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Totally Huge New Music Festival 2015

 Da Contents H2

June 9 2015
Percussive partnerings
Laura Halligan: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Time Alone

Space-making Immersive vocal improvisation
Laura Halligan: Totally Huge New Music Festival, Alice Hui-Sheng Chang

Totally Huge’s percussive climax
Matthew Lorenzon: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Time Alone

May 27 2015
Adventures in timbre and texture
Alex Turley: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Time Alone

Piano adventures
Laura Halligan: Totally Huge New Music Festival, Zubin Kanga, Dark Twin

The piano and its others
Alex Turley: Totally Huge New Music Festival, Zubin Kanga, Dark Twin

May 26 2015
A fine plenitude
Matthew Lorenzon: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Breaking Out

Motion in stillness
Matthew Lorenzon: Totally Huge New Music Festival, Alice Hui-Sheng Chang

Young composers let loose
Alex Turley: Totally Huge New Music Festival, Breaking Out

May 22 2015
The many-voiced cello of an Australo-German repertoire
Matthew Lorenzon: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Friedrich Gauwerky

The sound shapers
Matthew Lorenzon: Totally Huge New Music Festival: Club Zho

May 19 2015
Folds: loose, taut & generative
Matthew Lorenzon: Johannes Sistermanns: installation, Space/Pli

The epic resonances of diffusion
Matthew Lorenzon: Steve Paraskos, Akousmatikoi


The final concert of the 12th Totally Huge New Music Festival provided a feast of percussion repertoire performed by Louise Devenish and Claire Edwardes coupled with the exquisitely virtuosic clarinet playing of Ashley Smith. According to Edwardes, the concert’s curator, Time Alone “pits some of the bigger compositional names of the 20th century… against Australian master of our time... ” (program note).

Beginning with Chris Tonkin’s IN for bass drum and electronics, the audience were pulled into an introspective sound world utilising a bass drum played with homemade rubber mallets, a wire scrubbing brush, and various extended playing techniques. IN features live sound processing to produce a dystopian soundscape reminiscent of film scores. The live electronics, controlled by Tonkin himself, created rumbling hums from the bass drum and static. At several points Edwardes played the scrubbing brush into the microphone, the result of the processing resembling the buzzing of flies. The audience, able to meander the stage after the concert, could see the score for IN. It was apparent that although the piece seemed semi-improvised, Edwardes had meticulously planned her realisation of the semi-graphic score.

Then came Magnus Lindberg’s potent work Ablauf for clarinet and two bass drums, featuring Smith on the clarinet, beginning with a piercingly loud multiphonic chord. Ablauf is described in the program as “squealing clarinet paired with fortissimo concert bass drums”; it frequently featured multiphonics in the clarinet part, requiring both alternate fingerings and singing while playing, accented by thunderous hits on the bass drums.

The work noticeably decrescendos throughout its duration while presented in several sections; the first is piercingly loud coupled with heavy bass drum hits, the second alternates between loud and soft phrases in the clarinet part, the third section is more melodic but with sporadic accents. Then sees the introduction of shouted outbursts from the clarinettist while still playing, which devolves into maniacal nonsense vocals. The clarinet is then swapped for a bass clarinet and the piece finishes softly and lyrically with rumbling swells from the bass drums, a complete juxtaposition with the way it began. The composition showed off Smith’s skill and he easily did it justice.

The Time Alone of the concert’s title appeared as a standalone piece from a larger work called The Secret Noise by Damien Ricketson. Performed by Edwardes, this work for vibraphone and live electronics produced a solitary and ethereal ambient sound. The live electronics represent morse code, resulting in a glitchy and stuttering ambient cloud that suspended above the vibraphone. The piece has a returning three-note motif that is recognisable within the monophonic melody, and although seemingly directionless the work built with the aid of the electronics. The vibrato wheel on the vibraphone is controlled manually by the player, allowing them to have complete control of the musicality of a phrase, and at times the player is also required to hum notes while playing.

Finger Funk by Michael Smetanin provided an entertaining look at the marimba. Played by Edwardes and Devenish on one marimba without mallets, and with only erasers attached to the thumbs to protect the skin, Finger Funk produces a work exploring the muted timbre of the instrument. The actual ‘funk’ part of the title was almost discernable. Given the muted sound and little sustain the piece requires a constant tremolo to play long notes; the overall shape of the work was unrecognisable because of the reduced dynamic contrast. Notes played in the lower range of the marimba became muddy and less distinctive, and the overall sound of the piece featured mostly the attack of the note, the sound of the fingers hitting the wood, rather than actual tone.

Nico Muhly’s It Goes Without Saying is a piece for clarinet and fixed electronics. The piece is similar in style to the works of Jacob Ter Veldhuis, a composer who is well known for pitting live instruments against sampled backings in a virtuosic manner. The live clarinet part played by Smith interacted with the electronic playback, which fused pre-recorded clarinets and electronics in an increasingly dissonant style. At times the live clarinet part became completely over-shadowed by its pre-recorded counterpart, which reduced the effectiveness of the piece.

Originally composed for harpsichord, Edwardes’ ‘arrangement’ of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Continuum featured the marimba and vibraphone played by Edwardes and Devenish respectively. Beginning on a two-note tremolo it evolved throughout the fast-paced work via the addition and subtraction of one note at a time to the initial idea; the phrases pushed and pulled against each other, creating the illusion of phasing and changing meter. The individual parts interacted to create a harmonic wash of sound and the instrumentation produced a timbre that is substantially different and more interesting than the metallic equivalence of the harpsichord.

Later when speaking to Edwardes about the piece she said that she preferred to re-orchestrate rather than arrange, and would play scores as they were written for other instruments. In this case, Continuum was written using traditional two-staved notation, which Edwardes then ‘re-orchestrated’: the vibraphone playing the right hand (higher part) and the marimba playing the left hand (lower part).

12th Totally Huge New Music Festival, Claire Edwardes, Louise Devenish, and Ashley Smith, Time Alone, Callaway Music Auditorium, UWA, Perth, 24 May

© Laura Halligan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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