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28 April 2014

'Between Light' by Zephyr Quartet

Hilary Kleinig Image: Hilary Kleinig  

Artistic director of the Zephyr Quartet, Hilary Kleinig, writes about a new collaboration with five composers. 'Between Light' will see the light of day on 21-25 May.

I've been interested in working with themes of polarities in my music, especially those of light and dark, for some time now. Zephyr Quartet is driven by collaborative practice and commissioning new work, so I thought I'd see how some of my favourite Australian jazz artists - Andrea Keller (VIC), Tony Gould (VIC), Stephen Magnusson (VIC), Matt Keegan (NSW) and Lyndon Gray (SA) - would respond to the theme of light and dark, and how they'd use it to write for string quartet. By expressing this for the composers using the Italian word for 'light-dark' (chiaroscuro, a painting term), rather than the English, I thought it might provide a richer starting point for their pieces.

All members of Zephyr (please see our website for details) are interested in jazz and improvised music, particularly the way jazz musicians often defy boundaries of style and definition. We're excited by music that's a little or a lot different every time it's performed, so we asked our composers for a 7-10-minute piece for string quartet that could include improvised, semi-improvised and fully scored music.

Improvising as a quartet is something Zephyr is interested in exploring collectively and would like to do more of. The composers were encouraged not to feel the pressure to write in a 'jazz' style, more to respond to the theme and the instrumentation as they saw fit. Commissioning new work involves much trust and when you give composers relatively free rein over what they choose to write, you're not sure what you'll receive - exciting and scary! We're thrilled with how they've each responded and can't wait to share them with audiences.

Simply presenting the new compositions in straight concert format didn't feel quite right. As a group we discussed ways of working with artists across disciplines of film, visual art and photography - to complement and respond to the music. However it wasn't until we struck on the idea of working with light itself and having the pieces responded to by treatment of light/dark and space - that the project began to resonate as a whole.

Zephyr Quartet: Emily Tulloch, Belinda Gehlert, Hilary Kleinig and Jason Thomas.
© Sam Oster

The other piece to the puzzle was finding a performance space, as we knew it wouldn't work in a traditional concert hall. The Queen's Theatre - with its rustic, historical charm - fit all the criteria. It's a big empty space that we can play within and make a "house" for each piece. I approached lighting designer Geoff Cobham about becoming involved because I'd enjoyed working with him personally on Brink Production's Land & Sea (2011) and State Theatre Company of South Australia's Baby Teeth (2013), but Zephyr had never collaborated with him directly before. Geoff's renowned for his approach to lighting and design and it's exciting to be working with him again. Together we'll utilise different parts of the building and lighting effects to create five unique spaces that both the quartet and audiences will move into for each work.

Between Light is a truly collaborative, site-specific, immersive, promenade experience that we're sure will linger in the memories of all who join us on the journey.

AMC resources

Zephyr Quartet presents 'Between Light' (new works by Keller, Gould, Magnusson, Keegan and Gray).
21-25 May, Queen's Theatre, Adelaide - all event details in the AMC Calendar
Andrea Keller - AMC profile
Tony Gould - AMC profile

Further links

Zephyr Quartet - (www.zephyrquartet.com)
'Between Light' - event information (www.zephyrquartet.com)
Stephen Magnusson - homepage (www.mag.net.au)
Matt Keegan - homepage (www.mattkeeganmusichub.com)
Lyndon Gray - Facebook (www.facebook.com/thenewcabal)

Subjects discussed by this article:

Hilary Kleinig is the Artistic Director of the Zephyr Quartet.


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