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8 September 2009

Sounding Out Composers' Collective - The New Chamber Concert

Brisbane // QLD // 06.08.2009

Image: From the left: Lisa Cheney, Liam Flenady and Timothy Tate Image: Image: From the left: Lisa Cheney, Liam Flenady and Timothy Tate  

Throughout The New Chamber Concert, not a single moment of mental or aural passivity was allowed: the audience was exposed to a seamless and innovative mapping of traditional instruments and electronic media, with visual and theatrical elements. Featuring world premieres of the works of seven young composers and sound artists - all current or past students at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University - there is no doubt this concert opened up another sonic world, both diverse and rich in content.

Diverse compositional approaches and aesthetics were displayed from the performance of the first piece, in microcosm by Timothy Tate, to the last, Miseritque Manum by Reilly Smethurst. in microcosm was an experimental piece exploring multiphonics; the composer used a range of sound sources such as many types of glasses filled with varying quantities of water, a chamber ensemble and live electronics. This piece suggested that sound exists in its own right, free from any representational obligation, and it challenged the parameters of sonic materials. In contrast, Miseritque Manum perhaps had a quasi-political appeal as the text used in this piece alluded to the way in which religious extremism impacted international politics. In this work, two different types of text were incorporated, one sung in Latin by female vocalists and the other spoken in English by a female voice. Both were accompanied by a live chamber ensemble and electronics, producing a quasi-religious soundscape highly suggestive of Arvo Pärt.

Lisa Cheney's Fortune and Liam Flenady's The Metaphysical String seemed to have more features in common than any of the others, as these two works were stylistically closer to traditional twentieth-century modernism. However, Cheney and Flenady did not merely follow the techniques and sonic world of predecessors but went beyond. Cheney's work was inspired by the light-hearted experience of opening up a Chinese fortune cookie and finding the quotation, 'You see beauty in the ordinary. Don't lose this ability.' This became the structural framework of the piece, which consisted of six sections, each identifying with a fragment from the above text. It allowed the composer to take the liberty to juxtapose musical ideas employing eclectic sonic materials instead of progressively developing them, as modernist composers would have done, in order to ensure maximum musical unity. In contrast, the inspirational source for Flenady was a statement by Friedrich Nietzsche, written in 1878: 'The highest effects of art can easily produce a reverberation of a long-silenced, or even broken metaphysical string.' This, along with a recurring Lisztian theme, provided him with the conceptual framework of the piece. He embraced many modernist techniques in his compositional approach, but applied these with a cleverly expressed sense of humour and a sense of Romantic angst.

Codie Childs's Recall and A. Stefan Mashor's A Little Fable for Franz Kafka presented sonic worlds of familiarity, each in their unique way. Childs's Recall was intriguing. The piece began with a performer appearing on the side of the stage with a viola and music score. She started to play a piece that was almost unrecognisable, which was superimposed by a sound collage consisting of general noise, the sound of a train, piano playing and more. At one point, the performer even threw away the score in frustration. This drama was an attempt to depict the mind-wandering experience of a viola player in the midst of rehearsing Brahms's Wie Melodien Zieht Es Mir Op. 105 No. 1, and I am sure many of us can relate to it!

Mashor's A Little Fable for Franz Kafka came across with greater familiarity; the composer presented lively melodic materials supported by repetitive harmonic progressions, reminiscent of many film scores and popular music. The main characteristic of the work lay in the rhythmic organisation not being congruent to the melodic phrases, yet remaining a driving force. Jazz and impulsive swing merged with the aesthetics of minimalist Steve Reich.

The full measure of the integration of electronic and acoustic music occurred in between the performance of these six compositions: For Shereshevskii Pt. I-IV, created by Christopher Buckley. The materials in these four short pieces were derived from fragments recorded during the concert itself and digitally manipulated in real time. This showcases how far computer-driven audio technology has progressed, something Pierre Schaeffer could not have even dreamed of in 1948 when he produced the first example of musique concrète.

The New Chamber Concert encompassed aspects of past, present and future. All seven composers drew from their heritage of Western classical music, but each extended it in unique ways. A remarkably professional and engaging effort from such a young group, this concert gave a glimpse of a possible future sonic world: the fusion between electronic and traditional music.

Event details

Sounding Out Composers' Collective: The New Chamber Concert
Hannah Reardon-Smith (flute/alto flute), Nick Evans (clarinet/bass clarinet), Cameron Millar (soprano saxophone), Joe Morley (trombone), Gregory Daniel and Hana Hobiger (viola), Chan Luc (double bass), Shane McPherson (percussion), Philip Eames (piano)
Works by Timothy Tate, Reilly Smethurst, Lisa Cheney, Liam Flenady, Codie Childs, A. Stefan Mashor and Christopher Buckley.
Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, South Brisbane, QLD
6 August 2009
Event details in AMC calendar

Further links

Blog on Resonate about the Sounding Out Composers' Collective: (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/article/sounding-out-sounding-out)
Sounding Out Composers' Collective website: (www.soundingout.com.au)

Sun-Ju Song was born in South Korea and moved to Australia to study music at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, completing undergraduate study in piano followed by a Masters degree in music theory and analysis. She is currently completing her PhD at the Queensland Conservatorium, researching the place of music analysis in musical scholarship. Sun-Ju has presented papers at conferences, both nationally and internationally, on topics including compositional aesthetics in relation to the music of Messiaen, Boulez, Cage and Stockhausen. She has taught music theory to visually impaired students at the Queensland Conservatorium and lectured in music theory courses at the University of Southern Queensland.


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