2 June 2010
overcoming the challenges of a conventional concert presentation
Marcus Whale speaks about the production design of new music group Volta's 4th June show 'Switch'.
Volta began mid-2009 in a Facebook dialogue, no less, between
four other composers and performers at the Sydney Conservatorium
of Music, proposing a concert of new pieces for chamber
orchestra. The first Volta concert was the answer to a lack of
opportunity to translate the act of composition to performance, a
fundamental difficulty in being a student composer.
The second Volta event, and first of two for 2010, 'Volta 1.5: Switch', sees us placing new music in a more performance-conscious framework, with all pieces linked by electronic interludes and developed in chronological sequence. With no breaks for applause, focus isn't broken until the very end of the concert; the building, deconstruction and rebuilding that is necessary in regular concert presentation is consciously avoided.
This approach is in response to some of the issues inherent in
the way the first Volta concert was presented. These issues have
primarily surrounded a dissatisfaction with conventional concert
presentation. Innately built into art music practice is the
in-performance focus so crucial to sustaining a clear
communicative framework between performers and audience. It's a
given that, in this sense, conventional practice will prevail in
representing most works in a stand-alone context. However, I've
found the concert experience far more fulfilling when its
programming extends towards sculpting a larger performative
framework to which all works are subservient - in effect,
producing a wholly contained performance, rather than a set of
musical works fragmented by applause, stage adjustments and
Theatre has an advantage in this case, since works are generally of greater length, forcing the performers and production to manage states and energies which evolve over a longer period of time. This is further embellished by the need to 'suspend the disbelief' of the audience, which locks the audience into an imaginative space, bound to the present moment and the immediate environment. Music programming, particularly with new music's greater flexibility for appropriation into new and evolving performance contexts, could benefit from this approach.
In 2009, I attended The Song Company's Tenebrae III, a production of Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo's setting of Easter texts, in the foyer of Sydney's Carriageworks. A collaboration with choreographer Shaun Parker, this was a prime example of a concert where the music consciously served this greater performative framework. The performance set the entire, cavernous space, with several hundred single seats lining the walls. As a result, the singers moved in amongst the dancers, communicating another level of narrative over the course of the full performance. The physical, visual dimension illuminated the interweaved fragments and short pieces, forming a large-scale framework that precisely achieved this 'imaginative space'.
Switch is Volta's attempt at capturing this form of large-scale performative gesture. The intention is to place the music in a context where it is best positioned to capture the audience, without the mammoth task of rebuilding these energies over the course of each piece.
The concert, held in Paddington Uniting Church's stunning Stone Gallery venue, includes works by Joseph Power, Laura Altman, Miles Horler, Lachlan Hughes, Melanie Herbert and Russell Phillips, who have worked collaboratively with the six performers and each other to form the hour-long performance.
Volta 1.5: Switch
Stone Gallery, Paddington, Sydney, NSW
8pm, 4 June 2010
Full event details in the AMC Calendar
© Australian Music Centre (2010) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Marcus Whale is a Sydney-based composer and co-director of new music group Volta. He has taken the role of production designer in Volta’s latest program, 'Switch'.
Be the first to share add your thoughts and opinions in response to this article.
You must login to post a comment.