14 July 2009
Anthony Pateras: Percussion Portrait
Melbourne // VIC // 14.06.2009
© Philo Lenglet
Bringing together two of Australia’s premiere percussion ensembles, Speak Percussion (Melbourne) and Clocked Out (Brisbane), Anthony Pateras’s Percussion Portrait presented the composer’s recent works for percussion, including two commissioned specifically for the event. Pateras is based in Melbourne and appears regularly as a composer and performer – as a soloist on piano or analogue electronics, in the context of his free music trio Pateras/Baxter/Brown, and his electronics project with Robin Fox.
Pateras’s Transmutations (2002), conducted by the composer, featured all six percussionists. Nat Grant, Peter Neville, Matthias Schack-Arnott and Eugene Ughetti (artistic director) from the percussive arts ensemble Speak Percussion, and Nozomi Omote and Vanessa Tomlinson (director) from the Clocked Out duo, all manned a wide variety of percussive instruments and noise-making objects in this ‘five-movement monolith’. The work is timbrally driven, with the main musical interest arising from textural transformations within and stark contrasts between movements. The first movement, for instance, begins with a forceful and repetitive bass drum motive, interspersed with more delicate metallic sound textures, whereas the second movement features a variety of smaller glass and metallic tinklings. Throughout the work, Pateras uses a rich variety of unconventional percussive sounds (rustled paper and plastic, pebbles or marbles crunched together in the hand, plastic bottles crushed etc.), artfully combining these with more traditional instruments (bass drums, toms, wood block, flexatone etc.) to produce sound complexes that are cogent and interesting.
Developed in collaboration with the performer, Mutant Theatre Act III (2008) for solo percussion was all the more compelling for the fluid physicality of Tomlinson’s performance style. Again driven mainly by timbral ideas, the work is organised in a succession of short movements, each of which allow a glance at one or two musical textures. These are presented as kernels, pregnant with the potential for development, giving the impression of glimpses caught on a whirlwind tour of a rich and detailed landscape. It is left to the listener’s imagination to expand and connect these fragmented images.
The second solo work in the program, Hypnagogics (2005) for microsounds, crotales and tape, was written as ‘a brief study in psychoacoustics for Eugene Ughetti.’ The work is underpinned by the pitch relationship between the crotales and the tape part, which sustains a high-pitched ringing for the duration of the work. The tuning of the crotales was such that each strike interfered microtonally with the tape drone, creating a ‘beat’ pattern of various frequencies – a kind of virtual music existing in the space between the two sound sources. Delicate rhythms, played across a range of tiny amplified instruments of glass, wood and metal, served mainly as a build-up to each crotale strike, with this repetitious gesture taking on something of a ritualistic quality over the course of the work. This was well complemented by Ughetti’s spiritual approach to performance, with even the tiniest musical event taking on its own special significance under his careful and calm consideration.
The final work Refractions (2008) returned all six percussionists to the stage, with Pateras once again conducting. Although nominally in one continuous movement, the work is again highly sectionalised, progressing from texture to texture with a continued sense that pitch and rhythmic materials have been selected to serve the instrumental combination in use at any particular time. The work features a variety of non-conventional percussive sounds, amongst them the crinkling of lolly wrappers, the rattling of keys, and rice poured onto the skins of bass and timpani drums. Some of the most spectacular effects were also achieved in this final work: the dramatic bloom of loud gong strikes dampened almost immediately, the violent shrieking of pieces of bowed polystyrene and the surprising serenity of a chorus of ‘whirly’ instruments (a corrugated tube, open at both ends and swung around the head). Although not dissimilar to Transmutations in terms of large-scale organisation and performer set-up, the individual timbres and textures employed in Refractions were far more detailed and interesting, and on the whole better controlled, making for a more moving and satisfying experience overall.
Impressive for their persistent energy and proliferation of sonic ideas, Refractions, Transmutations and Mutant Theatre Act III sustain a sense of constant exposition whereby materials are presented, enjoyed and packed away again. Although the audience was clearly delighted by each new sound combination as it arose, the limited reference to previous material made it sometimes difficult to navigate the relatively large-scale structures being experienced. Conversely, the similarity of musical gestures spanning Hypnagogics begged for a point of dramatic contrast or development at some stage within the work. Nevertheless, Pateras’s Percussion Portrait was a superbly executed and unique event, illustrating a very interesting composer’s relationship with the percussion sound world.
A third concert of Anthony Pateras's music will be organised in Brisbane at Ian Hanger Recital Hall on 29 July (details)
Percussion Portrait 1
Percussion music by Anthony Pateras
Speak Percussion (Eugene Ughetti – director, Peter Neville, Matthias Schack-Arnott,
Clocked Out (Vanessa Tomlinson – director, Nozomi Omote)
13-14 June 2009
Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, Vic
Forthcoming event in Brisbane
Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Brisbane, Qld
29 July - see full details in the AMC calendar
© Australian Music Centre (2009) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Subjects discussed by this article:
Steven Hodgson is a Melbourne-based composer.
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