info I contact
advertising
editorial schedule
acknowledgements
join the realtime email list
become a friend of realtime on facebook
follow realtime on twitter
donate

magazine  archive  features  rt profiler  realtimedance  mediaartarchive

contents

  

online e-dition june 26: aurora 2012


in the throes of birth or metamorphosis

oliver downes: oren ambarchi, aurora festival of living music

Oliver Downes is a freelance writer based near Sydney. He is a trained pianist whose interests include music, literature and film. He has recently completed a Masters of Creative Writing through the University of Sydney.

Oren Ambarchi, performing as part of Noise Duo Oren Ambarchi, performing as part of Noise Duo
photo John Humphreys
EVEN WITH THE COMPUTER GAME BLIPS AND YELPS OF CRYSTAL CASTLES BEING PIPED IN THROUGH THE SPEAKERS, THE Q THEATRE, THE SMALLER OF THE JOAN'S VENUES, SEEMED UNNATURALLY QUIET AFTER BEING IMMERSED AMONG THE CHEERFUL ADOLESCENT INFORMALITY HOLDING SWAY OUTSIDE. THE MAIN HALL WOULD HAVE SWALLOWED THE PERFORMANCE TONIGHT (THE PENRITH VALLEY CONCERT BAND USING IT FOR A REHEARSAL IN ANY CASE) BUT EVEN THE MODEST SEMI-CIRCULAR SPACE OF THE Q SEEMS SPARSELY OCCUPIED—A SHAME THAT MORE YOUNGSTERS COULDN'T BE COAXED INSIDE.

Oren Ambarchi walks onstage without fanfare dressed for comfort in skinny jeans and check shirt, sits down with the barest acknowledgement of the audience and gets going. Before him sits a collapsible plastic table, forests of twisted wiring erupting from slabs of equipment, a guitar resting in his lap, three huge speakers standing behind him like monoliths. And, but for the muted hum of the air-conditioner, silence.

Ambarchi works with careful focus, his face composed, establishing a looped drone, noodling a string on the instrument with his left hand, adjusting input-output levels with his right. The guitar's sound is transfigured here to suggest subterranean caverns, dripping water, running footsteps, though its imitative potential is elsewhere used to suggest the whine of a drill, the sawing of an entire string orchestra. Sudden shifts can and do occur, overtones setting the entire room rattling, planes of texture converging then dissolving into one another. Specific tones break through, the suggestion of chords emerging from the whirring flux, the swells gaining intensity, as if some creature is in the throes of birth or metamorphosis.

Around the 15-minute mark an E drone cuts through the absurdly complex layerings that Ambarchi has accumulated. One might view his equipment as constituting a single gigantic instrument, one vehicle for creative expression to and from which specific components might be included or subtracted. Vicious striations lash the surface of the thickly layered accretions, harmonics punching the air like a striking snake. It is almost as though Ambarchi is groping his way towards functional harmony, G, D and A wavering uncertainly through the texture, like ideals hovering above a battlefield only to be forgotten, trampled and defiled.

At the half hour mark a piercing major seventh reaches an almost unbearable intensity, a high water mark that signals a reversal, the entire texture beginning to recede, flailing tics being subducted back beneath the drone, like chain lightning seen from a distance. Establishing a new drone on a low G, Ambarchi seems to turn the frequency down to the lower limit of human hearing, the vibrations being more felt then heard, the fury unleashed only 10 minutes previously being diminished to a few light spatterings above the distant rumble—and then nothing.


Aurora Festival of Living Music: Oren Ambarchi, Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, NSW, May 10; www.auroranewmusic.com.au

Oliver Downes is a freelance writer based near Sydney. He is a trained pianist whose interests include music, literature and film. He has recently completed a Masters of Creative Writing through the University of Sydney.

RealTime issue #109 June-July 2012 pg. web

© Oliver Downes; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Back to top