Rich, yearning soundscapes of BackStage’s Earthbound

by | Aug 28, 2022 | Ambassador thoughts, Composer, Recorder, Viola

BackStage Music | Earthbound

August 26, 2022, Woodburn Creatives

On Friday night, the tall beamed ceilings and four white walls of Woodburn Creatives in Redfern became an intimate canvas for Backstage Music’s Earthbound. Curated by Fiona Hill and Lamorna Nightingale, it centred upon six pieces by female-identifying composers, unveiling and provoking our shifting relationship with the natural world around use ‘amidst the growing catastrophe of climate change’.

Six speakers stood resolute, surrounding the audience. For the the first piece of the night, Unsuk Chin’s Double Bind?’ for violin and live electronics, they became individual performers in their own right, as resonators and harmonisers gripped the tail end of every sound.

 Performing the piece with a scouring pad wrapped around her finger, the incredible physicality and theatrics of Veronique Serret’s performance on violin were thrilling and flawlessly bound together sections of light playfulness and guttural intensity. As she moved and shook her instrument, the sonic world acknowledged it and shifted accordingly.

Felicity Wilcox’s ‘Currawong Call’ followed. In soft conversation, Serret’s violin joined recordings of birds collected in Wentworth Falls in a gorgeous aural re-negotiation of our position in relation to our environment. Falling somewhere between argument and acquiescence, the reciprocal interaction between music and nature was an offer of hope from Wilcox, set against a video of a small outdoor fire alongside dense Blue Mountains trees.

Performer Alana Blackburn took the stage next in performance of Donna Hewitt’s ‘Permafrost’ on solo recorder. The space turned cold. Hewitt had created an icy, sparkling sound art foundation from recordings made prior with Blackburn. It played with extremes over the top – the guts and strength of the contrabass, the airy grace of the sopranino.  The vitality of Blackburn as a lone performer became a sign of life amongst Hewitt’s desolate backdrop as the heart of a delicately-crafted, stunning work.

Next was  ‘Regrowth?’, a recorder piece in four movements: firesong, earthsong, airsong and watersong. For its creation, Blackburn had approached composer Ros Bandt, ‘who had done a lot of work with water’, and asked ‘How do you feel about writing a piece about a drought?’ It utilised sound recordings and photos from Armidale; a town which had felt the full force of the climate catastrophe in its shock floods and bushfires over the last couple of years.  Each movement was complemented with stunning visuals from Melbourne-based artist Jutta Pryor; the audiovisual work pitted the weighty silhouette of the contrabass against burning flames, and the sopranino next to spiralling wind and gentle rivers, provoking a sense of nature as a balance between beauty and vehemence.

Emma Harlock’s ‘Green’ from her Concept:FUTURE series was the next featured performance. It reasoned with hypnotic, ringing electric bass harmonics and fragmented voices of climate change activists, against the gritty reckoning of a low, heavy open string. An emerging composer from Western Sydney, her bass carves out a novel sound in art music. With delay unifying the live instrument with the vocal recordings, the piece echoed the unrelenting power and resilience of the activist’s sentiment.

The end of the night was marked by ‘Flightless Bird’, a collaborative piece between Serret, armed with a six-string violin, and Harlock on bass and pedals. The complexities and consonance of interaction in their shared roles as performers and creators became the shining core of the composition and bore its fruit in the rich, yearning soundscape that sprung up around it.

As much as every piece drew upon their relationship with the world around them, each performer and composer built by hand their unique sense of a specified natural environment around you in the space, sound by sound. 

BackStage Music’s next concert in Woodburn Creatives, ‘Clarity Engine’, takes place on Nov 6th, 2022. Curated by Damian Barbeler and featuring a series of installation works, the space will be animated with the raw kinesis that only art music can bring. It can’t be missed.

From GUEST REVIEWER: Maddy Briggs


Maddy Briggs is a composer, writer and curator that finds her groove in art music new, weird and wonderful.

A frequent collaborator with APRA Award-nominated HiberNATION festival and Vice President of Sydney-based art music composer collective Konzertprojekt, her own practice centres upon the digital elaboration and explosion of acoustic instruments, woven together into highly textural soundscapes.

 

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About The Author

Pepe Newton

Pepe is classikON's Managing Director. She is an avid concert-goer and self confessed choir nerd, regularly performing and touring with no less than 5 different choirs to countries ranging from Poland to Cuba over the last few years. Through her board positions in choirs and her role with classikON she is actively involved in the exciting Australian art music scene, including the promotion and commissioning of new Australian music. Running classikON presents a perfect opportunity for Pepe to pair her love of classical music with her ‘real life’ qualifications in business management and administration.

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