Jim Denley, West Head Project VThe West Head Project V concert plans to take music out of the pubs and halls and blend it with the sounds of Sydney Harbour National Park writes Ashley Walker.

“I love sound without flat walls and a roof”, explains Jim Denley, the organiser of the annual West Head Project concert. “Some of my favourite LPs were recordings from the fifties and sixties, say from Solomon (Islands) or Papua New Guinea. All simply recorded outside. The sound can breath without restriction.“

The West Head Project V will be performed on Sunday the 7th of November in Sydney Harbour National Park, Mosman where Jim spent a lot of time visiting his parents. This is the second year it has been held there. “It seemed a place where people should gather, and that’s probably the major function of music, mustering.”

In a career spanning three decades, playing saxophone and woodwind instruments, Denley, has concentrated on making site specific work. In 2006 he spent sixteen days recording in the caves and crevices of the Budawang Range, near Nowra on the New South Wales south coast, for his CD Rom “Through Fire, Crevice and the Hidden Valley?”

In my brief exchange of emails with Jim, I can feel his excitement about Sunday’s gig. “I can’t think of a more essential Sydney view than from the small gun emplacement at the top of Middle-Head,” he enthuses.

The performance has been designed to incorporate the sounds of the area including, low rumbles of Manly ferries, the engine hums of sea planes and the odd jumbo jet. 

“Human culture cannot continue to isolate itself from the world. The Concert Hall separates us (and) puts us in an unnatural space where the music is meant to be perceived as an abstraction. I prefer to be in the world.”

The music will be performed in the Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, adding another dimension to the acoustics. The amphitheatre was part of a fortification system, built to defend the colony of New South Wales in the 1800’s. Jim notes that some musicians had some misgivings about playing at locations so tied up with Sydney’s military history. “Last year (US/Australian sound artist) Kraig Grady expressed his slight unease with the resonances of the space. I share his concerns to some extent. I think it highlights what we as artists should be aware of, that music isn't some abstract thing, unrelated to the world.”

Denley has decided to go with a totally improvised set. “For (the) concept to have integrity, I believe we need to be open and not have too many pre-conceptions”. Having said that we have rehearsed and talked about how we are going to approach the concept. To some extent I don’t know what will happen but I sure am looking forward to discovering what will.”
{xtypo_quote_right}It seemed a place where people should gather, and that’s probably the major function of music, mustering{/xtypo_quote_right}
The only other musician who has played with the West Head Project before, is accordion player, Monika Brooks. “I love to hear the clear tones of Monica Brook’s accordion outdoors", he enthuses. “She is one of my favourite musicians.”

The fact that all other musicians are first timers with the West Head Project, adds to the sense of unknown. The line-up includes the trio of Claire Edwards, Jason Noble and Diana Springford, all members of Ensemble Offspring, an outfit with fifteen years of experience who are no strangers to musical innovation. In 2010 they performed Fractured Again, which featured instruments made from glass at this year’s Sydney Festival. Jim also has high expectations of trombonist Rishin Sing and, Sam Pettigrew on double bass.

In the past, Jim has found that audiences have taken a while to get used to the musicians being all around them instead of in front of them on a stage. They don’t know where to look. His advice is to just relax and get into it. Even if you get bored, “it’s better than being stuck in row K 43”.

West Head Project V will be held 4pm Sunday 7 November 2010 at Middle Head Sydney Harbour National Park. Further details»

Top Right - Jim Denley
Cover - Monika Brooks

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