Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ground Elastic Sound

Oh, the heat! The last few days have been absolutely tropical here in Melbourne town. But somehow we have survived, mostly.

Last night I endured the un-airconditioned stuffy mugginess (but visual splendour) of the Forum Theatre to hear Ground Elastic Sound, a concert presented by Melbourne composers' collective Dead Horse Productions.

First of all I was very impressed with the audience they attracted. There must have been between 200 and 300 people there, which for a presentation of new compositions is very impressive for this city. Their marketing campaign was excellent, and I think struck the right balance between a street aesthetic and a more intellectual avant-garde feel. It certainly seemed to attract the punters.

I was expecting that there would be some works which I would really enjoy and others which I would think were crap, to put it bluntly. But I was very pleasantly surprised. All seven pieces in the program I found engaging and enjoyable.

I loved how the concert opened with a Biddy Connor's Ground Elastic Sound Fanfare played by clarinet, trumpet, trombone and baritone saxophone standing in the aisles in the audience, and making their way to the stage during the piece, joined in the middle by a tenor saxophone entering from side stage.

For some reason I remember really enjoying Wally Gunn's Eleven Fifty-Five, although now I can't really remember the specifics of the piece. There was some beautiful string writing, and a particularly poignant moment between a string trio, horn and clarinet.

Kate Neal's Semaphore also struck me with its timeless timbre, taking its inspiration from T.S. Elliott's poem The Rock:
In the beginning, God created the world. Waste and Void.
Waste and Void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep...
The poem was presented before the performance of the music, in a video projection of Kate's hand writing the poem on a piece of paper, which was much more personal and engaging than merely projecting the typed text onto the screen.

I think the highlight of the concert for me was David Chisholm's Ikebana, performed by both a live and a pre-recorded string quartet. I loved the driving momentum of this work, with the constant contrapuntal interplay of the 'virtual' quartet with the live musicians onstage. David describes this work as
almost a renovation of Baroque threads, a reupholstering, perhaps, of a threadbare couch utilising modern materials and instincts.
The musicians were superb - fully commited to the music and playing with a lot of focus and feeling on an almost unbearably hot and humid night. So kudos to them.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself through about 90 minutes of new music - which is more than I can say for some concerts of 'old' classical music that I have been to! Congratulations to Wally and the rest of the Dead Horse Productions gang, and I look forward to their next gig...

1 comment:

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