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Remix and re-map

Clint Allen

Musician-writer, Clint Allen is a leading Brisbane trumpeter who directs and performs with the new music group, The Seventh Chapter Ensemble.

This year new music ensemble Topology is venturing into uncharted territory in a series of collaborations with jazz groups, pop musicians, vocalists and the rock group Full Fathom Five. Since meeting at university, FF5’s Ian Thompson and Topology’s Robert Davidson have worked together in a variety of improvisational bands, recording projects and art events, so this concert was inevitable, celebrated with the formal launch of their album Future Tense.

For the CD, Full Fathom Five recreated Topology works such as Five Notes with an electro-pop feel, while FF5’s Going Equipped features Topology’s rhythms and harmonics in a quirky acoustic essay. The combination of music styles together with effective visuals developed by staging designer Mark Bromilow and his team and displayed on a huge hanging screen, provided an hypnotic, almost cinematic experience for the Powerhouse audience.

The first half of the concert featured Topology performing works by ensemble members Robert Davidson and John Babbage. Although at times the sound mix was quite strange, with the double bass and saxophone sometimes almost inaudible, the compositions effectively showcased Topology’s refined approach to minimalism. The ensemble creates performances that draw you in as the music slowly grows. Violinist Christa Powell’s tone was exquisite, her playing soaring over the ensemble.

Robert Davidson’s work for solo viola, Spiral, was performed with great intensity and musicality by Bernard Hoey. Throughout, the viola plays a short phrase which is then looped while the next phrase is played. The result is a deeply emotional, almost meditative piece that could easily send the listener into a trance. Previous hearings suggest this performance was at a much faster tempo and therefore perhaps not quite as effective, but the performance was brilliant.

The standout work in the first half was Robert Davidson’s McLibel, based on Britain’s longest-ever trial where fast food giant McDonald’s sued 2 activists. It featured Davidson’s established technique of mixing vocal samples and moulding them with instrumental lines. While the technique of playing with the rhythms of vocal samples is not new, it is the narrative quality of Davidson’s compositions that engage the audience. The performance was outstanding, the instrumental parts matching up with the vocal lines so well it was virtually impossible to dinstinguish between them.

The second half of the concert had Topology and Full Fathom 5 joining forces to perform tracks from the new album. Electronics and acoustic instruments seemingly melt into each other as if always meant to co-exist. Some inspired drumming by John Parker lifted the intensity of the entire ensemble, with the line between minimalism and pop music very blurred indeed.

How can composers who have grown up in the past few decades engulfed in the explosion of musical styles not be influenced by popular culture? It is encouraging to see Topology at the forefront of developing an intellectual and artistic approach to a post-classical music. Perhaps contemporary music in Australia does have a future with ensembles such as these creating a style that bridges the gap between contemporary chamber and pop music.

Toplogy & Full Fathom 5, Future Tense, Topology: Christa Powell (violin), Bernard Hoey (viola), John Babbage (saxophone) Kylie Davidson (piano), Robert Davidson (double bass); Full Fathom Five: Ian Thompson, Sam Korman, Robert Mynard, Tam Patton, Ben Thomson, Josh Thomson, John Parker; visuals Mark Bromilow and Jen Muller, sound Brett Cheney; Brisbane Powerhouse, Sept 8

Musician-writer, Clint Allen is a leading Brisbane trumpeter who directs and performs with the new music group, The Seventh Chapter Ensemble.

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 44

© Clint Allen; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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