Reviewed by Harriet Cunningham
September 20, 2005
KPMG House, September 17
MODARTOS is a re-run of the highly successful MODARTO3, where 12 composers participate in
workshops with the Song Company, their artistic director, Roland Peelman, and an established
mentor composer to create new works. lt's a fertile collaboration between the Australian Music
Centre and the Song Company, run in "spare time" on minimal funding. The results are impressive.
The work which tied the eclectic program together was Warren Summers's highly original Sanfosha
Project, in which six singers cycle through rhythmic patterns in the same way as bell ringers cycle
through changes. A simple idea, but when you substitute bells for voices, body percussion, rude
noises or even silent gestures, it becomes by turns entertaining and hypnotic.
Ranged between the four incarnations of Summers's work were 11 compositions, ranging wildly in
style and polish. Nela Trifkovic's trilogy was hugely impressive in its deft and original writing for
voice; the vocal scoring in Joseph Twist's series of "pseudo-madrigals" was equally skilled but less
confronting, a kind of Monteverdi meets Manhattan Transfer. Judy Pile's nicely observed Three
Minutes on a Fast Train and Rhiannon Cook's very effective A Scrapbook - an Album called for the
performers to speak, sing and act in character. And Brad Taylor-Newling's Nþhf Prayerwas a
mesmerising trio for three exceptional singers. At all times the Song Company displayed versatility
as members vocalised, spoke, yelled and led a sometimes bemused audience on this bizarre
There were many other stars in this inventive collaboration but one that stood out was the venue.
The economics of new music means that ensembles generally shun the marble floors and rich
upholstery of the CBD in favour of downtown dives and suburban churches. But with the support of
an enlightened sponsor like KPMG, the audience were treated to not just a sonic journey, but a
visual and spacial one as they followed the musicians around the 1Sth floor of KPMG House, sèeing
spectacular modern art and interior design on the way.