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Lavender, Mist Lavender, Mist
photo Eric Griswold
URBAN ART PROJECTS IS OUT PAST THE AIRPORT IN THE LIGHT INDUSTRIAL ZONE. IT'S A VAST LET'S-BUILD-A-SHIP SIZED INDUSTRIAL SHED, AND TONIGHT IT IS FILLED WITH THE DEEP ROARING NOISE OF A FURNACE SMELTING BRONZE.

Two men go through a slow and very careful ritual to make the pour. Sparks of boiling metal spit into the air. Then claps all round for the first piece of the Listening Museum, Clocked Out and Ensemble Offspring's latest collaborative foray into concerts in other places.

Alvin Lucier's Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums Alvin Lucier's Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums
photo Sean Young
The space is set up as a series of stations, some things are on all the time, some are in specific time-slots. People move about, grab drinks, move about some more. Alvin Lucier’s wonderfully clever Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums is set up at the entrance—inaudible low frequency sine waves bouncing ping pong balls off the resonating skins of bass drums. Another Lucier piece, In Memorium John Higgins, sets a slowly rising sine wave against held notes on clarinet. A truly beautiful work that revealed one of the classic problems of sound in a shared space—bleed from one work to another. Difficult if not impossible to overcome, the interjecting blab of sound from other works interfered annoyingly with Rosemary Joy's Beauty Boxes, a soft and delicate piece for two performers playing tiny chests of drawers and the sounding objects within.

Rebecca Lloyd-Jones performing Erik Griswold's Spill Rebecca Lloyd-Jones performing Erik Griswold's Spill
photo Sean Young
Strangely though, the bleed worked for Erik Griswold’s Spill, where rice leaks out of a swinging pendulum to sound onto surfaces that are moved and changed by the performer. The initial subtlety of surface variation was lost in the general hubub, but eventually the surfaces were set to hard tiles and rice became a drum machine against which other pieces worked their rhythms.

Griswold also composed and played in my two favourites for the night. Early in the program was the premiere of Action Music for piano, percussion, bass clarinet and violin. The piece is a single quirky line—cartoon music for tomorrow, snappy fragments and synced up time slices of humour held together by a score that specifies rhythm, mood and attitude rather than pitch. The ensemble playing is superb—instruments mesh perfectly, the virtue of having the musicians play as an acoustic ensemble rather than with sound reinforcement trying to fake a balance for them.

Erik Griswold, Ecstatic Music Erik Griswold, Ecstatic Music
photo Sean Young
And then toward the end, Griswold performs the stunning Ecstatic Music. Each key is prepared to hover somewhere in the E major world and then on this reduced piano Griswold plays rapid arpeggios, sprints and flourishes, hunched over the keyboard and rocking on the stool like a Hollywood maestro. The composer-pianist emotes for us all through his hyper-acute feelings and hyper-fluid fingers. Except that it is a reduced piano so nothing like Sturm und Drang falls out. Instead we get tinkles, with occasional variation. Despite the effort, despite the visibly heroic struggles of the performer, the deepest feelings remain trapped by the inadequate means at hand. We bear witness to the gulf between ambition and achievement, between ourselves-in-ourselves and ourselves in others. Normal life. Australia's Got Talent.


The Listening Museum, Clocked Out and Ensemble Offspring, Urban Art Projects, Brisbane, April 20, 2013; http://www.uap.com.au/; http://www.clockedout.org/; http://ensembleoffspring.com/

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. web

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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