MusicSafari 14: The Way of The Flower (Review)

THE WAY OF THE FLOWER

Primrose Potter Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre
27 February 2019

Review by Le Tuan Hung

The Way of The Flower featured a program of contemporary works for shakuhachi and koto. The concert opened and ended with two well-known 20th century compositions by Sawai Tadao: Flying Like a Bird (1985) and Song of the Waxing Moon (1979). Brandon Lee’s performance of Flying Like A Bird delivered a captivating experience: The sounds, the noises, the tone colours and the varied dynamics from the koto impressed listeners with an exquisite floating soundscape in the air.

After the opening piece, the program moved away from the Japanese heartland of the instruments to feature four 21st century works by non-Japanese composers: Rain Now and Then(2011) for shakuhachi solo, Far Below Me(2015/2019) for shakuhachi, spoken word, and bass koto, and Moon in Water (2018/2019) for shakuhachi and voice by Australian composer-performer Anne Norman, and I Thought About Eva (2018) for shakuhachi and koto by French composer Henri Algadafe.

Anne Norman performed her three original compositions with utmost mastery. Rain Now and Then showed a stream of beautiful melodies. Far Below Me incorporated alternating sections of spoken words and shakuhachi, supported by the deep and mellow sounds of the bass koto. In Moon in Water, the technique of incorporating voice while blowing the shakuhachi created a mesmerising experience: the voice within the music and the music within the voice. In both Far below Meand Moon in Water, the spoken or sung poetry brought an extra-dimension to the musical experience.

Henri Algadafe’s work with contrasting sections grown from five occurrences of a short motif provided an opportunity for both the shakuhachi and the koto to deliver brief but musically meaningful gestures interacting with each other to bring about a thoughtful outcome.

The program ended with Tadao’s Song of the Waxing Moon(1979) which was presented simultaneously with an ikebana demonstration by Shoso Shimbo. The juxtaposition of two elements made Tadao’s work the background music for the ikebana session. While one could appreciate the ikebana process in the musical atmosphere, it is more desirable for the audience to have the opportunity to listen to the musical work by itself as a way to honour Sawai Tadao. As most members of the audience had already seated 15-20 minutes before the concert, the ikebana session could have started then in silence. The sound of the scissors, the breaking of the branches and the footsteps of the ikebana master are the music of the flowers in itself.

For information about the artists and their works, please visit their websites:

Anne Norman

Brandon Lee

Shoso Shimbo

 

MusicSafari 13: Bart Hopkin’s Instrumentarium

Bart Hopkin’s Instrumentarium

The Instrumentarium is the online multimedia gallery presenting the collection of musical instruments conceived, designed, built and performed by the instrument designer extraordinaire Bart Hopkin. Instruments are organising nine sections as follows:

    • Winds
    • Plosives & Aerophonic Oddities
    • Lamellaphones
    • Free Bars
    • Bells, Forks, Gongs & More
    • Drums
    • Lutes, Harps & Lyres
    • Zithers
    • Uncategorizable

The video below shows one of Bart’s creation (from the Uncategorizable Section) called Bosky Jangle. This interactive sound installation was originally called Sound Chamber as it appeared at the Bolinas Museum in 2015, curated by Elia Haworth. It is a kinetic soundspace of bell trees and other instruments with a foresty kind of mood. For later installations the name was changed to Bosky Jangle.

 

Bart Hopkin’s Instrumentarium is located at http://barthopkin.com/instrumentarium/

Visitors will encounter a fascinating collection of creative and inventive musical instruments.

About the artist:

Bart Hopkin is a musician, instrument designer, music educator and author. Since 1974, he has worked as composer, arranger and performer in a variety of contexts. He has designed and built numerous musical instruments, and performed with them.

From 1985 to 1999, he edited the quarterly journal Experimental Musical Instruments. The journal served as an essential resource and clearing house in an otherwise scattered but lively and growing field. After the final issue of the journal, Experimental Musical Instruments continued as an organization serving people interested in inventive instrument design, producing and selling informational resources as well as hardware for instrument makers.

MusicSafari 12: Tolgahan Çoğulu’s Adjustable Microtonal Guitar

MusicSafari 12:
Tolgahan Çoğulu’s Adjustable Microtonal Guitar

The Adjustable Microtonal Guitar was designed by Turkist guitarist Tolgahan Çoğulu in 2008. This microtonal guitar allows players to easily change positions of frets, and to add/remove fret(s) to tune the instrument to various  microtonal scales. This flexibility in micro-tuning opens incredible opportunities for guitarists to expand their music beyond the restriction of the Western scale of temperament. This is an amazing contribution to the development of the classical guitar and its music.
In this video, Tolgahan Çoğulu introduces the main features of his 8-stringed adjustable microtonal guitar and performs various pieces.


The following video presents a performance of the Microtonal Guitar Duo (Tolgahan Çoğulu on 8-stringed guitar and Sinan Cem Eroğlu on fretless guitar)

For further information, please visit Tolgahan Çoğulu’s website

MusicSafari 11 : Not All Who Wonder Are Last (CD Review)

Not All Who Wonder Are Last

Bowlines CD cover

Not All Who Wonder Are Last is the second CD of the Melbourne-based string trio Bowlines. In this CD, listeners encounter the new line-up of the ensemble: Ernie Gruner (violin/viola/octave violin), Hope Csutoros (violin), and Helen Mountfort (cello). The whole CD is a live recording of a Bowlines’ performance in Brunswick, Victoria on 30th October 2016. Drawing elements and inspirations from various sources, including classical and world music, Bowlines created an improvised cross-genre music that offers listeners many magical moments.

While four short tracks (Rowing into Sunlight, The Traveller’s Dog, Over the Hills to Faraway, and Unexpected Descent) are built on a single musical idea/gesture, longer tracks are beautifully crafted to reveal to the listeners the audio essences of feelings or imagined situations. The CD demonstrates Bowlines’ mastery of story-telling in sounds with lively gestures, dazzling rhythms and charming melodies. Their music flows easily from moments ot moments, from one idea to another, and from earthy folk elements to classical and theatrical textures. It is a joy to listen to the CD in its entirety as a grand suite of improvised moments.

The whole CD can be sampled online at Bowlines’ Bandcamp site.

Bowlines will launch this new CD in Melbourne, Australia on October 7th 2018. For details, visit their website at: http://www.bowlines.com.au/gigs/

MusicSafari 10: Fluorophone by Speak Percussion

Speak Percussion is the Australian percussion ensemble that has re-defined the sounds of percussion music and the potential of percussion. Speak Percussion is internationally recognised as a leader in the fields of experimental and contemporary classical music. Many of its performances are impressive in both visual and musical aspects.

Between 23 and 25 November 2016, Speak Percussion presented the Australian premiere of its 2015 touring project Fluorophone.

Fluorophone creates a kaleidoscopic sound world in which the central instruments radiate, flicker, glow and burn. Analogue and digital fluorescent lights, the naked flame, strobe lights and custom-built LED discs are combined with percussion to create a program in which the music and lighting design are one and the same. Fluorophone moves between noise, theatrical music and virtuosic instrumentalism, in a synesthetic display of light and sound. Featuring specially commissioned works by a prominent team of leading composers”–Program notes.

Fluorophone features works by Juliana Hodkinson, Simon Loeffler, Eugene Ughetti, and Damien Ricketson.

Lightness by Juliana Hodkinson:

 

e by Simon Loeffler

 

 

Pyrite Gland by Eugene Ughetti

 

 

Rendition Clinic by Damien Ricketson

 

 

b by Simon Loeffler

 

 

For more information on Speak Percussion, visit their website

MusicSafari 9: Up from the Deep (Digital Album Review)

Up from the Deep


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up from the Deep is a compilation of selected live recordings from five concerts held in a World War II oil storage tunnel under Darwin (Australia) during the 2016 Tunnel Number Five Festival of Underground Music . This 2016 festival is a special event in which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians from various musical paths gathered and made music together in a space deep in their shared land. The acoustic outcome is exquisitely beautiful.

Up From the Deep has 14 tracks featuring eight manikay (clan songs of the Yolngu people people in Northeastern Arnhem Land), two West Papua songs, and four instrumental pieces.

Aboriginal songmen Jason Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and Sebastian Guyundula Burarrawanga joined Sarah Hopkins (cello, harmonic whirlies, overtone singing), Anne Norman (shakuhachi), Ernie Gruner (violin), Anja Tait (violin), Netanela Mizrahi (viola), and Adrian Gurruwiwi (yidaki) to deliver the manikay. In six of these manikay, the instrumentalists created soundscapes that nurture the voice(s) and the meanings of the songs to enhance their beauty and to bring the musical experience to a deeper level.

A very special and moving moment happened when Guwanbal spontaneously sang a manikay “Look at the cloud formation rising up from Dhumara Garrimala” during the performance of Sarah Hopkins’ 1994 composition Remember the Joy. The pre-composed music and the manikay seem to blend into a magical whole.

The four instrumental pieces offer strikingly contrasting atmospheres. They were masterly created at the moment of performance in the tunnel. While Sea Sky (violin, viola, cello and shakuhachi) and Water Spirits (2 violins and viola) flow effortlessly along the soundscapes of the manikay , Dance! As the World Goes Mad! and Wartime Waltz are lively reminders of the resilience of Darwin during wartime.

Apart from the manikay and instrumental pieces, the earthy and heartfelt songs sung in Biak language (now officially replaced by Bahasa Indonesia in West Papua) performed by Henk Rumbewas added another dimension of sounds to musically enrich this compilation. Henk also briefly added his powerful voice in two of the manikay songs, Wheeling Seagulls and Green Sea Turtle, eliciting an excited response from the instrumentalists and the Yolngu songmen.

Up from the Deep is a special compilation that presents the musical traditions of Australia in a new perspective. Here, the artists met and created music spontaneously in a space deep within our land. Each artist draws from his/her musical experience to contribute to the process of music-making, bringing about magical moments in sound.

You can listen to all tracks of the album Up from the Deep at BandCamp.

MusicSafari 8: Circling Strangers (CD Review)

Bowlines’ Circling Strangers
bowlines-cover-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circling Strangers is the debut CD of the improvising string trio Bowlines (Ernie Gruner (violin/viola), Heather Stewart (violin) and Jenny Thomas (viola)). The CD is a live recording of Bowlines’ performance in Brunswick, Victoria on 27th of July, 2014. The music on this CD reveals the magical power of collective improvisation at work. The three improvisers create musical layers that blend, support, or reinforce each other in a variety of ways. Elements of musical traditions such as classical, blues, or klezmer provide the raw materials for the musicians to create new musical entities with depth and feelings.

Bowlines’ music leads listeners through various moods and audio landscapes. The title track of the CD, Circling Strangers (Track 2), shows collective improvisation at its best. Here, the three instruments are perfectly unified into a musical stream that fluidly evolves in a lyrical and dynamic way. Track 3 is a little beauty in which the combination of pizzicatos, spiccatos, brief patterns and long glissandos with walking rhythms seems to depict scenes from a ballet of marionettes. The music of Waiting in Long Empty Space (Track 4) is quite emotional. At times, the strings sound as if they are moaning under the delicate bows. Taking the Mantle Again (Track 8) is characterised by long and lyrical melodies. Sweet Behemoth (Track 9) is fused with energy and is beautifully crafted with layers of tremolos and pizzicatos in varying intensities.

Even though Circling Strangers only contains 35 minutes of music, the CD has much to offer to listeners who love to explore the beauty of spontaneity in improvised music.

The CD can be listened online at: Bowlines’ Bandcamp Site

For more information about Bowlines, please visit their website: Bowlines