Music for Percussion and Electronics
Music for Percussion and Electronics
$23 (Australian dollars)
|Louise Devenish is based in Western Australia and is an active performer, including with ensembles such as Decibel, Speak Percussion and The Sound Collectors. This recording was made as a result of a series of recitals (Music for One Percussionist 2012-14). The composers presented are all award-winning middle-generation Australians whose music is reaching audiences nation-wide. |
Together, these works for percussion and electronics offer an immersive listening experience and offer a twenty-first century snapshot of Australian music.
|Adrían Pertout||Exposiciones (glockenspiel and fixed media)|
|Stuart James||Kinabuhi / Kamatayon (Balinese bossed gongs and processing)|
|Cat Hope||Tone Being (tam-tam and sub woofer)|
|Kate Moore||Coral Speak (vibraphone and tape)|
|Andrián Pertout’s Exposiciones for glockenspiel and fixed media (2007) was adapted from an earlier acousmatic piece using toy piano samples and microtonal tunings. A vestige of the original is retained: a gong-like sound acting as a tonal centre and another similar sound an octave higher. These two sounds provide a kind of regular pulse but in very irregular rhythmic counterpoint with each other. Aurally it is hard to make much structural sense of these two elements across the duration of this 7-minute piece. Over this backing-track, we hear a very flamboyant glockenspiel solo, although, according to the CD booklet notes, it is constructed in a strictly mathematical way using a logical sequence of durational ratios. It sounds, however, far less mathematical than the fixed media elements, undoubtedly as a result of the stunning virtuosity of Louise Devenish’s performance.|
While Pertout reveals that he used the Indonesian pelog and slendro scales for the glockenspiel part of his piece, Stuart James adopts the sound-world of gamelan music in a more direct way for his Kinabuhi / Kamatayon for Balinese bossed gongs and electronic processing (2015). This five-movement work lasting 17 minutes is sonically very attractive but arguably somewhat lacking in compositional invention. It is based heavily on ostinati and abstract textural combinations rather than coherent melodic or other structural designs, at least ones that are tangibly evident to my ears. Perhaps a barrier to appreciation of the compositional design of this work is the rather repetitive booklet annotation for the piece which essentially comes down to one idea: that the piece “is concerned with the compression and rarefaction of time”. It would be good to have been given some clue as to how this idea is practically realised in the work and what the listener should be specifically trying to listen for. Even so, what we are listening to are the ravishing sounds of Balinese gongs wonderfully struck by Devenish. In addition the electronic processing results in appealing sonic ambiences to underpin the performed elements.
The electronic processing in Cat Hope’s Tone Being for tam tam and subwoofer (2016) is not so appealing. Hope’s visual score, involving “ten unique approaches to the surface of the tam tam”, has inspired Devenish to create scintillating sounds and sound textures from the instrument, but the constant booming low-frequency subwoofer drone elements distract from the sonic magnificence of the tam tam in my view.
The most impressive (and longest) work on the CD is Kate Moore’s Coral Speakfor vibraphone and stereo tracks (2016). The program annotation quotes Moore as describing it as “a percussion suite of laments and playful dances in homage to the Great Barrier Reef, where the corals are currently under threat due to climate changes and human intervention…” The work is in three movements titled Spel I, Spel II and Spel III (“Spel”, according to my Dutch/English dictionary, means “play” or “game”). Spel I is for the most part a vibraphone solo based on a continuous stream of even notes outlining a constantly changing chord progression and emphasising bass tones and melodic tones. Towards the end of this solo the “stereo tracks” come in to play, sounding at first like scratchy radio static, perhaps emblematic of encroaching pollution on the reef. The electronic sounds of the stereo tracks continue under the vibraphone in Spel II. Here the vibraphone plays rapidly repeated block chords which change constantly, the top notes outlining melodic shapes. The underlying electronic sounds simulate metallic rattling and glass (perhaps coral) wind chimes. Towards the end of this movement the vibraphone music drops out and the chimes are transformed into pulsating sustained sounds accompanied by insect-like buzzing and frying sounds. Spel III introduces a slower more circumspect vibraphone melodic line and electronic elements sounding like the rapid striking of singing bowls. Near the end there is a return to the vibraphone chords and the sustained electronic sounds of Spel II.
The combination of the vibraphone solos and the electronic stereo tracks in this striking work compels the listener to imagine vividly the tragic degradation of the reef.
© Michael Hannan
Music Trust Loudmouth May 2018
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