Archive for the 'Music' Category

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!

admit one outside the comfort zone…

So far for me 2012 is meaning lots of leaving the comfort zone, quite an interesting process that’s for sure.

Last weekend took me to an invitation only private mini music festival at a farm out of Rushworth. Although the inviter is someone I don’t know well, there were only two others I’d met before, and I’d be sleeping in the car, it turned out to be a truly brilliant experience. Such welcoming, open, positive people. And some very talented musicians who urged me onto the stage too for great jams that went on and on. I’d hoped to be there with a friend or two – a shame they missed such a rare chance to see me sing! This is getting a bit wordy now, so I’ll sign off by recommending Jo Jo Smith, a truly remarkable woman whose performances I felt honoured to witness.

These images I took the next morning, where more music ensued xx

is this really London?

Found this blast from the past, from some time in 2006 in London…

Had an ultra bizarre afternoon on Saturday. Decided to go to a ‘free’ ‘blues’ festival in the city. Turned out to be a bit of a dinky free concert hosted by an animal rescue charity so they could ask the audience for donations.

When I arrived there was a jazz pianist (quite good) with a female singer who sang the whole first number at least a third lower than the key the pianist was playing. Excruciating. The rest of the set was more or less in tune but still excruciating. Then she played solo violin (quite well) while a tall muscular eye candy black man did an interpretive dance (!!!!!!!). All a bit art school.

I thought I’d stick around for the next act, really wanting to hear some blues. Instead a five piece hard rock band from Scotland got up, pretty good music, all black clothes, studded belts, you can picture it.

As soon as they started playing, a group of old fogies, well into their seventies, jumped up and started grooving VERY ENERGETICALLY. Three of the gents wore lurid 70s shirts, two sporting large gold sunnies and WIGS. Yes, wigs. And they thought they were HOT!

Pretty soon there was a bit of a crowd, attracted by the music. We were all looking on with our mouths open, lots of people taking photos. Just wish I’d remembered to take my camera instead of having to make do with the crappy mobile phone camera…sigh! Those photos just didn’t work out.

sparkles near the wheel…

The post title is in homage to the awesome Melbourne band The Rectifiers whose album “Sparkles On The Wheel” is part of my ‘lifetime listening’ CD collection. If only they would play gigs.

hot however you look at it…

Spent an unexpectedly enjoyable few hours at the 3RRR BBQ Day at Ceres, excellent song choices, surprising smiles, cute kids. All in the sweltering heat of the start of summer, at last!

Southbank, dusk…

Southbank at dusk to the soul soothing tunes of Charles Jenkins


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