New Music: New Ensemble | Soundstream CollectiveAdelaide’s curator of the Soundstream Festival, Gabriella Smart and the University of Adelaide launched the Soundstream Collective with a concert in Elder Hall on 30 September 2011. The event signalled vital classical new music creativity which is to result from a new approach to blending music performance, composition and research.

The Soundstream Collective is a project supported by The University of Adelaide and part of the new J. M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. As artists-in-residence, a new music classical ensemble will be funded to produce eight concerts and new Australian music commissions. The inaugural concert included no less than two world premieres and three Australian premieres by Australian and international composers of new music.

The musicians appeared in the audience, clapping music and walking towards the stage. Interlocking rhythms and unconventional use of performance space raised audience expectations and indicated that this is an ensemble committed to breaking preconceptions, practices and perceptions of contemporary classical music. The piece paid homage to American composer Steve Reich – an influential mind in the tradition of music innovation. 

The program proceeded with a philosophical essay titled ‘A leaf falls’ by Australian-Amerikan musician Erik Griswold. John Addison (cello) and the Votex Percussion Ensemble embodied deftly the sound narrative, its musical mindfulness and the surprises it brought along the way.

Finish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen was featured next with ‘Meeting’, played with insight by Peter Handsworth (clarinet) and Stefan Ammer (piano). The piece is an apotheosis of partnership expressed in the way the two instruments follow minimalistic paroxysmal figures.

Another duet, this time between piano and trumpet, followed to demonstrate how conventional classical instruments can achieve a novel sonic combination. Polish composer Hanna Kulenty’s ‘A Sixth Circle’ is a piece made of sustained notes, microtonal and repetition techniques with an unexpected aura of profound gentleness and lyricism. Performed by Martin Phillipson (trumpet) and Gabriella Smart (piano), ‘A Sixth Circle’ highlighted the aptitude of women composers for subtle musical communication.

John Polglase’s ‘Shining Unbreakable’ was the highlight of the concert. Incredibly powerful, the new Australian work’s world premiere was a complete success. The piece was inspired by Gertrude Rooney, first violin with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and patron Kevin Rooney’s writing about her. ‘Shining Unbreakable’ is of the magnitude of the best classical works for violin and piano. It has brightness of originality and maturity of musical thought that are breathtaking and spellbinding. The work was enhanced by the emotional charge and expressive tone of Elizabeth Layton (violin) and Gabriella Smart (piano). Australia has another master composer and a new masterpiece of classical music!

The concert finished with ‘Natascha Trio’ for soprano, clarinet, violin and piano by Hungarian composer Peter Eõtvõs. This chamber work is based on music from his opera ‘The Three Sisters’ (1996-97). The scene focuses on one of the sisters in Chekhov’s famous play, Natasha. Caprice, crudeness and irony characterise the musical portrayal of Natasha. They are achieved by extended range and techniques to attest the determination of a character who always gets her way. Sidonie Henbest (voice) played Natasha well.
Often audiences shun from new music, thinking that it is ugly, noisy, complex or simply not part of their culture or identity. This concert indicates that these perceptions of new classical music are wrong.

Reverberating ideals of music at its best, the Soundstream Collective is on their way to discover new pathways to music creativity which are much needed in Australia. These resolute musicians are embarking on a difficult crusade. Their aim is to unleash the power of contemporary classical music by aspiring and educating audiences, and by giving composers and musicians opportunities to collaborate and to offer their insight into the essential questions of life.

The Soundstream Collective
New Music: New Ensemble

Venue: Elder Hall | North Terrace, University of Adelaide, SA
Date/Time: Friday, 30 September 2011 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $30 – $20
Bookings: 131246

Written by Daniela Kaleva, University of South Australia

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