness and context here.  But just the sheer beauty of the voice and those delicate instruments had it for me.  Such a lovely outing.

AJ America (mezzo-soprano) sang with accompaniment from Ariana Odermatt (harpsichord, virginal) at Wesley.

23 February 2023

Latin who's who

Everyone loves latin music but it's hugely varied even if some core concepts can look pretty straightforward.   Straighforward, perhaps, or deceptively simple, like the forward and reverse claves on bass and the dotted rhythms and those hugely infectious montunos.  So what are these variations in this rich tapestry of musics?  Sam Row played latin musics at Wesley on piano and I was particularly interested in the first number, a history of tango in four short movements, labelled Bordello 1900, Cafe 1930, Nightclub 1960 and Concert d'aujourhui.  For the record, aujoudhui was 1985.  The bordello was the tango I think of, playful, lively, described in the notes as "Spanish women teasing the men visiting the bordello".    The cafe era was more a listening music, romantic, slower, meloncholy, sometimes sung.  The Nightclub was  era was more international, with new tango and bossa nova sharing slower tempos.  The aujourdhui had influences of Bartok and Stravinski and high art musics.  Fascinating.  Meanwhile, Sam is playing all this with intrigue and connection and from memory.  He then played Granados Allegro de concierto C#min, a piece that won competitions and fame in Spain before WW1 and indirectly led to his death on a torpedoed ship in the English Channel in 1916.  This was all rolling handfulls of notes and sweet melodies and a clear connection in my ears to film musics and popular song.  Then something contemporary, Chris Norton Latin Prelude with two passages as Rhumba and Salsa.  So two more latin musics from this fascinating and inviting scene.  Much enjoyed.

Sam Row (piano) performed Piazzolla, Granados and Norton at Wesley.

22 February 2023

Kae's plays

Kae Tempest played the Playhouse.  This was something exciting; something I'd waited for in anticipation.  KT is an influence on my recordings as The Pots.  Their poetry, care and thought and political position ring true.  Not just that, but KT is also highly regarded and awarded.  It's hard to appear with such high expectations.  Some expectations were thwarted.  I didn't like the overloud sub-bass, but then I don't like that dumb and painful thump which appears mostly in a professional outposts with the best gear.  I lost much of the meaning with that thump, from my tissue earplugs and just the sheer volume.  And there was also a toppy edge that I protected against.  The show was Kae with Kinako Omori accompanying on various electronics, synths, loops and the rest.  KO played some simple piano on a Nord and some single note stubs on a Novation board but mostly loops and triggered whatevers.  It was musically simple and performance-wise effective, insistent and involving.  She sang an occasional line, too, behind or in response to Kae.  But it was Kae and Kae's words that were the inherent purpose of the night.  I noticed how we heard them best a few times against quieter backing, as in Firesmoke, gentle, pensive, intimate, quiet with anticipation, persistent with that 4-cum-5 beat groove.  No volume struggles there and the poetry stood clear and the meaning bell-like.  The core of the performance was Kae's latest album, The line is a curve, played straight through if I recognised it right.  It's more intimate and personal than the earlier works.  Kae sounds happier, if some travails also appear.  Then a selection of earlier tunes and three unreleased ones to finish.  I noticed Europe is lost for its politics but it was missing the tragic intro of Esther's story, touching and demonstrative as it is.  I love how Kae can place political commentary in that human context.  Esther was missing this night but these were similar  snippets otherwise, other visits to London lives or at least related, desperate humanity.  I think I remember Ketamine for breakfast and Peoples' faces and Hold your own.  Others, too, if I knew Kae's repertoire better.  Kae, like Jannah before her, spoke to the audience on arrival and later to end, but otherwise performed uninterrupted, with Kinako on a pedestal with several keyboards and various lighting effects and an inexplicable (to me, at least) projection of a Californian sequoia (if my botany serves me correctly) and her mic and stand.  And I can only admire her memory.  There were very, very many lines over those 80 mins or so and I only noted one slip, in a final piece of unaccompanied poetry (was it Hold your own?).  Largely, Kae's performance was as I'd expected, informed, personal, touching, visiting tunes.  Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was the audience.  I'd expected poets or young hip hoppers or whatever, but this was a mostly ordinary looking Canberra crowd, of various ages and seemingly mild disposition.  Wow!  Such a surprise to me.  I guess, like Smiths and its often mature crowd, the bohemian and poetic is widespread in this town.  Maybe elsewhere too.  It's a satisfying realisation and this was a satisfying if loud concert.  Much enjoyed by Megan and me and many.

Kae Tempest (vocals) performed with accompaniment by Kinako Omori (keyboards and various electronics, occasional vocals) at the Playhouse.

21 February 2023


I read that Omar Musa performed support act for Kae Tempest in Perth but the support in Canberra was Sydney-sider Jannah Beth.  I hadn't heard of her, but I did view one YouTube video before the gig.  She appeared solo with a mic and picked up a guitar for a tune or two, otherwise with a recorded backing.  It was her first theatre gig and that was clear and made the event a bit special and personal.  We all smiled for a pic with her on stage and the audience behind for her Mum.  Nice.  She sang 6 tunes over a 30-minute set.  I'd expected rap or spoken word and there was some of that with that swinging-arm hip hop presence, but she also had a very decent voice for her presumably original songs of life, I guess from her recordings on Spotify, et al.  This scene does seem very personal, with songs about love and life and perhaps political thoughts.  I caught snippets to chase up later, maybe they are titles: Where the angels sing; Who am I to judge ... leave it to the God above; By your side; Wake me dead ... selling my soul (obviously a more angry outing about the entertainment industry); I hope everything doesn't have an expiry date.   And personal for the direct chatter with the audience.  And that loud PA with sub-bass, and audience singalongs and claps and waves and her hip hop dance movements and big loose white shirt and tightly cut (red?) hair.  I liked JB.  I'll listen more.  Impressive.  As you can guess, no pics allowed and I just didn't feel like being too stroppy about it.

Jannah Beth (vocals, guitar) performed as support for Kae Tempest at the Playhouse.

18 February 2023

Unique prints

The latest blockbuster at National Gallery was Cressida Campbell with her intimate and unique prints.  We got to it in the last week.  It's been very popular, perhaps given it's just so relatable.  CC does a style of woodblock printing with unique prints using a unique technique: detailed woodcuts with incised edges, painted with watercolours and single printed to cotton paper, then extensively touched up with further watercolours and tiny brushes.  Each large work is a consumer of months. although amusingly she can paint or cut while on the phone.  I noticed a ton of "private collection" tags, so there's a market out there and this exhibition will just promote that.  I didn't know of her, but I do now and I love her work, intimate, time consuming, personal, local with still lifes, her house, her world (Sydney suburbs, Newcastle).  I was amused to realise she has to cut writing in reverse, but of course that's one aspect of printing.  I noticed a string of images of ships in harbour that would have had writing, but there was none.  I can understand that.  It was all detailed yet not necessarily photographic, amusingly left-right inverted when you see woodcut and print together, interesting in tondo (round) form.  There's more to like, but I just immersed myself and I was one of many, unsurprisingly including very many women.  A very great pleasure. 

The National Gallery of Australia exhibited Cressida Campbell (woodblock print artist).

17 February 2023

Charles returns

I'd heard and recorded Charles Huang before at Wesley Music Centre and I'm sure I raved about that performance, as I am about to here again.  Of course, he's further in his piano mastery now so it's to be expected: now he's 12.  He's completed his LMusA and won various Eisteddfods is a champion chess player to boot, so a serious and capable person.  And he has a father who teaches piano; handy inhouse and probably demanding.  So what did he play and how did the audience receive it?  Starting with the audience, with mighty admiration and some awe.  Stunning playing in two very diverse styles.  And what did he play?  First up, JS Bach English Suite no.6 Dmin; second, Beethoven, Sonata no.12 Abmaj; for encore, Sonata no.14 C#min "Moonlight" mvt.3.  All from memory.  I noticed things like the balance of left and right hands in Bach, the regularity and neat dynamics, again in Bach, that clear statement of structure, then Beethoven's romanticism, his melodious emotions, that romantic flow after the formal baroque, and then just the shear extravagant dexterity of the Moonlight movement.  I did some piano as a kid, and I think this shows why I play bass!  Congratulations and thanks to Charles.

Charles Huang (piano) performed Bach and Beethoven at Wesley.

16 February 2023

A shorter hour

It's a slow Feb and a relaxed return to normal activities, not least CJ.  I got to a few local art exhibitions.  One was The work of art.  Tricky title.  I found a string of photos and paintings of visual artists, musicians, writers, but also gallery owners and wealthy collectors and the like.  The artists seemed intrinsically more interesting and the gallerists and collectors better dressed.  Just one pic of Elena Katz-Chernin but Wendy Sharpe called the Witching hour.  Interestingly that's the title of a concerto by EK-C for 8 double basses that a few mates have thought of suggesting to our orchestra to perform.   It was premiered by the Australian World Orchestra so it's probably more challenging than the painting.

The work of art is an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

02 February 2023

Plus three

It was the last flourish from Carmen Chan Schoenborn on vibes that gave me a chuckle.  This virtuosic little upward flowing line on the vibraphone borrowed from the CSO and then the look up to find ... the end.  This happens, of course.  Then set had vibes/piano with erhu and Gail's synth with floating tones and Jasmine's bowed erhu (what a lovely sound it can make) and like harmonies and synth and bells and cymbals and some other smaller percussion but it was coming to closure then this lively, perhaps hopeful flourish that had the three players looking at each other and chuckling. Thus is improv, of course.

Carmen had played earlier, too, this time with another bassist, Sam and Joe on drums and Gemma on trumpet and some vocals.  We'd heard bowed cymbals as well as bowed bass and harmonics, plastic bag noises , plucked piano strings and bass and various drones and percussive seed pods (Toca) into a finale of octave vibes, blown trumpet mute and a final bass pizz and bowed cymbals.  I found some a little airy but the bass/drums combination had purpose and power at times to satisfy my less developed ear.

Then another bassist, Chloe Sobek, or at least a somewhat busetto-shaped baroque violone.  That was odd to see.  Chloe also played a set on violin, but I didn't see that.  I can't imagine anyone with a six-string violone  and baroque bow and gut strings and gut frets who doesn't play mediaeval/renaissance/baroque music, so I guess that's Chloe's background.  Here, she played slides and pizz and odd intervals to sounds from around the piano, under the lid, piano-related noises but not from the keyboard with an accompaniment of alto sax with water bottle mute moving to hisses and bubbles of water boiling on hotplate with handheld condenser mic, if I got it right.  Not common in Llewellyn hall, but quite fascinating sounds that we all know but don't think about too often.  Here we can.

Variously, the musicians were Carmen Chan Schoenborn (vibes, piano), Gail Priest (electronics), Jasmin Wing-Yin Leung (erhu), Gemma Horbury (trumpet, vocals), Joe Talia (drums), Samuel Pankhurst (bass), Chloe Sobek (violone), Elizabeth Jigalin (piano, percussion) and Peter Farrer (alto, electronics).  They played at SoundOut at the Drill Hall Gallery.

01 February 2023

One to four

I caught Peter Knight doing a solo set, sadly missing his masterclass.  His presentation was solo, initially sitting in the audience playing whispy trumpet tones, quiet, then whistley calls, then louder, twissddling, flipping between harmonics, animals, tones and lip suctions and kisses (do I have the tech terms right here?).  Then a return to the stage, playing trumpet through various electronics and effects, hevily echoed eighth-note pairs, then a tonal rise and taps and trumpet drones.  Thisd was all mystical, pensive, feeling something like repeating 8 bar 3/4 passages with almost endless echo and layered harmonics.  His t-shirt stated "No music on a dead planet" reminding me of posters that have appeared around Canberra from Extinction Rebellion.

I had met Khabat Abas earlier in the day so I was interested to hear her.  She's played cello with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and a string of more experimental groups variously around Europe and was over from London for just 5 days. Her website claims "experimental and transgressive cellist" so clearly apt for SO.  She appeared in a session with Jon Rose, bassist Mark Cauvin and voice artist Nikki Heywood.  They presented 4 quartets, one each introduced by each performer, then a final journey from Jon playing and dissembling the theme tune from the film Love Story, "Where do I begin / to tell the story...").  Quite a lovely melody if schmaltzy and gloriously dismembered here into effective noise.  I heard bowed end-pins and explosive bass lines and bowed hammers and dissonant cello slides, occasional words but also non-verbal tones and song from Nikki and again those evident chops put to whatever purpose from Jon.  These were five short, guided, purposeful segments that intrigued with their diversity from different leaderships.

Peter Knight (trumpet, electronics) performed solo and Jon Rose (violin), Khabat Abas (cello), Mark Cauvin (bass) and Nikki Heywood (vocals, electronics) performed together at SoundOut.

31 January 2023

And now for music

I managed most of two sessions in addition to the Jon Rose workshop at SoundOut.  Just a touch on my impressions rather than a full list of players and collectives.  Suffice to say each performance was 20-30 mins, usually one or two numbers.  Numbers may start with agreed, even stated, intentions, usually outspoken, or perhaps just crescendo from soft noises.

Whistle Biter reintroduced me to the intensity of Hermione Johnson on prepared piano.  Or rather it reminded me of HJ as she'd attended a previous SO where I'd heard her 9 years before.  She prepares her pianos with chopsticks in the strings, and the sound is delicate and pretty, although her attacking, impulsive, vigourous style knocks them for six at times and somewhat hides the tone.  Hermione is all intense handfuls in right and left hand and occasional dropped (mostly left) arms on keyboard and then plucks under the piano lid.  Just stunning and committed, trained or not.  Her offsider, Dave Brown, was more sedate if still atonal and noise-y, so the result could be sparse, open or intense, with guitar effect hits, piano extravagance and repetition.  A nice pairing

We heard Hermione again the next day in a star trio led by Jon Rose and with bassist Clayton Thomas.  I heard communications, great chops, intent, interestingly plenty of eyes and ears open to each other, imagination, variation, it had it all.  Jon displaying years of technical exercises if not flaunting it, and similarly Clayton, mixing sounds and emotions with pizz lines, pulled strings, pizz below the bridge, strums, bows, drumstick in strings, the lot.  Just a stunning outing by this trio. 

Hermione Johnson (piano) played with Dave Brown (guitar) as Whistle Biter, and later with Jon Rose (violin) and Clayton Thomas (bass) at SoundOut.

30 January 2023


SoundOut 2023 was the 14th iteration on this festival and duly it was well praised.  It's challenging and it's small, to some degree an expected pairing.  This is experimental music.  It claims also free jazz, but my guess is that free jazz is more tonal/atonal, whereas experimental includes more noise, as in outside a formal musical system.  Not that it is totally out of systems.  Some players make noise perhaps on invented or even established instruments and maybe have no formal connection with classical or jazz or other instrumental forms.  But there are others with significant connections, training, chops, even interests, that inform to some degree.   And the small number in attendance is not so significant.  As much as anything, this is a meeting of like-interests, coming from Sydney or Melbourne or other Australia, or NZ or even UK or more.  The importance is the playing together, the discoveries, perhaps also the recordings as posterity.  For Richard publishes select recordings from these sessions (26 to date).

This SO comprised  four sessions (Fri eve, Sat arvo, Sat eve, Sun arvo) and two workshops (Fri arvo, Sat morn).  Each session mixes various combinations, perhaps regularly playing together, perhaps first time at this SO or perhaps returning after an earlier SO or other event.  It's not a big community, so these people often know each other.  As for the two workshops, they were particularly well-known proponents, Jon Rose and Peter Knight.  I got to Jon Rose.

Jon has a long history in music, having started early with violin, then through other instruments and eventually returning to violin.  There were classical scholarship offers and more at young age, but Jon was adventurous and quite daring, getting into inventing instruments, discovering sound capabilities and the like.  The workshop was a visit to a few of these instruments but there's a string of others on his website.  We heard of Jon's thinking, his trials, his concepts and experiences and heard some of the outcomes as recordings.  Fascinating if challenging.  Think 5 string trapezoidal violin with revolving double speaker or 19 string violin (or cello, for that matter) or hysperstring (as I understood, an interactive violin with a midi bow powering some software) or Aeolian double neck violin (wind powered with sail).  We also heard of tales of Violin, a town in the Czech Republic, and a history of a violin museum there established.    It was a challenging bit of thought and musical play and something to test the dada in us all.

Jon Rose (violin and various inventions) gave a workshop at SoundOut 2023.

  • SoundOut recordings at Bandcamp
  • Jon Rose website
  • 29 January 2023

    Congrats Mike

    It's always a blast to hear friends on the radio.  Normally I listen to BBC World Service late at night, but this was Sunday early morning and it's sports, so a scan of the stations.  Some interesting rap on Triple J and rap again and a wonderful jazz fusion thing on Double X, then a lovely take on a Handel oratorio on ABC Classic FM.  Now it's hard to identify music on stations at night.  I haven't been successful with Shazam from headphones and there are few DJs introducing tracks, but Classic FM has one and he announced Mike Dooley.  Then Mike's Epiphany performed by Ensemble Liaison.  All moving time signatures and effective repetition and four movements and a major quotation and very nicely played.  Lovely.  Congratulations, Mike.

    Not for the first time, I heard a Mike Dooley composition on ABC Classic FM.

    24 January 2023


    Then band no. 2, Greg Stott's Test Pilots.  Very different even if one tune harked to Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin and thus perhaps a hint at the Swamp jazz.  But no, this was different.  A mix of two generations, the senior partners up front and the rhythm section, a piano trio, behind.  Not that the front line took all.  The music was, in some ways, defined by the intense funky, loud and immensely driving grooves.  That is until a guitar took off with its own drive, meaning distortion, hot and loud and fast and indulgent.  Nothing like Greg at the National Press Club and so, so, so much fun.  I could drool over the sweeps, that signature of Canberra's own US guitar hero, Frank Gambale.  Greg was all over it.  And John, of course, always a master.  I found his solos more clear and easier to follow in this groove context.  I remember just how one simple rising arpeggio run followed by a scalar return took my breath away, as obvious a thing as it seems.  But the youngsters got their time in the headlights, too.  No slouches.  Jamie on Rhodes was a melodic but also rhythmically intense soloist, then I admired a spot where he sat out for variation and clarity.  That's mature.  And Haris, all rhythms and octaves on the chord notes surprised with a busily melodic final solo, and Peter, replacing Nic McBride no less, all concentration and sharp funky intensity, blew us out with several short filler solos then a final blow of concentration and momentum towards the end.  Greg led it all and introduced it all.  First up a medley in honour of recently deceased Jeff Beck, Mingus Goodbye porkpie hat leading into 'Cos we ended as lovers.  Those immense strained guitar tones boded well.  Then into three Greg originals, all grooves and complex melodic passages, Cipher, Alea iacta est (the tune in honour of Earnest Ranglin) and Blood nut.  Then Peter Gabriel Don't give up, for its play on timing, and Fuego, another Greg original and base for a final blow for all, a swinger with walking bass over rock drum line.  By this time I was chuckling with the daring and excitement of it all.  What a blast.

    Greg Stott's Test Pilots played at Smiths and comprised Greg Stott (guitar), John Mackey (tenor), Jamie Rea (Rhodes), Haris Hodzic (bass) and Peter Campion (drums).

    23 January 2023


    The name was a little odd and to some degree so was the music.  Richard suggested Swamp jazz for a style.  And this mix of guitars and violin made for memories of Mahavishnu from tone if not from style.  Two crisp guitars, again of quite different sound and style.  Lachlan was hard and sharp, uneffected, with short bends suggesting heavy strings.  Dylan played lighter, fingers gentle and delicate and with softer tone, perhaps reverb, or chorus given his Roland jazz chorus amp.  Then that unusual instrument for jazz or later styles, the violin.  That was spacious with reverb and tight and fast with chops.  We wondered why there's not more violin in modern musics.   It's a great tone and there are tons of well trained players if not necessarily players with understanding of the styles.  Certainly El has solo chops but also an awareness of the context and accompaniment.  Lovely.  Arpeggiated sequences and scalar flourishes and all manner of bowed effects were common, but also tenderness as in her lullaby composition.  As for the back line, as a bassist I much admire Chris, his aptness and ease along with fierce chops when that's called on and that insistent while soft tone, and Gus on drums was tight and expressive.   We heard several guitarist tunes, from John Abercrombie and Pat Metheny, and a few originals, demanding or relaxed, always played with respect and understanding.  And this is just the opening band for the night?  Looking good.

    Elastic Molasses comprised  Lachlan Coventry and Dylan Slater (guitars), Llewellyn Osborne (violin), Chris Pound (bass) and Gus Henderson (drums).  EM played at Smiths.

    22 January 2023


    Now this is an indulgence, but it might interest someone out there.  I've been playing with recording for some time now, stereo recording in the field of bands and small classical groups, then multitracks for my own recordings (mostly midi but some audio for vocals) and recently multitrack mix/mastering using stems from live shows.  Over time, you collect mics, in my case none too dear, but I wondered about the difference between my vocal mics.  Thus I recorded my voice at one time to four mics on four separate tracks: Rode NT1, MXL 2001, Audio Technica AT2020 (large diaphragm cardioid condensers) and for interest, Shure SM58 (cardioid dynamic).  The result?  The three condensers sounded surprisingly similar and the SM58 was obviously different.  Sound on Sound gives good reviews for all these mics, so they are all good (and good value).  I don't have the best ears or the best room acoustics and it was a pretty cursory test, but nonetheless an interesting result.

    21 January 2023


    Viewfinder is (for a few more days) an exhibition of photos from the collection of the National Library at the NLA.  It's subtitled photography from the 1970s to now, but I strangely found it a bit unrelatable.  I shouldn't given it is my era.  It's only ~150 pics but even so I was surprised that I recognised so few.  Perhaps because they were seldom (if ever?) by photojournalists. What do I remember?  A Tracey Moffat self portrait; a few of the environment and animals and the bush; Sylvania Waters (to suffer early from rising oceans?); Catholic and Anglican cemeteries; just a few pollies (Whitlam, Hawke and Howard); interestingly, some workers from when we had secondary industries (very casually dressed, somewhat pre-OH&S); something of youth cultures (hippies, sharpies and surfers); some old streets and buildings and the like.  I was totally dumbfounded once or twice.  The middle room at the underground dwelling at Kings Cross was something totally unknown to me; homelessness of the period, I guess.  A few pics.  You can see the exhibition online by working your way through the catalogue entries.

    Viewfinder : photography from the 1970s to now was an exhibition at the National Library of Australia.

  • Viewfinder checklist (links to catalogue entries and images)

  • 15 January 2023

    A busy room

    The Evans Room took me back to energetic, adventurous piano trio of well back.  They played Bud Powell and that was one indication, but also Ida Lupino and Mike Manieri and Blues in the closet was their feature tune to end with a few more meditative originals in between.  This was not one for too much rumination, although the playing was great and deserved the musician's ear for the chromatics and more, but the energy just drove it.  Nicely stuctured lines, frequently moving chromatically in single note runs or often in chords, plenty of chordal solos, or doubling the excitement level of single note lines to 16th notes, long runs of each, drums highlighting features while the band plays stops and starts.  Lovely stuff'; tons of energy and busy intent.  A few drum solos, spelling patterns and time and melody and frequent bass solos, on most tunes, more reticent at first, but extended into the thumb positions and then quicker with sequenced phrasings, neat, expressive, nicely done.  It's no surprise that Jack has been accepted to pursue Honours bass, was it at Melbourne's VCA or Con.  This is very much the driving piano trio style with chops and plenty of swing.  A good fun outing.

    Evans Room comprised Adam Davidson (piano), Jack Smythe (bass) and Hugh Magri-Bull (drums) and played at Smiths Alternative.

    14 January 2023


    The exhibition is called Feared and Revered and it's subtitled Feminine power through the ages.  It's also a joint project of the British Museum  and our NMA and thus has a string of ancient works that we tend not to see here, back to 2,800BCE.  Nothing that I noticed of our own items back to 60,000 years ago, although there were some modern takes on that history.   I tend to drool over the classical items, Egypt, Greece, Rome, predictable and Euro-centric as it is.  I am Euro extraction, after all.  There were various items from India, China, Africa and more and these were similarly awe-inspiring, but somewhat newer to me and perhaps us.  Not that I had the impression that any of these works were the real biggies that you see in London, but impressive none-the-less.  I'm on hols so just glancing through the captions, but I was somewhat befuddled, too, by the overall theme.  Feminine power and "its profound influence through the ages".  I can obviously see the reproductive power, but "ferocious, beautiful, creative, hell-bent" sounds like real power, not lack of, and that seems to poorly fit the arguments of contemporary feminism.  The Virgin Mary may be a reproductive power but is this social power in its own right?  The Kylie dress was fun but an insight on feminism?  One modern work amused me, a square stone block basically with a big hole located near the prehistoric female figures.  And the statues flashing vulvas from Irish and English churches?  New to me but female power?  Alternatively, a modern colourful print implying all comes from reproduction seemed immensely satisfying and feminist.  But these are just thoughts as I perused none too seriously on the day.  But I loved some of the works, a beautiful ivory (?) mediaeval Madonna and child and a Roman Venus.  Worth the visit and much more application than I could give it on this lazy January day.

    Feared and Revered:  Feminine power through the ages is on display at the National Museum of Australia.

    09 January 2023

    Out, Level 10

    Perhaps a first, a start with solo vocals with Australian bush vocalisations, then drums, soft with mallets and percussion, sticks drawn over skins.  Then vocals changing to grunts and animal sounds.  I remember Ren Walters now, as guitar sounds, drums getting busier, more intense, still mallets, percussion more varied cymbals struck, moody with alto stabs of square intervals, then into flourishes, and bowed cymbal drones, relaxing now, gongs, light cymbals, quieter, still, repeating notes at intervals, sax more pensive, then drums turning to sticks, sharper still, busy, all drums if damped with cloths, guitar sitting back, listening, then all listen on and off, that voice, rabid again with tones of ... what?  Dunno, but busy.  Guitar hints at staccato scales, then slow chords, flattened extensions.  Then open space with those consistent, insistent drums, cymbals edged, suddenly all dirty, simple, loud, slow, that guitar again.  And so it goes on.  Experimental.  Free.  Not always atonal but often enough, but there's ears here, space, animation, variation, quiet or delirium, then that voice again.  And so it continues.  Thinking, glad I didn't bring Megan to this one!  First set was a single improv, then a second set with a break and a shortie.  Interestingly, comprehensible vocals appeared toward the end "I said to Joy / what is your name / since where today / Joy answered me / my name is death delayed / so I made her stay".  Heavy with meaning not just music.  I was overwhelmed by some of the playing.  Drums were overwhelmingly delicate despite intensity (long practice!) and voice was all over with tones and pitch and alacrity (a passage of Japan-like tones in odd scalar 8th note runs floored me) and sax was tenor and alto and soprano and I think sopranino and I loved how standard voicings and intervals and phrasings would appear, although complex and altered, amongst intense flourishes of colour and guitar was sparse then singled noted then colour chorded, only appearing more prominently with volume pedal towards then end (these are good listeners) and percussion added colour but also purpose, as Dur-é spoke to us of the Voice referendum to introduce set 2.  Not a show for the faint-hearted, but intense and authentic and personal.  Hard but enjoyed.

    GAIP (General Assembly of Interested Parties) were Dur-é Dara (percussion), Jenny Ruth Barnes (voice), Scott McConnachie (soprano, alto, tenor, sopranino), Ren Walters (guitar) with visiting (Berlin) expatriate Samuel Hall (drums, percussion).  They performed for the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative at Jazzlab.