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9 March 2011

Preparing for the Art Space - Decibel at PICA

Decibel take a bow after their concert at the Albany Entertainment Centre Image: Decibel take a bow after their concert at the Albany Entertainment Centre  
© K. Ford

Decibel is a Perth-based group focused on combining electronic and acoustic music in performance and composition. Below, their artistic director, composer Cat Hope, discusses some of the challenges around commissioning artists across music forms. Decibel are currently preparing for three concerts at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) in Perth this year. Their CD Disintegration: Mutation (hellosQuare recordings), and their book, Audible Designs, will be launched at PICA on 16 March.

In 2011, Perth new music group Decibel will present three concerts at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Since their formation in 2009, Decibel have been experimenting with ways to combine scored, composed and improvised music with sound art, and so doing a series in the main gallery space of PICA seems like a challenge worthwhile taking up. The series includes commissioned works by established and emerging Australian composers that include artists more usually associated with installation or sound art such as Alan Lamb and Ross Bolleter.

Lamb and Bolleter usually perform their installations themselves, and a condition of the commission was that Decibel be allowed to perform the pieces. In the case of Alan Lamb, who is featured in the first concert entitled 'A Voice From The Dark Space', examining ideas of landscape in music, an instrument has been constructed - the 'Infinity Music Machine'. This is an electrified wire instrument built into a box. It was originally designed to 'play itself' out in the elements; in fact Lamb's early experiments with this idea took place on the porch of his home.

Decibel members will be given magnets to play the wires with, and instructions to play together with the 'Infinity Music Machine' on their acoustic and electroacoustic instruments. Malcolm Riddoch, who calls his instrument 'electroacoustics', works with sounds in rooms as his primary material, adding another layer of interpretation to both the Infinity Music Machine and its relationship to the Decibel instrumentalists.

Other works featured in the 'A Voice from the Dark Space' include new works by ensemble members Lindsay Vickery and myself. A draft of the score for the piece I created for this concert, entitled Longing, recently generated some extensive (over 270 comments) and heated debate on Facebook after I posted a draft of the score [1].

Adam Trainer, better known for his solo performances and involvement with the Perth Indie band scene, has created a new work, Drone Mosaic, using prerecorded sounds as textural scores for the performers. Julian Day's Beginning to Collapse (2008) also features a recorded element that the acoustic instruments interact with, whereas emerging composer Tim Beahan creates a work with live interactive electronics. Other works on the program include Cornelius Cardew's Tiger's Mind (1967), and, in the Decibel tradition, an arrangement of a pre-existing work, in this case Ennio Morricone's 'Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti' (1971), featuring mezzo soprano Caitlin Cassidy.

The second concert in the series features a commission from Ross Bolleter. His work Deviance requires the installation of a ruined piano in the space, and the members of the group to find 'ruined' versions of their own instruments. Working with these composers brings their expertise in site-specific installation and performance into the live 'concert' environment, and Decibel are excited to learn about the personal philosophy and practice of these composers so that they may bring elements of it into their own rendition of the works.

[1] http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=653370375&aid=109291#!/photo.php?fbid=10150113837040376&set=a.75257065375.109291.653370375&theater

Event details

Decibel CD/book/concert series launch
PICA's bar, 16 March at 6 pm - full details in the AMC Calendar

Decibel at PICA - A Voice from the Dark Space
28 March at 8pm - full details in the AMC Calendar

Further links

Decibel (http://decibel.waapamusic.com)
Cat Hope - AMC profile

Subjects discussed by this article:

Composer Cat Hope is the artistic director of Decibel


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