Ground Elastic SoundLeft -Biddy Connor, Wally Gunn and Peter Knight. Photo - Karl Skullin

Ground Elastic Sound
is a one night stand of new music works, three of them world premieres, by composers David Chisholm, Biddy Connor, Wally Gunn, Peter Knight and Kate Neal, presented by Dead Horse Productions. The latter artistic director of Dead Horse, speaks of the group’s care in choosing performance spaces, and this program was presented upstairs in Melbourne’s interesting, eclectically designed and somewhat faded neo-classical cinema, the Forum.

As well as attention to venue, the group also uses electronic and recorded, as well as live music, and gives some importance to visual design and staging. This wide-ranging perspective certainly lends considerable interest to its performances, but the results are mixed. There is at times a disconcerting air of casualness, of lack of preparation. The program began significantly late, there was some confusion over seating, and final bows, etc, were endearingly clumsy. Many effects seem a little gimmicky, while others are more considered. In trying so sedulously to depart from classical conventions, some clarity and focus has been lost, without a convincing new aesthetic having been attained.

During Biddy Connor’s Fanfare, an ideal opening piece, a trumpeter stood about one metre from my left ear, another player further down that aisle, two others in the opposite aisle, and another entered later on. A good idea, but the timing seemed inaccurate, despite energetic conducting by Ben Northey, the sound simultaneously loud, muffled and unbalanced, and the purpose of some movements uncertain.

During other works, large abstract images were screened behind the players on the stage, but the light needed for these images meant that players and their faces were not very clear, and a major source of visual interest was sacrificed. As the image changed shape very, very slowly, it seemed that the players merely accompanied them, were dominated by their technical requirements, not the other way round. These factors were exacerbated by the hot, stifling weather, and many audience members listlessly fanned themselves for the duration.

All this said, there was a brilliant range of composing and performing talent on display, the genuine highlight possibly being David Chisholm’s Ikebana, closely followed by Kate Neal’s Semaphore. As stated in the program, the music blends rock, jazz, electronic and classical elements, united by a commitment to a constantly changing soundscape, and aversion to traditional melody. The violinist Miki Tsunoda gave another fine performance, as did Tristram Williams on trumpet and Adam Simmons on saxophone. The orchestrations are very skilled, and the order of pieces absolutely right. The vision and abilities of this group are fresh and worth following, and I look forward to their next performance with great interest.

Dead Horse Productions presents
Ground Elastic Sound

The Forum Upstairs, 154 Flinders Street Melbourne
Date: Friday 23 February 2007 @ 8pm
Tickets: $25
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849

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