Cinemusica | ACO and Synergy PercussionLeft – Richard Tognetti and Timothy Constable. Photos – Andrew Quilty

The Australian Chamber Orchestra and Synergy Percussion collaboration, Cinemusica, is a chillingly sublime ride through a unique selection of cinematic music. It spotlights the raw power musical scores have in meddling with our emotions when used effectively to enhance the visual narrative medium of cinema. The program was a vast but cleverly connected spread of compositions from the 20th century by Xenakis, Thomas Newman, Herrmann and Bartok, and also included a new work by Synergy Percussion’s Timothy Constable commissioned for this ACO collaboration. 

In the program notes an interesting reference to Herrmann’s work with Alfred Hitchcock was made and roughly paraphrased reads, Hitchcock’s cinematic work equals 60% of the film and the remaining percentage is Herrmann’s music. The Cinemusica collaboration epitomizes this sentiment.  Experiencing Xenakis’ Voile as used in Scorcese’s The Shining, Thomas Newman’s music from American Beauty and Herrmann’s Psycho: A Narrative for String Orchestra used by Hitchcock, was aesthetically transfixing and thrilling.

Hearing the music minus the pictures was like being submerged in a pitch black theatre listening to great actor give a commanding performance of a Shakespearean Soliloquy.  The voice was disembodied from the actor, the music was divorced from its visual narrative. Each piece touched a visceral nerve and heightened the listener’s awareness to each emotion as it was elicited. During Xenakis’ Voile the visuals of the musicians brightly lit on stage didn’t match the palpability of the music and the sinister dissonant sounds of the percussion and strings became strikingly beautiful. Where the the music was strongly connected to a cinematic plot or scene, hearing the piece (such as Psycho) allowed for a new discovery of the music, even if it was a challenge to ignore the black and white images of Norman Bates that kept popping into my mind. It was quickly apparent how these incredible pieces of music entangle the viewer/listener and make it quite impossible to escape the psychological manipulation a clever storyteller (composer or filmmaker) can exact upon an audience. The talents of the ACO combined with Synergy Percussion elevated these cinematic pieces and celebrated the brilliance of each composer creating an exciting evening of chamber music. 

Timothy Constable’s new composition Cinemusica was performed upon return from interval. His work held its own amongst all of the program’s pieces. Constable’s Cinemusica was a fantastic journey that bridged each composer’s score but didn’t imitate the other works performed. I longed to see the percussionists as much as I could see the string sections on the stage, as it might have pushed the drama and tension so wonderfully present in Constable’s work even further to the edge. Psappha by Xenakis was a profound experience, which would have been lacking if the audience was blind to the passion with which the percussionists played. The intensity of Psappha was doubled due to being able to see, in plain sight, the interplay of the Synergy ensemble. Constable’s piece contained a similar ferocity and subtlety as Xenakis, Newman, Herrmann and Bartok’s work. As Cinemusica was specifically written for percussion and strings and due to the cinematic qualities of the music, allowing the audience to see the dynamic of all the musicians on stage as equals, through some practical yet creative staging, would have been the perfect non-cinematic visual to propel the theatre in Constable’s piece into the spotlight.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra and Synergy Percussion collaboration, Cinemusica, is a spell binding and beautiful musical assault that lures you, like a siren song, to run the gauntlet of human emotions in a two-hour whirlwind of live brilliant cinematically inspired orchestral compositions performed by two of Australia’s finest music ensembles.          

Australian Chamber Orchestra and Synergy Percussion present

Venue: QPAC, Brisbane
Date: 4 April 2016

Llewellyn Hall, Canberra
Saturday 9 April, 8pm

Arts Centre Melbourne
Sunday 10 April, 2.30pm
Monday 11 April, 7.30pm

Adelaide Town Hall
Tuesday 12 April, 7.30pm

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