Tos Mahoney: programming new music

Andrew Beck

Tos Mahoney

Tos Mahoney

Tos Mahoney

Tos Mahoney has been doing his part for the last 20 years to sculpt, pursue, organise and otherwise conjure up new music for the public of Perth. Mahoney became involved with new music as a musician, playing impros on the flute with Jon Rose, Lindsey Vickery and others. His shift to administration began with the organisation of improvised music festivals in 1985 and 1986. “Or was that 84/85?”, Mahoney seems unclear. “It was a long time ago. I was doing some things before that. It was an incredibly energetic time…and then EVOS got created.

“EVOS was a new music organisation, a management structure. Specifically, EVOS was about putting on new music. It had concert series, residencies and commissioned work, radio work, things like that.”

What began in the mid 80s (Tos Mahoney trading as EVOS Music) quickly developed into a substantial incorporated body providing support and funding for new music practitioners as well as developing the local audience base. Then, in the mid 90s, EVOS sank; triennial funding, inaugural Australian Music Centre award and all. Down but not drowned, Mahoney did a name change. “One of the most sensible financial decisions I’ve ever made”, says Mahoney, “a few dollars, a new name and we had a brand new organisation.” A pause. “Well, sort of. It was definitely a new direction, different people.”

The new company was, and continues to be, Tura Events and Mahoney is on the board of management. The Mahoney/Tura combo began with the first Totally Huge New Music Festival, now heading into its 4th year. Tura has also successfully established Club Zho, the regular locus for the public performance of new music in Perth. With a monthly gig at the Monkey Bar, a Northbridge hotel, it has recently hosted performances by Ross Bolleter, Axis 21 (directed by Lindsay Vickery) and percussion ensemble Tetrafide as well as the electro-acoustic of David Wardell and the noise of Cat Hope. Eclectic.

Mahoney insists that Club Zho be open to new and untried work. “Otherwise, what’s the point. That’s what we’re here for, not just new music but new new music.” This policy has resulted in the occasional disappointment. “Yeah sure, with untried work, with new music, with impro in particular, you’re going to have a few duds.”

An example of success is Hannah Clemen whose sliding ambient soundscapes are given an industrial edge when she collaborates with Petro Vouris, a sculptor-turned-musician whose concrete music proclivities are balanced by a dry and incisive humour. Clemen’s current direction is towards further investigation of psychoacoustics and the human body’s physiological responses to sound. Both Clemen and Vouris have worked extensively at Lindsey Vickery’s Studio for Research in Performance Technology at the Western Australian Conservatorium of Music.

With the fourth Totally Huge New Music Festival arriving at the beginning of April, Mahoney is showing some signs of disenchantment with his administrative role, evasive when asked about his motivation to continue as the festival’s CEO, and in reply only quips, “…because I never really got a proper qualification…” (In 2000 he had to withdraw from a Master of Arts course due to the pressure of the festival.) “I don’t think I’d do any of it if I hadn’t been a new music practitioner. That gave me a lot of passion for the creation of it…the lack of opportunities for both audience and practitioners to experience new music was, and still is (despite Totally Huge) ridiculous.” After thoughtfully looking around the room he concludes, “Another year then.”

His diffidence about his position as CEO is not reflected in his supreme enthusiasm for the festival’s artistic content. Each year has built upon the success of the previous. Last year involved 97 local artists, 14 from interstate and 5 from overseas in 103 performance pieces. This year sees Ikue Mori return to Australia with her cinematic sampling, voice and electronic synthesis. Jon Rose will present a new mass violin and sampler work to be performed at Wogarno Station. Other overseas artists include Canadian multi-instrumentalist duo Derome Hetu and Mike Cooper from the UK. Interstate sound installation artists Philip Samartzis and Rik Rue are also performing/presenting.

“The most exciting part,” says Mahoney, “besides some specific events, is the festival’s eclecticism. The clashes and tensions that that creates are exciting—obviously things like (Jon Rose’s) Violin Factory because it involves so many people. It’s bringing a whole new audience, a whole new bunch of players to the festival, and new music itself…and then you extend that to the regional environmental event (at Wogarno Station). What do I say about Ikue Mori? When did you last experience her playing live, let alone be able to talk with her?”

Beyond the festival, Tura Events has funding for a concert series of chamber music featuring local and other Australian composers. In May, Tura and Magnetic Pig are co-producing Lindsey Vickery’s opera noir Rendezvous. Underway is the commissioning of radiophonic works for 2002.

The future for Tos Mahoney?

“I find the art of programming quite exciting. The who and what goes next to each other is a creative process in itself. I’d always like to keep my finger in that a bit. But I’d like to gradually withdraw from the managerial, administrative side. I am a practitioner, although not so much in recent years. That’s something I’m going to return to.”

First up is a gig in January with his long time colleague and friend Ross Bolleter. The rest, he says, “…hasn’t been firmed up yet…”

The Totally Huge Music Festival, Perth, March 31 – April 8, www.tura.com.au

RealTime issue #41 Feb-March 2001 pg. 32

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

1 February 2001