Unexpected musics

Andrew Beck & Bryce Moore

Professor Zhou Zhiang

Professor Zhou Zhiang

This year’s Totally Huge New Music Festival began, as did last year’s festival, in the bush 600 kms from Perth. This time there were noticeably fewer locals in attendance while a greater number of people had traveled up from Perth. So why the bush? “It’s the mixture of the unexpected”, explained Tos Mahoney, the festival’s Artistic Director. “All these artists together in this vast isolated space, who knows what could happen?” Indeed, the “unexpected mixture” proved to be an underlying thematic of the fifth Totally Huge.

Melbourne-based duo Clocked Out, pianist Eric Griswold and percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson, have been working for some time in Chengdu, China, with composer and musician Professor Zhou Zhiang and dancer Ziang Ping. Their performances offered the first fruits of that collaboration to be heard and seen outside China. Sampled street sounds and pre-recorded traditional performers blended with live music and dance to create a surprisingly seamless mixture of eras and cultures. In the bush, on the first Saturday, video images of modern China were projected onto the shearing shed behind the stage, and served as both backdrop and metre for the performance. The constant turning of the performers to reference the video sequences, and the strict association of music to vision periodically promoted an unfortunate sense of being a performance of live Foley. At each thematic change the music was temporarily subordinated to the visuals. Regardless, it was an outstanding work amongst others performed by this remarkable quartet.

Back in Perth, the following Friday was electronica night at the Amplifier Bar. Perth’s percussion and electronics group Zoo Transmissions opened the night. Transmissions are an enthusiastic and energetic group of performers beginning to make a real impression on the local club scene, proving that the music doesn’t necessarily need to be beat-driven to attract an audience. Lake Disappointment followed up, performing behind a projection screen showing dark and enigmatic images which complemented the group’s guitar-based, almost ambient sound. Eastern states visitor, Pimmon, topped off the evening. Pimmon, aka Paul Gough, has been making waves internationally with his glitchy, hard-edged laptop electroacoustics. His one-hour set began and ended with a visceral beat, but in between ranged over a breathtaking variety of textures and timbres, a swirling powerhouse of noise, that continually threatened to resolve into order.

When Rob Muir’s and Alex Hayes’ Project 44 was relocated from its bush premiere to the city, it was sited in fashionable East Perth. Overlooking an Aboriginal site of significance, it was simultaneously overlooked from the opposite direction by the latest inhabitants of medium-rise townhouse developments. Set between these 2 cultures, the industrial sounds from the 44-gallon drums echoed the recent white history of industrial occupation of this now expensive real estate. Apparently an uncomfortable mixture for some, Project 44 was moved several times until it found a home somewhat further from the public eye than originally intended.

Also in East Perth, but across the Claise Brook at the less peripatetic Holmes a Court Gallery, Ross Bolleter gave a single performance of thought-provoking narratives accompanied by the sparse and haunting sounds of 3 ruined pianos. Bolleter’s work with ruined pianos began in 1989, with the discovery of an instrument on a sheep station near Cue in Western Australia. No performance can ever be reproduced exactly because, by their nature, these instruments are in a constant state of entropic change. To Bolleter they are priceless rarities and, by the end of the evening, the capacity audience agreed with him.

Perth’s new music ensemble, Magnetic Pig, celebrated its tenth anniversary with a performance on the last Friday of the festival. The members of Magnetic Pig for the most part compose the works they perform. They have lost none of their exuberance and originality over the past 10 years. The offerings ranged from the recent, very approachable, almost cabaret-style pieces of Cathie Travers, through to the much denser and more difficult compositions of Lindsay Vickery. Incorporated into the evening were the Chinese performers Zhou Zhiang and Ziang Ping. Zhou played the ‘chin’ (a traditional Chinese string instrument) in Vickery’s Delicious Ironies 13, while dancer Ziang performed in a Miburi Suit, its midi controls effecting sound and video.

Before they left Perth, I asked Zhou and Ziang what they thought of their first Totally Huge New Music Festival. They replied, “The collaborations—working with Lindsay (Vickery) and the others—we were not expecting this. It was very good for everybody.”

Drums in the Outback, Wogarno Station, March 29-31, Totally Huge New Music Festival, Tura Events, Perth, April 12-21.

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 34-

© Andrew Beck & Bryce Moore ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2002
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