Roving concert: sensory exploits

Greg Hooper

Steve Langton's Pyrophone

Steve Langton's Pyrophone

Sunday night for the last Roving Concert. A group of us are led about for a 10 to 15 minute performance from each of 5 groups. A bit of a taster, and it works well. First up is the Pyrophone (fire heats the air in huge organ pipes) from Steve Langton and Hubbub. It's outside, at the front of the Powerhouse: a designer-shabby industrial wall, flat slab, rough concrete, maybe 15 to 20 metres high. Up against are a few vertical stacks of giant exhaust pipes, steel tubes going straight up. There's a large crowd. The act is a bit corny-leather jerkins at the forge, reverence for the primordial mystery of fire etc-but the sound is massive, body-shaking, and the jets of flame make for great visuals. Crowd pleaser #1.We then troop off indoors for the Sarah Hopkins' Harmonic Whirlies. The clear, diffuse sound is generated by whirling plastic hose (think pool vacuum hose) around at various speeds in a cross between call and response folk dance and harmonic singing. Great exercise.

Next! David Murphy's Circular Harp. Vibrations from hammered strings are fed into bowls of liquid. This makes patterns which are projected onto a large screen. Real-time correspondence between the visual and the auditory. A bit like a physics lesson in dynamics, but with art instead of physics. After that come the massed handbells, more audience participation and clear sounds. Then Stuart Favilla's light harp and Joanne Cannon's serpentine bassoon. Good bassoon, but the light harp is not much. When you replace harp strings with narrow beams of light the fingers brush against nothing. This reduces the ability to make fine motor movements and articulate sounds—no anchor and pivot, no force feedback. That's the way our sensory and motor systems work. Exploit it, don't deny it. (see Gail Priest's alternate view of the Light Harp)

Last up is Linsey Pollak's ewevee, out on the Brisbane River played by Pollak and Jessica Ainsworth. A vertical set of bars are struck to trigger samples. The samples attached to each bar are changed, giving totally different sonic effects for each piece. A nice play between the physicality of the instrument and the virtual nature of the output.

Short sweet performances. If you didn't like one you'd like the next. If you didn't like any then you don't like music much.

Roving Concert, part of REV, April 5-7, Brisbane Powerhouse.

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. web

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2002
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