Deep Blue

Deep BlueThere was quite a lot of “Pow!”, quite a lot of “Wow!”, and it was definitely “now”.

Billing themselves as “Australia’s newest orchestra”, Deep Blue is anything but a traditional symphony orchestra. No conductor, no music stands or scores, no brass or winds, lots of electronics and special lighting, all coming together to make some quite exciting sounds, and some impressive overall effects.

Even before anyone appeared on stage, the moving images on the multiple screens behind the battery of electronics portended the unusual for an orchestral concert. From the moment the string players marched in playing an arrangement of Mars the Bringer of War from Gustav Holsts’s The Planets suite, with nicely coordinated images on the screens, the full audience in the Festival Theatre knew we were in for something different.

Moves were well coordinated/choreographed, and the projected imagery, varying from patterned effects, to internal human and foetal anatomy, to superimposed visuals of the players themselves as they played and moved, was mostly apposite. Cellos were never built to be played in motion, or lying down, let alone on stilts while walking backwards, but it is very clever.

Not only are there some fine players among this Brisbane group, but there are some fine composers as well. The genre, which is sort of classics meets rock meets electronics with lighting and movement, allows all kinds of experimentation, and new ways of bringing a range of music to a new audience. So new works and arrangements by members of the group were well featured, showcasing their multiple talents.

Digital tracks and new electronic instruments are bound to have a big future, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be combined with the traditional ones. Not all electronic instruments are so new, however – the theremin, which was featured in a couple of numbers, and is played by hand movements which never touch the instrument, was invented in 1919. It has limited appeal, but deserves to be shown off as part of the experimentation of this kind of music.

The major down side of the electronic involvement, with backing tracks and amplification of all instruments is that we could just as easily be listening to a recording being mimed as to a live performance. We could tell the strings were actually playing in their adaptation of the gentle 4th movement of Mahler’s 5th symphony. It had a ragged edge or two (might a conductor have helped?) but it was a nice demonstration of the versatility of the group.

One of the highlights of the concert was the inclusion of “Young Blue” – members of Adelaide Youth Strings – who joined in the genre with gusto. Their pint-sized violist/electric guitarist William Raftery wowed with his solos. This could be a name to watch.

This is not music for the purist. But it is a genre whose time has come. Music, like language, is a living thing and has always moved with its times. Deep Blue is on the edge of something which is sure to develop. It may well wow now, but the question for its future is “how?” Only time will tell.


Adelaide Festival Centre's Symphonic program presents
Deep Blue

Venue: Festival Theatre
When: 18 April 8pm, 19 April 3pm & 8pm                          
Bookings: BASS on 131 246 or online at www.bass.net.au

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