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19 December 2007

Showcase of Young Talent

Club Zho // WA // 15.10.07

Stanley Kubrick's <em>Lolita</em> (1962), inspiration for Brett Murray's new work Image: Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962), inspiration for Brett Murray's new work  

Club Zho is a monthly event held in Perth that showcases new works by Western Australian composers and visiting guest artists. The October program, Axis 21, featured nine composers from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). The display of the best new talent in composition proved to be a powerful reminder of the strength being developed in tertiary music schools. Axis 21 exhibited a range of style, diversity and musicality that one might expect from the next generation of musicians.

The first act was a quartet comprised of two violins and two flutes in a playfully abstract work, Au Crepuscule, by third-year composer Kelly Curran. Though heavily influenced by Satie and Debussy, the piece finds a new voice through its intuitive and experimental nature; its harmony seems to favour impressionism yet flows logically. The players seemed to appreciate Curran’s compositional precision, performing the piece with accuracy and intensity.

The Púka, a mythical black horse creature of Celtic folklore, was the inspiration behind Talitha Broughton’s solo viola piece. Broughton explored a range of extended techniques for the viola in an attempt to invoke the startling imagery from the tales of old. The intricate nature of Broughton’s piece – with its small, quiet gestures – would, however, have been better suited to a more intimate setting; it was not designed for a venue with a large, noisy, and occasionally talkative crowd.

The third piece performed was You Can Leave If You Want (But I’ll Eat You Alive) by Clare Nina Norelli, written for trombone quartet in the style of Bernard Herman. Exploiting the warm tones of the trombone, the work focuses on a gradual shifting harmony and calls for a wide range of dynamics to complement these harmonic changes. Unfortunately, the performers didn’t realise the volume swells to full effect.

Tillman Robinson – a third-year jazz composition and arranging student – performed his own work, which was recreated from the memory of a childhood lullaby. The piece is fittingly sweet and delicate, but slight touches of dissonance counteract the generally pure harmonic texture and provide interest.

Joe Stawarz is an honours year music student investigating and using the influence of electronic music on composing notated works, taking techniques used in electronic music (such as delay effects) and converting them to traditional notation for acoustic instruments. Throughout the night, Stawarz demonstrated his versatility as both a composer and performer – after playing trombone in two consecutive pieces, he performed in his own percussion quartet piece, Percussion Quartet Movement 1. The piece proved to be the catchiest of the night, the complicated polyrhythms sticking with some audience members well past the end of the night.

Cherie Lebrasse’s Nails, Beats and Bass was the only work during the night to use pre-recorded material. The piece consisted mainly of computer-generated drum loops and bass lines, and didn’t expand much upon the influences of the electronic drumbeats from bands such as Nine Inch Nails. The composition does, however, show some introspective attention to detail in the less noticeable synthesiser and string-like sounds, adding depth and texture to the work. Further development would see the piece explore different timbres, moving beyond typical computer drum sounds; greater experimentation with electronic manipulation would help move the piece further away from its overt influences.

The unexpected turn of pace for the next piece proved to be a bit too much for some audience members, but Sally Knee’s Untitled for Two Vibraphones provided some interesting and unsettling tension, particularly amongst the performers. With very few notes being played at very rare intervals at very quiet dynamics, every note seemed to be of great importance. The interaction between the onset and decay of different pitches, along with the noise in the performance space, encouraged the audience to pay greater attention to detail. The performers' intensity and concentration suited the idea of each note being equally important.

Brett Murray performed a live electronic piece inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film Lolita (based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel). Murray’s performance involved a contact mic-ed glockenspiel processed by his laptop, triggering sound samples of the film and film analysis from his laptop, and playing the piano. The result was a very inventive and interesting performance – at times blissfully confounding when the combination of film quotes intermingled with other noise and sounds produced from his choice of instruments.

Wrapping up the evening was Jeremy Poole-Johnson with his jazz-fusion band, Anomaly, performing a complex exercise in rhythm and harmony. The musicianship was excellent – particularly Jeremy’s own keyboard work. The piece rapidly progressed through different time changes; structurally, it consisted of continually layered motives. As found with more complex jazz-fusion type bands, the intricacies of the work were overpowered and it became hard to distinguish the range in dynamics and intensity. Yet the piece did show the extreme of technicality and accuracy in band-orientated music.

Overall, Club Zho’s Axis 21 proved to be an excellent display of the range and quality of the musical output of composers from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. The range was the most outstanding aspect, featuring classical works of extreme minimalism, percussion works and trombone quartets, electronic computer music, live sound manipulation, and highly technical jazz-fusion. Providing hope to new music, these young composers are unafraid to produce works of extremes.

Performance Details

Further Links

Kynan Tan is a student at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, studying a Bachelor of Music in Music Technology under Cat Hope. He composes electronic music for live performance and recordings, winning Best Soundtrack at the Revelations Film Festival Super 8 competition. Kynan has also been involved with sound installations and audiovisual productions and has written for Wheels of the Mind magazine.


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