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17 January 2017

Tilde Festival 2017 - sound and silence explored

Hanli Botha Image: Hanli Botha  

In less than four years, Tilde New Music Festival has grown from a small event into a 12-hour, multi-stage extravaganza of new and experimental music. The festival will take place on three stages on 21 January, offering dozens of Australian performers as well as works by composers from the emerging to the established. One of the emerging names is the Sydney-based Hanli Botha - an artist and writer working across multiple strands. Her work is introduced here by colleague Christina Green, with some words by Hanli herself. (See also this article by Vincent Giles about the festival in 2017.)

Born in South Africa, Hanli Botha moved to Australia in 2002, and is now a PhD candidate at Western Sydney University, where her work is focused on texture in 21st century composition for string instruments. The work presented as part of Tilde is Inharmonic I - VII for electronics and live percussion. The work is a series of seven pieces based on the exploration of sound and silence: percussive sounds are improvised from two nylon string guitars, guitar cases, triangle, woodblock, claves, and a music stand with the assistance of mallets and other tools. The strings on the guitars remain out of tune, in order to keep sound atonal and exploratory in nature.

Hanli's music comes from a place of listening and of hearing sounds - everywhere. Growing up, Hanli was inspired by artists, including singers in the popular music realm: Anneli van Rooyen, Laurika Rauch and Koos du Plessis. South African poet Ingrid Jonker, whose poems were written in Afrikaans but have been widely translated, had a big impact on Hanli's life. The natural features and landscape of South Africa, especially the silence and quiet space of the Karoo, a semi-desert area, form part of the inner landscape from which Hanli works, and electronic works such as Winds from the mountain and In the Silence, available for listening on Hanli's SoundCloud page, point to this.

Following the writing of a handful of Afrikaans songs accompanied by guitar at school, Hanli began composing at 16 with two pieces for piano. She credits Australian composers Claire Jordan, Simone East, Australian cellist Geoffrey Gartner, Dr Eleanor McPhee, Dr Clare Maclean, Associate Professoar Diana Blom, and Pat Wilson (pianist, composer, lyricist, singing teacher and musical director) for opening the world of composition to her. Recording of original works exploring sound, silence and textures within the silence has flowed naturally out of research projects for Hanli, building on the exploration of sound and the layering of sound that was present in her first work. Hanli also cites Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and the spectralists as composers who have opened new avenues for her sound as a composer and listener/observer.

Of her work, Hanli writes:

'I compose electronic works by means of improvisation which includes voice, noise and sound recordings, and experimental works for classical guitar. My two most recent projects are a series of seven works which focus on creating a rhythm for the performer, accompanied with a time signature and instructions of techniques needed to perform the music. The performer is given the freedom to choose the mode/key signature and may use repetition where they see fit. Two pieces have already been completed, one of which is for prepared piano and the other for the ukulele. The other five pieces will be written for the saxophone, cello, piano, classical guitar, clarinet and the guzheng.'

'My second project is focused on the human body, where focus is placed on the various systems such as blood flow in the body, heart, lungs, musculoskeletal system, the nervous system and the gastrointestinal system. Three pieces have already been recorded, although it is a process which takes a bit of time as the sounds are created with electronic sound samples and what I hear in my mind at a specific point in time. Every piece I record is based on what I hear, feel or experience at a specific point in time. I've found that my physical gestures, breathing and mindset determines what is produced, and how it filters into the mind of the listener. Essentially it becomes an aural form of composition which is based on reflection, sound concepts and allowing my physical body to become part of the process.'

In 2017 Hanli will focus on performing as well as her composing and writing strands, building on her performances at Sydney's Electrofringe and WSU's Creativity Unlimited in 2016.

Her current PhD includes the commissioning of several Australian composers to write new works for strings, including Catherine Golden, Christina Green, Dan Thorpe, Sally Whitwell and Felicity Wilcox, for performance in 2018.

Further links

Tilde New Music Festival - AMC Calendar

Tilde New Music Festival - homepage (https://tilde.net.au/festival/)

Hanli Botha - homepage (www.hanlibotha.com) - see also author page on www.niume.com for samples of her writing, and www.lotl.com for a series of articles about Australian women musicians

Hanli Botha - SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/hanli-botha)


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