As the asphalt dissolved on City Road in 33 degree-heat, the atmosphere sizzled inside Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre as Claire Edwardes stepped up to the plate and delivered a stunning hour of solo percussion.
Framed by Iannis Xenakis Rebonds A and B, the concert was a journey through ‘thirty years of solo percussion gems’. Backdropped by visual digital earth abstractions by Andrew Wholley, and electronic sound by Ilia Bezroukov, the audience were asked to let go and be suspended in a mindspace that listened, and listened again.
Traversing between organic drums and makers of sound and electronics
Edwardes traversed across two stage set ups, on the right organic drums and on the left the makers of sound and electronics, exploring in her own words ‘volatile pulses, blips and pink noise, the distant and the close, the amplified and the acoustic’. The concert included Damien Ricketson’s Time Alone (2014), and Javier Alvarez’s extraordinary piece for maracas and electronics Temazcal (The Sound of Burning Water) (1984) which gave the concert it’s enigmatic title.
A masterful choice in the program
Steve Reich’s brilliance as a composer shone through with his Vermont Counterpoint, originally written for flue and piccolo but arranged by Edwardes for vibraphone and xylophone. A masterful choice in the middle of the program, it undeniably brought to clarity the trends in modern percussion. Woolley’s slow moving leaves and reflections on water lulled the audience into a sense of stillness and accuracy, mirrored by Edwarde’s own incredible concentration and yet seeming ease of delivery.
The ‘sorceress of percussion’
From bass drum, tom toms, bongos and woodblocks to vibraphone, live and prerecorded electronics and xylophone, the program slowed to the intense and personal world premiere of Marcus Whale/Tom Smith’s piece Work (2015) for electronic-sensored slate and knitting needle, with Edwardes sitting humbly on the floor carving and creating sound circles, like a prehistoric woman. Is this why the media have come to call her the ‘sorceress of percussion’?
The iconic rhythm of Xenakis once again finished the concert in a dialogue between bass drum and bongos, finally slowing to a frozen cameo of the percussionist herself, suspended in motion above the drum.
Breathtaking and brave, the concert showed Edwardes as the deserved recipient of the 2014 Australia Council Music Fellowship. We stumbled back out into the blinding sun, waiting with baited breath to see what Ensemble Offspring will deliver in their 20th birthday celebrations this year.
The Sound of Burning Water
Claire Edwardes, Solo Percussion
Sydney Festival ‘About an Hour’ series, Seymour Centre 17 and 18 January 2015