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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns


WERGO, 2012, ARTS 8120 2

Australian composer and sound artist Ros Bandt and German electro-acoustic composer Johannes S Sistermanns’ CD Tracings is aptly named. It offers the sonic results of three key collaborations undertaken over the last 15 years, exploring the concept of tracing, both as noun—the evidence of an action or event— and also verb, the very act of mark-making itself.

Tracings opens with BYOS, a project devised by Sistermanns for ABC Radio in 2006 in which each artist brought their owns sounds to the studio to create a collaborative composition. The CD presents five short pieces segueing seamlessly, yet each with their own character. “BYOs Preludes: Take off” launches us into a cavernous space where industrial, grating noises play a supporting roll to the reverberance of the site itself (a signature technique of Bandt’s—see her 1981 release Improvisations in Acoustic Chamber). “BYOS Vivace: Gannetts” is energetic and vibrant as bird flaps, squawks and water sloshes are overlayed and effected to create escalating sheets of sound. “BYOS Adagio: Bells” uses slowed and muted bell tolls punctuated by pitch-shifted plosives and staccato vowels.

“BYOS Industrial Blues” in particular exemplifies the aspirations of musique concrète—each sound a discrete unit, reminiscent of actualities, yet the true source is unidentifiable—as mechanised shards of sound mingle with distant voices over an insistent hum. In contrast, “BYOS Epilogue: Catwalk” is peppered with tiny mewings, moans, creaks and footfalls and scrunches with more of a cinema foley feel. As a collection, the “BYOS” offers a fast moving, rich but never cluttered collection of sonic collages, presenting glimpses of territories that make you eager for more.

“Sonic Blue Red Tracings—Kami” gives the CD its name and the artwork imagery. In 2008 Bandt and Sistermanns were in residence in Wakayama in Japan, where they began to explore the sonic properties of paper. They also applied dye to their hair (Bandt auburn red, Sistermanns blue) and created paintings using their hair as brushes, exploring gestures such as swishing and whipping. These paintings form the basis of a graphic score, but also act as instruments in themselves as the paper is miked up, amplifying the performative actions. The recorded composition is underscored by distant tones (accordion perhaps) giving it an ethereal atmosphere, while the rustle of paper scrolls and the friction of hair rubbing and whipping create a textural landscape with small rhythmic eruptions. The result is a delicately industrial soundscape with some haunting sonorities that offer more elegance perhaps than the action painting of the live performance manifestation (accessible via available video documentation that can be found here and here).

The final two tracks on Tracings are from one of Bandt and Sistermanns’ earliest collaborations, “A Global Garden for Percy.” (“Whispering Between Stars” offered as a separate track is based on an excerpt from the larger work). As part of the 1997 Melbourne Festival program Ros Bandt was commissioned to create an installation, A Garden for Percy’s Delight, in the grounds of the Grainger Museum. For this she utilised recordings of some of the curious instruments Percy Grainger had created in pursuit of his idea of Free Music—music released from regular metric rhythm, exploring smooth pitch undulations, like ocean waves, that could in fact be performed by machines free of human intervention. Some of the instruments in the museum include the Kangaroo Pouch Machine which uses three oscillators to create sliding tones, the Knoxville Butterfly Piano and a Metallophone (Steel Marimba).

Bandt and Sistermanns also performed a live composition, “A Global Garden for Percy,” via an ISDN line linking Melbourne and Frankfurt, with the piece broadcast and recorded by the ABC’s The Listening Room. The result is a substantial 41-minute work with each composer’s contribution well melded. Given the paltry capacity for streaming even today, this live global linkup was and still is an impressive feat. (Bring on the NBN!)

"A Global Garden for Percy" is structured around recurring themes: watery field recordings made at Brighton Beach where Grainger grew up; samples of ascending and descending glissandi on his inventions; voices whispering his treatise; and deep plucked piano strings. At one point Grainger’s Viola d'Amore (adapted into an Alto Viol) is used to play a wistful version of John Dowland's 17th century song "Come Again,” alluding to Grainger’s love of folk music, only to be subsumed back into the composition's layering. At another point a helicopter, a sound of modern rupture, alerts us to the mechanical glissandi that surround us everyday. It’s a drifting dreamscape, using fascinating source material and taking dark and difficult turns—a fitting tribute to one of Australia’s most fascinating and complex composers.

Tracings as a whole is an engaging work with many textural and atmospheric pleasures. It rigorously explores not just the sonority of objects themselves, but the very nature of composition and collaboration.

Gail Priest

See also “Ros Bandt and Johannes S Sistermanns—15 years of collaboration” by Melinda Barrie, in the Australian Music Centre’s Resonate online journal.

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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