Posts from 2016
I’d hoped to have put out this update of my activities over the last months of 2016 in December, but some challenging circumstances arose that meant I had to take some time for self-care and sensitive responses. So, finally, here ‘tis!
Simply put, it’s been a whirlwind few months:
In early September, I travelled to Bendigo to catch BIFEM (Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music), a weekend celebrating contemporary Australian and international music and sound art.
This fascinating acoustic cornucopia - championed by artistic director David Chisholm and the Argonaut, Elysion and ANAM student Ensembles, amongst others - saw composers, performers and audiences alike delight in virtuosic renderings of quite complex and subtle works. Particular highlights for me were Peter De Jager’s compelling concert of Xenakis’ keyboard works (the harpsichord often transcending its construction to become an 8-bit synthesiser, and Herma as brilliantly stark as ever); the Australasian premiere of Jennifer Walshe’s pertinent and confronting XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!!, conveyed via Barbie puppetry and sorority-themed doll house; and Data_Noise, an hour-long piece featuring the extremely loud and intensely dense electronics of Kasper T. Toeplitz in captivating counterpoint with the deliberate, almost-inert micro-movement choreography of Myriam Gourfink.
I must admit at times I felt on the outer of this southern Darmstadt-like scene, in that my own work has generally shied away from heavy modernist and complexisist tendencies (understandable considering the milieu and majority of instructors of my own early training), but the camaraderie and mutual passion each attendee shared did much to foster a caring community spirit and many connections both amicable and professional that will last far into the future.
For the vernal equinox, my mate Alex (AKA Nearly Dead) and I held a private performance of Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, which you can watch here:
In the latter part of the month, I took part in the 2016 Rotary Youth Leadership Award (of Rotary District 9520), a residential leadership seminar at Nunyara Conference Centre, where around 30 awardees spent a week cultivating skills in teamwork, public speaking, conflict management, leadership, mental health and ethics. You can read a little more about my experiences here.
The beginning of October was spent travelling again to Victoria, this time to see a number of final performances of Murray Bridge friends (Sophie Smyth and Andrew Thomas) who’ve been training at Federation University’s Arts Academy in Ballarat over the past three years. On the itinerary was the graduating MT class’s production of Into The Woods, directed by Jeremy Stanford (which perhaps had the most convincing treatment of the oft-overlooked second act that I’ve ever seen), and Sophie’s engaging show exploring of mental health challenges through musical theatre standards, as part of the Ballarat Cabaret Festival. I also managed to catch another friend and graduate Adam Canny in a Melbourne run of Ordinary Days, a four-person show exploring how ordinary lives can connect in intricate and significant ways. A complementary minimalist set, used to imply various environments ranging from living room to public art gallery, seemingly-insignificant props becoming important narrative drivers, and solo piano accompaniment provided a fitting backdrop to convincing, affective performances from all involved.
A close friend, Val, and I submitted a photo, Tacit, to the Feast Festival’s Rainbow Calendar Competition and made the cut! There’s still some of the free calendars floating around (esp. at the Feast Hub on Hyde Street in Adelaide), so feel free to drop by and grab a copy.
I also had the pleasure of MDing a cabaret on home soil, Heroes and Villains of Disney, with seasoned theatre performers Alex Bond and Matt Pugsley as part of Star Theatre’s Cabaret Under The Star series. The review is available here.
Again I returned to Ballarat and Melbourne, first to see the final Showcase of the graduating year (many of who in the course of travel to visit and support the SA friends, I’d also become good friends with), followed by a spontaneous invitation to the final graduation party. A joy to join, with many proud and reflective tears shed - more on that here.
Later in the month (bleeding into early December), I presented a paper at the 2016 MSA Conference, held on home turf at Elder Conservatorium of Music. More on the paper, ‘An Overview of Australian Ecoacoustic Composition: Exploring The Country’s Environmental Music and Sound Art in the 20th and 21st Centuries’ can be found here.
In tandem with this was the 2016 Soundstream Emerging Composers’ Forum, which I ended up attending as observer, temporary conductor and choreographed page turner. With some strong SA attendee representation (finally) in the form of Dan Thorpe, new arrival Leah Blankendaal and expat Mark Wolf, and interstate involvement from Alex Turley and Mitchell Mollison; impressive performances by Gabriella Smart, Simon Cobroft, Mitch Berick, Anthony Zatorski and Deborah Kayser; and invaluable mentorship from Alison Isadora, Gao Ping, Cat Hope and Simon Emerson, the few brief days were rewarding and insightful.
My year rounded off with some important announcements for this coming year’s activities. I was finally able to announce my receiving one of the inaugural 2017 Carclew Fellowships at the Dusk Markets, which will allow me to engage in professional development in environmental music and sound art in the US and Canada beginning in June.
I also announced my collaboration with Zephyr Quartet on developing an urban sound installation for the Adelaide CBD, as part of a New Music Network LAB Mentorship. Below is a snapshot of a recent collective sound walk of the Rundle Mall precinct.
Hope to be writing more frequently than this past year, so stay tuned for further updates on my activities soon!
The past couple months have been filled with a great many adventures around the country, both in South Australian and further afield interstate.
In mid June, I conducted field research at the ghost town of Farina in Far North SA, which is currently the site of much restorative activity by the Farina Restoration Group. Though intended as the arid ecosystem location for my PhD research, I was met with much rain and flooding, having to wait at gorges in Beltana in order to pass with my car, and then rely on the kindness of the Restoration volunteers to get me to the town via unsealed track from my accomodation at Lyndhurst each day.
The modern Farina is a bewildering place. The station owner’s house and new shed (HQ for the Restoration Project) are situated amongst the ruins of the former town, which rustically decorate the dynamic landscape. The site of much activity in the winter months, many volunteers and tourists living in the nearby campground undergo in similar struggles to former custodians, battling the erosion of wind, warmth and water that threatens the remnants of yesteryear. What is it about this almost inhospitable place that draws people, often with no connection to the former town, to engage and invest, even in our modern world? And importantly for me, how does this relationship between the sheer will of determined people and the uncompromising nature of the land in turn effect the ecosystem, soundscape and identity of this place. Further investigation to follow.
Then, returning home to Murray Bridge for all but a day, I then went on to Melbourne for rehearsals of MaCabaret, a collaboration between Jake ‘Mac’ McNamara, fellow Federation Uni graduates Adam Canny and Ashton Koroneous and myself as MD. The premise of the show was an overview of Mac’s journey through musical theatre school, put on display for the folks in our home town what the past three years of study had entailed. Returning back to Murray Bridge, we treated with sellout crowds in our last two of our three nights, it was great to work together with wonderful colleagues and friends on what is sure to be the first of many projects together. More to come on this in the near future.
After returning everyone to Melbourne, I then head up to Brisbane for the 2016 ACMC conference, ‘Sonic Environments’, themed around the topics of acoustic ecology and soundscape studies, where I presented a paper on my research (further information here). An important milestone in my studies, where, for the first time, I was immersed in a temporary community of scholars with very similar or complementary interests, ensuring me that my own project isn’t quite so ludicrous.
A busy few months continuing ahead, with more news coming soon!