Lindsay Vickery – Clarinet; Jameson Feakes – Electric Guitar; Catherine Ashley – Harp; Stuart James – Electronics
Program: “Small Waves Raised By The Evening” (2016) and “The Semantics Of Redaction” (2015) by Lindsay Vickery; “Evelyn” (2016) by Josten Myburgh; “Marking Time” (2016) by Cat Hope; “Ukiyo” (2016) by Catherine Ashley; “Snowden: Eyes In The Sky” (2016) by Sam Gillies.
The Tuesday Lunchtime Concerts present audiences with classical performances by students, staff or visiting artists. On this occasion, The GreyWing Trio showcased their approach to scoring, performance techniques and use of technology in works that also engaged with political commentary. It is a testament to their bold attitude that four out of six works were premiers by local composers.
“Small Waves Raised By The Evening” by Lindsay Vickery used field recording as the starting point for its structure and realisation; the sound of frogs, crickets and wind are heard throughout, while the Trio plays instrumental textures that mimic or add to the nocturnal soundscape. The music does away with background and foreground distinctions; instead, gestures are passed between the recorded and the acoustic medium to the point of integration. This piece also exemplifies the group’s preference for egalitarian interaction rather than soloistic interplay.
“Evelyn” by Josten Myburgh is a piece for solo guitar in which a series of ambiguous chords are followed by equally ambiguous pauses, the sinuous phrasing and use of repetition give this work a questioning quality. Myburgh is influenced by a child-like attitude to stage performance, giving some of his recent compositions a gently off-kilter flow.
“Semantics of Redaction” written by Lindsay Vickery for solo performer and pre-recorded voice has had many incarnations in terms of content and instrumentation, but perhaps found its most rewarding version in the hands of harpist Catherine Ashley. In this work, a voice recording is loaded into a scoreplayer that renders performance information in real time, thus the voice of activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks is heard talking about indigenous’ people connection to the land while Ashley played in fierce counterpoint. The human and instrumental components have equal weight, becoming so intertwined as to affect the listener’s perception of the words, their meaning and the sounds that accompany them. While effective as a solo work with electronics, it would be interesting to see how it can be adapted for a Trio setting.
The following work in the program was a premier by the Decibel Ensemble director Cat Hope. “Marking Time” makes reference to the detention of Asylum Seekers by the Australian Government. An austere piece in which steady lines are varied in pitch by small amounts, it reminded me of her recent work with the music of Giacinto Scelsi and Elianne Radigue, two composers whose style have the same static qualities. “Marking Time” had a spatial character to it, allowing audiences to dwell on sounds that bring to mind confinement and hopelessness.
Catherine Ashley’s “Ukiyo” was the least referential piece of the concert. Using loops and modulation effects to expand the sound of the harp, her improvisational yet self-assured style was a welcomed contrast to the program. Catherine’s energy and ritualistic manner around the instrument are integral to her performance.
The closing piece of the concert was “Snowden: Eyes in the Sky” by Sam Gillies. It belongs to a series of compositions exploring the concept of mass surveillance. The piece has as its starting point the spectral analysis of web browser data and cache files opened as audio. This information is then manipulated to create structure and content, resulting in sounds shaped by online behavioural data. Just like in “Small Waves Raised By The Evening”, Gillies’ piece uses hard data to create sound gestures and compositional structures that are mediated by live performers. In contrast to the chamber-like character of the other works in the program, “Snowden” has a sweeping scope perhaps too big to be apprehended on first listen. The piece showcased the unique instrumentation of the trio, bringing a broad range of textures against the ghostly electronic background.
The Grey Wing Trio presented music with a wide set of concerns, drawing from other disciplines and the current socio-political context. But aside from the conceptual component of the pieces, their knack for ensemble colour and the expressive vocabulary in their playing made for an engaging and alert listening experience.
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