the need for guns…

Recently I visited Point Nepean again, and pondered how its closure as a military post for protection of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay could be seen as proof that the need for guns can be overcome, but really it was only because aircraft could do a much better job by the end of World War II. Pity that.

We have some wonderful weathering on the gun mounts left to enjoy however. Progress.


Community Cup 2017 – beaut day out…

A great new venue at Victoria Park, icy cold, the usual hazardous throng of footies flying at quarter and half time as kids and adults take over the ground (my friend got a direct hit to the noggin), great bands, uninhibited cheerleaders, streakers, idiotic Box Wars, and awesome company. Couldn’t get more Melbourne than this 🙂

review: how to be useful, so very wonderfully useful…

Review of: Concerto for Piano and Toy Concerto by Adam Simmons
Performed by: Michael Kieran Harvey with Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble
Where/when: fortyfivedownstairs, Saturday 4 March 2017
Part of: The Usefulness of Art 2017 concert series

Michael Kieran Harvey plays the balloons, oops the piano!

Michael Kieran Harvey plays the balloons, oops the piano!

What an absolutely fucking spectacular concert that was! Worth swearing about! A concert like this reminds you of what is so truly fantastic about art, and indeed how useful it is. You couldn’t come out of this concert without a smile on your face, all the way through it a smile on your face.

It was intense, it was vigorous, visceral, you felt the sound go right through your body. It was surprising, unexpected, playful. It really was a delight from beginning to end, no exaggeration. Adam Simmons embodies an infectious enthusiasm which, as the piece progresses, sets up the audience to go on this crazy journey with him and the ensemble. And, man, is it one crazy journey.

Adam’s music puts the lie to the distinction between ‘real’ or ‘proper’ instruments and the alternative – use of all sorts of musical or sound generating toys. It was priceless. A magnificent landscape developed, enmeshed through the brass instruments and piano, but you didn’t once think “Oh that’s just a piece of plastic”. All the sounds had sonic integrity, together the music had internal logic and nothing felt out of place or trite. Plus, not only just when there was a cacophony. In some quiet, gentle moments the toys added unique threads of atmospheric otherness.

Another aspect I really enjoyed was the playing of saxophonist Cara Taber during a solo section. The other performers roamed around the venue, each with some sort of wind up toy which wasn’t too loud, murmuring away evocatively in the background. Cara was fascinating. Although the focus of the section, she’s one of those players who is not demonstrative. You know there’s sound coming out of her instrument, but she’s barely moving with the music if at all, nor showing any facial expression, maybe just tapping her foot here and there. Later in the work she became a little bit more animated but on the whole when she plays she’s playing and that’s that. No visual expression.

In Cara’s quiet solo section the depth of expression in her playing was phenomenal to hear and to watch. So often we hear of the concept of the musician as vocational, because you breathe music, you feel it, it’s part of your soul, part of who you are – and hence it feels natural to see physical engagement when a musician performs. So to watch a player draw forth so much haunting emotion with her instrument while not giving away any of that expression through her body was extraordinary. From time to time I wondered whether someone else was also playing, because you couldn’t see how she was doing what she was doing. It was pretty damn special. And this is not a criticism at all. Her playing was so absolutely haunting, a still beautiful moment within the maelstroms of the performance that reminded us music can simply be music.

So, wow, we had streamers, we had balloons, colours galore, we had everything. It was a party! And it was a party I’d like to go to again and again and again, and not just because of all the “extras”. This is what contemporary art music needs now, in this world we have that’s become all so exhausting. When is the next great horror, not far around the corner. When’s the next megalomaniac going to get in charge of some thing he really shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near, soon. And then we have nights like tonight and all you can do is shout “Yes! Yes! Get back to this!” This is what music needs. This is who we really are. Where we go for it, we go for it hard both as audiences and performers, and we have an absolute, unabashed blast in the process (with or without the toys).

Spectacular performances, spectacular music. A night we won’t forget.

There’s one final performance of Concerto for Piano and Toy Concerto on Sunday 5 March 2017 at 3pm. Go to it!


Disclaimer: Arcko Symphonic Ensemble, with which I am affiliated, performs in the The Usefulness of Art concert Travelling Tales in December. I’m not biased at all though, it was a bloody good concert!

you thought 9 months was long…

Visiting the Australian sea lion colony at Kangaroo Island was a unique highlight, as are the sea lions themselves. Did you know adult females are continually pregnant, except for the week after giving birth? And pregnancies last 17 months. Imagine the hormones! Also, after three days at sea hunting, during their three day resting period they can shelter up to a kilometer inland, proving that despite their slug-like appearance they are remarkably agile climbers. Amazing.

We were lucky to see a mother emerge from the ocean and call her pup who came tearing down from the dunes near us, glad to see her and very hungry. Wonderful.

baby sea lion rolls over  baby sea lion twister

It was pretty special to be so close to them, although I’m not convinced the many guided beach walks each day aren’t a factor in their declining population rate. Imagine you were trying to sleep recovering from a three day marathon and groups of people kept walking through your bedroom all night, albeit respectfully. Something to keep in mind. Fortunately there’s a boardwalk only option which gives them plenty of space, and if you’re lucky some may be close by anyway.

Kangaroo Island also hosts a large fur seal colony, also marvellous. Massive creatures, it was astonishing how some managed to arrange themselves on the narrowest of seemingly inaccessible ledges. Watching two rolling around in a large pool area was mesmerising. No photos unfortunately.

dock life, freight…

Port of Portland has everything on show.

I marveled at the mammoth mounds of woodchips towering almost double the height of nearby buildings. How do they pile it up like that?? How many trucks does it represent??

The stacks of logs resembled matchsticks from my vantage point, but were anything but. It amazes me how a few logs crosswise under the pile can support such huge weight without cracking apart. Nature at its powerful best.

Forestry is a saga of an industry, kind of how wineries are sagas, taking years and much patience and trust to reach profitable fruition. Seeing the masses of logs at the port highlighted for me the huge effort involved to fell the trees, prepare them for transit, then move them to where they’re wanted.

On the way to Portland were seemingly endless kilometers of pine plantations, with some zones recently felled. It got me to thinking of the huge endeavour it must be, and the huge area needed, to grow enough seedlings to replace those trees on their way to a new incarnation as timber.

Logistics, incredible.

dock life, fishing boats…

Port of Portland’s pier had a fishing boat unlike any I’ve seen before. Festooned with large glass lamps, they clearly have a need to see what they’re doing out at sea 🙂 I’d love to know why.

At sunset there were still plenty of people fishing off the pier. I smiled when I noticed they all ignored the signs saying not to park cars on the concrete.

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