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22 January 2008

Moving Beyond the Music Stand

Clarity Clarinet Quartet

Clarity Clarinet Quartet Image: Clarity Clarinet Quartet  

Members of Canberra-based Clarity Clarinet Quartet – Nicole Canham, Sam Kelson, Lisa Manning and Matthew O’Keeffe – are currently engaging in a week-long intensive workshop for their project Six Memos. Throughout the week their main aim is to memorise 80 minutes of music and develop movement, lighting and set design with director Caroline Stacey, set designer David Sequeira and lighting guru David Longmuir. Six Memos will open at the Street Theatre, Canberra ACT on 20 February 2008.

With the concept of the show coming out of their long-term commitment to the performance of new music, they realise this week might also be a good time to reflect on some broader issues about their artform: a quartet’s view on the presentation of new music and the nature of artistry in general.

resonate invited Clarity to blog about their experiences during the series of workshops. What follows is some brief reflections about the first four days. More to come later...

Day One

Ok, here we are with our first progress report. To set the scene: we are working in an unadorned studio theatre space, instrument cases everywhere, music all over the floor. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation about what is to come. We have six days to put Six Memos together. After this workshop, the next time we meet will be our show week.

Tomorrow we have the first rehearsal with our director, Caroline Stacey. We’ve also got an appointment with the visual artist/set designer David Sequeira who will be filming us for video projections to be featured in the show. He met with us today to talk about set and costume ideas. Matt is feeling concerned about having to wear white pants in the show.

We’ve just finished our first rehearsal on the repertoire we’ll be performing from memory. Some strong language, but mostly pretty good… We’re just hoping that Caroline doesn’t ask us to dance or walk backwards while playing.

Day Two

It’s happened. We will be playing and walking backwards and much more, and all this out of our first session with Caroline.

Today began with three hours of memorisation rehearsal: a vast improvement on the behaviour of the previous day, but a totally different exercise to memorising the music on one’s own, which is the way we have been working for the last couple of months. Oh, to be a mature adult musician in the face of moving and physically telling a story while playing insane French chord progressions!

We spent the afternoon working with film maker Michael Sergi at Canberra University, staring meaningfully into a television camera and compiling the video footage for Six Memos.

Day Three

Memorisation is our friend (!), but we notice that we stand a long, long way away from each other when we play from memory. Physical distance seems to help avoid being distracted by other’s memory mistakes...Caroline, however, is very impressed, and gives us another full day of intense challenges: walking backwards and forwards while playing, dancing, musing and twirling in all our spare moments. It is wonderful to experience a totally different way of creating a performance. This newness manifests on all levels for us. Matt has been working on electronica segments for the show after every rehearsal (until the wee hours of each morning). It is starting to feel like it is coming together.

Day Four

We start as usual with our own rehearsal and then more blocking and constructing the different landscapes and dialogue of each piece. We get an update on Matt’s top secret electronica work…it sounds like it will be perfect for the point in the show where we want to use it – go DJ Matt!

Then we head off to two performances that we are giving, each of a much more traditional nature. And instead of finding comfort in that place behind our music stands as we have been trained to do, we start to feel hemmed in, restricted, wanting to be able to wander off and share the music in a different way. How interesting to see what a difference two days in another person’s world of the possibilities for music can make.

We’re looking forward to vox pop session tomorrow to overlay with the video.

Further Links

Clarity Clarinet Quartet (www.clarity4.com)

Clarity Clarinet Quartet is one of Australia’s unique chamber ensembles. Celebrating 10 years in 2006, the quartet has established itself as an entertaining, versatile and technically brilliant group. Leave any pre-conceived notion of the clarinet at the door: these musicians explore every genre and make it their own, from contemporary art music to jazz standards.


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