Match plays music for duo percussion
$23 (Australian dollars)
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|Match is a new Australian percussion duo, featuring two of our best performers: Daryl Pratt (Head of Percussion at the Sydney Conseratorium and composer extraordinaire) and Alison Eddington (member of Synergy Percussion). Together they cook up a storm, in mostly works written by Daryl. In his work Daryl responds to the world around him, drawing inspiration from special natural settings, such as the NSW South Coast's Seven Mile Beach, and the Shoalhaven River.|
As well as works by Pratt, Match has recorded works by Michael Smetanin (Finger Funk for marimba - no mallets!), Andrew Ford (The Crantock Gulls, a piece inspired by the UK) and Peter Sculthorpe's Djilile
|Daryl Pratt||Modern Dance (2002)|
|Michael Smetanin||Finger Funk (2004) |
|Andrew Ford||The Crantock Gulls (2003) |
|Daryl Pratt||A Room in the House (2004) |
|Daryl Pratt||Water Settings (2005) |
|Daryl Pratt||Tangos Nuevos II (2002) |
|Peter Sculthorpe||Djilile (1989) |
|Modern Directions in Australian Percussion might be the earnest subtitle for this invigorating disc from the duo Match. One half of that duo, Daryl Pratt, bears a good proportion of the disc, and the Californian-born but long Sydney-based musician and composer contributes four recent pieces to the mix. |
Modern Dance (2002) sports some angular bop licks, maybe a reminiscence of Pratt’s West Coast inheritance, and some fast runs from the percussionists that might put one in mind of, say, Bud Powell. To balance this we have some improvisation and some strong chordal comping that sets up a decisive jazz infusion of the heavily reflective and the lightly flecked treble run. The ingredients mix well. A Room In The House was written for a kind of prepared vibraphone – and there’s real verve in the projection of colour and sonority here. His Water Settings are the ones that give the disc its title. Light shines through prism in the first with plenty of chordal crash of water; a tough, butch setting. In the second ostinati reign and drumming tactics to evoke the Waves and there are plenty of dramatic rock drummer heroics in the final pages of the final tableau.
Tangos Nuevos II rides the bandoneon bandwagon - when is this milch cow going to die an honest death? - but once again Pratt nails his stylistic banners to the mast with as many jazz licks as Flamenco.
Michael Smetanin contributes Finger Funk something of a play on words as the composer instructs the players to use fingers and thumbs – no mallets - on the five-octave marimba for the whole eight minutes. The work went through many drafts and revisions and the result has dextrous colour, a wide range of dynamics – from barely audible to increasingly rhythmic – and it takes in bass guitar-like thwacks (the funk of the title?), and attractive tremolando effects.
Andrew Ford was born in Liverpool but has lived in Australia for over twenty years. His The Crantock Gulls, named after the small Cornish village, were prey to polymetre squawking seagulls according to Ford and if his music successfully conveys it – and I’ve not misunderstood it – it was also raining like crazy. Or maybe that was just the Hitchcockian gulls. The arresting tattoos are increasingly and uncomfortably fractious. There is some discrepancy over the year it was written. The notes say 2003 but in his own note Ford says it was begun in July 2004 and first performed in March 2005.
The senior composer here naturally is Sculthorpe whose oft-reworked 1989 Djilile makes an appearance in this arrangement for percussion. It has a gorgeous wash of sound and its melody is as irresistible as ever. A lovely envoi.
We owe most of the pieces here either to Pratt’s own compositions or to his commissions either singly or with his equally adept percussion partner Alison Eddington; Sculthorpe gave his approval to their arrangement as well. Percussion lovers will enjoy the subtle brush strokes here as they may the more Jackson Pollock moments. I’m more a Monet man than a Pollock but there’s no doubt that some controlled splatter is good for the soul.
Match is a percussion duo formed by two fine Australian percussionists, Daryl Pratt, the head of percussion at Sydney Conservatorium, and Alison Eddington, who won the ABC Young Performer of the Year in 1995. Eddington is also a member of the Synergy percussion ensemble; she gave the Australian premiere of Michael Torke’s percussion concerto, Rapture. Pratt has quite a wide range of interests: besides teaching, he is a composer with a fine portfolio of works and plays in the electric jazz group, Sonic Fusion.
This disc is Match’s debut on disc. The duo is characterised by Eddington and Pratt’s decision to focus on two main percussion keyboard instruments; Pratt plays vibraphone and Eddington marimba. Though the disc features other instruments as well, these two form the backbone of the music and give the recital a coherence of sound lacking in some other percussion anthologies. This was something that I liked and the sound-world that the duo evokes is very apt for the disc’s title, Water Settings, but not everyone may welcome being restricted in this way.
Four of Pratt’s own pieces are included on the disc. Modern Dance and Tangos Nuevos II both come from Pratt’s Dance Suite, though the notes give no reason for the other two movements of the suite being omitted. Written in 2002, these are jazz-influence pieces which reflect Pratt’s background and include opportunities for improvisation. The results are attractive, tuneful and highly atmospheric; both pieces play with fragments of melody and Modern Dance gives hints of both swing and jazz.
A Room in the House was written in 2004 and calls for four hands on a single vibraphone. It is Pratt’s response to a call for new works "exploring new techniques on a single percussion instrument". Pratt uses a variety of techniques to try to extend the expressive abilities of the instrument. These involve a variety of stroking techniques, a wide range of beaters and blending the instrument with other instruments such as cow bells, flexatone and voice. The realm thus evoked is fascinating and atmospheric with dark hints of the night.
Water Settings is a substantial three-part work which Pratt wrote specifically for Match. It reflects Pratt’s interest in creating musical landscapes in response to the Australian landscape, specifically the Eastern seaboard. A variety of other instruments (gongs, noah bells, crotales and cymbals) are combined with the vibraphone to create a dazzling, shifting landscape.
Besides writing four pieces for the group, Pratt has also arranged Peter Sculthorpe’s Djilile. The piece was originally written for piano in 1989, adapted for the Synergy percussion quartet in 1990 and has now re-surfaced in Pratt’s version for vibraphone and marimba. The name of the piece would seem to translate as ‘whistling duck on a billabong’ and is based on a theme which Sculthorpe adapted from an indigenous Australian melody originally recorded in the 1950s. Sculthorpe seems to have a fondness for the melody as he has used it in a number of pieces. Despite the its origins this work has an attractive, quiet funkiness.
The duo include two new works by other composers. Michael Smetanin’s Finger Funk was commissioned by Match in 2004. A striking feature of the piece is that the players use only their fingers and thumbs to play their instruments; no mallets are used at all, though sometimes they utilise rubber pads on their thumbs to aid attack. Perhaps because of this rather particular method of playing, the resulting instrumental sound often evokes a haunted night; sometimes the mood drifts into rhythmic funk, but you feel that the night music element is never far away. This is a fascinating work.
Pratt and Eddington made a percussion duo version of Andrew Ford’s Composition in Blue, Grey and Pink, which they performed in 2003. They have followed this up with Ford’s The Crantock Gulls which was written specially for them. The title refers to the village of Crantock in Cornwall, where the piece was begun.
Match are a percussion duo to watch and on this record display admirable virtuosity. It says much of their musicianship that this virtuosity is put to the service of the music; they do not try to dazzle us just for virtuosity’s sake. The disc showcases Daryl Pratt’s talents, but they have included some fine pieces by other Australian composers.
This is a vibrant CD, highlighting the virtuosity of Australia's most outstanding percussion duo and exposing the exciting trends in Australian composition. Music included is by Daryl Pratt, Michael Smetanin, Andrew Ford and Peter Sculthorpe.
Sunday Mail (Adelaide)
The duo Match was formed in 2001. Both its members are prominent performers on the Australian music scene (and beyond); both also teach at the Sydney Conservatorium. Daryl Pratt was born and raised in California, moving to Australia in 1985; a native Australian, Eddington was born in Perth. This is Match’s first CD, though both its members have recorded pretty extensively in other contexts. Here they play a programme of Australian pieces – or, at any rate, of pieces by composers based in Australia.
Much of the material is centred on the use of the vibraphone (played by Pratt) and the marimba (played by Eddington).
Two of the compositions by Pratt, Modern Dance and Tangos Nuevos II are taken from a four-part Dance Suite. Modern Dance makes extensive use of jazz phrasing and rhythms; chords on the vibraphone are counterpoised by longer melodic lines and there are improvised passages. It is relevant to remember that Pratt was also a founding member of the jazz ensemble Sonic Fiction. Flamenco-like rhythms produce some very pleasant effects in Tangos Nuevos II, lines for vibraphone and marimba subtly interwoven in a fairly traditional fashion, reminiscent at times of Gary Burton. More experimental is A Room in the House, which was written for the Percussion Arts Society International Convention of 2005 and is for four hands at a single vibraphone – a vibraphone played with various unorthodox ‘mallets’. A very distinctive sound-world results – metallic whispers, a ringing of bells, sustained notes, odd rattlings and sudden swoops of pitch; at times effect seems to take precedence over musical cause, but there is much that is strangely beautiful. The most substantial of Daryl Pratt’s compositions is the one that gives the CD its title. Water Settings is in three movements, and takes the form of a musical response to the landscapes of Australia’s Eastern coast. The first movement, ‘Tide Pool’, uses gongs, bells, crotales and cymbals alongside the vibraphone and evokes the interaction of light and water and the scurrying, swirling life of the tide pool. In the central movement, ‘Waves’, patterns of ostinati ‘represent’ the rhythms of the waves and in the final section, ‘Seven Mile Beach’, a relatively quiet walk along the beach, as it were, disappears beneath ever more crashing and tumultuous wave rhythms. The whole is a striking (the pun can’t be avoided) sequence, which both makes musical sense and is also programmatic in an unusual and interesting way.
Peter Sculthorpe’s Djilile (the title apparently means "whistling duck on a billabong") was originally composed for piano, was then adapted for a percussion quartet and has now been arranged by Daryl Pratt for - mainly - vibraphone and marimba. Its melodic basis is adapted from an aboriginal melody collected in the 1950s. This is a memorable, subtle piece, suggestive and understated.
Andrew Ford - who was born in Liverpool and studied with Edward Cowie and John Buller before moving to Australia in 1983 – is represented by The Crantock Gulls, Crantock being in Cornwall. The gulls are noisy, the sea is rough, the drumming drives hard.
Michael Smetanin’s Finger Funk might win a prize for the best title on the CD; it is also one of the best compositions. It is written for a single five-octave marimba, played by two performers – who use only their fingers occasionally supplemented by rubber pads attached to the thumbs. The resulting sounds are surprisingly varied in dynamics, their patterning by turns graceful and (yes) funky. An intriguing and enjoyable performance.
Though I haven’t yet been able to listen to the whole CD at a single sitting without my attention wandering, I have had a good deal of pleasure from dipping into it to listen again to particular pieces. The virtuoso skills of Pratt and Eddington are obvious – not because they flaunt them, but because they can present stylistically various and complex music convincingly and persuasively.
At one time, when "match" and "Australia" were mentioned in the same sentence, one would have assumed it had something to do with tennis. Now, however, it may also refer to the musical collaboration of two talented percussionists, Daryl Pratt and Alison Eddington, who formed the duo Match Percussion in 2001, and to their mission to promote new Australian music for percussion. Mallet players will find the contents of this disc, which maintains the duo’s emphasis on vibraphone and marimba literature, especially enlightening.
Pratt’s "A Room in the House" was written in response to a call for works "exploring new techniques on a single percussion instrument" to be performed at PASIC 2005. In this piece for vibraphone (four hands), Pratt manipulates modes of attack through the use of rubbing, scraping, bowing, tapping and a variety of unusual implements, and blends the sound of the vibes with metallic percussion and voice. Similarly, Michael Smetanin’s "Finger Funk" for a five-octave marimba with two players explores the expressive potential inherent in producing sounds on the instrument entirely with fingers and thumbs, with the addition of rubber pads on the thumbs for some sforzandi attacks.
Approximately one-third of this disc is devoted to Pratt’s "Water Settings," a three-movement "musical landscape." A variety of effects are found, from the first movement’s emphasis on timbre using metallic percussion sounds blended with the vibraphone, to the exploitation of overlapping ostinati in the second movement emulating the action of waves, and the use of drums in movement three to execute gradually accelerated rhythmic divisions leading to a frenetic close. Two of the tracks, Pratt’s "Modern Dance" and "Tangos Nuevos II," are drawn from his jazz-influenced "Dance Suite." Andrew Ford’s "The Crantock Gulls" provides a fascinating diversion in the form of a drumming piece. Here the rhythmically exciting exciting drum patterns also add a melodic dimension. The disc ends with Peter Sculthorpe’s hauntingly beautiful "Djilile" originally written for piano, and based on indigenous Australian melodies, leaving the listener in a mellow mood. The performances of Match on this CD validate the credentials of Pratt and Eddington as excellent musicians and compatible partners who have mastered the technical demands of the instruments they use, particularly marimba and vibraphone. Their considerable talents should continue to inspire the efforts of Australia’s best composers.
© John R. Raush
Percussive Notes June 2006
If you've ever seen a solo percussionist or percussion ensemble perform live, then you know how important the visual experience is to such a performance's overall interest and impact. The physicality, combined with the flow and rhythm of the performer's precisely choreographed movement as he works at one or among several instruments can be quite exciting and impressive. Seeing how the often complex timbres and effects are created adds to the enjoyment--without the visual cues, a listener can be left disoriented and detached. All of which is to say that this fine recording tells only part of the music's story--and some of this music would be well worth getting to know in a concert hall with favorable acoustics.
As it is, we hear some formidable, virtuosic performances from percussionists Daryl Pratt (who specializes in vibraphone) and Alison Eddington (marimba). Sometimes they play on one instrument together (four hands), at others they play separate instruments, and even add things such as gongs, noah bells, crotales, cow bells, drums, and cymbals to the mix. In one piece, Michael Smetanin's "playfully"-titled Finger Funk, Pratt and Eddington perform on one marimba using "only their fingers and thumbs"--no mean trick, especially as the work lasts for more then eight minutes! Of course there are lots of unusual sounds, sometimes created by employing unusual objects to strike metal or wood, but most of all we notice the two players' remarkable facility and admire their speed and delicacy of touch, and their complete command of their instruments. Some of the effects--the overlapping "waves" in Pratt's Waves Part 1; the eerily hypnotic melody in Peter Sculthorpe's Djilile ("whistling duck on a billabong"); the complex interactive drumming dialog in Andrew Ford's The Crantock Gulls--are especially memorable, while other pieces show more style than substance and thus quickly become boring. There's some good stuff here--and these two players are world-class advocates for new percussion music. I'd love to see them sometime.
David Vernier , August 2006
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