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31 October 2011

Some girls buy shoes

Sarah Curro Image: Sarah Curro  

Violinist Sarah Curro writes about her unique VOLUME concerts - you can catch the next show VOLUME 4 at BMW Edge, Federation Square on 21 November. All details: AMC Calendar.

My first experience with contemporary music was playing a brand new piece by Peter Rankine with the Queensland Youth Orchestra at the back of the 2nd violins in 1988 when I was 14. I thought it was really weird and atonal and I practised it so hard. There were things like aleatoric windows. But for all that atonality and seeming chaos the composer himself was so nice and sweet. That made me really fascinated with people who could make music up that didn't sound like Mozart or Beethoven or Mahler (I'd only played Mahler 6 at that stage). By the time I got to the QLD Conservatorium I was the only instrumentalist who didn't slink away when composers approached (except for percussionists, of course), being still amazed at their ability to create music out of nothing.

The first composer I commissioned to write for me was Anton Koch in 2000 and Demoniac for violin and vibraphone was born. The only problem was no percussionist would take it on. The violin part was difficult but satisfying and I was quite frustrated at not being able to perform it. For years on and off, between Sydney, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Brisbane, I collected four pieces in a similar way. Ask and you shall receive: Supernova by Dan Salecich, Violin and Percussion by Aenon Loo, Dawn by Hugh Crosthwaite, Metal Angel by Kevin March.

The American Composer Richard Einhorn had kindly given me a piece already written, called Maxwell's Demon for 5-string electric violin, so I had a full program but no one to play the music with and no instruments to use (was I really going to play these modern works on a 1690 Amati?...I don't think so). I happened upon the Luthier Paul Davies whose motto, which hung high and proud, happened to be 'Respect for the Past, Vision for the Future'. Below the motto hung something truly miraculous - the Arts Music Semi-Acoustic violin.

'What's THAT?" I asked. It was clear I had found the person who shared this vision of making classical music relevant. The music was written, the Abbotsford Convent was to be the venue, Paul Davies was the instrument maker but who would play percussion? I pretty much begged Timothy Phillips to play Anton's piece, because Tim is the founder of the Arcko Symphonic Project so I figured he could play pretty much anything.

Leah Scholes agreed to play Supernova, and a wonderful thing happened at MSO one day. David Jones was in for MSO Pops and I hadn't met him yet, I had only absorbed his dreamy serenity from afar and known of his gigantic reputation. My friend John Arcaro (who ended up being MC in the first VOLUME concert) pushed me over to him and made me ask him. I got down on my knee (really), explained my situation and he actually said he would be honoured to be part of such a special event.

At last I was encouraged.

The concert is usually recorded, filmed, sketched and photographed. I play the latest film clips of emerging indie bands/artists, I display animations and images or films of local talented image-makers, and this year the Australian Ballet are lending me their Dance Education ensemble for a 1-minute sequence in the middle of one of my pieces by Eric Schwartz! Lastly I have a costume or two made every year and bring in people for hair and make up.

Did I mention I pay for everything out of my own pocket? Some girls buy shoes…..

Event details

VOLUME 4 at BMW Edge, Federation Square
Monday 21st November at 8.15pm
More information: AMC Calendar or www.volumeconcert.com.au

Sarah Curro completed her Bachelor of Music in 1994 at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. Subsequently she studied, and then taught, at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. From 1999-2002 Curro was a member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also concertmaster of the Hong Kong Bach Society Orchestra and a member of the Fiorini String Trio founded by Jeremy Williams. In Australia, she has performed many times with the ACO and been guest associate concertmaster of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and guest principal second violin, associate concertmaster and concertmaster with Orchestra Victoria. She is currently a full-time member with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Her association with the instruments made by Arts Music has inspired her to explore contemporary artistic possibilities by commissioning works of art, music, instruments and costume through her show VOLUME.


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