Aark

Rachel Campbell

Aark was founded in 2002 by percussionist Jeremy Barnett, composer Matthew Bieniek and conductor Paul Smith. Bieniek has since drifted away from direct involvement and Aark is now a core ensemble of 8 musicians performing local and international chamber music of the last 30 years—a period with a huge diversity of styles and aesthetics. Rather than choosing to specialise, Aark’s programming looks to be taking this diversity on. Ground covered so far has ranged from minimalism to neo-romanticism, to (more rarely) music of the European avant-garde. Whether there’s an audience out there for “come along and who knows exactly what you’ll get but we’ll certainly do something we think is cool” remains to be seen. Although such a trend has occasionally copped flack from senior commentators, it may well find more resonance in a younger generation with greater acceptance of stylistic plurality. The ensemble has so far premiered one work by Bieniek and there are rumours of another in the pipeline. Plans also include commissions from young as well as established composers. Performances so far have been variable, with a few disappointing moments, but also, for me, some highlights of the year’s new music. Of particular note have been a couple of wildly exhilarating solos from percussionist Barnett, and the ensemble’s second performance of Michael Smetanin’s Undertones which managed impeccably precise ensemble-playing and the requisite aggressive punch. If one can detect a musical preference within the eclecticism then it’s probably in this post-minimalist direction.

RealTime issue #57 Oct-Nov 2003 pg. 4

© Rachel Campbell; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2003
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