Review – In Honour of Earle Brown and Morton Feldman – Melba Hall, 7 May 2018

This was the second performance of this programme of graphic scores staged by Carmen Chan Schoenborn as part of her multi-faceted Do You See What I Hear? project. The first iteration took place at the Church of All Nations in June 2017. It had been a unique (for Melbourne) collaboration of graphic notation and contemporary dance; an obvious artistic success that demanded a repeat performance. This time it took place in the slightly different confines of Melba Hall, across the other side of Carlton in the Conservatorium, with the same compositions and similar personnel.

The concert opened with Schoenborn delivering another quality rendition of Feldman’s piece for solo percussionist, The King of Denmark (1964). The score calls for the percussionist to use only hands, fingers or arms (no sticks or mallets) to strike the percussion (Schoenborn used a variety of pitched percussion, bells and timpani), resulting in very quiet music. Schoenborn displayed her confidence as a percussionist along with her understanding of the score in resisting any urge to play any parts louder than was absolutely necessary. At times, you could feel the audience straining to hear some parts (as the building’s air-conditioning became apparent), but this feels to me very much in line with the composer’s intention. Like many of Feldman’s compositions, the music has not dated and retains a timeless quality that has the potential to take the listener to a meditative space; it’s not easy listening by any means, but it can put you in a state of mind where listening is primary.

The next piece, For E.B. & M.F. (2017), was a duo composed and performed by Schoenborn and Warren Burt (on smart phones and tablets, often approximating sounds similar to the vibraphone played by Schoenborn). This piece seemed more precise and focussed than when I first heard it last year; possibly the performers’ interpretation of the graphic score has evolved and/or been refined, but more likely it is the addition of two dancers in Tony Yap and Brendan O’Connor to the performance. Yap and O’Connor have a long history of working together, and each of their individual dance vocabularies seamlessly integrates with the other. Their presence seemed to focus the composition, grounding it somehow, unlike in the 2017 premiere where it had drifted at times, partly through a sameness of dynamics and timbre.

The programming of these first two pieces formed a logical development towards the third item; Earle Brown’s FOLIO (1952/3) and Four Systems (1954), where four more musicians joined Schoenborn and Burt along another three dancers (all associated with Yap). According to the informative programme notes, this collection of eight pieces consists of both traditional and graphic notation, some of which was originally composed for a choreography (now lost) by Carolyn, Brown’s first wife. Yap and his dancers have a created a new choreographic structure that is integral to music, and a pleasure to experience. The set of works began with a profound statement on piano by Michael Kieren Harvey (the only new addition to the ensemble from the 2017 concert; returning alongside Schoenborn and Burt were Miranda Hill on double bass, David Brown on electric guitar, and Gelareh Pour on kamancheh), before the rest of the musicians provide sparse, largely un-ornamented phrases at irregular intervals. The effect is a spartan, dry approach that could create an initial impression of severe mid-twentieth century asceticism that, unlike the Feldman, has perhaps not aged well. However, this is not the case. These opening parts presented the basic materials which would come into play throughout the following works.

The structure of this collection of Brown’s pieces appeared to alternate between solo piano interludes and episodes with the full ensemble, where each player contributes short, relatively simple gestures that overlap each other at different points. The ensemble’s instrumental palate is far from traditional, especially with Pour’s kamancheh (a stringed Persian instrument) and Burt’s electronics. The combination of these instruments alongside piano and double bass, etc, can sound a little jarring at times, but Schoenborn has shown in the past that she has little time for tradition for its own sake. The eclectic instrumentation of the ensemble possibly has something to do with the freshness of how these compositions sounded, adding elements of diversity to what could be austere music, and instead bringing a new dimension to the openness of the graphic notation.

Earle Brown (photo by Takashi Takiguchi)
Photo by Takashi Takiguchi

 

It was when the dancers took the stage (three new performers at first in Rodrigo Calderon, Kathleen Gonzalez and Takashi Takiguchi, later joined by Yap and O’Connor) that Brown’s work suddenly came to life. A canvas materialised in this listener’s mind of elements entering and leaving the tableau throughout, creating long-form rhythms. The key to this staging of the work is that the dancers follow a similar structure to Brown’s music; of entering and leaving the space. Each dancer performed individually, with no interaction, and working to a spatial structure mapped out on the stage floor in white tape. This mapping of the stage area had the practical effect of ensuring minimal collisions between entering and exiting dancers, but it also had the character of a graphic score in itself. In fact (as shown in the photo above), the form of the stage markings are not dissimilar to Brown’s graphic score. The 2017 performance of this programme took place on the hall floor, on the same level as the audience was seated, where the schema used by the dancers was clear to all. The lack of a stage at this earlier performance meant the dancers sat amongst the audience between entries and exits, which had emphasised the impression of elements entering and leaving the composition. I’m sure the performers were much happier to have a traditional stage in Melba Hall on this occasion, but the subsequent hiding of the choreographic schema along with dancers waiting at stage left and right in between entries, lessened this symmetry with the music a little.

This event was, however, a rare reimagining of these landmark works of twentieth century new music that deserves a wider audience. It would fit perfectly in a new music or contemporary arts festival programme, where a new performance setting could further explore the intersection of bodies and sound.

Clinton Green

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October/November performances (Japan & Melbourne)

Japan dates:

Tuesday 31 October 2017 – Moe Chee (first performance in over a year) @ Apollo, Tokyo.

Friday 3 November 2017 @ Bar Bonobo, Tokyo

Thursday 9 November 2017 @ UrbanGuild, Kyoto.

Saturday 11 November 2017 @ Villa Kujoyama, Kyoto – Facebook event

Melbourne dates:

Friday 24 November 2017, One Night in Footscray, Footscray – Facebook event.

Saturday 25 November 2017, Carmen Chan‘s If I Am A Musical Thinker @ Church of All Nations, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton – Facebook event.

Photos from two recent performances

 

Solo performance at Soundings, Footscray (13 November 2016):

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Public space performance with Carmen Chan & Michael McNab, part of Carmen’s Do You See What I Hear? project, Box Hill Central (18 November 2016):

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Four Things and More #2 this Friday

fourthingsandmore_02

A rare occasion this Friday night – I will pick up a guitar and perform in public with it. I’ve been pretty much dared into doing this by Carmen Chan, but the joke is on her as she has to perform with me. Just goes to show; ask/dare me to do anything in a performance and I’ll probably consider it.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks engaging consistently with guitar again in preparation for this. I recorded and performed on electric guitar for many years before giving it away for other things. This time, I’m playing acoustic guitar. Although the mechanics of the instrument are very familiar, my relative inexperience with the acoustic version means I’m still approaching it as a new instrument/sonic object in many ways.

We’ll be providing accompaniment to a performance by Juana Beltran. Also featuring sets by Derek McCormack, Michael McNab, and Myfanwy Hunter/Julian Espana Keller…and more.

Facebook event

Upcoming performances – November/December 2016

Four Things & More

Friday 4 November 2016, 8:30pm – Moreland City Band Hall, 16 Cross Street, Brunswick.

I am performing in a trio with Juana Beltran and Carmen Chan. WARNING – I may play guitar…

Also performing: Myfanwy Hunter/Juliana Espana Keller, Michael McNab, Derek McCormack.

Facebook event

Soundings – A Walk Through Extemporization

Sunday 13 November 2016, 3pm – 36 Moreland Street, Footscray.

I am performing solo acoustic turntable.

Also performing: Ernie Althoff, Sister, and Butler/Kaczmarek/Hilton.

Facebook event

Overhea[r]d

Friday 18 November 2016, 9pm – LongPlay, 318 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North.

I will perform a new work/experiment for acoustic turntable and live projection.

Also performing: Alice Hui-Sheng Chang [TWN] & Jessie Scott, Kota Yamauchi & Matsu [JPN].

Facebook event

Museum of Innocence Mildura guest residency

26-29 November 2016, Museum of Innocence, Mildura.

I’ve been invited to participate as a guest artist in Ren Walters’ Artist-In-Residence programme.

THIS Ensemble Rural Tour 2016

29 November – 6 December 2016. Mildura – Mallee – Wimmera.

CURRENT

Friday 16 December, 6pm – Moreland City Band Hall, 16 Cross St, Brunswick.

Facebook event

Improv Idol this Thursday

Who will be the king/queen of Australian Improvised Music in 2016? Come along and make your vote count!

gemmacrowned
Last year’s winner, Gemma Horbury, being crowned by Carolyn Connors.

Thursday 29 September, 2016 – 8pm

Wesley Anne, 250 High Street, Northcote.
Admission: $15.

And here they are, like lambs to the slaughter…errr, I mean vying for the glory of being crowned Improv Idol 2016:

Roger Alsop
Aviva Endean
Rod Gregory
Carey Knight
Derek McCormack
Michael McNab
Roni Shewan
Adam Simmons

Check out their Improv Idol journeys so far . Come and vote for your favourite at the Wesley Anne as they fight to the musical death.

Judges: Sean Baxter, Carolyn Connors & Gemma Horbury

Produced/hosted by: Clinton Green & Carmen Chan 

Want video from last year, info on this year, improv celebrity gossip? Go to http://ImprovIdol.com

Upcoming performances (June-August 2016)

Saturday 18 June 2016 – Waranga Film Festival, Rushworth

Performance of “If I Am A Musical Thinker” by Carmen Chan, Llara Goodall & Clinton Green + street improvisations.

Monday 25 July 2016, 7:30pm – La Musica, La Mama, 205 Faraday St, Carlton

Solo performance for multiple turntables and remote-activated percussion. Also performing is Michiko Morita.

Facebook event

Friday 29 July 2016, 8pm – Aeso Studio, 83 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

‘Friction’ – with Moe Chee (first performance for 2016, and last performance probably for a long time) + Jenny Barnes, Tim Catlin.

Facebook event

Friday 5 August 2016, 8pm – Cross Street, 16-22 Cross St, Brunswick

THIS Ensemble – first public performance for 2016.

Facebook event

Carmen Chan’s “Do You See What I Hear?” wins second prize

chapelst
Photo: Carmen Chan

Carmen Chan has taken out second prize in the Chapel Street Art Town awards. Carmen’s work drew on a four hour street performance earlier this year with myself and Llara Goodall, and incorporated video, audio and visual art work created during this time into the resulting multi-media piece. Congratulations, Carmen!

Carmen’s and other works are being exhibited at Chapel Off Chapel until 14 May 2016.

Two performances in the next week

Two unique performances I’m involved in are coming up in the next week:

un·habited space 

A durational work by Ren Walters & Carmen Chan 

With guest artists: Clinton Green, Dur-é Dara, Juana Beltrán, Janette Hoe and Michael McNab 

@ Conduit Arts 83 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 

4-5 Apr: 11am-11pm 

6 Apr: 6am-6pm 

Ren & Carmen say: 

Over three days, we will create a conversational space within the walls of Conduit Arts through performance art. We will explore the common boundaries of public and private domains as artists, and attempt to articulate the shift of energy that is an integral part of the processes of our respective artistic practices. 

We will interact with each other; with our hosts; with our guest artists; and with anyone who enters the space. 

I will join them at 6am on Wednesday 8 April for a dawn performance at Conduit. 

Entry by donation. 

For updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/940928769361578/ 

Do You See What I Hear?

Carmen Chan’s multi-disciplinary piece continues to reinvent itself with different scenarios and artists. On this occasion, I will join Carmen and Llara Goodall to perform on the footpath in Chapel Street, Prahran, as part of the Chapel Street Art

Town festival. If you’re in the area, we’ll be situated near the corner of High Street – wander by and have a chat with us about what you think it might mean to be a musical thinker… 

Chapel Street Art Town

Sunday 10 April

11am-3pm

Chapel Street (near corner of High Street), Prahran.