Solo Perspective 2 | New Music Network
Left - Brigid Burke

Solo Perspective 2 was a performance showcasing three of Australia’s classically trained, avant-garde musicians. Performed in the Recital Hall at the Conservatorium of Music, the Solo Perspective 2 performance felt a lot like an installation at an art gallery as well as being a musical concert, and in those terms it was a success.

At its root, avant-garde is meant to embody unorthodoxy. So when this style is used to create music that enhances your sensory perception, avant-garde becomes a journey of the most intriguing kind. In the Solo Perspective 2 showcase, music transcends traditional meaning and ceases to be just a grouping of strange sounds and becomes something much greater in depth and value.

Opening the exhibition was clarinettist, composer, video-artist and visual artist Brigid Burke. Burke performed four of her own compositions using the latest AV technology adding layers to her multidimensional work. Performing Island City, Three Sounds on Buildings, Roses Will Scream and Scratching, Burke’s clarinet compositions were accompanied by visual footage and a live video stream projected overhead onto a screen.

The combination of imagery, which Burke herself created, was designed to heighten the spectator’s experience. Burke’s mastery over her instruments has given her the ability to move away from conventional composition and work directly with sound rather than style. What at first sounds like formless musical passages of virtuosic proportions are actually the layers of her compositional strength. The two types of clarinets played for the different pieces allowed for a change of mood within the music. This highlighted the distinct contrasts in the musical themes as could be witnessed in the changing iconography on the screen overhead.

Following on from this precedent was Mark Cauvin on Double Bass performing Plus Minus Nr: 14 by Karlheinz Stockhausen and No More Rock Groynes by David Young. Cauvin’s pieces were in direct contrast to Burke's, which illustrated the limitless scope and freedom that exists within this musical style. Plus Minus was published as a graphic score, which meant that instead of reading musical notes on sheet music, Cauvin had to interpret 14 pages of symbols with instructions detailing the Plus Minus system. This mathematical approach to the composition gave the music a spatial quality. The double bass became a mechanism for creating sound effects rather than just sound.

The second piece No More Rock Groynes had an even more mysterious provenance. Inspired by a bumper sticker on a car, No More Rock Groynes was written as a miniature watercolour score. The sound produced came from a small microphone that was rubbed along the instruments strings creating an eerie, muted sound. What rock groynes are is still a mystery to me, but I am figuring that that was what was intended for this composition. Cauvin’s choice of media to extract that particular sound from his instrument complimented the mystery beautifully.

Concluding this cerebral sensory experience was Michael Fowler on Piano. Fowler performed pieces entitled Downtime by Benjamin Boretz and Reflections by Milton Babbitt. Both of these works featured electronically generated sound effects that were fed through a speaker system whilst Fowler accompanied on piano. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey immediately came to mind upon first hearing this new sound. Not just because of the cosmic like aura of the music but also the weightlessness of the sound. The treatment given to the score by Fowler conjured the feeling of floating in an atmosphere devoid of gravity.

Reflections was the antithesis of Downtime. From anti-static to static this piece moved at a frenetic pace accompanied by what one could describe as being the sound of cyberspace. This ingenious combination of grand piano and computer speak highlighted the ability of music to step outside convention whilst remaining loyal to tradition.

New Music Network
Solo Perspective 2
Brigid Burke, Mark Caurvin, Michael Fowler

Venue: Recital Hall East, Sydney Conservatorium
Date/Time: Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 5:00pm
Tickets: Adult: $20, Concession & Under 30: $12 (Additional fees may apply)

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