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what you hear is what you see

chris reid: aphids reel music festival


d.v.d ensemble d.v.d ensemble
THE WAY SOUND AND IMAGE COALESCE IS AN ABIDING SUBJECT OF ARTISTIC INVESTIGATION. WE TAKE FOR GRANTED THE COHERENCE OF AURAL AND VISUAL CUES IN REAL LIFE, BUT IN ART HEARING AND SEEING CAN BE DISAGGREGATED. THE USE OF LIVE MUSIC WITH FILM IS AS OLD AS CINEMA ITSELF, EVEN OLDER THAN THE USE OF THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED. THE FOUR APHIDS REEL MUSIC FESTIVAL CONCERTS EXPLORED THE EVER-EVOLVING POSSIBILITIES OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOUND AND IMAGE.

The Saturday evening concert opened with David Young’s Creation (2008) for violin and percussion. This short but intense work drew its inspiration from a topographical map of railway lines in Victoria, shown on a cinema screen. The map reveals the country in cross-section, and as it scrolls horizontally across the screen it resembles the treble stave of a music manuscript, the map becoming a graphic score, and prompting the viewer to contemplate ideas of mapping, landscape and journey. In responding to the score, the performers interpret particular visual cues such as gradients or lines, making subtle music that augments and balances with the imagery. Typical of Young’s composition, the work is minutely crafted and delightful, rewarding close concentration by the audience.

The main work of the evening was a performance by Japan’s d.v.d. ensemble—two drummers and a video artist who combine rock percussion and video into an energetic, pulsing audio-visual mix. The drum beats control the imagery and action on screen as the two drummers, who sit facing each other across the stage, engage in a kind of duel, like competitors in a video-game parlour. Some of the imagery is in the style of pinball games and video games such as Pong, while other images suggest screensavers—bouncing geometric shapes, coloured bubbles and abstract dribbles, mainly in pastel and day-glo colours. One memorable image is of two cubes, each facet showing a video of a drummer. The cubes move about and mutate, morphing the video image as they change shape, before eventually shattering themselves and the image into fragments. Accompanied by the drumming and a synthesised video game-style soundtrack, d.v.d’s work is light and fun with a trace of comic irony, and while it’s perhaps best suited to the dance club, it addresses the representation of synaesthesia and explores the possibilities for the cueing of visual imagery and sound through movement.

The Sunday afternoon concert comprised six short works for guitar (Geoffrey Morris) and recorder (Genevieve Lacey) accompanying films and the remainder constituting a chamber recital. The opening film was Hans Richter’s wryly pointed surrealist Vormittagspuk (Ghosts Before Breakfast, 1928), with flying hats, a necktie with a mind of its own, an array of moving pistols, crockery that smashes and reassembles itself and men disappearing, addressing time, space and motion and making full use of the cinematic special effects of the day. Italian composer Maurizio Pisati has added a new soundtrack of synthesised elements and instructions for live performers. The overall sound is eerie, fragmented and chromatic in character with the film. Lacey and Morris respond to the imagery with brief, gestural figures that extend the tension and tease the audience’s awareness.

Pisati’s two translations for guitar of works by Salvatore Sciarrino and Domenico Scarlatti followed. His transcription of Sciarrino’s l’Addio a Trachis II (1980/93) makes extensive use of damping of the notes and the left-hand sliding along the fretboard, shifting well away from the typical sound of the guitar, in stark contrast to the Scarlatti work that was originally for harpsichord. Morris later gave us Giacinto Scelsi’s Ko-Tha (1) (1967), in which the guitar is laid flat on the performer’s lap and used as a percussion instrument. Morris handles these works delightfully, and the shifts from one to the other provide rare insights into the instrument’s possibilities. Genevieve Lacey’s rendition of Fausto Romitelli’s Seascape for solo contrabass recorder (1994) was equally engaging, revealing the instrument’s sensuous, sonorous, breathy and haunting sounds.

Morris and Lacey also accompanied Pisati’s films OER (Over Endless Resonances, 2007), in which a montage of fragments of manuscript gives visual effect to the live music, and Spiegelensemble (2008), which blends animations of paintings of Spiderman with slo-mo footage of street scenes and in which the live performance again responds to the imagery and soundtrack.

These Aphids concerts alternately explored and inverted the cinematic tradition of using music to augment action, sometimes using imagery to enhance live performance and enabling interactivity between media to examine the coherence between aural and visual cues.


Aphids Reel Music Festival June 2008, Creation, composer David Young, performers Yasutaka Hemmi, Eugene Ughetti; d.v.d. ensemble; Vormittagspuk, works by Maurizio Pisati, Giacinto Scelsi, Fausto Romitelli, performers Genevieve Lacey, Geoffrey Morris; ACMI Cinemas, June 26-29

See also review of the Ensemble Offspring-Louise Curham collaboration, Waiting to turn into puzzles.

RealTime issue #86 Aug-Sept 2008 pg. 40

© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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